Ingenius. Kevin Brooks is my best find in young adult authors this year. Recently, I read his novel, Lucas, and found it beautifully written. Its trutIngenius. Kevin Brooks is my best find in young adult authors this year. Recently, I read his novel, Lucas, and found it beautifully written. Its truth and beauty lingers within me even now, months after reading the final words.
The title on the spine of this novel stopped me cold while I was browsing the shelves of our school library, right index finger extended, trailing along each cover, title surfing, almost as if I could somehow pick up a sense of the world inside via the telepathy of touch. Even as my students searched for books all around me, I was instantly hooked, and the happy hum of my kids' book searching simply ceased for me. It's an extraordinary title that shimmers with poetry. In fact, it reminds me of a line from a Langston Hughes' poem that reads, "...Let the rain kiss you..." When I looked further and noted that the author is Kevin Brooks, I could not wait to dig in.
The narrative voice is entirely different, from the very first word of the novel, but it is somehow even more compelling than the one in Lucas. Moo Nelson, so dubbed by cruel school bullies who ridicule him because he is overweight, is the completely UNeloquent voice that takes readers on this emotionally charged exploration of a bullying that occurs between not only school kids but that also runs rampant throughout the adult world. On the journey, Brooks analyzes issues of identity, self-worth, and various ways human beings handle the rain of troubles that drizzle upon us daily. He accomplishes this and more in a riveting, suspense filled plot that will keep readers chained to the page and turning, oblivious to the world outside the spine that hooks, then reels in easily.
I can hardly wait for school tomorrow so I can do a quick book talk to share this novel with my kids. I'm making a mental list of specific kids who I know will love this book, who will enjoy their submersion in Brooks' words just as I did. So many vital questions and issues are raised in this incredibly rich and thought provoking novel. An elegant symbolic thread ties the plot together in a terrific opportunity for readers to truly get symbolism by seeing it in action. By the end, the readers will own the symbolism and will never forget the concept. I'm sure of it.
My only criticism is that the title (that I happen to love and would not recommend changing for anything) is so poetic (and to a middle school boy that translates to "girly") that many of my male students who would love this novel may never pick it up and certainly wouldn't carry it around in public. Admittedly, my students and many other readers will be frustrated by the ambiguous ending. However, Brooks' brave choice of ending helps the story to live on in my head and heart, resonating deeply. Although many readers may be furious at being left barely hanging on to a gigantic cliff, this novel that has so much to do with choosing our own truth, with choosing our own destiny, ends just as it should, with the reader's choice....more