Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands- Chris Bohjalin
After a nuclear disaster in the NorthEast Kingdom (VT) that may have been caused by her parents, Emily is forced to fend for herself on the streets.
Wow, this was the perfect antidote to the flood of gimicky YA novels based in dystopia. This may be more accurately described as an apocryphal novel but it takes the typical formula-world in crisis, plucky heroine- and turns it into something much more. Emily is such a great teenaged protagonist. She finds reserves in her that she was not aware of but remains, at her core, a teenage girl who just wants to become a poet. The setting of the scene and build up makes it clear that Emily would always have had to deal with some tough stuff but then setting her coming-of-age amongst the all-too-realistic chaos of a massive disaster was gripping. She’s self-destructive and so you can find yourself sometimes frustrated by her life choices but she is also resilient in a way that comes from rising to the responsibilities she is confronted with along the way.
So really the real star of the novel is how skillfully Bohjalin writes emotional pain-conveying the agony of confronting things outside of your control through carefully chosen prose that never comes across as constructed. The tone and pacing is disjointed because Emily’s life is chaotic and disjointed but the prose drags you in with her.