Sunday, February 14, 2010

Touching Snow

"Um, Jacqui?" you may be saying. "Where have you been? And what ever happened to that project you were doing for Black History Month?"

It's a reasonable question. Blogging has been sparse and linky. The good news is that when blogging is sparse, it usually means other writing is prolific and good. It's the weeks I'm blogging daily that you know the book is stalled to a stand still and I am looking over the ledge. But no, I am deep in thought about a book, at the "so obsessed I neglect my children" phase, and it kind of takes all my words right now.

That said, I am reading up a storm. Which also usually happens when writing goes well -- it's like I am using so many words that I need to replenish them with tons of reading.

And oh, what good reading it has been! Seriously, this Jacqui Reads Herself & Her Children Books By & About People Different From Her has been amazing. But book reviews here take a lot of time. I have to CLICK and FIND the links, and WRITE the reviews and UPLOAD the covers -- it's like working in a salt mine. Okay it's not. But it takes time that I want to use WRITING. So the updates will come in waves.

Today, though, I had to tell you about M. Sindy Felin's Touching Snow. Because it is absolutely amazing, and given the honors it received (National Book Award Finalist and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, for starters), everyone who reads young adult books should have read it three years ago. But I hadn't, which is pitiful.

Atheneum writes: Karina has plenty to worry about on the last day of seventh grade.

Boy, does she: All Ds and Cs on her report card, problems with her teachers, bullies, and a father who beats she and her sisters violently for any perceived mistake. When her stepfather nearly kills her sister, Karina is torn between wanting him gone, and hating the dire straits into which his arrest would throw her family; they need his income, and they need not to have the police sniffing around the circumstances of their family's immigration from Haiti.

Five things to love about Touching Snow, besides that it is incredibly well-written.

1. It begins: “The best way to avoid being picked on by high school bullies is to kill someone.” Brilliant. And it lives up to this tension, to the dark humor, and to the painful blending of everyday life in high school with much less everyday violence.

2. It presents one of the best, most realistic depictions I have read of life with an abusive parent and the ways in which the violence -- and the effort to avoid it -- color everything in a kid's life.

3. Karina is not smart or gorgeous or even the bravest of her sisters. She is not saved by a boy, by a trusted adult, or by random chance. She uses what she has to make her own way, and she is likeable and admirable even when her choices pain you.

4. Karina has a surprise and beautiful romance with another girl. That is all I am going to say, because it's such a lovely surprise and I'd hate to ruin it.

5. The ending meets my picky criteria for a great ending: it is a surprise, no doubt. But it is also satisfying and realistic and, when you consider the rest of the story, inevitable.

Even if you don't usually read young adult books, this is one that is good enough to try.


C.R. Evers said...

Wow! I haven't even heard of it. Thanks for the heads up. I'll have to check that one out. Awesome first line!!! Wowza!

cath c said...

yes, thanks for the headsup. oy, my to read list is growing faster than i can get to, esp since i seem to be going through an enormous re-read phase.

sadly, though a few years ago i watched many students around me read push and fall in love with it, i still have not read that one either, now it's a movie going for an oscar and i still haven't seen it. i keep metaphorically hitting myself over that one, too. touching snow seems to hae a similar effect on those who read it. at least on you. ;)

Jacqui said...

Christy, do check it out. It's excellent.

Cath, this isn't nearly as disturbing as Push is rumored to be; it's terrible things, but there's also lots of hope.