Sunday, November 30, 2008

Two Good YA Reads

Well, it's been a while - two months. And this from a blogger who was going to blog twice a week. Promise. But blogging must be like diets. Easy to start, harder to keep up with. I've been wanting to post about two books I read in October since - well, October.

The first is The Lucky Place by Zu Vincent. Zu's book is gently written in the trusting voice of a child - beginning when Cassie is three years old and trying to make sense of her alchoholic father's behavior, the story spans ten years to her innocent acceptance of her step father, to her protectiveness and loyalty to her older brother, and to her accepting responsibilities beyond her years. Drunkeness, divorce, anger, and childish wishes seem all the more chillling seen through Cassie's young eyes. Zu grows her character in both age and emotion until Cassie is able, at twelve or thirteen to become the nurturer, the backbone of her shattered family. The prose is lovely and the story held my attention from page one to the end. It's not a happy book, but a satisfying one. There are some interesting takes on gender roles too - in both the adults and the children.

Second is Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe. Set in Carson City, Nevada, the main character, Kyle, shoots and kills his best friend in what seems like an accident, but Kyle can't remember any of it. As he goes through "the system" of juvenile justice, probation, counseling, and school oversight, he is haunted by the possibility that he killed his friend on purpose. Ayarbe writes a sharp, witty character who is enamoured with old movies and directors. The book is edgy, intellegent, and disturbing. It's an emotional ride through territory we all hope to avoid.

In both books I was taken by quirky secondary characters - by Vincent's Jaimie, Cassie's older brother, whose love of dancing and costumes stretches their manly step-father's idea of how a boy should be, and by Ayarbe's Kohana - a loner, a misfit photographer, a kid that no one pays any attention to because he's big and quiet and scary. These boys on the outside touched me, and are probably part of the reason the books did too. I remcommend them both.

INFORMATION: From the Children's Defense Fund website about gun deaths and injuries published in 2005:
data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 2,867 children and teens died from gunfire in the United States in 2002—one child about every three hours, nearly eight children every day, 55 children every week. In addition to this horrific child gun death toll, four to five times as many children and teens suffered non-fatal bullet wounds.

1,830 were homicide victims
828 committed suicide
209 died in accidental or undetermined circumstances
1,639 were White
1,112 were Black
581 were Latino
64 were Asian or Pacific Islander
52 were American Indian or Alaska Native
416 were under age 15
142 were under 10
71 were under 5

These statistics come from the CDC and are for the total population of the U.S. - also for 2005. in 2005 [there were] 32,691 poisoning deaths compared with 30,694 firearm deaths. Motor vehicle traffic (MVT) deaths were the leading cause of injury death from 1999-2005, accounting for 43,667 deaths in 2005. From 2004 to 2005, MVT deaths increased 1%, firearm deaths, 4% and poisoning deaths, 8%. (1,2)