Years ago, I enjoyed reading Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It was funny and quirky and self-revealing, with some darn good writing suggestions along the way. Her new novel, Imperfect Birds, is a work of fiction, and thankfully so, as it’s characters ring painfully true.
As the story opens, seventeen year-old Rosie Ferguson is ready to enjoy the summer before her senior year of high school. She’s smart –a straight-A student; she’s athletic - a former state-ranked doubles tennis champion; she’s great with the kids at her volunteer job, and she’s beautiful to boot!. But Rosie also has a knack for driving her mother, Elizabeth, crazy. She’s also quite adept at manipulating the truth and Mom seems more than willing to believe her lies. By the time school starts again in the fall, there are disturbing signs that is Rosie is not only abusing drugs, but that she is also making very dangerous choices, forcing her parents to finally confront the obvious.
As a parent myself (though thankfully no longer of teenagers) there were times when reading this made me vaguely uncomfortable. Had I, like Elizabeth, been too trusting when my son called to ask if he could spend the night at a friend’s? Hmmmm. Still, there’s a message here for both teens and adults, and the novel does end on a very hopeful note. Readers will also note the familiarity of characters and themes from the author’s previous works, such as Rosie and A Crooked Little Heart.
They were just six days at the end of a miserably hot summer. Yet to 13-year-old Henry those six days will change everything about his life in Labor Day by Joyce Maynard.
For Henry, the days pass monotonously – his emotionally fragile mother Adele has mostly checked out of life, rarely leaving the house. His father has a new family on the other side of town. Henry, lonely and awkward, and at that stage when you know so much and yet so little, just wishes something would happen. And then, Frank, bleeding and limping, walks into their lives. Henry has no idea how different he will be in six days. He will learn how to bake a pie, how to throw a baseball, the pain of jealousy and betrayal, and the power of love. Those six days will shape him into the man he will become.
Frank is an escaped prisoner who has been serving time for murder who seeks sanctuary with Henry and his mother. He is kind and thoughtful and soon Adele and Frank fall in love. They make plans to escape together to Canada. Henry struggles with this new person in their lives – relief that he is no longer the only person responsible for his mother’s happiness, fear that he’ll be left behind.
Narrated by Henry as an adult looking back on those six days, you hear the angst of the teenager softened by the perspective of time. It is written with simplicity and eloquence and a sympathetic understanding of the emotional complexity of people. The extended epilogue - particularly the last sentence – brings the story to an especially yet realistic satisfying conclusion.
I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs By Teens Famous & Obscure is a collection of writings gathered by Smith Magazine editors Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith from over 800 teens who share autobiographical truths about themselves – in just six words. These lines, more succinct than haiku, provide insightful glimmers into their day-to-day thoughts and realities.
Late For School Every Single Day
I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.
My mom had my boyfriend deported.
Willing to share with us your six-word reality? Use the comment section below.
“Sweet coming-of-age saga meets Sex-in-the-City.“
This single phrase describes Crouch’s debut novel Girls in Trucks, in a nutshell. What starts out as a pleasant story about a young Southern debutante, full of all the appropriate adolescent angst, suddenly and surprisingly turns into a slightly tragic sitcom version of the once popular TV show. I actually liked the first part better, though the novel is really a collection of stories pieced together in the appearance of a novel. Still, this will prove to be hugely popular, especially with the twenty-something crowd, as the author effectively captures not only the charming Charleston, South Carolina dialogue and decorum, but also replays the New York City scenes with a saucy wit that leaves the reader both in laughter and in tears. Warning: it doesn’t end at all the way you would expect it to – you’ll just have to read the book to find out for yourself!
The really big screen!
We’re having a film festival for teens of the Quad Cities. For full details, call the Davenport Public Library at 563-326-7893. But a bit of information now might help. The Quad-City area Public Libraries have put out a call for entries for our first ever YouTube film fest. We would like teens to create a 3 to 5 minute film that they post to a special account on YouTube.com and turn in to us.
To make this even more fun, the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre® have invited us to have a Red Carpet Event to showcase the winners. Prizes will be awarded for movies selected by the librarians and by audience choice.
So join us for the event on Thursday, March 13 at 7:00 PM as area teens present their YouTube movie on the giant IMAX® screen.
No registration is required for the free screening on the 13th, but teens must register their entries by March 8th. Entry forms are at both the Main and Fairmount libraries, or any local public library. More information is also online at www.davenportlibrary.com.