Merry Christmas! I am a day late with my entry for this year’s Virtual Advent Tour. I offer my sincere apologies to hosts Marg and Kailana and to readers who came looking yesterday and found the blog closed and boarded up tight. I had good intentions, but you know how far that gets you.
For this year’s entry, I thought I’d offer you a quick review of one of the nominees in the realistic young adult fiction category for the Cybils Awards, which I’m helping to judge. The book takes place during the weeks surrounding Christmas:
Winter Town by Stephen Emond
From the jacket: “Every winter, straitlaced, Ivy League-bound Evan looks forward to a visit from Lucy, his childhood best friend who moved away after her parents’ divorce. But when Lucy arrives this year, she’s changed. The former ‘girl next door’ now has choppy black hair, a nose stud, and an scowl. But Evan knows that somewhere beneath the Goth exterior, Old Lucy still exists, and he’s determined to find her … even if it means pissing her off.”
My take: Every Christmas, Evan Owens’ predictable life brightens. That’s because his best friend, Lucy Brown, who moved away a few years back when her parents divorced, returns to town to spend the holidays with her dad. It used to be that he was just excited to see her because they were such good friends, co-authoring a comic together and sharing long, meandering walks. But this year, the Christmas of his senior year, Evan is eager to see Lucy even more than usual, thinking that in the past year he may have come to have other, more romantic feelings about his childhood chum.
So it’s a little bit of a shock when the Lucy who comes to the door has pierced her nose, chopped off her hair and dyed it an ugly shade of black, and seems to be sporting an equally unpleasant attitude toward life and — a bit — toward him. He sees glimpses of his old friend beneath the surface, but she’s definitely buried behind this new girl, who seems to be trouble with a capital T.
Lucy is equally frustrated with Evan, who seems content to coast passively toward the exact life his parents are leading, following his father’s map toward a successful adulthood. Lucy questions whether such a safe life is really worth living and how it is that Evan can be so talented at art without seeming to display any passion for it. Beset by problems back home, she had hoped to find the easy comfort that being in the presence of her best friend had always brought her, but this year Evan just doesn’t seem to be enough to tame the turbulence in her head.
Littered with indie references to music and movies, this contemporary novel is told in a narrative format, first from Evan’s perspective, then from Lucy’s. Interspersed between and within chapters are drawings — Evan’s random doodles, Christmassy scenes around town, and episodes of the fantasy comic, Aelysthia, they share. It’s not a graphic novel, but a novel with graphic elements, and the two work well together to set the scene and move the plot forward.
Hurtling at breakneck speed toward adulthood, these two childhood friends might be just what each other needs. But will they discover that the happiness is only possible inside a fantasy realm? Or can they share a journey together off the page as well?
Make sure you stop by yesterday’s prompt blogger, Random Magic Tour — The Coven, for some seasonal tunes.