Gap Life by John Coy

Gap Life

I’ve been remiss on reviewing books I’ve read. School and grading papers will do that to me.

GAP LIFE by John Coy is a delight. I read it early in January, and Cray, the protagonist has stuck with me. I find myself wondering how he’s doing on the adventure he undertook at the end of the book. To me, that’s the sign of a terrific character: he becomes so real that he takes on a life of his own and we wonder what he’s doing long after closing the final pages of the book.

Cray is all set, at high school graduation, to follow in his domineering father’s footsteps. His secret terror: that he cannot do it, and hasn’t told anyone.

Every teenager struggling with “What do I want to do with my life?” — and even every college freshman or sophomore struggling with that question–needs to read this book. That’s not because John Coy provides answers, but because the book makes us feel not alone. That, in fact, is exactly what great literature should do: help us recognize that somewhere, in our pain or struggles, we are not alone.

Society tends to make us feel all alone when we don’t know what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we have an overbearing parent who tells us what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we don’t want what our parents want for us or what society wants for us, and yet we flounder because we can’t counter the pressure, unable to articulate what we do want–probably–because we have never been given the freedom to explore our own desires. This book is all about that struggle.

GAP LIFE is not a dystopian drama where life-and-death hang in the balance. It’s the internal workings of a real human character whose skin we jump right into, whose struggle becomes ours as we read the first page. Not life-and-death, no, but life-and-death of the human soul and spirit. We can’t put the book down because we want to keep breathing with Cray, to discover if he will have the strength to find his own dream and then to follow it, and if he can connect with Rayne, the only girl he knows who follows her own heart. Most of all, I think Cray is a character we like so much we want to hang out with him, be inside his life, and keep walking with him, long after we’ve finished this book.

This is in many ways a quiet book. I didn’t look at any other reviews until just now. Some critics say there wasn’t enough conflict to be engaging. And lots of marketers eschew “quiet” books. Their loss. Their big loss.  This is a quiet book that is as big as the human heart. John Coy creates an everyday life that we jump right into because of its clear, smooth prose and delightfully consistent detail: those things that make an everyday life, so that we are living inside Cray on every page. Everybody–parent, teacher, librarian, kid, grandparent–should absorb this story.

Good luck in your life, Cray. I’ll remember you for the rest of mine.


Slider’s Son! And is anyone else sick of paranormal…?

Slider’s Son will be published September

I wish my agent George Nicholson were alive to see this happen. He “loved” this manuscript when he read it, and that meant the world to me since he never used that term with my other novels, although he certainly championed them.

I’m getting my ducks in a row–wait, no, I’m not getting them in a row yet, but I’m herding them toward rows–for publication in ten months. That means setting up some book events and making myself available for young writers’ conferences and book fairs, libraries, schools, and, and, and…and it means lots of work, which is exciting work and fun work. I love doing book events.

However, it also means lots of social media time and online promotion. THAT I’m not such a big fan of. But I’ll do it. I’m delighted that North Star Press promotes its own authors’ events. That gives me great hope. I’m excited to publish this book with them.

The BEST news right now is that I found out last week that I will be receiving a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Grant (PLRAG) Mid-Career Artist Grant to help promote this book!  I’m excited. And GRATEFUL!

Okay, besides the excitement,  I sat down to write here because I just followed a thread of a YA book promotional publicity group, thinking ahead to that social media aspect of publication. EVERY, and I mean EVERY book in the top thread was paranormal romance, time travel, or dystopian. A few dozen books down, I found one realistic-fiction romance book. Is anybody else sick of paranormal romance and dystopia? I really do love historical fiction. That’s what I love to read, and that’s why I wanted to write Slider’s Son, based on true stories, but set in the 1930s. I’m following my own passion, and it’s not the trend right now, but that’s okay!

Okay, that’s my vent for the night. In spite of the vent, I really am EXCITED to have Slider’s Son out in the world!

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

IfI StayI almost forgot to review this book. I read it several months ago. I figured that I should read such a popular YA book and see what all the fuss is about. With all the buzz about the movie version coming out, I read it in the summer. Since it wasn’t on the “required reading” list I made for myself for sabbatical, I didn’t write about it.

I did think this was beautifully done, and I do see what the hype has been about. It’s a great love story, primarily, and it’s a terrific plot twist: the girl-in-a-coma watching the scramble to save her life after the rest of her family is killed. She replays her life, and falling in love, and has to make the decision whether to live or die. It’s a good story, and it’s certainly a good love story.

Since I’m writing a YA love story right now, it’s something for me to consider: what makes a good one work, how does the author suck us in so we don’t want to put the story down? I Gayle Forman does it well!

Still, this wasn’t my favorite book, and I won’t read it again. I like the character far more many YA love story heroines, though. So I guess that means I liked the story.


YALSA top 99 picks for 2010

Along with announcing the 2010 Newbery, Printz, Caldecott, etc., awards this week,
ALA–YALSA selected their top 99 Best Books for Young Adults from 2010.
What an impressive list! So proud of Swati Avasthi for making the list,
along with Laurie Halse Anderson, Cornelia Funke, Gary Paulson.

Anybody have time to read them all? I would love to…
(And dare I wish to be on this list sometime???)

Swati Avasthi’s SPLIT

I worked on Slider’s Son for over an hour this morning. Feels good.

I’m buried in homework–so much to grade (as any reader in any of my classes will attest) that I shouldn’t be doing anything but that. However, my soul needs a little reading, and for Children’s Lit., I have to keep reading along with the class. Is that my rationalization? Or is that real? That means tomorrow sometime, I’ll reread The Bridge to Terabithia, which I look forward to ’cause it’s a beautiful, sad, and wonderful book.

But for now, I’m stealing any free moment to immerse myself in SPLIT by Swati Avasthi. It’s beautifully written. Wonderful prose, great language; the character has a terrific, believable voice, and the story has sucked me in entirely. I never want to put it down when I have to, and it’s one of those books I won’t want to end. Jace, the main character, has fled his abusive home in the middle of the night, lands with his older brother who had also run away. Crazy, wonderful YA story about dysfunction and love among people who are smart enough to view the world with care.
I’m not done yet, but I recommend it without reservation for EVERYBODY.

Some reviews/Blurbs

Chasing AllieCat “reviews” on the FLUX Now website:

Humbling, I guess. But I’m excited for the book to be out in the world. Had a strange and interesting contact from Kirstin Cronn-Mills. She’s at the YALSA Conference in Sante Fe (YA LIT division of ALA). She texted me something about Gay content in Jake Riley? She’s on a panel for Gay/Bi/Lesbian/Trans content in YA lit, and Jake Riley was on a table of books that have gay content. Interesting–but cool that it’s recognized. The content is certainly not a central focus of Jake Riley, but it sure is there.