Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aging from a Younger Audience to an Older One--Zevin's The Hole We're In Tries to Make the Jump (and not Land in the Hole)

It seems that nowadays every adult author has a young-adult book inside them. Sometimes it's even the same book. Witness children's editions of Marley and Me and Three Cups of Tea. Can the YA version of Eat, Pray, Love be in production while we speak?

Not as often, but still with some frequency, kids' authors make the jump to adult titles. I think it doesn't happen as much because it doesn't often work. I've thought of Judy Blume. Who's on your list? (I thought of Meg Cabot and Meg Rosoff so far. Francesca Lia Block? It's hard to come up with a clean jump that led to both readership and critical acceptance. Compare that to Carl Hiaasen or Sherman Alexie.)

Of course Grove's Black Cat was not thinking of Wifey when they published Gabrielle Zevin's The Hole We're In, but in some ways, this is not a totally unfair comparison. Though I read that book many, many years ago, I remember it as a tale of marital dysfunction, and that's what this is too.

The twist in Zevin's novel is that the family are evangelical Christians of a variation she labels "Sabbath Day Adventists." I checked--there's no such thing. Very smart on her part.

Roger Pomeroy is a school administrator who decides he's going to go to grad school, only he doesn't really have the money for it. No problem, except for the money part. And Roger gets into more hot water when his faculty advisor takes a liking to his thesis and decides she'll too whatever it takes to get Roger to agree to a book project, with her getting top billing of course.

Ugh, money. It seems that mom Georgia and eldest daughter Helen vie for who can spend the most money they don't have. Helen would like a flash wedding and knows it's gauche to have the husband's family help pay. Their son Vinnie escapes by going to Harvard, though his mail still comes to the house--important plot point. And their youngest Patsy? She winds up with the most collateral damage, especially when the parents send them to her fundamentalist paternal grandmother back in Tennesse. With non-Christian college out of the equation, there's little she can do to break out of this family prison and settle her own debt issues. Oh, and did I mention that the Sabbath Day Adventists are also pacifists?

Zevin manages some interesting twists in perspective, and nicely captures the real estate boom and bust in the setting. For some reason, I suspect that there's little spark of connection to Zevin's own life in the story; it would be interesting to know if she'd flirted with any non-mainstream religious denominations.

Get it? It's a financial hole and a spiritual hole. And the young adult pigeon-hole?

I recommend The Hole We're In for the March 2010 Indie Next brochure. I'll link to the entire list once it's up. The novel is now in store, a paperback original with my beloved French flaps.


addendum--Dave, the buyer from Next Chapter, reminded me that Gabrielle Zevin previously wrote Margarettown, an adult novel that I actually had on my pile to read. Yeeks--so depending on the order, she could be actually an adult writer who then jumped to YA instead of the other way around.

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