Saturday, December 22, 2007

coming-of-age inside a mystery


Just finished "Edenville Owls," by Robert Parker, a recent MG/YA novel about an indie club of Middle School basketball players who take on local JV school teams, the team leader's journey toward discovering his first girlfriend, and a diabolical figure threatening their eighth grade teacher. The author has published over fifty bestselling adult detective stories before this, his first book for young readers. The story is set right after WWII, so I can relate to the boy's descriptions of his favorite radio stories and other background. The mystery part of "Owls" is a little bizarre, but the story has its charms.

I enjoyed the nostalgic asides of the narrator, our protagonist, talking about the radio shows he liked—those old adventure and detective stories, even the commercial jingles mentioned struck a memory chord, as well as the double-feature "B" movies appearing at the local theater on the weekend. Parker fed some of these nostalgia trips into the story as two-page chapters, in italics, to set them off from the ongoing plot line. While it was interesting to me revisiting that old stuff, I wonder how well it worked for a young reader today? Well enough, I suppose, since the story included lots of poignant moments, and the ongoing excitement of the basketball competition, and the mystery. On the "short" side, not much literary irony to mull over, but hey, it was a pretty good read.

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