Monday, October 19, 2015

YA Book Pick: All the Major Constellations

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is ALL THE MAJOR CONSTELLATIONS by Pratima Cranse.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Laura Lettel is the most beautiful girl in the world. . . and Andrew’s not-so-secret infatuation.

Now he’s leaving high school behind and looking ahead to a fresh start at college and distance from his obsessive crush. But when a terrible accident leaves him without the companionship of his two best friends, Andrew is cast adrift and alone—until Laura unexpectedly offers him comfort, friendship, and the support of a youth group of true believers, fundamentalist Christians with problems and secrets of their own. Andrew is curiously drawn to their consuming beliefs, but why? Is it only to get closer to Laura? And is Laura genuinely interested in Andrew, or is she just trying to convert him?

This provocative and compelling debut novel will resonate deeply with readers as it explores questions of identity, sexuality, and spirituality.

First Line: (note: this is from an early arc/uncorrected text so it may change by the time it hits shelves Nov. 10) "He stood at the top of the stairs and listened."
This is a great example of simple writing that works. Who doesn't want to know what's being said when we stumble upon someone snooping?

Highlights: The complexity of emotion. Our loves and relationships and reactions in life are so rarely as simplified as most media paints them, especially when we're teenagers. This novel does a great job of re-creating the ordinary pulls of emotion in multiple directions without making it seem campy or too dramatic.

I liked how Andrew felt like a real teenage boy. He didn't ask a lot of questions, and while he would fixate on one thing (his distant crush), the rest of his falling-apart-life nagged at the interiority in subtle ways. He moved from one philosophy/friend group/etc. to the next without ever articulating how lost he was. His self-awareness grew and fluctuated and he reacted in ways that only make sense when following his well-crafted observations/lines-of-thinking.

Notes for writers: The interiority in this piece worked well for me. I admired how much "showing" she did in his thinking. I think sometimes we consider the "show-don't-tell" rule to be limited to external actions, but I'm learning that a gradual curve of observations/thoughts that have nothing to do with emotion can "show" us an emotional state even when we're being "told" what he's thinking/feeling.

A great read for: A snuggle-up by the fire day for those who want to see real people marching along an ordinary confused life during times of distress.

Happy fall & happy reading!

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