The book trailer for Eleanor Henderson’s debut novel ends with these words: “They were young when new York was young. That’s how it felt. They’d never been more alive. Three kids, in a roiling, untamed city. But maybe that’s how everyone feels in the moment before they change forever.” Very teen, isn’t it? Alive and on the edge of change. The trailer is available on the author’s homepage, and her News page includes an impressive list of mentions in major media. This is a significant debut. Beyond that, I will let Mark’s review (below) speak for it.
Are you headed to New Orleans for ALA? Henderson will be reading on the LIVE! @ your library Reading Stage (in the exhibit hall) on Sunday, 12:30 – 1pm. She then heads to the First Author, First Book panel from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in Convention Center Room 269.
Adult/High School–Crackling with the same precision and power she brought to her short stories, especially “The Kissing Disease” (2007), the first two chapters of Henderson’s debut novel chronicle the drug-fueled last day in the life of 15-year-old Teddy McNicholas, a confused but strangely magnetic young man. The rest of the novel spirals outward from Teddy, tracking first those closest to him–his friend Jude, his brother Johnny, and Eliza, the young woman carrying his child; then their motley mix of parental figures; and finally various friends and hangers-on to Johnny and Jude as they become fixtures in the late 1980s Straight Edge scene in which much of the novel is set. This narrative structure is quickly validated by the overwhelming strength of Henderson’s characterizations, most impressively that of Teddy, who Henderson makes readers care for in 50 brief pages of narrative and miss almost as much as his friends and family do. Every character, though, is carefully delineated, full of mixed motivations and personal demons, often simultaneously sympathetic and infuriating. Henderson’s depiction of late 1980s New York is no less impressive–from her grasp of the strange mix of purity and violence that was the Straight Edge scene, to her sensitive portrayal of the gay community’s grappling with HIV. With the lurid early drug scenes–worthy of an Ellen Hopkins novel–and Henderson’s profound respect for the perspective and maturity of teenagers, this novel is perfect for teens.–Mark Flowers, John Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA