Tough To Pin Down

The title of A.S. King’s book, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, with its inherent paradox, should suggest to you that this a book that will be difficult to categorize. And that’s true, but rather than turning out a muddled mess, this book is a powerful exploration of what it means to move through a liminal time in adolescence: graduations from high school.

In King’s book, Glory O’Brien is on the cusp of adulthood as she’s graduating from high school–but she’s at a loss as to what to do with her life. One night, she and a friend drink the dried remains of a bat and find themselves with the power to see the future. What Glory sees is reminiscent of dystopian works like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a world where a new civil war breaks out over the rights of women and their proper role in society. Glory decides to write the “history” of this war as she sees it revealed piece by piece in visions of the future she has while associating with people in her town.

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Pain and Loss in YA Literature

          

I have recently (not on purpose) read a trio of well-written young adult titles dealing with themes of death and grief and loss.

In Noggin (John Corey Whaley), our protagonist Travis Coates struggles with the loss of his body when he wakes up from a cryogenic sleep, saved from the cancer that ate at his previous body by doctors who sewed his once-frozen head to a donor’s body. Travis struggles to adjust to a new (albeit physically improved) body, but he struggles most with the loss of the five years that (for him) passed in the space of a nap but to those around him (including his best friend and girlfriend) mean real growth and change in their lives. This book is an interesting take on the post human experience and shares not a little with the Frankenstein literary tradition, but it’s Travis’ poignant–and more than a little pitiful–quest to restore his romantic relationship with his former girlfriend that drives most of the exploration of loss in this book.

The most conventional book of the three, perhaps, is Where Things Come Back (also by Whaley) which opens with the overdose of Cullen Witter’s cousin but quickly moves to the disappearance of his sensitive and gifted fifteen-year-old brother. There’s a lot of loss to go round in this book, and given that it takes place in a small town, some of that loss is experienced by those who return after having set out into the wider world with dreams and hopes that are, ultimately, unrealized. We see the most meaningful treatment of loss in the way Cullen describes his (and his parents’  and others’) wrestle with Gabriel’s disappearance. There are two intertwined stories in this book that come together in a satisfying way at the end, and both treat with loss in unique and meaningful ways.

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