Sunday, March 05, 2006

Where's the Angst?

I just finished reading Defining Dulcie by Paul Acampora, which won't be released until next month.

In a Dear Reader letter at the front of the advanced readers copy, the book's editor said that readers would find in Defining Dulcie "...a likable character, a strong family, adults who treat teens as people, and teens who respect adults as people." She was absolutely right. I thought, though, that the teen characters didn't sound at all like teens. Their dialogue (and that of many of the adults) seemed heavy with meaning. Yes, there was wit, but I often had the feeling that I was supposed to be getting something profound from what was being said. For the most part, it shot right over my head. (Yeah, I know. That kind of thing often happens to me.)

Dulcie's father has just died in a tragic (really) accident. In spite of all the meaningful dialogue and wise introspection on Dulcie's part, I just didn't feel the gut-wrenching shock and the sense that nothing will be normal again that those kinds of life-changing events cause in young and old alike. And this girl is a teenager. Every emotion should have been heightened.

Okay, you may say, "Come on, Gail. When Dulcie's mother moved her across the country, she stole the family truck and drove back home. How much more angst do you want?" Well, we didn't see very much of that trip. And when we did, it was in flashbacks that were...meaningful.

I could have really gotten into a teen roadtrip, by the way.

This is another one of those books that seems to have two not terribly well-integrated stories in it. About a quarter of the way through the novel, Roxanne, another teenager appears. Roxanne is being abused by her mother. Oddly enough, she has that same meaningful way of talking.

Roxanne's storyline is tied up a little too easily. Dulcie's storyline...well, I didn't really see how things had changed much for her by the end of the book. In fact, I can foresee poor old Dulcie having a major meltdown in the future. She works as a janitor at her own high school, after all, which can't make her the coolest kid in class. Her mom has pretty much replaced her with another teenage girl. She lives with her grandfather who is also her boss at school and who has the meaningful talk thing down to an art form. Plus her dad is still dead.

Reviews for this book aren't readily available yet because, as I said before, it won't be released until next month. So this is the rare case in which I can't find out that I am all alone in my take on this title. But I'm guessing I'm going to be. I'm guessing this book will be popular with the people who made Each Little Bird That Sings a hit. Already Childlren's Bookshelf at Publishers Weekly has a write-up tht ends with "Readers will be taken right away with Dulcie's voice and experiences."

Well, the book was written for a YA audience, not for me. Let's wait and see what happens.

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