01 September 2009

BOOK CLUB - SEPT - Oldies, but Goodies by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Susan Beth Pfeffer has written lots and lots of books, including Life as We Knew It (the 2009 One Book NJ selection) and companion the dead & the gone. As a teen, I grew up reading Susan Beth Pfeffer too, but instead of meteors and shopping center scenes, I just remember crying a lot. Recently I reread two of Pfeffer's acclaimed novels, hoping to use one for our Book Club discussion meeting during Banned Books Week. There may have been less tears this time around, but my heart and my head both struggled to find a place of comfort long after the stories' conclusions. There is little comfort to be found in those pages.

If there is one theme throughout most of Susan Beth Pfeffer's writing, it is about perspective. These are books that make you think, even if you don't want to.

The Year Without Michael tells of everyone's story but Michael's. When Michael disappears shortly before he begins his first year of high school, his family doesn't know how to cope. Sixteen-year-old Jody was the last to see him -- he was leaving the house to play with a friend, promising to be home by dinnertime -- and he seemed just fine, normal. With little to go on, the police don't know if Michael ran away or was kidnapped, if he's still out there somewhere or dead. Now Jody needs to comfort and support her little sister, Kay, try to be the backbone of the family while her parents fight, and listen to her grandparents blaming her parents and her parents blaming the police. Jody just blames Michael.

About David is the heart-wrenching story of David as seen through the eyes of his best friend Lynn. When evidence is clear that the seventeen-year-old was responsible for the shooting of both his parents before turning the gun on himself, Lynn is shocked. But she isn't surprised. David is Lynn's oldest friend, and she knows him pretty well, but she also knows that he had secrets and that he was severely unhappy. He never came to terms with the fact that he was adopted, and he struggled with his adoptive parents' extremely high expectations of him. But what could possibly lead him to believing that this was his only way out, his only way of relieving his own pain?

Request these books through the BCCLS catalog or ask a librarian!

Reviewed by kate the librarian

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