The Promise of Amazing~ Robin Constantine’s Glimpse Into the Young Adult World of Today

Ah spring is pushing up jonquils and young love is in the air. If images of fresh face youths courting fair-haired maids with handfuls of flowers comes to mind when you think of young love, well, Constantine’s young adult novel, The Promise of Amazing, will disabuse you of such daydreams. Contemporary teenage romance has little to do with June and Ward Cleaver scenarios despite some sharing of milk and Oreo cookies. Welcome to the world of boy and girl prep schools for the children of lawyers, catering business owners and real estate agents. These people don’t worry about having enough food or clothing for their families. Their concerns are with social status and money-making in the realm of suits and ties. Their teenage children are highly aware of clothing labels, drinking, drugs, and sex. This is the world of who might become who — or not. Enter quiet good girl Wren Caswell whose relationship self-confidence quotient has had a hard  knock from what she refers to as a “hump and dump” with a young lad with no interest in anything more than sex before he heads off to college campus and the rest of his life–without looking backwards. It doesn’t help her college dreams any when the guidance counselor unwittingly makes callous remarks about who is and isn’t Harvard material.  From stage left-wing comes talented bad boy Grayson Barrett who has been forced to face the music of academic misconduct for selling papers to other students–oddly enough none of the buyers seem to have suffered any consequences for creating a demand for Grayson’s product. These boys are working out their future manners of behavior for being successful in a corrupt mainstream world which rewards doing whatever you do to be successful as long as you don’t get caught. The lads of St. Gabe’s have more than plagiarism on their questionable efforts plates. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart’s lasses are mistresses of manipulation and serious verbal aggression. Some of their hearts and minds are very short on sugar and very high on arsenic.  Wren and Grayson are not exactly Juliet and Romeo material—or are they? There is serious potential for tragedy if some life lines don’t get straightened out with some positive choices. In today’s American mainstream culture they’re the kids with all kinds of opportunities — yet, they’ve got some very steep learning curves regarding relationships, peer pressure, family issues, values and sexuality which all children, and adults, encounter.

Robin Constantine delivers a touching young love story set in what is now the normal context, with variations on degrees depending on location, that teenagers move through today. It’s a landscape rift with absent parents, underage drinking, rebellion, drug use, and sexual explorations often without any emotional attachments. Emotions are problematic for teenagers and the young people in The Promise of Amazing have emotional issues in spades.  There are a lot dysfunctional families across the spectrum of social economic class lines. Yes, there is a very serious class structure in America based on economics–the idea of a society where everyone is equal is an ideal, not a reality. This isn’t a The Catcher in the Rye world–this is post Salinger–the phoniness of the deluded game playing adult world is almost a cliché today.  The children mimic it to no small end.  With friends like his, it’s a wonder Grayson and his social peers are all not headed straight to jail before graduating from high school.  Yet, Constantine manages to avoid falling into a cynical narrative of all things troubling teens.  Wren’s practical step right up and deal with the problem nature sets things in motion when she meets Grayson by saving him from choking to death while everyone else stands around watching the show at her family’s catering hall– called Camelot. Of course, one thing leads to another as Constantine develops the plot via chapters alternating Wren’s and Grayson’s perspective. This is one of the things I enjoyed most about this young adult novel–the effort to present the perspectives of both sexes to tell their story. What goes through the minds of teenage boys and girls isn’t exactly the same–but they’ve got a lot more common ground regarding issues than they often realize when they’re struggling to communicate with each other even though texting seems to make it all so simple.

    I watched her disappear up the block, her plaid skirt swaying. When she was out of sight, I landed with a thud and walked back to the reality of the ER. I pulled Wren’s scarf up to my nose, inhaling her scent and getting dizzy all over again. I was happy to have my face covered–no one walks into the hospital with a grin that wide unless he’s heading to the psych ward. But I couldn’t help it.

She kissed me.

The Promise of Amazing is a an easy read writing-wise, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s about easy things. It’s not.  It offers a certain very dark slant on contemporary teenage world. This novel portrays a young couple’s efforts at dealing with family, friends and love relationships without any magic or supernatural elements to distract from real life issues. Constantine manages to make us care what happens to Grayson and Wren as individuals and as a couple with some definite potential for being a lot more than a “hump and dump” round. They both need and want more than that even though their hormones are certainly giving them a workout–complete with condoms. It’s the promise of sharing a genuinely caring relationship that gets these two together. What’s unsettling is just how hard that is to find despite all the musical hype about it. In a world of broken homes, second and third families, amoral role models and shallow values, experiencing and sharing some real love is no easy deal.

What’s the teen in your world reading?

~

Robin Constantine’s site –>>  http://robinconstantine.com/          http://robinconstantine.com/books.html

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo–Are your papers in order?

     What would you do if you were a girl seriously wanting your father for your fifteenth birthday, quienceanera, and he’d suddenly gone silent in a strange land called Houston?

Bettina Restrepo’s Illegal places readers smack dab in young Nora’s desperate world of failing grapefruit orchard, dying village and dangerous journey to the not very welcoming land of Texas. In Houston the buildings grow tall while keeping people small and insignificant. Deepening poverty and increasing concern about the silence of Nora’s father from the land of opportunity drive the young girl and her mother into making a desperate search to a place where calling the police to report an assault is not a viable option.  No one wants to leave the once thriving village but survival dictates desperate measure for desperate times when the tax man gets impatient.

Love and family values push three generations of Mexican women to leave behind all they know and hold dear to search for the man missing from their daily lives. Deliberately or not, Restrepo presents anew the mythic threesome of the maiden, matron and crone in the forms of Nora, her mother and grandmother as they are forced to confront the reality of the economic and social death of their Mexican village. The grapefruits rotting in the once prosperous orchard reinforce the mythic imagery of a dying land unable to support the people. Even the village bank scarcely has any purpose other than to employ Hector.

    Illegal is a dark reality check of a young adult novel that many American adults would benefit from reading. What’s the Dream Act about? Who wants it and why? Well, Nora’s story might provide some clues to the answers. Hungry stomachs often go hand in hand with hungry young minds. The need to make a meaningful life wherever you find your feet planted is real and valid cause for concern. Unless they’ve experienced poverty in America many young readers might have trouble entering Nora’s world where learning to speak English is a vital concern surpassed by the need to help her mother keep it together in a hostile urban jungle where girls beat each other for entrance into gangs.

Restrepo does her best to get readers into and keep them in Nora’s changing world.  It’s not an easy task. To help raise cultural awareness she incorporates Espanol into the novel. There’s a decent little glossary at the back for readers who have no idea that cartas means a pack of cards, cabrito is a baby goat, and that a coyote can be something other than an animal–a human smuggler. Illegal is a solid novel which pulls no punches yet works to be accessible to young adult readers who are curious about what’s going with other young people beyond the boundaries of their own private worlds.

Now what would have happened if the Native Americans had thought to demand identity papers and immigration documents for all the white European invaders searching for land and riches in the New World?  Imagine that.

Visit Bettina Restrepo at http://bettinarestrepo.com/

Find Illegal and more young adult fiction published by Katherine Tegen Books:   http://www.yabookscentral.com/component/jreviews/tag/publisher/katherine-tegen-books/

 

Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion –a Big Wowza! of a novel from Red Deer Press

  Click the boot to see the video trailer and more at Red Deer Press.  If you find this an unsettling view  of teenage girls then I suggest you consider all that’s been written about their physical and psychological cruelty. Science fiction has nothing on the daily reality strutting through school hallways everywhere.

Rustle: I think of all the clicking, whirling cams, the screens and monitors, the hidden mics tracking our movements when we least suspect it–the never knowing when they’re watching. And I surrender to my own inevitable defeat. A tear rolls down my sorry check as I flashback to the Treason Times. I rememory all those twisted cores, those poor broken specimens struggling, impaled on their death sticks, waiting for the pain to end. Our ancestors, the human mothers who bore us, ridiculed ’til the very last milli and Beyond. That’ll be me soon. Sniff.

O thank you, Red Deer Press for your “…respect for the intelligence of the reader at every level…”–WOW–when’s the last time you read that in any American Publisher’s mission statement? Like NEVER!  I mean what American media outlet of any sort has any respect for the intelligence of its audience??? Red Deer Press is a Canadian operation–smirk, smirk.  Come on, be honest. I’m willing to entertain any suspects dishing up tomes to feed the intelligence hunger of Americans  anyone is willing to offer up.  Is it fair to argue that the fact that books in any form are still being produced by American publishers for the market is a good sign that we’ve not been entirely written off as complete morons–yet?  Big Big Sky is definitely not mental junk food for a dumbed down Young Adult audience. The very talented Kristyn Dunnion makes the most of every page to infiltrate and stretch the imagination of whoever picks up this totally engaging novel which raises a multitude of issues about blind obedience, genetic manipulation, love, leadership. loyalty and survival of the fittest–“Decline, Deform, Disobey.”  This is one hell of a science fiction/fantasy adventure into uncharted waters and beyond for the all female crew of a StarPod of young assassins: Rustle, Loo, Solomon, Shona and Roku.  Dunnion creates a tightly controlled world of young people trained by ScanMans to exterminate other humans. Then Dunnion turns the tables on the core group and soon they’re deep in a swim for their own lives to the lands beyond the mountain of total mind control. There’s good language craft fun with all the lingo Dunnion devises for this unruly passel of rampaging lasses as the plot unfolds from the shifting perspectives of each.  You don’t have to be a teenager or a female to jump into this novel and enjoy it immensely.  Keeping an open mind about love relationships and science fiction could be a tad useful at the onset–until the characters themselves yanky yank you into their world of troubles and tribulations and transformations.  Ever dream of becoming a big bird? How about an amphibian? What’s your control freak conformity factor?  All is fair in love and war, right?

I’m eagerly awaiting more of Kristyn Dunnion’s wicked writing wonders. I promise to share with the other girls nice nice.

See what else is on the reading plates at Red Deer Press http://www.reddeerpress.com/

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