Archive | December 2012

Guns Kill People

Strangely timely, given the ongoing national discussion surrounding gun laws and repeated acts of public violence, I stumbled across Tim Wynne-Jones’ recent book, Blink & Caution, simply because of its position on a YALSA list of 2012’s Best YA Novels. But Wynne-Jones’ poignant personal Afterword explains the seeds for Caution’s haunting nightmare and finishes by saying that anyone who tells you that it’s not guns that kill people, well, ‘they’re wrong.’

Nonetheless, the story refuses to dive into pedantry. Many issues forge their way into the challenges the two main characters grapple with: drug dealers, prostitution, family violence, uranium mining, corporate law, First Nations rights, street life vs. lives of wealth. Some of the background is revealed in the daily actions launching the characters on the story’s specific quest, while more complicated pieces are explored by quick surfing online, a modern way to cover a lot of territory in a short space. This approach to figuring out the clues to the puzzle they’ve been presented demonstrates one of the advantages today’s young people have, a way past the slow mentoring requirements of medieval days.

The  internal conflicts, however, offer the same taut lines that have always created the most engrossing stories. Blink and Caution battle back their self-destructive or self-negating tendencies with resourcefulness in ways so true to the confusions people often face, in their teens or later in life. And the story’s most heartfelt long-term solutions are the ways in which ‘family’ steps up to welcome and support these two teens who had believed themselves thrown away:  in Caution’s case, first by a skillfully portrayed cousin and then by her dead brother’s previously unknown girlfriend, and in Blink’s case, by grandparents his mother had shut him away from. These relationships stick with me the strongest, even though they are peripheral to the main puzzle/action. They are what matters in the surrounding dilemma of how the two teens got into their predicament in the first place. Wynne-Jones’ mastery is in showing these relationships with such brief and visceral strokes.


The Outside of a Horse

RavenWhen someone tells me that they like books to really tug at one’s emotions, I’ve got a sure bet for them with Ginny Rorby’s story about a girl who turned to horses to forge a connection with her father, away fighting in Iraq. This teenager faces down a slew of family- and horse-related trauma, and I don’t think it was just my exhausting week that was responsible for the cathartic waterworks of my morning. When Hannah’s father returns with an amputated leg and PTSD, parallels between horse relationships and human ones  create a fairly non-stop emotional intensity, off-set by moments of hope and growth and the occasional filly frolicking in the northern California surf.

For high-strung young people with lots of passion about the issues raised during the story, Rorby includes several links to further information and ways to get involved in everything from equine therapy programs to Parelli horse gentling methods, and even encourages people who can’t have animals of their own to spend a little time at their area  shelter walking dogs and visiting cats. The urge for connection and kindness is given lots of encouragement here–making the novel a noble gift.