Thursday, December 07, 2006

20 Years Later Their Therapy Bills Are Enormous

Another one of my pet peeves: YA books in which I need to suspend my disbelief by a noose from the chandelier to understand why, exactly, the world requires a twelve-year-old to save it.
This is done well in such book as His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (fate, coincidence). It's not done at all in books like the Blossom Culp series by Richard Peck (oh, do read these, really), in which the drama is not about saving the world. It's done pretty poorly in the book I'm reading now, The People of Sparks, by Jean DePrau. This is a sequel to The City of Ember, which had a similar flaw, though somehow not as troubling.

Really, though, a village of 300 is inundated with 400 refugees, neither group has any adult who takes even an informal leadership role. Instead, one kid starts fomenting rebellion and another couple of kids try to stop him. The adults are sheep--not in an unconvincing way, but there isn't even ONE adult who'll step up?

A Series of Unfortunate Events is the worst offender here. After the fourth time the kids foil the evil Count Olaf and expose him to their trustee Mr. Poe, you'd think the fifth time he'd believe them, or even listen to the end of their sentence, when they explain that the tall skinny guy with one eyebrow IS in fact Count Olaf again.

Harry Potter is interesting here. The first three books bothered me a bit in this regard. Why don't the adults see anything? Why don't they listen to him? He's powerless, and under attack, and it seems to fly under everyone's radar.

It's gotten much better as it moved along, though. As the stakes go up, everyone IS fighting, as hard as they can. But they can't fully protect him, which I think is a complicated and touching conflict. Trouble is finally thrust upon Harry by fate and life, instead of just by J.K. Rowling.

It's kind of sad about The People of Sparks, because the setup is interesting, and the high points are pretty exciting. But the lack of coherent adult behavior is a huge flaw, and affects the book in a lot of ways that are kind of dragging down my experience. Sorry to say.


Anonymous said...

An off-topic comment to say thanks for recommending Nun's Story by Hulme. I enjoyed it very much, though I was oddly disappointed by the ending. Don't know what I was expecting-- maybe I just didn't want it to end.

LibraryHungry said...

I'm so glad you liked it! I've definitely had people not feel the same way, but they were people who didn't get the nun thing. I think the fact that she has to find her way in Europe instead of going back to the Congo brings a sadness to the ending.

I have to try some of the ones I saw on your Amazon list! I think Through the Narrow Gate is the first one I'm going to try.

And Unveiled was really interesting. Not what I expected, and it debunked a lot of the more romantic versions of nuns, but a really good and realistic look at modern American religious.

Happy new year!