Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Grist by Heather Waldorf

Just finished Grist by Heather Waldorf on my daughter’s recommendation. I haven’t been reading as diligently lately what with work, helping my daughter move out of her apartment in preparation for a year in Australia, and some incredible weather. And did I mention that I have been carrying furniture and boxes up and down three flights of stairs! Meaning, that I fall into bed at night and re-read the same page of the same book over and over; although it must be said that this has everything to do with the above mentioned three flights of stairs and the large quantity of books my daughter owns and nothing to do with the quality of the writing, which in the case of Heather Waldorf, is very good. And, for any Canadian publishers reading this, the cover is so savy and cool and appealing..come on Canadian YA publishers it's possible to do cool covers!

Grist is one of those coming of age stories that ring true. Charlie, the sixteen year old narrator is a keep-your-head-down sort of girl who takes pains not to stand out, especially now that her best friend Sam has moved to Australia. The one place where she does let herself shine is in creative writing. Charlie is a wanna-be writer, and her eccentric English teacher has given her loads of encouragement; that is, up until now. On the last day of school, he calls her into his office to give her a chance to rewrite her last assignment. For Charlie, who has not been doing a very good job of handling her best friend’s absence, nor her father’s new girl-friend and her triplet sons, it is the last straw.

Of course, things only get worse. Her teacher has a sudden heart attack and her father announces that he’ll be working in Toronto for the summer and his new girl friend is joining him. Charlie is welcome to come along, or she can visit her grandmother who lives on a live in the middle of nowhere. A summer at the lake where her long deceased mother grew up sounds only slightly more appealing to Charlie who leans toward being a couch potato. She learns to paddle a canoe, and helps paint her grandmother’s house, they are nothing compared to the fireworks when she kisses Kerry, the hot boy her grandmother warns her about.

At first Charlie manages to keep those “snap, crackle, pop” kissing sessions a secret, but eventually, her grandmother catches them in the act, and that’s when the fireworks really start. Sound predictable? Well it isn’t, but I can’t reveal Waldorf’s twist. You’ll just have to read it to find out. But let me start you off with the novel’s opening passage.

“It was a sticky, last-day-of-school afternoon. The halls of Springdale High were ripe with sweaty bodies, old lunch wrappers and the anticipation of summer.”

Talk about creating a scene. You can smell the place, including a whole high school population’s desire to fly through those double doors to get out into summer. Now, you’ll just have to do the rest on your own.

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