March 31, 2011

Invincible Summer Coming April 19

Northern California has plunged into summer, and I'm finding it difficult to concentrate long enough to write a complete paragraph. But I'll try to focus to say a few words about a book that's all hot weather and long days, INVINCIBLE SUMMER by Hannah Moskowitz. If you live in a place where winter is making a reappearance, you may want to pre-order this dose of summer.

The novel is narrated by Chase, who's the second-oldest in a large family and has saddled himself with the responsibility of keeping track of his siblings, who rarely stay put. Chase's family spends part of every summer at a house on the beach, where they've grown up alongside another set of siblings in a complicated tangle of almost-family and early romance.

The story takes place across several summers at the beach, and in keeping with the reality of a summer retreat, what happens to the characters during the other eleven months of the year is hardly mentioned. The book wonderfully captures the pace and heat of summer life and the way different things are important than back in the real world.

During the story's first summer, when Chase turns fifteen, the important things are pretty small. I like that. Fiction basically requires that big stuff happens to characters, because it's hard to create an interesting story around nothing much. As you might expect, Chase eventually has to suffer through his share of life-altering events just like anyone unfortunate enough to be a character in a novel. But for a good long chunk at the beginning, the problems Chase faces are small ones, like real people spend most of our lives dealing with. These concerns preoccupy us plenty when they're our own, and it's always nice when an author makes the reader feel the same level of investment in someone else's minor issues.

One issue that's important to Chase and his family throughout the story is that his younger brother is deaf. The little boy communicates using American Sign Language, which the other family members have learned to varying degrees. In the text, everything the characters say in sign language is printed in bold, and the grammar of the sentences reflects the syntax of ASL, which is different than that of English. I studied ASL in college (I've forgotten almost everything I learned, unfortunately), and I loved this aspect of the book.

I guess I should mention that INVINCIBLE SUMMER is a young adult novel, written for teen readers, and that I'm twenty years older than that audience. As with all good YA, I didn't find much to distinguish it from fiction for adults, except for the ages of the characters and the shorter length.

As a countdown to the release date, Hannah is currently writing on her blog about the playlist of songs she listened to while writing this book. I've never matched specific music to stories, but I have at least one writing buddy who swears by this process (hi, Anna!), and it fascinates me.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Gawker discovers an illustrated essay by Sean Michael Robinson and Joy Delyria that imagines HBO's The Wire as a Victorian serial. (Thanks, Pimp My Novel!)

→ Editor Margaret Maloney presents a slideshow of informative doodles that track the life of a book. (Thanks, Louise!)


Anna Scott Graham said...

Fascinating story, and I'm so intrigued by the ASL aspect; I'm planning a novel with the main character a deaf woman, and have been ruminating as how to write the signed dialogue, aware the syntax is different. Glad to hear your opinion, will have to decide how to go about writing it, as I have no background in ASL.

As for music... I've just started a novel and haven't outlined a lick! Only using the playlist as a guide, so I suppose we'll see how it turns out. I do use music in every story, songs feeding the plot, characters, etc. I can't imagine writing any other way, however I rarely listen to music while writing; only instrumental jazz when someone is making a racket. (Usually the youngest daughter watching Teen Mom or some other rubbish on television, ha ha!)

Enjoy this taste of summer; hard to stay inside when the days have been so nice!

Lisa Eckstein said...

Anna, cool to hear you're planning a book with a deaf character, and I'll be interested to know how you deal with that in dialogue. The method in this book worked well, but it was clear the author either knows some ASL herself or had a knowledgeable consultant.

I am really going to have to try this playlist-as-outline concept sometime!

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