Thursday, February 26, 2009

Be careful what you wish for

I'm not a Luddite (fourth definition), yet not all technology makes me happy (my cell phone doesn't do anything but make phone calls and that it doesn't do very often, I'm not on Facebook, etc.); but I'm continually amazed at authors that do not have webpages! Jenny Valentine is one such author (take great care when Googling her, I'm just saying). I'm utterly charmed by her ... both by the book I just finished and the fact that she runs an organic grocery store in the book-loving Hay-on-Wye. I want to know more about her, but I guess if she were managing a website, she wouldn't have time to market "whole foods" and write books for teenagers.

Me, the Missing, and the Dead is the story of 16-year-old Lucas Swain. He's been at a bit of a loss since his father walked out five years ago, sometimes feeling that he's the only one who still misses him and wishes he were still part of their family. Late one night, Lucas finds £10 in his pocket (left there by his sister when she "borrowed" his jacket) and decides to take a cab home. While he's waiting for his ride, he sees a large urn on a shelf. Feeling an odd connection to it, he returns the next day and discovers that the urn contains the ashes of one Violet Park (1927-2002). He then gets his sassy grandmother to request the ashes and embarks on a mission to find out who she is. Because it's a novel, Lucas soon learns that his dad and Violet have a connection ... but that's all I'm going to say. Valentine has written a very funny book, with an extremely appealing hero, about some dark and serious subjects.

I didn't find the narrator tics of John Keating to be as annoying as I've found them in the past, but maybe that was because I was enjoying the story so much. Yes, he's still pausing and inhaling midsentence and reading in that superior way, but he was also infusing the frequent humor in the story with just the right blend of sarcasm and neediness. He creates and sustains a small universe of unique characters -- I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Lucas' gran, whose losses of son and Alzheimers-riddled husband are leavened by her grit and sass.

Keating makes no attempt to sound like a teenager, and so the audiobook had a feel of an adult looking back and telling us a story from his youth. It's fruitless to speculate on who I would have preferred listening to read this story, so I won't. I think, though, I'll (eye) read Valentine's next book, the soon-to-be-published-in-the-U.S., Broken Soup.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I enjoyed this one too. I didn't know Valentine had another one coming out in the US! Thanks for the tip, I'll keep an eye out for it. :)

btw, what's a good way to keep track of titles you're waiting on? Like to get an email when they're released?