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children's literature, childhood and culture (and anything else that strikes my fancy).

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Location: pittsburgh, U.S. Outlying Islands

carbon-based life form: thinking, reading and gardening. New College alum; current grad student writing a dissertation. I specialize in children's literature, media, and culture, and queer/gender studies, with a strong interest in 19th century British literature and culture. I like history, a lot.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

the first part last

more marathon reading today - can't kick the habit! pete hautman's sweetblood and angela johnson's the first part last.

sweetblood was interesting. i always like a good depressed protagonist. i'm not sure what to make of the ending, or if/what the moral message of the book is (don't be goth? you'll be happier as a blonde?) but overall - pretty good.

the first part last knocked my socks off. the shifting chapters - from "now" to "then" worked really well; johnson is really only concerned with capturing a relatively narrow chunk of time and events (nia's pregnancy, and then the first few months following feather's birth). the characters aren't overly fleshed out but they needn't be - the depths of feeling they experience around this baby are sufficient.

my favorite part may be bobby's parents, fred and mary. they're separated, and do not conform to traditional gender stereotypes without being ridiculous or obvious or commented on: Fred runs a restaurant, cooks, frets about the baby being warm enough; Mary is a photographer, in and out of town, very no-nonsense, less obviously warm fuzzy and nurturing. but johnson, via bobby, makes clear how successful as humans and parents they are. bobby's good relationship with his friends and especially his brother are also pretty fantastic in their subtlety and naturalness. this is a teen problem novel that doesn't really feel like a teen problem novel; there aren't a million issues spilling from every page. johnson has turned a very bright but still soft spotlight on one particular episode in the lives of her characters, and that is enough for one amazing novel.

1 Comments:

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