Sunday, September 25, 2011
Yellow Mini, written by Lori Weber. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011. $9.95 ages 13 and up
"She's got amazing green eyes,
thick brown hair,
and a decent shape,
not that you'd know it because
she hides herself under
peasant skirts and baggy shirts."
In the high school that Lori Weber attended there was a third floor lounge. It was where all the cool kids hung out, and she makes it her starting poem for this novel in verse about five young people and the lives they are living. She gives them strong voices, and shows her readers how each is affected by the connections that are between them.
The author was a shy and self-conscious kid, and so is Annabelle. Annabelle does everything she can do to avoid walking past that lounge, even though her 'ex-best friend' Stacey calls to her, Annabelle knows that Stacey no longer has time for her. Stacey has a new boyfriend, Mark, who drives a yellow mini, flouts school rules and expectations, and wants
"his girl of the month
beaming beside him
like a yellow car
Stacey seems happy to be that girl and she and Annabelle no longer spend time together.
Of her first poem, Lori Weber says:
"I suppose that outburst, if I can call the first poem that, had been lurking in me for a long time. That feeling of walking through that lounge is still so strong, I can close my eyes and conjure it. Writing is a matter of tapping in to deep emotions, to exorcising demons, and that was one of mine."
The five people whose stories she tells speak with clarity and individuality. Their personalities are as different as those voices and they are very capably drawn, leaving her readers empathetic to their feelings and actions. The poems are written to reflect those voices in ways that match their personalities. Christopher's poems are written in quick spurts and take up a long, thin space. He is so shy about sharing his feelings for Annabelle. Mark's are bold and meandering, as are his thoughts. Mary's are contained in gray boxes and show her unwillingness to come out of her safe place...preferring to be alone with her piano and her talent.
I really like that the author included the voices of the parents...offering a completely different view for the reader. They fear for their children, but learn that they must let go and trust that they will find their way. It is very meaningful that they have a strong presence and can voice those fears since they have had such influence in raising these memorable young adults.
I want to share a few of the voices the author so ably creates.
"I'm the guy
who stands too straight,
who can't seem to get the hang
of hanging loose."
"I wonder what Stacey thinks
when she sees me with Christopher.
Does she remember the way kids mocked him
because he stuttered like a machine gun?
Does she wonder how I can touch him
when his skin has patches of acne?"
"Nothing except my father's voice describing
the girl of his dreams for me: someone
sweet and pure who wants nothing more
that a home in the suburbs and two kids,
who'll go to church on Sundays, keep
my house sparkling clean and make roast
lamb when he and my mom come to visit."
Chopin knew he'd done well
when he could say
That he had played as he played
when he was alone.
Tonight, I think I can say
because I knew if
I did it would be
over because he
already had that far
away look in his eyes,
telling me he wanted to be