Friday, May 4, 2007

East and West of the Atlantic, Teens Have Restless Parents

This week I read two young adult novels, Jan Mark's Turbulence and Will Weaver's Claws. Both were completely enthralling, and both were about really nice teenagers with basically good parents who were going through mid-life madness. It's a real topic: my own children went through it as did those of my friends. It's a valid idea for a novel. And in the hands of such fine writers as Mark* and Weaver**, the results are fully realized portraits of young people in their families, with friends -- mostly educated and middle class people, all. Even the pink-haired punk girl isn't what you think at first.
In both books the teenage protagonist cooks a lot for the family and generally plays the part of a responsible adult, though one with teenage yearnings. Both have troublesome younger siblings. Parents are going crazy or withdrawing from their problems.
Both books end on a hopeful note. I wonder if Will Weaver has read Jan Mark, or vice versa, because the books are so similar in some elements. But both authors' voices are unique. And both stories are engrossing and believable, with admirable adolescents and hope for most of the rest of the characters.
* Will Weaver has written a trio of novels about a teenage farm boy in Minnesota who is a great baseball player. Striking Out, the first, gripped me from the start, with its evocation of an intense and committed teenager with a stubborn father. While I've not yet gotten into his adult novel Red Earth, White Earth, I have summer hopes for it.
** Jan Mark is a goddess, our late captain. Oh Captain, my Captain! She is gone but leaves a shelf of very fine fiction about young people. The first for me was Handles, about a girl who loves motorcycles and prefers hanging out with the guys at the shop to anything else besides riding. Jan Mark was my age when she died and was someone I would have liked knowing. That's why we write about books -- to keep them and their creators alive.


bri said...

This book blog makes my day. Your students are lucky to have you. And I want to read teen fiction again.

thank you.

bri said...

I'm used to that phrase, teen fiction. After reading the entry below this, I wish I hadn't used it.

Young adult novels.