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12 June 2010

Summertime and the Reading is Easy

There have been a lot of wonderful Young Adult books coming out lately.  "Wonderful" does not always translate to "popular among teen readers" or even about vampires.  One, The Half-Life of Planets, stands out.  It is even a Summer 2010 IndieNext pick.  Written in alternate voices by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin, this is a boy-meets-girl story at the beginning of one summer in the beachside town of Melville.  What are the twists?

While cleaning it out on the last day of school, the girl finds an anonymous one-word hate note slipped into her locker .  Can an aspiring planetary research scientist really be called a "slut" for enjoying kissing?  Well, in high school, anything is possible, I guess, especially when one is known for such confusingly contradictory activities as study planets and kiss a lot of boys. I recall school as being a very painful time.  Liane Planet ("pronounced 'pluh-net'" -- pun but no pun? what's that all about, authors?) seems to be having a better time of it than I did, although she's really bothered by that note.

And the boy in this boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back has Asperger's Syndrome.  This is key.  The book spends a lot of time on showing how usual Hank's point of view, not to mention his behaviour, is compared with regular or even geeky guys, obsessed with guitars, music (maybe not for today's youth, but in my day, everyone aspired to be in a garage band) and getting a girl to kiss.  I think that's the point -- to lull everyone into thinking, Hank's just like any other boy at an awkward age.

And, then comes the boy-loses-girl incident, which is supposed to slap us (with an upholstered bolster, soft but hard enough to hurt) up the side of the head with the realization that people with Asperger's Syndrome think differently in social situations than "normal" people.

And, just to get my Long Island Girl moment in, I'd like to think this story takes place in Melville, NY, except Melville, NY is not anywhere near the beach.  It quite possibly is Melville, Rhode Island.  Regardless, if you've lived in a small town or suburb anywhere near a beach, this will feel like home.

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