Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sunday morning I finished Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell. It's the story of a drifter who falls in with a brother and sister who have ambitions far beyond their low economic and social status. Trapped in a hick town, they dream of getting out, but every attempt they make in that direction is met with frustrating failure. "'God damn,' she says, 'you know, that big rotten gap between who I am, and who I want to be, never does quit hurtin' to stare across... if I was only stupid, it wouldn't be so hard.'" It took me a relatively long time to read this book, perhaps because I could sense tragic events coming and wanted to avoid getting there for as long as possible. There was plenty of beautifully written tragedy and heartbreaking desperation though, and it hurt when it came because Woodrell did such a wonderful job of making me care for his characters.

So, to cheer myself up I went on a YA rampage. First up was Absolutely, Positively Not by David Larochelle, a book about a teenage boy who tries desperately to convince himself and others he is not gay before finally accepting the truth. It wasn't ground-breaking or anything, but I enjoyed it. And it was a good antidote for Tomato Red.

Next was That Summer, Sarah Dessen's first book and the only one of hers I had yet to read. It was interesting to see how accomplished she was right from the start. Sure, it isn't quite up to the standards of her later books, but it was entertaining and well written.

I have it on good authority that Julie Anne Peters' books aren't all that great, but that Far From Xanadu is worth the effort. I can't say I agree, but then perhaps my expectations were a little high. While I liked the supporting characters and the way the town was portrayed, I disliked Xanadu (she remained fairly stereotypical through the whole book) and couldn't understand Mike's fascination with her, which, in turn, made me dislike Mike. I did read the whole thing, but I skimmed more than a few pages and it ultimately felt like a cross between What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Dairy Queen but without the heart of the former or the humor of the latter.

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