“Thin Places” by Lesley Choyce

This fine YA novel Thin Places by Lesley Choyce is more a modern day folk tale. The teenage boy Declan has a heightened capacity for sensing. Much to his father’s dismay, he hears voices in his head. One day it’s the voice of a girl, a girl he begins to see and to fall in love with.  He is                                                                                                                                              “Out of place, out of time”                                                                                                                                          in an “Upside down universe”.                                                                      He becomes     “ A boy on a Mission”.                                                                                                                          “Clues” and “Parental advice”                          follow.                                           “Then something strange” happens…                                                                                                                             there is “A girl in (his) bedroom”.                                     He becomes a traveller,                                                                                                                                                                         to “Beaches” to “The sand, the sea, the sky”…

This is a haunting song to life and to love and to the quiet spaces, the thin places, between time that beckon.

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Calvin by Martine Leavitt

Calvin is a beautiful and simple YA book about big questions and big answers.

Calvin, a 17 year old with hallucinations of a man-eating tiger called Hobbes, has a psychotic break at school and is taken to hospital. He thinks if he can convince Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes (which ended in 1995), to write one more strip with the Calvin character now also aged 17 and minus the comic strip character Hobbes, his personal Hobbes will also disappear. He escapes from hospital with his best friend since forever, Susie, intending to walk across a frozen Lake Erie to Cleveland to meet Watterson and see this one last comic strip. It becomes a life threatening journey but ultimately life enhancing.

Playful and funny, serious and tender, both metaphoric and always real, it is a love story to life.

White Jade Tiger by Julie Lawson

Generally stories of modern day youth finding themselves in another era do not appeal to me. Why? Usually becomes some things do not ring true. But White Jade Tiger captured me from the beginning.

Jasmine’s mother dies, leaving her of course devastated. Then her father’s job takes him away and she has to live with her aunt. More loss and disruption for the 12/13 year old. Shortly after, her class has a school field trip to the local Victoria China Town. As Jasmine explores, she inadvertently passes through a doorway into the early 1880s. There she helps her new friend, Keung, search for a white jade tiger amulet. This search takes them to the Fraser Canyon, the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and a satisfactory conclusion to their adventure.

Never once did I feel the story farfetched. Julie Lawson’s historical descriptions are detailed and convincing and the developments in the story line equally convincing—including the final twist.

This is a reissue of a good book for middle grade readers.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Santa Claus brought me this book in my stocking. It won the Governor General’s Award for young people’s literature in 2017 for good reason. It is more than a fascinating YA read.

Told from the point of view of a Metis teen on the run called Frenchie, the story follows him and his ad hoc family of other Indigenous people as they try to avoid being taken by government agency Recruiters for their bone marrow. This dystopian novel is set in the not too distant future with elements of danger, adventure and love. A rich and complex drawing of characters moves the story compellingly along.

More importantly this book looks back at our colonial past and points to the future consequences of current policies with regard to climate change and pipelines. This is a book for adults as well as young people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Optimists Die First” by Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die First is an excellent YA book. To cope with a family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde sees danger around every corner from eating a hamburger to walking near a construction site.

In a mandatory art therapy class she, the fearful pessimist, meets a quirky group of teens who all have their burdens. Among these is Jacob the apparent optimist who seems so normal except for his prosthetic arm. This is a love story between Petula and Jacob that threatens to not be.

A wonderful tale with even more wonderful and believable characters. A must read.

Lisa’s War

I have read may of novels by Carol Matas over the years. They have all been good.  Lisa’s War jumped off the shelf at the library the other day and I read what I thought was a new one of hers. Good as usual, it is the simple but well told story of a Jewish girl who helps herself and others to escape the Nazi occupation in Denmark.

What I found particularly interesting was the Afterword. 

“Because of the courage and resourcefulness shown by the Danish people, both Jews and Gentiles, Denmark was one small bright corner in that terrible time. Of some 7,000 Danish Jews, only 474 were arrested and sent to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, while the rest escaped to the safety of neutral Sweden.

But this great escape could not have happened if the SS had succeeded in trapping families in their homes on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. That shameful plan was foiled by G.F. Duckwitz, the member of the German embassy staff who was in charge of shipping in Copenhagen. Duckwitz risked his own life, first by trying unsuccessfully to prevent the roundup and then by secretly passing on a warning.”

This is not a new book. It was published in 1987. Well written, it is an oldie but a goodie.

 

 

The Turing Machinists by ME Reid

I just read a YA book, called The Turing Machinists by ME Reid, about a group of autistic teens’ attempt to win a rock band competition. I thoroughly enjoyed it, largely because it seemed to capture the issues and speech patterns of autistic youth. A bonus was the inclusion of information about Turing himself, the brilliant mathematician and computer science pioneer.

But I am not sure the title worked for me.  On the other hand, at the moment I cannot think of a better one.

The One Hundred and breaking a writing rule

While I normally promote Canadiana, I just read Kass Morgan’s book “The 100″and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It is a fast paced, post nuclear war novel for young adults in which a small population of humans has survived for 300 years in large space ships away from the radiation. One hundred juvenile offenders are sent back to earth to test its habitability. How will these teens survive? What are the secrets that colour their lives?

But what I found most interesting was the structure. There is a rule in writing of not using too many flashbacks as they slow down forward momentum. This rule is thoroughly broken. In fact almost every chapter has a good sized flashback. But in this case the pace of the novel is so fast and the time frame so limited that the flashbacks serve to elongate the tension.

At the end of the novel I realized this had to be the first of a series. And yes, Google tells me there have been three others and a TV adaptation. Out of the loop, I am. Nevertheless it makes for a good read.

I wonder if the author continues with the same flashback structure and whether it works as well in future novels.

 

 

A Missed Month

Writing blog posts is not necessarily creative. At least not the way I want to be creative. I want to play music, write and do mental gymnastics with words.

In my terms, it has been a creative month. Lots of the above, even the necessity to parody songs which I find hugely fun and absorbing.

Better than that, I am also back to editing my manuscript. Being creative in other ways seems to enhance my writing.

So there.