A Different Take On Mainstream

Book: The Carnival At Bray

Well hello there!
Just asking– are there any bibliophiles out there in this virtual audience today? Because you see, I want to talk a bit about books. (teehee-aliteration ;). I don’t know how it is for you, but I personally have to say, once I hit a certain age, probably 18, the young adult section in the library became extreeeeeeeeemely blah for me. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because my brain no longer spewed random thoughts about sparkly werewolves or whatever. Maybe because I was just sick of reading about love triangles; maybe I just wanted to read about love squares. Or how about a love line, is that so difficult? Where ONE boy falls in love with ONE girl, and they live happily ever after. Like in Cinderella. Yah. I think however, the problem lies in the fact that most young adult novels today, are leached of any actual substance and depth.

I have no idea who decided this, but somewhere along the line, someone decided that substance should be buried in the classics. That teenagers would much rather be reading about an apocalyptic zombie romance between a robot and and a half-alien than actually read something with a message. Don’t get me wrong, fantasy and sci fi is brilliant. To read about a world that is not your own, a world so fantastical its almost impossible to read about– is simply, to put it literally– magic. What I mean, is when those worlds turn empty, where instead of building a world revolving around rings and hobbits, where themes of power, addiction and control are explored, one creates a world for the sole purpose of fulfilling a vicarious feel good romance. Yes, sometimes that is needed, yet when an entire genre for an entire age group is monopolized by emptiness, when our intelligence is slighted to the point that barely any author out there publishes anything for us to THINK about—then we know we have a problem.

Whatever it is, there is barely any written media out there directed toward persons between the ages of 15 to 19 that actually reflect the major life-molding struggles they truly face everyday. Someday I hope to change that, but in the meantime, I am going to recommend a  book that defied the ugly typecast that general young adult literature has fallen into.

I. The Carnival At Bray– Jessie Ann Foley

Genre: realistic/historical (?) fiction. I don’t know, is the 90’s considered history yet? 
Pages: 235
Fave Character: Uncle Kevin
Fave Quote: “This was the anthem of our generation” — Maggie Lynch

        First of all, can we please take the time to appreciate the cover? That is Ireland cut out of a pair of jeans and safety pinned onto another pair of jeans. Perfect.
       Second, the story– It’s about Maggie Lynch, Chicago girl– absentee father, flighty irresponsible mother, and living in the early 90’s, where real grunge and Nirvana set the rules. While everything in her life seems just a little bit broken–her family, her relationship with her mom, even her rocker Uncle Kevin, she still has the music, and the words, and the dreams that come with them, that define the anthem of her generation.
   When Maggie’s mother suddenly decides to marry her new Irish boyfriend, Colm, she uproots Maggie’s entire family to Ireland, where Maggie has to leave behind Chicago, her rocker Uncle Kevin, and the little rays of grunge sunlight that had given her any perception of freedom.
       Now living in Bray– a small, dreary coastal town in Ireland, Maggie has to navigate the unfamiliar waters of Irish culture, and learn the nuances between being an Irish-American— and being Irish.
       Yet when a sudden death strikes Maggie’s family, leaving behind only confusion and one concert ticket, Maggie must now embark on a runaway pilgrimage of her own to discover who she is, and where she belongs within the chaos that calls itself life.

       I definitely do not recommend books easily. Maybe I just have high expectations, but I must say about this book, it has a depth that I have not seen for a very long time. One thing that I love about this book particularly, is the vivid dimensionality of the characters. Each character feels like a human, with his/her own package of flaws and features. Maggie’s mother for one, is depicted as a hard drinker, as irresponsible, and frankly, as quite selfish. Yet she still has moments within the book that leaves the reader wondering about the hidden parts of Maggie’s mom, those moments when she actually behaves as mother. Unlike many YA books nowadays that feel as if you are reading about supermodels trying to star in a B-rated superhero flick, this book feels as if you are reading about your friends, just some people that you used to know.

Why I think This Book Defies The Ugly Typecast:
The characters are average. They are flawed, and insecure and they make mistakes. Magic is not present within this book, but life is. Centered around the tragic death of Kurt Cobain, this story deals with the very real issue of admiration, and what happens when someone you admire lets you down. (I’m not only talking about Cobain by the way, but I don’t want to give too much away). I also love that Foley uses Ireland, and the 90’s grunge scene, as the backdrop for this story. A lot of the people who are reading this book now, remember the 90’s as a very faint memory, like a forgotten taste in the back of your throat. That’s why its doubly fascinating, at least for me, to revisit something that is in the buffer period before becoming history–like something in an attic before it becomes vintage.
       I also love how this book is not afraid to tackle life. Every character in this book is in a process of discovering how the world works– both the ugly and the beautiful within it. The choices they make and the situations they experience, are quite simply the insignificant, excruciating choices that we have to make every day of our lives. But what is living with out these choices?
—- Anyway, I have spoken for way too long once again, so if you have actually gotten to the bottom of this page, kudos to you! You get 30 Duchess points. And a hug from me.

I hope you enjoyed this post! I’m going to go back to writing my anthropology essay now. (This was a lot more fun to write though ;). Leave a comment below answering this: What is one book that changed your life? I really want to know, I always want to hear about books that make an impact.
Homework-ly yours,
Cynical Duchess.