Wednesday, July 30, 2008

YA Books - Week One

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly - from my limited reading I found that this is widely viewed as the first YA novel. A hugely sheltered girl who has just graduated high school has her first love in this chaste and rather flowery novel. Much of the story is too stilted and virginal for today's standards, and the class delineations (Angie's family is the right type - they eat in the dining room and use top sheets. Racy Dollie meanwhile lives in a loud house with a sagging porch with an old car seat on it and a door made of cardboard and screening) are really almost offensive in their smugness. But, viewed from within its time, its importance is probably huge. Plus must remember the author was between 17-20 when she wrote it, which likely accounts for the somewhat stilted and rather mentally thin Angie, the cardboard characters, and the overly flowery descriptive passages. I would argue that the story isn't about much until about page 240, with a passage about the teenage protagonists yearning to be something more than she is on pp 243-244 probably the heart of the story. All in all, I ended up skimming much of this one - it was just too slow for me, and I really did not like the main character. She seemed almost ridiculously stupid at times.

Forever by Judy Blume - another seminal work in YA - no pun intended. Sometimes called the "how-to" manual for teen sex, the book is often fairly graphic but not prurient. I think what people most object to isn't so much the sex as the way the characters in the book TALK about sex, openly. I think Blume definitely set out to write a how-to for kids - how to get invovled in a sexual relationship, how it may happen, how to do it without getting pregnant, and how to break it off. I respect it most for the way it works at showing girls (and boys) how no matter how intense that first love is, it may really be fleeting, and could end, and that is OK.

Guys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieszka - a collection of very short essays by male writers mostly about being a boy or reading or both. The most cliched was Darren Shan's Guyifesto, which read kind of like a cliche'd look at all things you "have" to do to be a "guy." As a mom of 2 boys who will be adolescents soon, I think the most overtly useful was "Training the Bear" by Will Weaver. I think my reserves of patience and forebearance will get a big workout soon. For entertainment, I liked Peck's "1928 Packard" because I recognized it as a scene that he put into his book "On the Wings of Heroes" which I really liked.

No comments: