Thursday, April 17, 2014

"The Art of Secrets"

James Klise is the author of The Art of Secrets, newly released from Algonquin Books for Young Readers. His debut novel, Love Drugged, was a Stonewall Honor book, an ALA Rainbow List selection, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. In addition, his essays, reviews, and short fiction have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Readerville Journal, StoryQuarterly, New Orleans Review, Southern Humanities Review, Ascent, Sou’wester, and elsewhere.

Klise applied the Page 69 Test to The Art of Secrets and reported the following:
The Art of Secrets is a contemporary crime story told in multiple forms of narrative: monologues, emails, journal entries, interviews, newspaper accounts, texts, etc.

On page 69, we near the end of an interview with Kendra Spoon, a Chicago high school sophomore. Kendra and her brother Kevin are helping to organize an auction to benefit a classmate who has lost her home in a fire. In this scene, Kendra faces questioning by her principal, school attorney and a newspaper reporter. Kendra’s not in any trouble, but certain facts must be established, given that one of the auction items that she and her brother donated has turned out to have substantial value. The reader doesn’t know what this item is yet; the subsequent scene reveals that information. All Kendra can report is that they found “it” in a box of old books that were left in a Lincoln Park alleyway:
And Kevin was like, ‘C’mon, some of these could be valuable.’ He wanted to look through them. I’m telling you, my brother sticks with things until they’re done perfectly. He’s thorough and super patient, just like my mom. It’s a good quality in most people, I guess, but not when you’re starving and ready to eat your shoe or something. So we picked up this dirty, smelly box and put it in the trunk. It weighed a ton, I remember that.
Before the item can be auctioned, there is the question of ownership, so the interrogation has covered the basics: Where exactly did the Spoons find this box of old books? Which alley? Which day was it? Did they knock on the door of the residence before removing the box? On page 69, Kendra makes a solid argument for her true ownership of the treasure and establishes her authority to use it as she sees fit. Kendra’s tone has been breezy through most of the interview, but finally we hear some teenage feistiness creeping into her voice:
That box was in an alley, with the garbage, and that made it fair game. The previous owners had abandoned everything inside that box, and it was ours for the taking. That’s the way the world works, right? That’s, like, the Law of the Alley. I mean, someone threw away that box of awesome snow globes, too, but nobody’s asking about those.
I am happy to see that page 69 represents The Art of Secrets as well as it does. It conveys the conversational tone of the book, and also touches on the notion of opportunities: the ones we find versus the kind we make for ourselves. Kendra and her brother have made it clear they intend to do something powerful and altruistic with this opportunity that’s been given to them. The funny part is, what happens after this discovery is something that Kendra herself never could have predicted.
Learn more about the book and author at James Klise's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue