The physical creativity and puzzle-like construction of Elena Mauli Shapiro’s debut novel will pique teen interest, as will the embedded QR codes, which enhance the reading experience with online music, food (recipes), maps and 3-D images. Check out the book’s website to view selected “artifacts.”
Interesting to consider what a similar book will look like in a few years (or less). In an ebook the QR codes could be replaced by the ability to click on an embedded link within the book itself, saving those extra steps. I imagine a lot of potential.
The complex narrative and adult storyline of this complicated novel will not exactly invite the teen reader in. But the book’s visual features may well hold their interest long enough for the story to take hold.
Adult/High School–Shapiro based 13, rue Therésè on the real-life experience of receiving a box of ephemera belonging to Louise Brunet, who had occupied the apartment above hers at that address. Shapiro weaves a tale of mystery and love around the objects found inside. Set in both present-day and 1920-1940s Paris, the story follows Trevor Stanton, a visiting professor “gifted” with the box by Josianne, the departmental secretary, as he uncovers the various contents and constructs the story behind them. Louise’s life, loves, and passions intrigue Trevor, and he is drawn into her world in mysterious and compulsive ways. While at first he is rather dispassionate about his discoveries, as the book progresses he is increasingly obsessed, ultimately finding snippets of musical scores and other items that were not part of the original contents. His letters to a mysterious “Sir” regarding the box and Louise’s history become more and more fevered, and by the end of the story he has entered Louise’s world… or has he? Is he truly uncovering her life, or is he imagining the story and subtext? Readers will enjoy puzzling over the objects, many of which are reproduced on the pages of the novel itself. This book will appeal to teens who enjoyed Nick Bantock’s “Griffin and Sabine” books (Chronicle), the movie Amélie, Josten Gaarder’s Sophie’s World (Farrar, 1994) or Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (Delacorte, 2010).–Laura Pearle, Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY