Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters (Little Brown, 2005). Between working out, playing softball, and keeping up the plumbing business her dad left behind, Mike's days in Coalton, Kansas are if not full, at least familiar. Then one day, she walks into class. Xanadu. The most beautiful, smart-ass, conflicted girl in the world. Mike falls fast, and the two seem to connect. Only problem? Mike's gay and Xanadu's...not. A story of family, friendship, and unrequinted love. Barriers that can be broken and those that should be respected. Ages 12-up.
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Though the novel's book-talk hook is the love story, the family and friendship threads are just as heavily weighted and highly satisfying reads. Mike's best friend Jamie and brother Darryl are compelling, well-drawn, and especially resonate characters.
As someone who spent half of her childhood in Kansas, I found the town convincing and appreciated the opportunity to read a book set in the midwest. I also thought it was refreshing that "small town" didn't automatically equal "universally bigoted."
I've lived in and been around small towns, and it seems like this has become a stereotype. Call me an optimist, but some loving, good, clear-thinking people can be found everywhere.
Julie Anne Peters is one of my favorite YA authors. I highly recommend her other YA novels: Luna, Keeping You A Secret, and Define Normal--all published by Megan Tingley/Little Brown.
Cynsational News & Links
Interview with Julie Anne Peters by Malindo Lo from AfterEllen.com. April 21, 2005. Note: this is an excellent, don't-miss interview.
Read the first chapter of Far From Xanadu from Time Warner Books.
Surf over to Julie Anne Peters' Blah, Blah, Blog.
"Anything Goes, But What Does a Banned-Book Author Do Next?": a chat with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor from the Institute of Children's Literature.
The Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers 2005 Awards and Honors have been announced. Congratulations to all the honorees, especially Deborah L. Duval, author of Rabbit and the Bears: A Grandmother Story, illustrated by Murv Jacob (UNM Press, 2004) for best children's book, Joy Harjo (author of The Good Luck Cat, illustrated by Paul Lee (Harcourt, 2000)) for best screenplay, Devon A. Mihesuah, author of So You Want to Write About Indians? A Guide for Scholars, Writers, and Students (Booklocker, 2005), for research and Oyate for foundation/organization of the year!*
*one of my own books was a 2001 Wordcraft Circle winner: Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins). Follow Rain's progress at Bookcrossing.com.