BOOKS | For a young adult novel about depression, “Black Box” is perfectly adequate

Black Box, a young adult novel by St. Paul writer Julie Schumacher, is a simply told, quietly effective tale of a family’s attempt to cope with depression. It is a dark, harrowing story, made all the more so by the fact that it is based on the author’s own experiences. It begins horrifically with a trip into a psychiatric ward. The suffering and fear of the patients is vividly depicted. Continue Reading

BOOKS | Brian Malloy’s “Twelve Long Months”: He blinded me with science. (Science!)

Twelve Long Months, a novel for young adults by Minnesota author Brian Malloy, is a book dealing with the complexities of human relationships—specifically the relationships that the protagonist, Molly Swain, develops during the twelve long months of the title. At the beginning of the story, Molly is a high school senior who has fallen in love with her attractive chemistry partner, Mark Dahl. She is utterly infatuated with him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t display any romantic interest in her at all. He is a moody, untalkative person who spends most of his time working at a farm and whose only hobby seems to be drawing. Continue Reading

Book note: No Limit

The danger of gambling is an unusual subject for a young adult novel. Compared to sex and drugs, poker may seem a rather innocuous pastime. However, No Limit by Pete Hautman powerfully portrays the risks inherent in it. No Limit, by Pete Hautman (formerly published as Stone Cold) Simon & Schuster, 2007. The novel’s narrator is Dennis Doyle, an intelligent and motivated teenager. Continue Reading

Book note: ‘Falling Boy’

Many of today’s books and movies are devoted to the action of the story, having characters who seem mere puppets designed to fit the needs of the plot. But in Falling Boy there is the exact opposite. It has a negligible plot and focuses almost exclusively upon developing the three main characters. What action there is pivots around Joseph, a sixteen-year-old boy who has suffered an injury, disabling his legs. Because of this he is forced to use a wheelchair. Continue Reading

Book note: ‘Defect’

It is heartening to find a young adult novel of merit, such as Defect by Will Weaver. It stands out among teen books as a narrative of interest and genuineness, and is undoubtedly one of the best teen novels of 2007. Defect by Will Weaver, published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (2007). $16.00. This short (less than 200 pages) novel has for its protagonist David, a boy with a remarkable physical characteristic: wings. Continue Reading

Book note: ‘Chasing Tail Lights’

Chasing Tail Lights is a prime example of an alarming trend in Young Adult fiction. This is the stereotype that teens are moody, depressed and lonely, and identify only with characters who share these traits. Like all stereotypes, it has only a loose basis in truth. But it is an impression which seems to dominate the world of teen literature. It seems that ninety-nine out of every hundred books for teens written recently features a seriously depressed protagonist, with alienated and/or dead parents, few or no friends, and a tendency to feel sorry for him or herself. Continue Reading