Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What I Liked in 2010 (Part I)

As mentioned, I didn't read Young Adult fiction in 2010, but I did read many adult novels I enjoyed, some of them with crossover appeal for the teen reader. I'm going to run through them in two posts and in alphabetical order. Here's the first set:

Faithful Place, by Tana French. Faithful Place is French's third novel, and as in In the Woods and The Likeness, French places her detective-protagonist in a fascinating setting where he or she must solve a case involving several complex and difficult personalities. Faithful Place's detective, Frank Mackey, finds his mystery in his own claustrophobic, dysfunctional childhood home when the body of his first girlfriend is found two decades after her disappearance.

Crossover Potential? Some. The Likeness (2008) has the most appeal of French's novels to date for the teen reader. The detective-protagonist in The Likeness, Cassie Maddox, goes undercover to discover who killed a teen she had impersonated before. The main suspects are a group of university students living together in a house, former friends of the murdered girl.

A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore. A twenty-year-old university student narrates Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs and her innocent and biased view on the world will be of interest to teen readers. Tassie, the student, is hired as a nanny by Sarah, a middle-aged restaurateur who doesn't yet have her baby. In fact, Sarah's in the process of adopting a child, and Tassie travels with Sarah all over the upper Midwest to meet prospective birth mothers. As Tassie spends more time with Sarah--while Sarah adopts and then raises a biracial child--Tassie's views become more nuanced and complex.

Crossover Potential? Reasonably High, especially for teens who have spent some time babysitting in another's home.

Mary Karr's Lit was my favorite memoir of 2010. In Lit, Karr writes about becoming a poet, a wife, a mother, and an alcoholic. Karr discusses the fits and starts of her recovery, one that is ultimately successful. Lit is a beautifully written and sometimes difficult read (Karr can be tough on herself), but one well worth your time, if you're older than twenty five or so.

Low Crossover Potential for the non-addicted teen.

And, book #4 for this post...Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson.

Simonson's debut novel centers on widower Major Ernest Pettigrew, an elderly Englishman, who is finding life a bit difficult in his later years. His son is materialistic and annoying and the Major also is fighting with his sister-in-law over inherited items. In the midst of all the familial stress, Pettigrew becomes friends and falls in love with Jasmina Ali, a local shop owner and a widow herself.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand takes on generational divide, racism, and class in today's England and manages to do so in a quickly-paced, humorous love story. If you're in need of a lift and a laugh, then Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a great choice.

Crossover Potential? Sadly, I think Major Pettigrew's Last Stand will not appeal to most teen readers, because, let's face it, teens don't really like reading about grandparental romance.

So in conclusion...hand Tana French's The Likeness to a teen and see if you can hook him or her on the best new mystery novelist of the 2000s. Also, recommend A Gate at the Stairs to the perceptive teen babysitter.

Up tomorrow: Our Kind of Traitor, Solar, So Much for That, Super Sad True Love Story, and A Visit from the Goon Squad.