Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Caroline B. Cooney: Enigma

I can't figure out if this book is a joke, or a first draft, or a sign of some sort of mental breakdown.  Caroline B. Cooney is a bit of an icon, for kids who read a certain type of book during a certain decade (say, 1987 to 1997).  I've loved her, too--from the super creepy Fog right up until my recent Janie Johnson reads.  But Diamonds in the Shadow, so far, just defies description in its levels of badditude.

Okay, so premise: midwestern Ohio family sponsors a family of African refugees and gets in for more than they bargained for.  It's unclear so far what that "more" consists of, but there's some messed up stuff going on.

First, the 12 year old, super-annoying and perky caricature of a younger sister is named Mopsy.  I mean, she's already a really silly character, and you name her Mopsy?  Seriously?

Secondly, while it's pretty clear she must have done some research about African civil war, there's a weird, thriller aspect to the story that doesn't quite sit right.  It doesn't fit together--I can't really explain it.

And then you have my pet peeve--the book's complete inability to adhere to a single point of view.  It's told in the third person, and I can handle it when there's a section from Jared's point of view, and then a different section from Mopsy's.  But when you jump quickly from the refugee orientation specialist to the refugee--no section break, no nothing-- but only really hint at what the refugee's thinking, it just gets confusing and frustrating.  Purposeful obfuscation.  Blargh.

If it wasn't so short, I'd give it up, but right now it's almost an adventure in badness.  Onward!

Update: No, I give up.  It's just so bad.  The traits of the African family read like a list of Traits You Might Find in African Genocide Refugees.  Not that these are not valid traits, but seriously, each family member represents a different psychological problem, and there is a LOT of telling, not showing.  Onward, indeed.

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