Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Genre Reading Group Recap: Coming-of Age Novels

I feel incredibly cheesy starting every email with "Wow!" but it is so apt for these discussions!

Next month's topic is Biographies and the date and time are May 25th at 6:30pm. I have a selection pulled but will be glad to help you find the perfect book if you have a particular interest to explore!

For a boisterous, rollicking good time, visit the library on Sunday May 23rd between 1pm and 5pm for the Summer Reading Kickoff (children, teens, AND adults)! We'll have freebies and prizes!

Here is the list of everything we talked about!

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School
Thirteen chapters provide a monthly snapshot of Jason Taylor's life in small-town England from January 1982 to January 1983. Whether the 13-year-old narrator is battling his stammer or trying to navigate the social hierarchy of his schoolmates or watching the slow disintegration of his parents' marriage, he relates his story in a voice that is achingly true to life. Each chapter becomes a skillfully drawn creation that can stand on its own, but is subtly interwoven with the others.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (The participant who read this said this book was "pure joy"!)
From Publishers Weekly
Honey-sweet but never cloying, this debut by nonfiction author Kidd features a hive's worth of appealing female characters, an offbeat plot and a lovely style. It's 1964, the year of the Civil Rights Act, in Sylvan, S.C. Fourteen-year-old Lily is on the lam with motherly servant Rosaleen, fleeing both Lily's abusive father T. Ray and the police who battered Rosaleen for defending her new right to vote. Lily is also fleeing memories, particularly her jumbled recollection of how, as a frightened four-year-old, she accidentally shot and killed her mother during a fight with T. Ray. This book was made into a movie in 2008 starring Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys. Beekeeping is a big part of the book and discussion touched on the recent news of Colony Collapse Disorder among the world's bee populations.

Taken from the pages of Daisy Fay Harper's journal, this is a coming of age story set in rural Mississippi that is by turns hilarious and touching. It begins in 1952 when Daisy Fay is a sassy, truth-tellin' but lonely eleven-year old, and ends six years later when she becomes the flamboyant, unlikely -- but assured -- winner of the Miss Mississippi contest. Along the way, we meet some of the raffish and outrageous town locals, including her own Daddy, who comes up with a mortgage scheme that requires Daisy's "resurrection." This is a thoroughly entertaining comic novel with a heroine who is bound to capture your heart.

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School
Thirteen-year-old Miles O'Malley's nightly kayaking trips contribute to his expertise on the natural life of the Puget Sound tidal flats. On one of his nocturnal forays, Miles discovers a giant squid, a creature that has never before been sighted in the area, and he becomes a phenomenon. The protagonist is not a typical teen: captivated by Rachel Carson's writings, he is interested in reading and in safeguarding the secrets of an elderly friend whose health is declining. Lynch's lyrical writing holds great interest for teens concerned about the natural world; the book's haunting images will linger in their minds as they contemplate the relationship between the sea's mysteries and Miles's growing understanding of the mysteries of his life.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Before...Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-butboring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart. After...Nothing is ever the same.

When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washedup child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy–loving best friend riding shotgun—but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
This is the story of a young man's struggle to find the meaning of life in a world that is cruel. Philip Carey has a club foot, making him the subject of cruelty at school and ridicule in the adult world. Philip allows this treatment to warp his personality, making him introspective and solitary. Due to this, Philip suffers greatly in silence, aching only to find someone to love him without condition. It is a desire that is universal, making this novel one that readers of all ages will identify with.

The term "lost generation literature" came up while we talked about Maugham's book and this phrase is used to describe a group of U.S. writers (though Maugham is English) who came of age during World War I and established their reputations in the 1920s; more broadly, the entire post–WWI American generation. The term was coined by Gertrude Stein in a remark to Ernest Hemingway. The writers considered themselves "lost" because their inherited values could not operate in the postwar world and they felt spiritually alienated from a country they considered hopelessly provincial and emotionally barren. The term embraces Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, E.E. Cummings, Archibald MacLeish, and Hart Crane, among others.

Jim the Boy by Tony Earley
It's 1934, and Jim Glass is just turning 10. Aliceville, North Carolina, where Jim lives with his mother and three uncles, doesn't seem too affected by the Great Depression. But it might just be that life in this little southern town has always been hard. Jim's father, born and raised in the mountains, died a week before the boy was born. So it's only through his uncles' stories that Jim knows him. Like a winding stream, Jim wanders through his tenth year, playing baseball against the mountain boys; climbing a greased pole at the fair; being teased by his uncles; making friends with a rival. This is a deceptively gentle, nostalgic look at childhood during an era when life was by turns harsh and hopeful. The sequel is The Blue Star. Other stories Jim the Boy brought to mind included The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and the movie The Secondhand Lions.

Readers will be thoroughly captivated by Ivy Rowe, the narrator of this epistolary novel, and will come to the end of her story with a pang of regret. Smith has produced her best work here, creating a fully rounded heroine and other vivid characters who inhabit Virginia's Appalachia region. The letters begin around the turn of the century when Ivy is a child living with eight siblings on the family farm on Blue Star Mountain. Written with quaint misspellings and in the vernacular of Southern speech, the missives reflect the harsh poverty of farm life, as well as the simple beauties of the land: "This is the taste of spring," her father tells Ivy, and she never forgets it, even when the family must move to the boom town of Majestic after her father's death.

Happy reading!

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