Friday, March 9, 2012

Almost Forever

When you're six years old and your father is headed off to war, a year can seem like Almost Forever. Maria Testa's book of free verse gives us the perspective of an unnamed child, experiencing life without her father, who is serving as a doctor in the Vietnam War.

This book feels like a missed opportunity, particularly after having read All the Broken Pieces and Inside Out and Back Again, both verse novels which take place during this time period. Testa's narrator places her book at a disadvantage; her young age limits the emotions she can express and her understanding of the situation. At age six, she is not taking the emotional pulse of her family members, to the detriment of the reading experience.

Another issue is that the writing isn't beautiful enough. When I'm reading a book written in free verse, I always look for phrases that resonate with me, but Almost Forever really didn't have any. Take, for example, the following words, "I never cared much about the mail before, never cared much about the envelopes and packages that were never meant for me." Sounds like a normal sentence, right? Well, Testa spaces these words out on different lines and considers it poetic. Looking back through the book, most of the writing breaks down similarly.

The book is not without its redeeming qualities. The broadness of the writing makes it easy to discuss in the context of current events. The publishers clearly felt the same, updating the cover from the version I read (above left) to a more modern cover (right). It would be interesting to discuss how life is different for kids whose parents are currently deployed, as opposed to Testa's characters. It may inspire young readers to write their own verse poetry.

3 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear you were disappointed in this one. Six years old is really young for the main character of anything besides picture books. What age is this book meant for?

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  2. Hey Amanda, It's in my middle school library, so I think it is for middle grade and young adult readers.

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  3. I hadn't heard of this one, but I agree, a six-year-old MC sounds very limiting. I loved Inside Out and Back Again. I'll have to look up All the Broken Pieces. Thanks for mentioning it.

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