Monday, March 31, 2014

Janie Chodosh

Janie Chodosh is a scientist wannabe and a naturalist. She has spent the last decade teaching high school English and middle school science. When not writing or obsessing about writing, Chodosh can be found with her family in various outdoor pursuits including bird watching, rock climbing, or trying to grow a garden in the arid southwest. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her daughter, stepson, and husband. Death Spiral is her first novel.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Chodosh's reply:
Since I write for a young adult audience, I read a lot of YA fiction. I just finished Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory. She is one of my favorite young adult writers, and this book did not disappoint me. What I loved most about this book was the snappy dialogue between Hayley, the protagonist, and her eventual love interest, Finn. Their banter, which ranges from snarky/sarcastic to hilarious to poignant, hums with real-life teenage vitality. Teens do so love to take linguistic jabs at each other, and the dialogue perfectly captures that artful use of language. There is a deeper side to this story, too, the relationship between a veteran father suffering from PTSD and his teenage daughter. Haley’s first person narration is interwoven with her father’s flashbacks of his devastating war experience, allowing the reader a glimpse into the root of his suffering. The book is nuanced with themes of memory and trust and how to move on when you’ve hit rock bottom.

Another young adult novel I recently read and loved was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. The narrative point of view alternates between Eleanor and Park, which allowed me to deeply connect with both of the characters. The setting is the 1980’s and the author nails the music and fashion of the time, offering a curious trip back to my own high school years (really, we wore that?) What I liked best about this book was Eleanor, overweight, flamboyant, and her own person. I worried that the author would force Eleanor to have a makeover with better clothes and a diet. Fortunately, she did not. Eleanor, despite all the struggles in her home life and at school, remains true to who she is, and Park, half-Korean, and himself somewhat of a misfit, loves everything about her. The book may be set in the 1980s, but the love story between Eleanor and Park is timeless.

A third young adult novel I finished recently is Shine by Lauren Myracle. Shine begins after Patrick Truman, a gay teenager and Cat’s (the protagonist’s) former best friend, is found beaten and left for dead. Cat is determined to find out who did this to Patrick, even as she is still nursing her own emotional wounds. Being that I am a mystery writer with a teen protagonist who, against all odds, is driven to find out the truth behind her mother’s death, I related to Cat’s determination and bravery, especially when everyone is telling her to back off and stop asking questions. Cat is real, vulnerable, and she does not give up. The backwoods setting of rural North Carolina is realistically detailed and the characterizations are sharp. Although at first I worried the book would be heavy handed in dealing with the topic of a hate crime, it was anything, but that. Shine is a compelling and powerful page-turner about an important topic.
Visit Janie Chodosh's website.

--Marshal Zeringue