So there’s this GIANT BOOK SALE going on just up the street from where I live, medic and if one managed to rack up $25 worth of books, one got 20% off. This book was the book that put us over the top. I’d never heard of the author, and the book description didn’t quite grab me, but Ben thought it sounded intriguing. However, I decided to read it today for a very shallow reason: the book would fit inside my purse. Anyway, Ms. Young (Ms. Romano Young?) is a former Army brat, a Northeasterner (NYC and Connecticut), and an illustrator, in addition to having written seven or eight books (fiction and non-fiction) for various age groups.
Nancy, a sixteen-year-old young woman of mixed heritage, lives in contemporary New York City. Her family is a bit odd; her father loves being on roofs (fortunately, he’s a roofer by trade) and climbing around various places, and her mother is agoraphobic and refuses to live above grounds. Similarly, her mother weaves a lot, and her father tries to teach her how to climb the way he does. One day, she meets a young man named Dion; he’s recently shaved his head and he wears thrift-store clothing (not in the trendy way). However, he lives on roofs, too, and there’s something about him — perhaps his sense of balance — that appeals to her. But he is awfully strange, and her family is getting stranger by the moment. What’s going on?
It’s so hard to write a book description that’s better than the one on the front flap (which is nowhere near me, by the way) because I realize that it’s impossible to discuss the plot without giving a lot of things away. Of course Nancy’s family — and Dion’s family — has a lot of secrets; some of these secrets are very strange, and others are even stranger. The funny part is that I’m so used to reading fantasy that when a portion was given away, I guessed the rest and assumed that all the characters in the books knew as well. Fortunately, knowing the secrets didn’t diminish my enjoyment of Ms. Young’s tale.
It’s a bit of an odd plot; things seem to meander around and around until they finally come to a handful of points. The pacing was obviously deliberately done; on top of that, it managed to feel artistic without getting in the way of the story. Usually I’m not a huge fan of books with too many obvious style points, but this one worked for me. It might have been that I enjoyed the characters so much, though. It was definitely unusual to see such a multicultural cast of characters in a book not trying to make any sort of point. Nancy is a quarter Italian, a quarter Scottish, and half African (or maybe a quarter African and a quarter Jamaican; it wasn’t exactly clear). Dion is half Greek and part Navajo; Nancy’s friend Annette is Asian. They just . . . were these nationalities. There was another major character, the most popular girl at school, who was named Shamiqua, and it wasn’t even remotely as a joke.
Overall, it was definitely a different book from what I’m used to reading. It made use of tropes (superhero tropes mostly, although not as overtly as one might guess) and mythology that I’d seen mined in stories (and even recently; those who have read the book will know exactly what book to which I am alluding), but in a new sort of way. If it wasn’t perhaps wholly novel, it was certainly at least new and interesting enough that I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading the author’s other books, and I hope she writes more mythic fiction in the future! 4.5/5 stars.
I reread my post (here) of the interview with J. Scott Savage and realized that Friday at midnight is about an hour from now. I really meant Friday at 11:59 P.M. EDT; that is, capsule
a minute before Saturday starts.
That gives those in the Eastern time zone another 25 hours to enter!