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Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet @Candlewick Press

UPDATE: Life: An Exploded Diagram 2012 Boston GlobeHorn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature Fiction Honor!

Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet.

I couldn’t improve much on this review I saw on Goodreads, so I’m posting it here. This is Maggie from Australia.
There are good story tellers, there are eloquent writers and sometimes there are those few who have the talent to deliver both. Mal Peet has the ability to grasp the most complex concepts and distil them into a form that is immediately understood but not dismissed. Peet’s turn of phrase and descriptive narrative is to be savoured and the unfolding story he tells is thought provoking and full of so many unexpected twists and turns that the reader is constantly wondering what is going to be around the next corner. This style also helps to promote the passion, anxiety and anticipation that young people generally feel when they are perched on the precipice of adulthood.

Peet portrays ordinary lives being lived in dangerous times. He brings to life all the emotions, ideals and passions of Clem, a working class teenager and Frankie, a rich man’s daughter. This vibrant splash of colour is painted onto the backdrop of the mundane lives of both their parents who are caught up on the treadmill of existence and the fear of Clem’s Grandmother Win, preparing to leave this earth. He successfully transitions back and forth over three generations of the one family, tying in their different perspectives on a life being lived under the same potentially devastating threat - the Cuban Missile Crisis – something totally out of their universe and their control.

This is not just a young person’s book. I would recommend adults read it as well. At 56 years old I can see the wonderful innocent naivety of the teenage pair, their thirst for excitement and their first experience of love and how little they know that with age and the burden of responsibility, the body weakens, the passion wanes and the mundane often takes over. It’s all in front of them.

My teenage daughter recommended this book to me and I would recommend it to anyone who has the passion for a good thought provoking story and a love of words.
My review:

A richly told coming of age novel that was an extremely satisfying read. Multi-generational, deftly weaving events of history into the over-arching theme of the novel, Life: An Exploding Diagram would appeal equally to adult readers as to a sophisticated young adult audience. There are surprising developments, witty colloquial banter, historical context and a loving, assured hand masterfully weaving all of these elements together telling the story of a man’s remembrance of his first forbidden love, in a world that was convulsing its way through the middle of the twentieth century.
Is it an adult book? A literary novel? Historical fiction? I loved the book so much in the end because of all of these things. It was a rich, literary read, so why not introduce this type of writing to YA readers? I realize not all adults are drawn to literary fiction, and neither would all YA readers. However, to dismiss it for that reason would disallow the introduction of beautiful writing to a sophisticated YA reader, one who having suffered through any number of classics that were mandatory assignments, might find more enjoyable.

I could relate to the book because I’m a 50-something book professional and appreciate the structure, symbolism, voice, surprising twists and introspection that Peet brought to this novel. He embraced each relationship in the novel with honesty and love which is admirable in a book for YA readers.

I say let everyone try it. One might find a whole new genre of fiction to value and it could lead to the discovery of many more wonderful authors in an adult reading life. [Taken from my comments on Katie DeKoster’s YABookLove blog in response to her review.]
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