there were many amazing YA titles this year (and A LOT of australian ones), but i'm going with daniel handler's why we broke up, illustrated by maira kalman. i love these guys; loved their collaboration on the picture book 13 words. when i read this i was just about to start work at hardie grant egmont and it made me feel so chuffed that my new workplace had chosen to be the australian home for this book. it made me feel confident that we would get along.
why we broke up
min green and ed slaterton are breaking up, so min is writing ed a letter and giving him a box. inside the box is why they broke up. two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
beginning to end, all the angst and heartbreak included, this was a delight. all the (made-up) films and movie stars, the references that min made and which baffled ed. the conversations that went around and around, the tangents and segues. why we broke up is a brilliantly written and smart book - plus, so perfectly teenage. min is hyperbolic, feels things so deeply. she's over-dramatic (some might say) and i know there were many adult YA readers who didn't like this one at all. and this, above all, is why i love this book so: a teenager's life should often exclude or baffle an adult and i felt that min and ed and al all had the space to exist as teenagers and as people. they felt real, they spoke their thoughts and got things wrong. they were unlikable, precocious and whimiscal (angsty). and i loved them for it.
i don't read a lot of books for grown ups, and even more rarely do i read non-fiction. but i've been coveting patti smith's memoir just kids for a month or so now, drawing it out and savouring it. i finished it this morning; i loved it.
just kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to new york city during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. a true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.
smith's prose is dreamy and yet straightforward, it's intimate but not self-exploitative. i knew so little about her life, and littler still about her relationship with robert mapplethorpe. this was such a special book. i loved the way she spoke about all those crazy cats who inhabited manhattan and brooklyn and paris in the 60s and 70s - it was just life, it never felt like she was name-dropping or big-noting. i appreciated the solemn, serious and dedicated way she approached her art. i think this is one i will read again and again.
yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. it had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. perhaps it was an awereness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. sometimes i just wanted to raise my hands and stop. but stop what? maybe just growing up. (p.104)
happy new year!