Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Poster Boy by Dede Crane

I'm a fan of Dede Crane. I liked her first novel Sympathy, and I liked her first YA novel, The 25 Pains of Kennedy Baines even more. I've had her second YA novel Poster Boy on my 'to read pile' for a quite a while now. But somehow it got shuffled to the bottom.

Life couldn't be sweeter for 16 year old Gray Fallon. He has a girlfriend who lets him fondle her beautiful breasts, a best friend to get high with, and parents who let him move into the basement and paint his room black (one wall at least). On weekends he has friends over to play video games, play ping pong and hang out in the hot tub. He has a part time job at the movie theatre where he could score free tickets, and he's found someone who can help him pass trig. Then...a single phone call from the doctor's office about his little sister's unexplained leg pains and the C-word changes everything.

Pretty soon his parents are fighting, his girlfriend dumps him, and Gray discovers that carcinogens are everywhere; from household cleaners to the nail polish his little sister, Maggie adores. Gray sets out to rid the house of all possible toxins and convinces his mother to adopt a macrobiotic diet. None of that seems to impede Maggie's decline, so Gray sets out to make a personal difference by choosing to leave home and adopt a 'back to the land' approach to living. Unfortunately his 'tell it like it is' approach has unforeseen consequences.

I must admit that it took me a few chapters to get into Poster Boy. But in Crane's capable hands, Gray, his crew, his parents, and his little sister, come alive on the page. Maggie is as brave as she is nerdy and Gray is a flawed hero that any of us can relate to. The unintended consequences of his choices are as painful to us as they are to he and his family. But the final chapters of this novel is where Crane's writing really shines. The author doesn't shy away from Maggie's death, but instead celebrates it in a way that feels like she's releasing Maggie's soul from the pages of the book. I found myself moved to tears, and I suspect that you will too.

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