July 17, 2005

Writing with an IQ

"Geeky people often have that which is most valuable in this life . . . A mind with its own heartbeat."

If you haven't had the chance to read anything from Garret Freymann-Weyr, you've missed the chance to read some remarkably smart YA novels. They're not easy reads necessarily, but they're well worth the effort of thought.

Garret Freymann-Weyr's
My Heartbeat, is easily one of the most complex novels written on teen relations, ever. Narrator Ellen, who idolizes her brother Link and has a mad crush on her brother's best friend James finds herself in the uncomfortable position of still loving both when their friendship explodes. She tries to hold her brother's place in the relationship with James, but she's never quite outgrown that crush, and the lines of friendship blur. Are James and Link gay? Does it matter? Can Ellen stretch herself out far enough to hold both of them together without splitting down the middle herself?

Freymann-Weyr's books have the most intelligent, articulate characters. Her girls are well-read, her boys are thoughtful and have emotions. Even the parents she depicts, though often flawed, are seen with a depth and sensitivity that is often lacking in YA novels, or indeed, in the impatient and hurt eyes of most teens. This is especially the case in Freymann-Weyr's
When I Was Older

Protagonist Sophie had great plans for when she was older, but the dreams she had came crashing around her in seventh grade. That's the year her brother died of acute leukemia, and the same year her mother kicked her father out of the house, since her father was having an affair while her brother was in the hospital. Now fifteen, Sophie's still struggling to come to grips with the losses in her family, and the way things have changed.

It seems that time should have stopped when her brother died, but Sophie's older sister, Freddie, is dating a graduate student, and is all wrapped up him. Does she even remember anymore? Their father, more concerned with his new girlfriends, his business contacts, and his cell phone, is too busy to keep appointments, never comes to go through her brother's clothes, and spends more money breaking up with his girlfriends than he does on keeping them. He certainly hasn't let time slow him down.

Doing well in school, sticking with the rigid swim team schedule, staying focused and wanting to go to medical school are Sophie's plans for now, but even her plans to slow time are not really working. She's alienating herself from her friends by being violently opposed to the things they're all about, namely, boys. The only boy she wants to remember is Erhart, who died. Not even her father, with his sporadic visits and anxious gifts, rates much consideration from the determined Sophie. But when her mom starts dating, and introduces Sophie to her date's fifteen year old son... then Sophie's plans get shaken up again.

Garret Freymann-Weyr (don't you love that name?) writes intelligently paced, insightful YA novels. The memorable characters, beautiful descriptions of New York neighborhoods and thoughtful themes will resonate with you long after you've set them down.

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