Today I wanted to present a book that is still up in the air for me. I read it and passed it on to John Sexton for a second opinion. He wrote the review, which gets the book exactly right — you might want to read it before continuing with my musings.
For me, the question of teen appeal is still unresolved. Pittard’s writing is wonderful. I expect this book to show up on various best of the year lists for adult readers. My issue with the book is one that comes up often when reading adult books with an eye toward teen appeal — nostalgia. The adult narrator looking back at his or her teen years, remembering. Usually, this is a turn-off for the teen reader.
Still, this could be an exception for exactly the reasons stated in the review. First and foremost, the writing. It flows so easily. Somehow, each boy’s personality comes through despite the group narration. And it has that great hook — what happened to Nora?
Obviously, I should just put this book in my library collection and monitor the reaction. In the meantime, does anyone out there know any teens who have encountered it, for better or worse?
PITTARD, Hannah. The Fates Will Find Their Way. 256p. Ecco. 2011. Tr $22.99. ISBN 978-0-06-199605-4. LC 2010009129.
Adult/High School–When she is 16, Nora Lindell vanishes. There is no body found, nor clues of an abduction, or any indication that she ran away. The boys in her class, to whom she was alluring and beautiful yet always distant and unattainable, boast unreliably about being the last to see her. They speculate endlessly about her fate. Across the following years, these small-town friends absentmindedly create their futures while they obsessively continue to fabricate scenarios that might have doomed Nora or liberated her; sent her on improbable journeys or cursed her to a lonely life. The boys collectively narrate the story in a first-person plural voice that is amusing and effective when they are in high school but goes wistfully off-key when they grow older and with nostalgia wonder about Nora even as they observe their wives and put their children to bed. They become adults but, haunted by Nora’s disappearance, they never seem to mature. Teens who appreciate the craftsmanship of a short-story writer will appreciate how adeptly Pittard has created a complex novel with such lean composition. They may be challenged by the collective narrative and the absence of an emotionally engaging main character, but they will enjoy the way the author has looked through the eyes of a group of boys to create a different approach to the high school experience.–John Sexton, formerly at Westchester Library System, NY