Man, I’ve missed linking up with Spicy and her motley band of readers. So here I am, with one (possibly two, but I’m starting this post on Tuesday night and from here will go rush to finish the second) young adult novels.
Wait, Cari, you may well ask. What’s with all the young adult novels? Is it a reflection on your reading level, maybe?
Well you know, it might well could be. But that’s not consciously why I gravitate toward YA lit. In my head, the reason is twofold. One: I typically don’t like adult novels. And I don’t mean “adult” like “50 Shades of Porn”. I mean standard novels written for grown ups. I don’t know if it’s a certain dullness to plot, thinly disguised as “realism” that I respond to, or the uncomfortable sense at the end of a story that there was Great Symbolism that went waaaay over my head, but generally speaking, fiction intended for adults suffers from major deficiencies in charm and charisma.
Two: I have at this point in my life, two voracious readers who operate at above age-level. It is such a tricky line to walk there, between books that will challenge them vs. books that will strip them of their innocence. Like Jessica once wisely said (and I can’t remember if she texted it to me, or wrote it in her blog, but I can’t find the quote to cite her properly), she wanted to give her kids access to so much good literature that they never even bothered with the junk (again, that’s a paraphrase, because I can’t find the original quote which was stated, like everything Spicy writes, much more thoughtfully than I can do). So I figure if I can read as much YA lit as I can now, I’ll have a record of great swaths of books for the kids to choose from that I can knowledgeably discuss with them (or steer them away from).
Ok. I’m sure you’re glad you asked. So on with the reviews for the week.
Belle Prater’s Boy, by Ruth White
My brother gave this book to Lotus a couple of Christmases ago, and I’m just now getting around to reading it. Lotus already had, and she was delighted to see that I was finally going to be able to talk about it with her.
And what a book to talk about!
Set in a rural coal mining town in Virginia in the early 1950s, Belle Prater’s Boy deals, ultimately, with death and rebirth. Gypsy, the 12 year old girl narrating the story, is fascinated and horrified by the mysterious disappearance of her aunt Belle. There are no answers to be had, not even from Belle Prater’s boy himself, 12 year old Woodrow, who comes to live with Gypsy’s family and forms an immediate bond with his cousin.
The book’s tone is tender without being saccharine, raw without being gratuitous, and hopeful without being blind. Through interactions with the town’s various citizens, both Gypsy and Woodrow are able to make those fumbling, awkward, painful steps toward adulthood in an environment full of people who honestly care for the children. Noticeably and refreshingly absent from the story are the tired old memes of “dysfunctional family as the norm” (though there certainly was an example of a dysfunctional family, it was not presented as an inescapable artifact of family life), and “rich people bad/poor people noble” (the book could have easily veered off into class warfare, but thankfully kept the scope of the plot focused).
There are a couple scenes where the two 12 year olds sneak out of their houses at night, one time wandering the streets until 2 in the morning, and one brief description of graphic violence. The violence would make me hesitate in recommending this book for readers younger than 10 or so, but I would recommend it.
Ruth White wrote a sequel to the book, which I’m hesitant to read, since I enjoyed this one so much. I don’t want to run the risk of a beautiful story being mucked up by a poorly executed sequel. We’ll see.
As for the second review, I didn’t get the book finished on time, because it’s proving to be, well, an extremely complicated book. Which is good, I guess. Plus, it means I’ll have something to review for next week!
Now, hitting “publish” early and hoping that Jessica’s cuh-razy week afforded her just enough time to get a WWRW post done on her end.