Monday, June 9, 2014

Ghosting

I love Edith Pattou's fantasy YA novels.  Hero's Song and Fire Arrow are two fantastic Irish-myth-inspired quest books--I cannot resist a good quest book--and East is a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.  I sprang on the ARC of Pattou's latest offering for young adults.  It's called Ghosting.  And it's realistic fiction.

*record scratch*

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed that she hasn't continued the Songs of Eirren series.  I long to know more of the adventures of Breo-Saight, feisty girl archer.  Ghosting is a radical switch-up for Pattou, and it succeeds.

This is an ambitious book.  It is a book in verse told from multiple points of view.  This is already very shaky ground, yet Pattou handles it quite well.  I thought that given the subject, verse was a very effective stylistic choice, and each narrator, save the two sisters, have distinctive narrative voices (although, I suppose that the sisters would sound a bit like each other.  But I admit I was confused a bit as to which one was Emma and which one was Faith).  I felt a bit light-headed as the story unfolded--the tragedy alluded to in the blurb isn't what you'd expect, and yet, in today's news, it's frighteningly common.

This is a story about gun violence.  Given the recent spate of senseless rampages involving firearms, this book struck a nerve.  The lead-up to the crisis is exceedingly well-done, and the individual characters' reactions to the tragedy are believable.

Maxie (Maxine, but don't call her that) has come back to Illinois after her father's job move to Colorado didn't pan out.  He's drinking way too many beers and her mom worries about money.  Maxie's into photography, and knows that her childhood friendship with Emma and Felix can't and won't be the same.  When they were kids, they did everything together, earning the moniker "Emfax" from their parents.  Now Emma's the hot, popular girl who gets everything she wants, while Felix deals with his mother's depression and dad's behavior by getting high.

This is as much an exploration of interpersonal relationships as it is a condemnation of gun violence.  Relationships are tricky, tricky things.  Emma has a boyfriend, but does she really love him?  Is it just the idea of being with him that she loves?  Why is pretty Chloe going out with Anil?  Does she really like him?  Does he really like her?  Does someone's attractiveness quotient mean that you automatically must fall in love with him or her?  What do you do when you start dating your friend's ex?

Family pressure plays a huge role in these teens' lives (just as much as peer pressure), but it's in the background, an ever-present weight on their shoulders.  Anil's parents expect him to grow up to be a doctor like everyone else.  Emma knows she can get her dad to do anything she wants--and her mom knows it, too.  Maxie's parents have become strangers since they've had to move back home.  And Brendan, Emma's boyfriend, has a seriously dysfunctional home life.  Pattou peels back the layers of each character's pain gently, yet firmly.  She doesn't excuse their behavior, but she makes us, the readers, understand it.

There were a few loose ends that I would have liked to have seen tied up, but then again, maybe that was the intention.  Life always has loose ends.

Actually, as I write this, I'm trying to find something to criticize other than the sometimes-mix-up of narrative voice.  It's not preachy.  It's not heavy-handed.  It has compassion.  It's ... really good.  Yes.  I recommend this.  Wholeheartedly.

But, you know, Song of Eirren book three wouldn't be sniffed at, either.

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent review. I haven't read anything by this author before but it does sound very interesting. I definitely need to add it to my to-read list!

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