Tuesday, September 27, 2016

He said, She said - Books with Multiple Narrators and/or Points of View

 Point of View
Usually, when you read a story, it is told from either one person's point of view or from an omniscient perspective - a narrator that knows what is going on and relays that information to the reader. But if an author wants to present a story from more than one perspective, they can write it from multiple points of view using different narrators.  That was our unit last week in Young Adult Literature - reading books with multiple narrators.  Often it is only two.
P.S. Longer Letter LaterOne of the first books I can remember reading that was written in this style was P. S. Longer Letter Later by Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger.  It's about two tween almost teen girls - Tara*Starr and Elizabeth, who are best friends.  When Tara*Starr moves away, the girls write letters back and forth - and that's the book.  Tara tells here story; Elizabeth tells hers as the correspond back and forth.

A similar book is Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. The book is set in an alternate 1817 England where magic is a thing. Think Jane Austen meets Georgette Heyer with magic added in.  It is written from the perspective of two young ladies - Cecelia (or CeCe) and her cousin Kate.  Again, it is written in an epistolary fashion - letters between the two main characters. Delightful!  And it's the first book in a trilogy.
Image result for bruiser shustermanBut author's don't always use letters - sometimes they just use alternating chapters.  An example of this is Bruiser by Neal Shusterman. Shusterman wanted to write about an empath and thus, Bruiser was born.  The blurb in my library's on-line catalog states “Inexplicable events start to occur when sixteen-year-old twins Tennyson and Brontë befriend a troubled and misunderstood outcast, aptly nicknamed Bruiser, and his younger brother, Cody." And the book is told from these four very different perspectives - Tennyson, Brontë, Brewster, and Cody. The story starts out like a typical realistic fiction.  Brontë likes stray dog type boys and her latest project – and love interest - is Brewster.  Tennyson objects since Brewster a.k.a. Bruiser has been voted Most Likely to Get the Death Penalty. Tennyson and Brontë squabble.  Their parents’ marriage teeters on the brink of divorce.  Tennyson threatens Brewster.  Tennyson stalks Brewster, follows him home, and ends up being his friend. But what neither Tennyson nor Brontë realize is that Brewster is – different.  REALLY different.  Or maybe special is a better way to describe Brewster’s gifts.  (I gave you a hint but you’ll have to read the book in order to figure out exactly what they are.) 
Shusterman wrote each character’s “voice” in a different style.  Tennyson speaks in first person past tense, Brontë in first person, present.  Brewster’s chapters are in free verse and Cody’s are stream of consciousness. This book is definitely thought provoking in a Twilight Zone/Stephen King kind of way (and I'm thinking more along the lines of Green Mile for the King comparison... ) If you enjoy just a touch of the supernatural, then check out Bruiser. Even though it addresses sensitive topics like child abuse and complicated divorce, this is a book that I would recommend for 8th grade and up. I liked this book because it made me think about what happiness is and how "happily ever after" may sound like it would be awesome -- but maybe not.  Pain, hurt, happiness - all things that we may not truly understand.

Image result for beauty queens brayAnd then there are books that are told from LOTS of different perspectives.  That was the way Libba Bray chose to write Beauty Queens.   She got the idea from a writing prompt - "An airplane filled with beauty queens crashes on a deserted island." Just think of the possibilities!  In Beauty Queens, the airplane is filled with 50 older teens all vying for the title of Miss Teen Dream Queen!  Ooh-ah.  The pageant is run by "The Corporation" - and their advertisements appear regularly throughout the book (one of the many "voices" that appear). The girls are flying to an island somewhere off the coast of Florida to do some practicing when the plane's engine bursts into flames and they crash, rather spectacularly, on a supposedly deserted island.  All the adults are killed - and most of the girls. The book outlines their attempts at survival.  This is not a serious book.  It is snarky, satirical, and extremely funny.  You learn early on that the island is not deserted - it is the headquarters for a secret arms deal between a rogue Central American-type nation and Ladybird Hope (a thinly disguised Sarah Palin). They are, of course, backed by "The Corporation". Oh - and there are pirates.  Did I mention the pirates?  And an ornithologist eco-terrorist.  Anyway - the story is presented from MULTIPLE points of view.  Miss Nebraska; Miss Texas (Taylor - probably my favorite character); Miss Rhode Island; Miss New Hampshire (Adina); Miss California and Miss Colorado; an agent working for "The Corporation"; Ladybird Hope; the crazy dictator and his stuffed lemur...  The list goes on.  Be aware that this is a book written for OLDER teens.  It has sex.  And language.  And things get blown up.  With lots of sequins.  READ THIS BOOK. (or listen to it - Bray does the audio and it is hysterically funny)  It will make you laugh.  And maybe even be relevant to our current political climate. Plus it makes you look again at how women are exploited and talked down to -- Tiara's response to being called, "Dumb!" for example - particularly eye opening.  There are obvious comparisons to Lord of the Flies but unlike the boys, being stranded on the island gives the girls the space they need - and the challenges - to really figure out who they are and what is important.
 So go find some books with multiple narrators, y'all!  That's what Taylor would say. After doing a triple back flip.

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