Thursday, March 8, 2007

"The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance"

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of: the novels Funerals for Horses, Pay it Forward, Electric God, Walter’s Purple Heart, and Love in the Present Tense; a collection of short fiction, Earthquake Weather; and the Young Adult novels, Becoming Chloe and The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance.

She applied the "page 69 test" to The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance -- which is due out this month -- and reported the following:

I received this “page 69 challenge” while traveling. For days I had to live with my curiosity. What is page 69 of my new Young Adult novel The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance?

I got home, read it quickly. Thought, “Oh, no. That’s not enough.” It’s the last page of a chapter. Really only half the page. Just 11 clipped lines of dialogue and one narrative sentence.

Then I read it again, slowly, and decided it contained more than I saw at first glance.

Our young hero, 13-year-old Cynnie, has left home in the middle of the night. She’s on the road in an old, newly-resurrected Datsun with Morris “Snake” Rooney, who hopes to be her boyfriend. They’ve stopped at Cynnie’s grandparents’ house and kidnapped Cynnie’s 3-year-old Down’s Syndrome brother, Bill, the only person in the world Cynnie loves. And Cynnie has already had a few nips from the bottle of scotch she stole from Grampop.

Page 69 of the advance reader’s copy of The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance:

“Oh, I’m being a jerk. Right. It’s always my fault.”

“Look,” I said. “Forget the Grand Canyon. You need to get some sleep and we need to get where we’re going."

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere. Farther away than this. I’ll drive all night. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

“You? You can’t drive.”

“Why can’t I?”

“It takes practice.”

“Get real. You put it in drive, and you steer so you stay in the same lane. It’s freeway all the way through.”

“What if we get pulled over?”

“Then we’re dead one way or another. Neither one of us has a license.”

We argued around about it until Bill started to cry, and then Snake gave up.

“Fine,’ he said. “Only be careful.”

Part of what I like about this as a sample: it starts so in media res (just what I thought I didn’t like about it on a fast first reading). We pick up right in the middle of what I hope is a realistic-sounding fight between teens. The other thing I like about this bit of text is the foreshadowing. So I never drove before. How hard could it be? What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, Cynnie is about to launch into a major disaster. But, as is so often the case, what seems to be the worst possible outcome proves to be the best. She is court-ordered to attend AA meetings, and things are about to gradually but genuinely change.

I think that snip of dialogue on page 69 would be enough to keep me reading. I hope it does the same for other readers, particularly teens familiar with addiction in its many forms.
Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Series.

--Marshal Zeringue