Sunday, June 12, 2011
Last weekend there was a big Twitter blowup of a Wall Street Journal article about Young Adult novels and how "dark" they have become lately. YA author, Maureen Johnson, blew up Twitter with her #YAsaves hashtag. I watched from afar, mostly keeping my thoughts to myself and then I read Ordinary Beauty and cried my eyes out.
In Ordinary Beauty we meet seventeen year old Sayre. She has just been told that her ill mother doesn't have much time left , and even though she is skeptical, she starts walking the thirteen miles to the local hospital. It is a bitterly cold late December night and Sayre didn't mean to get in that trucks way, she tried to get out of his way, and when the truck takes to the ditch to avoid hitting her, Sayre tries to get him out and find help. In the process she makes a friend.
As they are there waiting for help to come Sayre reflects back on the rocky relationship that she has had with her mother. From the drug abuse that Sayre witnessed on a daily basis, to the physical and emotional abuse that comes from not knowing where your next meal is going to come from, Sayre tells us everything. She led the kind of life that no child should ever be exposed to, but unfortunately there are kids in our country who are whipped repeatedly, who are forced to steal and do much worse to support their parent's drug habit.
Finally Sayre & Evan are rescued and Sayre gets to the hospital in time to see her mother. As she sits there in the dark she begs her mother to say "it" as she reflects on the brief moments of happiness she had with Beale and her baby sister, Ellie, before tragedy threw them back into the dark world of drugs and abuse. Will Sayre get the closure she is so desperate for and what will happen to her now?
Ordinary Beauty is the most heart-wrenching book I have read in a very long time. I read it in bed last night and cried pretty much through the entire book. The rebuttal of #YAsaves is based on the premise that many teens live DARK lives, that reading books like Ordinary Beauty and 13 Reasons Why give teens an outlet for their own situations and feelings . At lunch today I was discussing the book with my coworkers and what had happened to Ellie - which I felt was one of the more farfetched portions of the book - when my co-worker piped up and said that a similar scenario had happened in Casper about ten years ago. Her testimony reiterates the fact that Young Adults today don't generally lead happy cheery lives. And even if they do on the outside, there are inner demons being fought on the inside.
Ordinary Beauty may be a dark novel, but it is a novel about a young woman who is a fighter. A young woman who is determined to not only survive, but succeed despite what her mother puts her through. I think that is a positive role model for any teen no matter what their situation. I enjoyed this novel so much and it moved me so much, it gets a "Best of" tag and I think it is a well deserved tag. Ordinary Beauty is on sale Tuesday, June 14th.