Sunday, June 28, 2009

Poetry Friday Apologies!

I am so sorry I missed the Friday roundup! Another summer, another computer crash.

I'll post an old-school roundup this (Monday) evening.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Poetry Friday

This week's Poetry Friday will be held at Carol's Corner. Don't miss it, and have a fabulous Friday.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review: Solace of the Road, by Siobhan Dowd

Solace of the Road
By Siobhan Dowd


I’m still traveling with the kids and the parents in Scotland and am following my goal of reading a number of books on the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize longlist. The one book I was most eager to read was Siobhan Dowd’s Solace of the Road. It was not easy to find up here in the Highlands, but I finally found one lone copy in Aviemore’s Waterstones. And, thank goodness, really. Solace of the Road is a book worth reading—for teens and for adults.

On the surface of things, Solace of the Road is a simple tale: Holly is a fifteen-year-old English foster child who decides to run for it and find her mother in Ireland. After years in a group home, she’s finally found placement with Fiona and Ray, a middle-aged couple whose comfortable lifestyle and quiet comportment rankles after the chaos of the group home. Holly questions whether or not Fiona and Ray even like her, or will the slightest infringement send her back to the home. In heading out on her own Holly convinces herself she is postponing the inevitable.

Solace of the Road becomes a road novel as soon as Holly takes a runner. She ‘borrows’ a blond wig from her foster mother and renames herself Solace, becoming an older, more sophisticated version of her 15-year-old self. She makes it all the way to Ireland—by bus and by hitching a ride with a number of strangers—before realizing her mother, in fact, would not be waiting for her on the other shore.

While runaway teens aren’t exactly a groundbreaking subject in Young Adult fiction, Solace of the Road is unique in its telling. Siobhan Dowd’s characterization nears perfection. Holly/Solace takes off with nearly forty pounds, but manages to blow it all on the first leg of her journey (Oxford), instead of squirreling it away carefully to last the entire trip. Holly’s judgments are split-second, instead of well considered and reasoned. When, for example, she finally decides to break her own moral code and shoplift, she nicks a pretty, floaty dress, instead of food. And, like most teens, her talent for denial serves her valiantly all the way to Ireland.

Solace of the Road distinguishes itself from standard teen fiction thematically, as well. While Holly meets one or two creeps on the road, most people who help her out do so out of human kindness—as would be the case in real life. This is not a dark teen novel, but rather one in which ordinary goodness shines through—to the reader and, in the end, to Holly as well. When back with Fiona and Ray at the novel’s conclusion, Holly realizes what she has experienced when talking with a therapist:

Other times I tell her [the therapist] about everyone I met on my travels. I show her the map and describe the good people on it who were like guardian angels because they did something to help me and asked for nothing back.

Chloe, who told me about Thule.
Kim, who gave me a sandwich.
The magnet man.
The boy on the motorbike, whose name I never knew, and Kirk, even, with his truckload
of pigs.
Sian, who said I had a figure like a dancer.

And Phil with his sad vegan eyes giving me the cake with pretend candles, and God is sitting in him still, I bet you, and he’s taking the scenic routes and chasing the white dividers in his cheese truck, planning his next move.

All these people—Phil the Vegan Truck Driver easily the best among them—help Holly on her journey, and only want the best for her, though they think she’s an eighteen-year-old off to elope with a sketchy boyfriend. Call me na├»ve, but I suspect this is what happens in the majority of similar situations, and level-headed realism instead of stylized darkness is refreshing to read in a teen novel. Enjoy this one on the road.

Solace of the Road
By Siobhan Dowd
U.K. edition
David Fickling Books
London, 2009
Copy Purchased


U.S. edition due October 13, 2009.

I have to admit I hate the cover. I am so tired of the back of teen girls’ heads. Can someone please put a stop to this? Please?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poetry Friday

This week's Poetry Friday will be hosted by Brian Jung at Critique de Mr. Chompchomp. Enjoy!

Review: Missing, by Karin Alvtegen

By Karin Alvtegen


Missing, by Karin Alvtegen, is a psychological thriller published for adults that will entrance teen readers as well. Missing is perfect for teens for two primary reasons: 1) The central mystery alternates with flashbacks to the heroine’s teen years and 2) the heroine, Sybilla, resolves Missing’s unique mystery with the help of a 15-year-old schoolboy.

Sybilla Forsenstrom lives on the streets in Stockholm, a life she has chosen since escaping an emotionally-abusive mother, neglectful father, and a stint in a mental institution. Every so often, Sybilla cleans herself up, dresses in a professional suit, and charms wealthy businessmen into buying her dinner and a room of her own in a fancy hotel. One night her luck runs out: a traveling businessman, who treats her to dinner and books her a room in Stockholm’s nicest hotel, is murdered and brutalized during the night. Sybilla becomes the prime suspect and begins a life on the run.

Sybilla’s run from the police becomes more complicated as three more men are murdered—in locations she’d never visited. One night, while living rough in the attic of a school, she meets a schoolboy named Patrick, who believes in her innocence, only because the fourth man was murdered when they were sharing the same attic space. (Patrick wanted to experience “living rough.”) Together they figure out who really committed the murders and set out to clear Sybilla’s name.

Sybilla’s life on the lam is interspersed with vignettes from her childhood and teen years. The cold horror and loneliness of her childhood provide insight into Sybilla’s fascinating character and her choice to live on the streets as an adult. Missing moves along at breakneck speed and is perfect for a rainy afternoon or an (enforced) family trip.

(Cautions: There is one sexual encounter in Missing Sybilla is reluctant to participate in, but it is also one that makes sense within the context of the story and her life on the streets.)

By Karin Alvtegen
Translated by Anna Paterson
Felony & Mayhem Press (New York)
2009 paperback edition
Copy purchased.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Poetry Friday is Back at Crossover/Big A little a

First and foremost: An enormous thanks goes out to Mary Lee of A Year of Reading who helped me during my great blog crisis of 2008-2009. She organized hosts and kept Poetry Friday going when I was unable to keep track of things. Thank you, Mary Lee!

I'll be posting the schedule here, and at Big A little a, and on the kidlistosphere group from now and into the future. As a reminder, here's who's up next:

June 12: Brian Jung at Critique de Mr. Chompchomp
June 19: Carol Wilcox at Carol's Corner
June 26: Kelly Herold at Crossover
July 3: Tabatha Yeatts at Tabatha A. Yeatts
July 10: Jama Rattigan at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup
July 17: Becky Laney at Becky's Book Reviews
July 24: Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
July 31: Sylvia Vardell at Poetry For Children
August 7: Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
August 14: Andromeda Jazmon at a wrung sponge
August 21: Kyle at The Boy Reader
August 28: Kate Coombs at Book Aunt

Thank you all for hosting, and I can't wait to join in the fun again.