Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stay with me

First, an indulgence: Today is the one-year anniversary of this blog. I've had fun doing it and learned a lot, but it's been lots of work too. I don't know how long I'll keep it up, but it seems like a good time to remember Why I did this.

Thank you to everyone who's read my rambles, and an extra thanks to those who have commented on them. The conversations my posts have sparked are my favorite part of blogging.

Now, back to business. I just finished reading Stay with Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr. Freymann-Weyr is the author of My Heartbeat, a Printz Honor book that beautifully portrays the intricacies of first love, a book I've admired for quite some time.

Stay with Me also delves into emotional complexities. The synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Leila Abranel loves her older half-sisters--from her father's first marriage--but does not know them well. When her sister Rebecca commits suicide, Leila wants to know why and begins navigating her family's breakdown.
The result is a complex story that slowly and carefully moves through difficult emotional terrain. Leila is an acute observer, and her struggles to overcome dyslexia have given her the right tools for dissecting complicated family relationships. As she says, "Dyslexia has taught me that clarity comes only through effort, patience, and help from those who know how to give it."

I'm tempted to say this feels more like an adult novel than YA. Which makes me feel awful -- like I'm shortchanging young adult readers. It also says something about our expectations of YA literature, which Freymann-Weyr successfully avoids succumbing to. Clearly, some teenagers are intrigued by the same psychological mysteries that captivate some adult readers. So I'll restrain myself from classifying it and just note that very little "happens" in the plotting of this book, and even the suicide that propels it doesn't feel immediate in some ways. Instead of action, the book mines the intricate interior lives of a modern family.

Both Stay with Me and My Heartbeat approach young people's sexuality with the same directness as any other part of their lives, so perhaps that also contributes to the adult feeling.

While Leila learns a lot about the adult world over the course of the novel, she doesn't find a simple answer as to why her sister killed herself. It's to the author's credit that she make this realistic resolution satisfying. It's also to her credit that the book sometimes made me feel awkward and uncomfortable -- just the way Leila felt in situations a bit beyond her experience.

Freymann-Weyr's books might not find a home on many school library shelves. So it's up to adults who aren't squeamish about strong emotions and unorthodox situations to put them in the hands of the right readers. If you're one of those adults, I recommend checking her out. She also has two other YA titles I haven't yet read.

(By the way, you might note the similarity in the covers of it and Once Was Lost, which I discussed a couple of posts ago.)