Friday, November 16, 2007

Reaching for Sun

The most beautifully-written book I have read all year is Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. This is a novel in free-verse, told in the voice of a young girl with cerebral palsy. While she struggles in the physical world, her inner world is an articulate and light-filled one.

This entry will be filled with quotes, because the writing is far more important in this one than even the plot.

With my odd walk
and slow speech
everyone knows
I've got special ed.
but if I wait
until the hall clears,

taunts like tomatoes
don't splatter
the back of my head.
(pg. 4)

I had to constantly stop to savor the metaphors. Passages like:
But Mom's dreams for me
are a heavy wool coat I
wear, even in summer.
(pg. 46)

I can't get over how carefully selected each word is and how much weight it carries, while not seeming heavy. There are very few words in this 180 page book, yet the story is well-rounded and complete, the characters three-dimensional.

In addition to strong word choices, this is a strong and compelling story. Josie has a hard time with the kids at school, for obvious reasons, but her vibrant home life with a feisty gradmother and always-busy mom help make up for it. When a new boy moves to the neighborhood he looks past her physical disabilities and sees her intelligence and creativity, making him a perfect friend. Josie struggles against her constant therapy sessions and practicing movement and speech. She struggles against a big lie she's telling her mom. And she struggles with the fear that her new friend may abandon her for cooler kids. These honest struggles make for a rich novel set completely in the metaphor of a garden, always growing, always reaching for sun.


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