Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Well, you wouldn't want me to rush in, right?

While this was possibly my favorite book of 2006, I've been hesitating about talking about it for... well, let's not talk time frames, if that's all right with you. I'm not sure if I can do this one justice, or fully communicate how much I love this title, so I've just sat on it. For a really long time. I've sat on other titles, too, but for other reasons (like: "it was ok, but there isn't much to say about it, so until I've got something to relate, it'll keep getting shoved aside" OR "Dear Lord, that was an awful book. How do I say 'ick' nicely, in what essentially amounts to a public space?" Ah, the curse I gave myself by reviewing everything I finish.).

UPON finishing Dana Reinhardt's A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life I talked Sarah (youth librarian extraordinaire and beloved bff, who sadly lives about as far away as possible from me. Quirk of fate. Gives me a good reason to visit Florida in the dead of winter, though.) into reading it. We don't, generally, like the same stuff (this fact created some serious music dilemmas on the hour-long trips to Library School, btw.). None of this is either here nor there, however, we were able to dish on how fantastic the book is. Sarah gave it to co-worker Allie (also fabulous) who wanted to book-talk it to her teens. That's where I come in again. It's not such an easy book-talk. This is what I gave them:

Simone knew exactly what she believed. Her parents raised her a liberal, atheist activist. Her world was firm. Well it was - but then her birth mother came back into the picture. Now Simone needs to marry her upbringing with her actual heredity as an Orthodox Jew. She needs to figure out what SHE believes, who SHE is, not just what people EXPECT her to be. Oh, and if she can get that cute cafe guy to like her? Definite bonus.

Apparently, that went over well. But it only really scratches the surface of WHY I think this title is important. How hard is it to question EVERYTHING you grew up NOT questioning? Things you took for granted. Questioning things that you were perfectly happy not thinking about. Think about how much courage it takes to disrupt the acceptable world order. Simone was happy. She liked her life, and she knew what she wanted. Even with her birth mother coming back into the picture, Simone didn't have to change anything. She could have gone all ostrich and maintained status quo - it would have been perfectly acceptable behavior. And to do this as a 16-year-old? And to make me believe her struggle and her growth? Yeah. That's pretty awesome.

We watch Simone go from denial and bitterness. We see her interact with her peers, with her adopted family, and with her birth mother - all revealing the different aspects of the same character - the different sides that we all have. Add to that a very clear and distinctive voice and a girl trying to figure out her first love and everyday life on top of such earth-shattering soul-searching? I was a total goner. With the love for this book. And no, I still don't think I've done this one justice. Too bad the cover sucks. The new paperback cover bites as well. God, I so hate it when great books have less-than-great covers. Not something to blame on the author, though.

And yes, I have read Harmless. I'll probably blog it on Thursday. Tomorrow is Book Group, so you'll get one of those adult titles I force myself to read. ;) It's only once a month, people. We can get through it together.


Unknown said...

just put it on hold! sounds amazing- you know just how present a book to make people want to read it :)

Jackie Parker said...

Oh, it wasn't the gushing? ;)

Unknown said...

the gushing helped :)

Anonymous said...

I think your gushing in this post did the book some justice. The book is indeed absolutely fantasic -- can you believe we agreed on something?! :) hehe. I can't wait to hear what you say about "Harmless", because I know you didn't make it through the book without having to put it down for awhile. I'm reading "Teach Me" by Nelson right now. Have you read it yet? It's tantalizingly good.

Jackie Parker said...

Funny you mention "Teach Me." A friend was just talking about how much she likes that book.