MFAC YA Booklist: True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
True Believer is a novel in verse, or is it? I would say funky line breaks and jaggy right margins do not verse make (how’s that for some ferociously f*rked syntax?). Which I've discussed at length here and will touch on again. But first, other thoughts:
A line on an early page, “a changed climate down in my insides” hints at sexual tension and foreshadows changes to come—a changed climate. Her tidy room also contrasts her messy life circumstances. I expected, however, more to be made of this after-school grammar program. It’s built up, then dropped, then becomes tangential. We don’t really see her developing these relationships.
I loved the “privileged lives” of the plants in the wealthy swimming club. It’s these little details I wish there were more of. So vivid and rich and telling (telling in a good way, not in the vs. showing way).
Yet I didn’t buy the voice. At all. So much so that I ended up writing a critical essay about it (comparing this to Hesse’s Out of the Dust).
Strange aside on the issue of race. I assumed the protagonist and most characters were white because the author is white, and because there’s no lilting rhythm of African American speech (Tyrell by Coe Booth is amazing for the authentic voice of a young black male). But I’m not quite sure. Should I be sure? I sure would have liked to be sure. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Wolff wanted any girl to be able to imagine herself into the story, so chose to keep it ambiguous. I found the ambiguity unsettling. Maybe that's just me?
Despite all of that, I keep wondering, why the poetic form? Why not prose?
Is it because
wrote a short
What Jamie Saw is the story of a boy and his mother fleeing an abuser. The first chapter is heartbreaking and poignant. Coman chooses a close 3rd person but incorporates a distinct narrator voice—mature, respectful (similar to the Ramona books but less optimistic). So the voice...
Looking for Alaska is easily one of my favorites from the MFAC booklist. Even though I’ve grown a little tired of the forced-funny, self-deprecating voice so ubiquitous in contemporary ya, and tired of a protagonist who stands there going “um hum” while everyone else gets the great one-liners. But here...
S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Amazing. Hard to believe this novel was written by a teen. What trumps all here is a sympathetic protagonist and a strong storyline. Hinton can get away with...
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention.
Forged by Fire is gripping! And excruciatingly painful to read. A few thoughts: I’m not sure if I bought...
Seriously, An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 was entirely fascinating. Like brain porn or something. I love medical weirdness and plagues and boils and gross stuff. So this book had me from the title.
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood crafted a moving introduction. The importance of keeping a family story alive. I wonder, though, if this story would have more power in a different format?
In We Are the Ship Nelson combines fabulous paintings with rich text full of voice for a truly interesting look at the Negro League of baseball. The paintings are gentle, respectful, full of love with absolutely amazing use of light.
Tuck Everlasting. I first read this in upper elementary when I was in a special "advanced" reading class where I got to spend the English hour on the beanbags in the corner and read my way through Newbery classics.
True Believer is a novel in verse, or is it? I would say funky line breaks and jaggy right margins do not verse make (how’s that for some ferociously f*rked syntax?).