Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One fair day

One fair day. That's all that Destiny Faraday (get it?) asks for in The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson. It's October 19, Des' birthday and 10 years to the day the first time her parents shipped her to boarding school at age seven ... and out of their lives. Des is an observer, doesn't make friends, and her bad behavior means that she's been inside a significant number of different schools in those 1o years, but now she's at her breaking point.

Skipping class, she stumbles upon a shiny pink convertible parked (with the keys in the ignition and the motor running) outside the school. She quickly locates a driver -- a boy named Seth who's on garbage duty because he was slightly disrespectful to a teacher -- and just as she convinces him to make a quick getaway, they've acquired two more student passengers -- Mira and Aidan. Soon, they're off the school grounds and headed for the open road. Des has got a destination in mind, but she's not sharing it yet. Mira gets everyone to share a secret and the bonding begins. Suffice it to say that Destiny gets her day.

Mary E. Pearson wrote The [awesome] Adoration of Jenna Fox, so I had high hopes for this novel. This is an entirely different story -- no scifi at all, although serendipity plays a significant part. (A Publishers' Weekly review mentioned something about "serious mental illness" that I did not get at all.) I wasn't as engaged by Destiny Faraday (the name itself seemed a little heavy-handed), but I think it's got a lot of teen appeal. What teen wouldn't like a pink convertible (with wads of cash in the glove compartment) and a day off? Wait, do you have to be a teenager to find that idea a good one?

The book is read by Jeannie Stith, heard before here and here. Stith immerses herself skillfully in Destiny's personality -- both her secretiveness and her longing for connection are audible in her narration. She reads quickly and with plenty of expression and brings the story along to its satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, I think that Stith exaggerates the vocal differences between the four teenagers in that car, and as a result Mira and Aidan -- in particular -- don't sound like real people. Mira is described as perky, which to me doesn't mean that she speaks loudly and sounds kind of dopey. And poor Aidan suffers the fate of many young boys read by women -- he's sounds like he's got a bad case of congestion. I don't know what it is about that particular technique, but I've heard it way too often.

Bragging: We just had M.T. Anderson speak at our library (he is one funny guy), and I admire that he writes so brilliantly across genres (although he spoke about how he likes to explore other time periods than his own in his writing ... hopefully we will soon have his speech available as a podcast). Mary Pearson does this as well. You want to keep reading their stuff just to see what they're going to explore next.

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