Tuesday, November 10, 2009
A Sweet Natured Little Devil
I have to say that if I had a gun pointed to my head and was told to choose a book from any book award list, I'd choose something from the Printz. I've had a lot more luck with finding enjoyable reads from those winners and honor books than with any other award.
Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins was a Printz Honor Book in 2008. It's marvelously witty but also very moral. In fact, at some points the book teeters on becoming a bit instructive--"girls with big butts are worthy of love," for instance. I think the sophistication of the moral issues saves it from going over the edge into preachiness. The book is too serious--in a funny way--to be a sermon.
Repossessed is the story of a demon who has had all he can take of hell for a while and steps into the body of a teenage boy who was about to step in front of a truck and buy the farm, as we used to say back in college. The kid wasn't going to have a use for the body in a couple of minutes, so our demonic friend, Kiriel, hasn't really done any harm. He's hell bent on experiencing material life, though he doesn't think he's going to get to do it for very long. He will be missed.
But not by the Creator, who has never noticed him. Kiriel clearly is suffering--or at least has an attitude--because of his separation from God. For those of us who taught Sunday school for years and years...and years...this suffering because of separation from God will sound very familiar. Jenkins is dealing with what appears to me to be a very Christian concept. (Though I can't guarantee it doesn't occur in other faiths, too.)
Hell is interesting in Repossessed. The damneds' eternal torment is due to the guilt they, themselves, feel for their human behavior.
One of the many things I liked about this book was the treatment of Jason, the younger brother of the boy Kiriel has replaced. Jason clearly has ADHD, but the term is never used. ADHD books often involve some of that instructive stuff I was talking about earlier, so that we all know what's going on. In this one we're just shown this poor boy whose behavioral problems have led him to a sad, solitary life.
A thought I had while reading this book--This is definitely YA, dealing with the theme of what will I do with myself? (Kiriel wants to make a difference, wants to have a hand in shaping things, which is what led to his becoming a fallen angel in the first place.) But if Jenkins had placed her demon in an adult's body and given him adult concerns, she could have easily turned this into an adult book. Not that I'm saying she should have. It was just something I thought about as I was reading.
You can catch an interview and question and answer session (in the comments) with A.M. Jenkins at YA Authors Cafe and another interview at Cynsations.