What happens when two thirtysomething siblings relive the summer reading programs of their youth in an all-out battle of the books? The race is on as they read by the rules and keep tally on their logs to see who will be the ultimate reader by Labor Day 2011.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sometimes You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover

On Friday, I took my kids to the library to sign up for the summer reading program, six days after it began (we are so far behind). While I'm not sure my memory is entirely accurate, I remember registering on the very first day of the program (ok, sometimes two, as we visited two libraries regularly) to ensure that every book I read during the summer went toward my final tally so I could win! It's unfortunate the librarians in my world didn't want to make their library a competitive arena.

In any event, we went to the library, took care of business, and searched for books. I gave myself three minutes to choose my titles (which included walking time from the children's room). I limited myself to the new releases, figuring there would be a decent mix of "point worthy" books on the shelf. In my final seconds, I grabbed a colorful spine-- yellows and blues, funky lettering, and a drawing of a summer hat-- to counter some of the denser selection already in my bag.

And this is where karma paid me a visit.

Title ("The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus") and cover (drawings of popcorn, a fan, and a thong) aside, I recognized the author, Sonya Sones, as a recognized writer for young adults. Well, to be completely honest, I remembered that she had been involved in some censorship issues with one of her YA books. That was about it. The cover sold me, so in my bag it went.

It should come as no surprise that I chose to read this book first. I had perfect reading conditions: the house was quiet; kids were conked out; husband busy with work. I settled in, opened the book...and discovered that Sonya Sones is more accurately described as an author who writes in verse. Page after page after page of verse. Now, I do read poetry and actually find it admirable that Sones' writes YA novels in verse. It just wasn't what I was expecting...or wanting.

But I continued (both because I don't like reading multiple books at a time and because I was already cozy). Holly is at a transition in life: she's 50; her only child is heading to college; her mother's health is declining; her husband seems distant. Holly's world is changing and she's struggling to keep pace. Verse actually helps define the emotional chaos in Holly's life, how she segments each problem in her life. She seems incapable of looking at her life as a whole, that perhaps she's so overwhelmed she can only handle snippets of her challenges (and occasional celebrations) at a time. By the end of the final poem, I knew Holly pretty well (it was like reading a really, really long diary). I had a passing knowledge of the other characters, although arguably less than I would have had in prose form.

Curiosity will bring me eventually to Sones' YA titles, but Brendan will probably blow a gasket if I attempt to log any of them, regardless of their length. And, speaking of book length, Hunchback was 420 pages...two points!

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