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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Want to read: What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay

Found this YA novel, What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay by Amanda Cockrell, via her guest post The Contemps. Dear Wall Street Journal - YA fucking matters.

Description from Amazon:

Angie never used to think much about God—until things started getting strange. Like the statue of St. Felix, her secret confidant, suddenly coming off his pedestal and talking to her. And Jesse Francis, sent home from Afghanistan at age nineteen with his leg blown off. Now he's expected to finish high school and fit right back in. Is God even paying attention to this?

Against the advice of St. Felix (who knows a thing or two about war), Angie falls for Jesse—who's a lot deeper than most high school guys. But Jesse is battling some major demons. As his behavior starts to become unpredictable, and even dangerous, Angie finds herself losing control of the situation. And she's starting to wonder . . . can one person ever make things right for someone else?

From the post:

The germ of the plot was my college senior thesis, a play in verse heavily under the influence of Christopher Fry. It concerned a girl who has been praying to the statue of a saint, which suddenly comes alive, claiming that God has de-sainted him for not being holy enough. I don’t write blank verse nearly as well as Christopher Fry did, and there is not a lot of market for historical plays in verse. But years later I thought the premise still had possibilities, and we were in the middle of a war - again - and I thought the saint probably had some old battle scars of his own.

War is a very different thing when you are fighting it than when you are supporting the troops on the home front with “Power of Pride” bumper stickers and magnetic ribbons on your car. Angie, my heroine, is fifteen, and anyone her age has grown up with these wars. Even Jesse, who was hot to join the Army at seventeen, was a child when it started. For them, it’s always been there. And yet I wonder how real it seems to teens if they aren’t in a military family. I’m reasonably sure that Jesse didn’t know what he was getting into. I looked at the pictures of young people cheering when Osama Bin Laden was killed, as if they were at a football game, and I had a sense that to them it was a game.

During the Vietnam War, it was clearly no game because any male might get drafted and sent to fight. At first you could get a deferment by staying in college, but after a while it became clear that the war was unfairly taking the boys who couldn’t afford college, and so they began a lottery – literally. Numbers were drawn once a year corresponding to birthdays. If your birthday got a low number, you were gone. Every man I know of that generation has some scar left over from it, whether he was drafted, volunteered, protested the war, or even went to Canada with the draft board and the FBI on his heels. Even the unscathed ones have a sort of survivor guilt about that. But now, I wonder. We have no draft, and I thought that it was likely that for someone like Angie the war would only get suddenly and extremely real when someone she knew got hurt or killed.

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