I didn’t realize this novel was for young adults when I bought it, however, it fits in well with all the books I keep borrowing from school. It’s a book that deals with feminist issues – spousal abuse and date rape. The main character is a fourteen year old girl who is caught between a father whose approval she craves and a mother she is upset with. A girl who suspects her father is physically abusing her mother but doesn’t want to confront it. A girl who fights off an older boy at a party; the first one she’s ever drunk alcohol at. And it’s got a great thread of body acceptance running through it – Franky is a diver and on the swim team.
“I stood in front of my bedroom mirror naked, as I’d never done before, liking my hard little breasts with the dimple-nipples, and the pale-flamy swath of silky hairs at my crotch, and my lean muscled swimmer’s legs, even my long, narrow, toad-stool white feet. I didn’t stare or ogle, I just looked at myself like you’d look at a flower, or a tree, or an animal, anything natural, unclothed. Especially, though, I did admire my carroty-red hair, which I was letting grow long, frizzy and static with electricity, past my shoulders.”It also deals with the complexity of mother-daughter relationships during puberty, which I thought was well handled, amongst the seriousness of all the other issues the characters were dealing with.
“Suddenly, one day, I heard myself lying to my mother. Not for any special reason – just I didn’t want her to know my heart.”
“At the same time I was wishing I could escape somewhere. At least that I was sixteen and had my driver’s license. That way I wouldn’t be so damned dependent on Mom to drive me places. It was too intimate, this mother-daughter thing. Too much!”
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume
I don’t have any recollection of reading this book when I was younger, though I’m pretty sure I read all Judy Blume’s books. While some children’s books are great even when read as an adult, I didn’t find this to be one of those. The subject matter (getting your period, kissing boys for the first time) doesn’t have a lot of draw anymore – though I’m certain it was quite a revelation when I was younger. And the questioning of religion I found overly simplistic, even for a children’s novel. Or perhaps, especially for a children's novel.
The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg
I liked this one a lot more. My grade 5 class has been reading it as part of a writing program and so I took it home on my first weekend to catch myself up with the curriculum. I really liked it – I’m not sure the whole theme of changing yourself really struck a chord with me, but I loved the idea of running away to live in a museum. I was just the kind of geek who would run away and insist on learning every day still. After all, back in my skipping days, I was almost always in the school, just not in class. The mystery was cute, the old woman was amusingly eccentric, and the plot tied itself up neatly.
The Music of the Dolphins by Karen Hesse
Another book that I think I would have liked at the intended age of the audience, but didn't do a lot for me now. That is, had I been able to tear myself away from my normal genre of accidentally-transported-into-the-past novels. It's about a young girl marooned on an island in a storm at age four, who ends up being raised by a pod of dolphins. She is later discovered and taken to a research facility. She learns to speak to humans and becomes entranced with music, but then hits a point where she starts losing her desire/ability to interact in the human world and returns to her dolphin family.
It lead me to some interesting websites about feral children, especially this one. It was disturbing to look at the locations the children were found in and relate that to what I know about current events - abandoned children as the result of war. It reminded me of reading The Painted Bird and a few other autobiographies of Holocaust survivors. And there were some disturbing suggestions of children intentionally abandoned or confined for being mentally disabled.