Friday, April 20, 2012

Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet

Clem and Frankie are two teenagers who should never have fallen in love. Her family is rich; his is working class poor. Their romance is set in 1962 in a remote part of England, far from the Cuban Missile Crisis, but they learn that world politics touch everyone. 

Although Mal Peet's Life: An Exploded Diagram is marketed as a teen novel, it really straddles the line between teen and adult. The pace is leisurely and we first get to know Clem's parents and how they met during WWII. We even get to know his grandparents. Norfolk dialect peppers the dialogue. Peet's prose is a treat: "Ruth's mind ticked like a cooling tractor." Sometimes the setting shifts to 21st century New York, where Clem as an old man looks back: "The past has bloody teeth and bad breath. I look into its mouth like a sorrowing dentist."

The book is divided into three main sections: Putting Things Together; Blowing Things Apart; and Picking Up the Pieces. Give this book your patience and you will be richly rewarded. Peet puts all the pieces together very well. Grade 9 - adult.

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