June 14, 2006

About Her Mom, Mostly

I picked up C.S. Adler's novel, Shadows on Little Reef Bay, the other day in the library because I always pick up a random handful, and sometimes I pick up gems.

This book was published in 1984, and it really reminded me of some of the best and worst things about YA literature in the past. What was nice about this novel is that 80's YA lit focused on 'hard reality' a lot -- people could be poor or counting pennies, and all this was explored without undue emphasis. It normalized whatever was going on in the world into a sort of "everybody is dealing with this" that made the books feel very static - and very safe. The fifteen year old main character, Stacy, seems young and naïve and that, too, gives the story a slow feeling of security. Nothing terriblyintriguingg going to happen with this girl, she's simply still a child. It's apparent that the writer believes this firmly.

What was sort of awful was that the novel didn't focus as much on the young adult in the novel, but kept laying out broad hints that her mother was practically unfit, and sort of flighty. It stood out clearly that the author wanted readers to pick this up. In the end, when serious danger accosts the heroine, the reader is almost bewildered and caught off guard, because so far the worst thing that has happened in the novel is that the mother is an unbearably clichéd "artist type" and Stacy seems chronically bored and nosy - which is why she stumbles into a drug running outfit on the island where her art teacher mother is on sabbatical.

The villians are obvious to the reader, if not Stacy, and the end is strangely stilted. The author seems to have definite Opinions about people, especially about 'artist types' and parents who don't parent, and these unwieldy opinions are forced out of the mouth of the character. A novel that could have done with a different point of view, this was at least a fun moment in the Wayback Machine to give us a picture of YA lit of the 1980's.

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