Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How Come Flavia Has Never Won An Alex Award?

And, also, didn't there used to be a list of top adult books for teens? Does that exist somewhere? Is Flavia on that, at least, even if she's been passed by for an Alex, an award given to "ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18?"

I am, of course, speaking of Flavia de Luce, the eleven-year-old heroine of a series of mysteries set in early 1950's England written by Alan Bradley. She is an incredible creation, one who can carry a book on her narrow shoulders. She sometimes does, because her plots aren't always as powerful as she is. She is both incredibly sophisticated, in terms of her knowledge of chemistry and murder, and touchingly innocent--her knowledge of sex is pretty much nil and in her most recent outing, I am Half-sick of Shadows, she is on the fence about the existence of Santa.

Though these books are not serials (I spit on serials), there are some intriguing questions hovering over all of them. What really happened to Flavia's mother, the late, lamented Harriet? Why is there so much conflict between Flavia and her older sisters? Is Flavia merely an unreliable narrator, perceiving her sisters as hating her, though in each book at least one of them does something significant for her? Or is there some family mystery there waiting to be revealed? Dogger, the shell-shocked war veteran who takes care of the whole family, appears to be able to do just about anything. What's that about?

I was reading quite a good book on plot at the same time I was reading I am Half-sick of Shadows. I couldn't help noticing that while I was being told in my plot book to get the story going right away, Flavia's murder mystery didn't actually start until halfway through the book. But, then, the laws of chemistry are the only rules she recognizes.


Leslie Bulion said...

I'm so glad to read your post, Gail. I saw Flavia on the shelf of audiobooks last week when I was perusing for a car trip. I selected another book, and was disappointed. Next time, thanks to you--Flavia!

Gail Gauthier said...

She has an extremely strong voice. Depending on the reader, an audiobook could be great.