Required reading: Ghosting by Edith Pattou
Department: Young Adult
Course Date: Week of September 22
Have a love for drama and poetry? Then this course is a must for you! Throughout this class you will learn about a group of teenagers’ perspectives on an end-of-the-summer prank gone wrong, written in verse. Alcohol, guns and a dare— within minutes, events collide and a group of teenager’s lives are altered forever.
On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes that alter lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario that’s all too familiar. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.
Told through multiple points of view in free verse and stream of consciousness, Ghosting is an unforgettable, haunting tale.
(also available as an paperback, audiobook download and mp3 cd)
As I have done in previous coursework, I started reading the required text without consulting the syllabus, so when I leafed through the book, the shortness and irregularity of the lines made me wonder what was going on. Before the end of the first page, the free-form poetic descriptions had me caught in their spell.
Ghosting is arranged as a series of poems (or chapters, if you will). Each poem is narrated in first person, and descriptions of activity are handled by the narrator referring to the others in the 3rd person. It reminded me of an essay I wrote for a college English class describing the afternoon my father passed away. The first person POV, along with the frequent use of present tense, makes the horror more immediate.
past tense - The bullet grazed my arm; I saw the blood drip out of the wound.
present tense - I see the bullet grazing my arm and the blood flowing out of the wound.
One reason a high school graduation is called 'commencement' is because it represents a transition from the end of childhood to the beginning of adulthood. A young person's 'whole life' is supposed to be 'in front of them'. But you add a little angst, a little cockiness, some alcohol, a little bit of drugs, a little sneaking out, and a gun in the glove compartment and some people's lives will never be the same.
I don't know if Ms. Pattou channeled young people or is just extremely observant, The range of emotions through which the characters go, and which her readers feel is staggering - and I mean that it the best possible way.
For people who run screaming at the thought of poetry, Ghosting reads like a novel. The action is tense, the wording concise and taut, and the characters are unforgettable.
When I finished the book, I went and hugged each of my children - two young men (ages 16 and 17) and one tween girl (age 11). And, as 'extra credit' (bonus), we had a good talk about the balance between responsibility and recreation. Score!
From her website:
Edith Pattou is the author of Ghosting, a contemporary novel for young adults, told in free verse. She also wrote three award-winning fantasy novels for young adults – East, a retelling of the Norwegian folk tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," and the two Songs of Eirren, Hero’s Song and Fire Arrow. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling picture book, Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden.
She was born in Evanston, Illinois, grew up in Winnetka, and was a teenager in the city of Chicago where she attended Francis W. Parker School. She completed her B.A. at Scripps College in Claremont, California where she won the Crombie Allen Award for creative writing. She later completed a Masters degree in English Literature at Claremont Graduate School followed by a Masters of Library and Information Science at UCLA.
She has worked for a medical association, a clothing boutique, a recording studio, the Playboy Foundation, a public television station, a school library, two public libraries, two advertising agencies, and two bookstores.
She has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Durham, NC, Cambridge, England, Stockholm, Sweden, and currently resides with her husband, Charles, in Columbus, Ohio.
From the course description:
Edith Pattou has found acclaim as a writer in middle-grade fantasy with such award-winning books as East, which received starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal; was selected as a Top Ten Book for YA, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Top Ten YA Book, one of the 100 Best of the Best YA Books for the 21st Century by the Young Adult Library Services Association; and was nominated for numerous state awards. It’s a nominee for NPR’s all-time Best YA Novels list.
(Disclosure: I received a print copy of Ghosting from the author and publisher via the Bookspark Fall Reading Challenge 2014 in exchange for my honest review. Bookspark set up the challenge as a set of classes, with different "required reading". I have tried to keep up the educational lingo in these review posts because I appreciate the hard work that went into planning the program, and because it's FUN!)