Saturday, January 19, 2008

In Which I Read Another Book Group Young Adult Novel

Because the book group is reading young adult novels this month, we had three books from which to choose. I had hoped to read all three but was unable to find the third. I could have ordered it online but in order to justify doing that, I would have had to spend $25 so that the shipping would be free. I was able to buy two of the three locally so I will only read the two. I have a feeling that I won’t be the only one who didn’t read all three because most of the time I am one of the few who has finished the one book.

I’ve already written about one of the books. Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden is the second of the three. (The third, for those remotely interested is Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle.) I definitely prefer this book over Luna. I immediately liked the characters—Liza (short for Eliza) and Annie. They meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and go to two of my favorite exhibits—The Temple of Dendur and the Medieval art section. (Later in the novel one or both go to other various and very familiar haunts like the Guggenheim, the Botanical Gardens, and even the Museum of the Native American.)

I suppose that because the novel takes place in NYC, I am somewhat biased in its favor but I can’t say that this always works in a writer’s favor. After all, I know what home feels like and if in writing about my home you can’t get it right I will feel disconnected from the story no matter how well written it may be.

My biggest complaint about the novel is that it is incredibly predictable. As each character is brought onto the stage of the unfolding story I knew what role they would play. No surprises at all. Luckily, a novel doesn’t have to surprise to satisfy. I was interested enough in and by the characters that I kept reading with enthusiasm. The details were enough to keep me from thinking that the author was trying too hard and the characters did not slip into anachronistic allusions or slang. Although this book was written quite some time ago, the story feels contemporary.

How often can one say that about a young adult novel published 25 years ago? Not often. I am grateful to see that feminism has made a difference when I read L’Engle’s Time Quartet and don’t get me started on Lewis’ Narnia girls.

The edition I have includes an interview with the author. It is interesting to see how Garden’s own life and love of literature influenced her own writing. What is remarkable is that Garden had an agenda when writing this novel. Usually when an author goes into a project with a moral to tell or an ax to grind, the story is clouded with pedantic lessons hammered home through the characters’ story. However, Garden succeeds where so many fail. She has a reason for writing her novel, a desire to write a story of young lesbian love and she succeeds.

If the ultimate compliment is to say that the author left me wanting to know more about what happens to the characters then I must commend Garden for doing just that. I wanted to know what happened to Liza and Annie after I closed the book. Where do their lives take them and what happiness will they experience? I said that the reason I didn’t appreciate Luna is that I didn’t care at all about the characters. I further suggested that this made my response to the book rather superficial. I suppose, by implication, my liking Annie on My Mind because I like the characters is equally superficial. *shrug* So I’m superficial. I’ve been called worse.

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