Drought is a terrific story -- "the haunting story of one community's thirst for life, and the dangerous struggle of the only girl who can grant it."Drought is a terrific story -- "the haunting story of one community's thirst for life, and the dangerous struggle of the only girl who can grant it."
The background: A capital-C rural, cultishly religious Community was enslaved in 1812 after making a seemingly advantageous bargain with the leader of a local town. For 200 years, the people have survived with little changing in their age, appearance, desires, dreams, beliefs, or their daily existence of back-breaking labor, semi-starvation, and routine beatings from sadistic overseers.
The premise: The deliverance and salvation of the Community rests on the actions and generosity of a young girl born in 1812 and just now (200 years later) reaching adolescence. Ruby's loyalties are tested as she observes, questions, and begins to learn the grown-up truths about the people who have ensured her safety for as long as she can remember, and learns more about the world outside her enclave from Ford, the first outsider to ever show her kindness.
I adore Pam's story-telling voice; she's consistent and fresh, and is gloriously enmeshed in the heart and soul of her main character. She writes from the first-person POV -- a construction that I usually have to talk myself into coping with -- and at no time in Drought did I feel that she abandoned Ruby to tell the audience something we ought to have known.
The plot is full of twists and turns with deep consequences, both positive and negative, for the seemingly smallest of choices and actions. There's nothing predictable about the choices Ruby makes, perhaps because actually having the freedom to make a decision between two options is so novel for her. Like many teenagers coming into their own, she walks the line between accepting responsibility for her choices and painting someone else with the blame brush, and the chilling course leading up to the denouement is fabulously both of her own making and beyond her control.
The only fault I can find with the book is one of characterization. Ruby is very much an adolescent girl just coming into her own; she's alternately thoughtful and rash, impossibly generous and understandably selfish. Twenty-five pages into the story, I find it utterly implausible that she has been alive for 200 years, observing her surroundings with the cautious, hunted-deer skills required to survive in the Community, and is only now thinking to question what she has been taught. As an individual, she's too keen an observer and too critical a thinker for her awakening to be fully believable.
That said, it's quite a good book, and on that I recommend happily. ...more
While I found Pam's Drought to have a few drawbacks, I have no such compunctions about her first novel, Candor. In fact, I've already passed my three-While I found Pam's Drought to have a few drawbacks, I have no such compunctions about her first novel, Candor. In fact, I've already passed my three-week-old copy to the first person on my rec list, with the promise to let it make the rounds afterwards.
Oscar Banks is a model citizen, or so he would have you believe. After learning that he (and every other child of Candor) is being brainwashed into his father's idea of the perfect child, he sets out to save himself and every other kid of parents with more money than morals. Make no mistake, though -- Oscar's no goody-goody; he charges a hefty price for his services, building a nest egg to fuel his own eventual departure from Candor. But his "perfect plan" develops a little hiccup in the form of a perfectly imperfect and independent girl who shows up and wins his heart without the slightest effort.
Candor is one layer of manipulation, thievery and misplaced trust woven into another, and then another, and then another. Oscar is both genuinely charming and a complete jerk; I found myself rooting for him to get what he wants as well as a smack upside the head at a half-dozen different points. He's clearly a real kid, with a real kid's foibles, and his oh-so-stealthy, almost Tom-Sawyer-like escapades are so obvious, you realize the only reason he wasn't caught out in his work to "beat the system" years before the novel takes place is because he's the only person in the town completely above reproach -- his father touts him to prospective-buyer-parents as the model of "what your child can be", and those who buy the brainwashing for their own offspring repeat the sale. The entire town is brainwashed -- literally -- to think he's the perfect child, and no one in a position of power ever questions his role or place in it. The perfect rat. Does the rat get the cheese or the trap?
Candor gets five stars. It's exceptionally well written, a page turner that holds up to a second read, and has the best ending I've read in any YA novel. Highly recommended.
Eagland portrays the plight of women committed to insane asylums in the 19th Century with earnestness and a degree of realism that is suitable for a YEagland portrays the plight of women committed to insane asylums in the 19th Century with earnestness and a degree of realism that is suitable for a YA audience without glossing over the horrors or sensationalizing them beyond history. If I were reading this as an adolescent I would
1. Run off in search of Nellie Bly's 10 Days in a Mad-House 2. Cheer myself hoarse to find a novel that portrays a lesbian first-love storyline while addressing the stereotypical accusations and situations in a completely atypical way.
Brava, Jane Eagland. I look forward to reading more of your books....more