Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Water, water, nowhere

When I was in elementary school I remember being frightened by the nuclear holocaust. Images of mushroom clouds and vast landscapes of dust haunted my daydreams. However, fallout is low on my list of worries these days. In fact, I had to Google "nuclear cloud" because I couldn't remember its shape. No, these days I'm haunted by a different post-apocalyptic reality - drought.

Gabrielle Zevin visits this world in her book all these things I've done. Her narrator Anya Balanchine is a junior in high school. She lives with her grandmother and two siblings. Her older brother Leo is being courted by the mob side of the family - which keeps the black market supplied with contraband chocolate. Her younger sister Natty has nightmares about her parents' deaths. 

Drained swimming pools, ninety second showers, and the rarity of oranges are related matter-of-factly as Anya and her friends go from coffee speakeasies to discos in deserted museums. Along with the typical teenage stressors of boyfriends and science quizzes, Anya must keep her family together despite attempted murder charges, threats from the DA's office, and the death of her grandmother.Oh,and hardly a drop to drink. 

all these things I've done will keep you up the first night reading. And the second, third, and fourth? Ruminating. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tickets, Please

My son has been going through a horse phase. He's often seen riding his stick horse "Red" - a name he got from endless viewings of this movie. On a recent trip to "Cowboy Town," he walked right up to one man on a horse and asked, "Is this your job?" He'll wear his cowboy boots with his jeans or swimsuit. 

While my son admires the hat and boots side of horses, the novel Boleto takes a starker look at the modern straits of ranching. Alyson Hagy takes us to Lost Cabin, Wyoming and the struggling ranch of the Testerman family. Family members have all had to take jobs in town to keep afloat. However, the youngest son, Will, has his eye on raising horses. A chance encounter with Don Enrique, a well-to-do horseman from Argentina, convinces Will that raising polo horses might be just the ticket. And so he's California.

Echoing the voices of Hemingway and McCarthy, Hagy's simple declarative sentences clearly convey Will's determination to make something of himself and his horse. He's not going through a phase.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hold Still

Nina LaCour's book of this title examines friendship and its loss. Caitlin finds her best friend's journal a few months after Ingrid has committed suicide. She reads it slowly over the course of the novel as she tries to make new friends, flunks her favorite class- photography, and builds a tree house. Caitlin's depression is palpable, but LaCour's take on her spiral (upward) through the book's progression is engrossing. 

LaCour's latest book, The Disenchantments, is just as engaging as it follows Colby and Bev as they hop in a VW bus for a final tour of Bev's band. It is the summer after graduation. Eschewing college, their plan is (or was) to depart for a backpacking trip across Europe after the tour. However, Colby soon finds out Bev has had other plans all along. 

LaCour aptly captures the awkward silences, tense navigations, and extravagant snack orders of any epic road trip. A sprinkle of tattoo artists, record store clerks, and graffiti artists add color to the realistic back and forth of four friends who will soon be going their separate ways.