Friday, April 20, 2012
Wanna know a YA author whose books I really, really like? You do? Cool. I was recently at my library and stumbled across two novels by A.S. King: Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and Everybody Sees the Ants. They both really got me. One, I'm a sucker for twisted humor. Two, I like books about teens who are struggling not only to figure themselves out, but also to figure out their own weird, flawed parents, and the unique mix of loving/damaging their kids that each one of them brings to the table. Because, let's face it: I don't know one parent (and I'm totally including myself) who doesn't fit somewhere on the loving/damaging spectrum, and where each one falls on that spectrum can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Depends how much sleep we've had, what the traffic was like on the way home from work, how we're feeling about ourselves at the moment, whether something our kids said reminds us of something that somebody we don't like once said... The list goes on and on. Vera Dietz's mother took off for Las Vegas with her podiatrist six years ago, when Vera was twelve, and hasn't been seen since, unless you count the card and check that arrive from her each year on Vera's birthday. So it's Vera and her dad, a recovering alcoholic who believes that high school students should hold full-time jobs in their spare time. Lucky Linderman, the 15-year-old boy who thinks he's the only one who sees the ants, will tell you that his mother is a squid and his father is a turtle, and that's only the beginning of what's wrong with them. Vera and Lucky both have complex relationships with other kids too, but the ways they handle those relationships are informed by the way they handle their relationships with the adults they have to learn to live with - or without. And vice versa. Lucky's most complex relationship of all is with someone he never met: his Granddad Harry, MIA in Vietnam before Lucky's father was even born, but who has been showing up in Lucky's dreams since Lucky was seven, and the bullying he was enduring became unbearable. The dreams focus on Lucky's attempts to rescue his grandfather from jungle imprisonment, but through them Lucky begins to realize that Harry is not the only one in need of rescue. I found both Vera and Lucky to be irresistible, and now I can't wait for King's next novel, "Ask the Passengers," which is about a girl who's focused on sending her love to the passengers flying in airplanes overhead. A.S. King rocks, but don't take my word for it. Read her books yourself.