Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Local Girl Swept Away"

Ellen Wittlinger is the author of over a dozen YA and middle-grade novels. Her novel Hard Love won both a Printz Honor Award and a Lambda Literary Award.

Wittlinger applied the Page 69 Test to her latest novel, Local Girl Swept Away, and reported the following:
On page 69 of Local Girl Swept Away, Finn and his younger sister Tess are working at the arts colony run by their parents, cleaning out studios used by painters over the summer. Finn has grudgingly saved any left-behind art supplies he finds for his friend, Jackie, who's being encouraged by Finn's mother in her quest to be an artist. "I hate aiding and abetting you in this art business," he grumbles. "It's not about how good you are," he says. "It's about you thinking this is going to be your life's work. Like taking photographs is a real job... Making art that somebody wants to pay for is an unrealistic goal for ... well, you know."

This is one of the few times Finn and Jackie come to grips with one of the big issues between them, the fact that Finn comes from a wealthy family in which his mother's creativity is primarily financed by his father's prize-winning novels, and Jackie comes from a lower-middle-class family who have, for generations, made their living as fishermen. Jackie knows Finn's scorn for the arts has more to do with his relationship with his father than anything else, but still, he hurts her feelings by being so blunt about it.

"You mean it's unrealistic for somebody like me?" Jackie asks. "A poor person. You sound just like my mother. She thinks only rich people should go to art school."

"I don't know why anybody wants to go to art school," Finn says. "Is it living in Provincetown that makes people think they need to write sonnets or dab oil on canvas? Not everybody needs to express themselves creatively."

But Jackie does, as do most of my protagonists in most of my books. Maybe it's even more important for those people (like me) who were raised without much emphasis on creativity or self-expression, whose parents were practical and fearful of taking chances, to find a way to express emotions, which often happens through art. This is a moment in the book when Jackie and Finn say what they're really thinking, which they don't always. They're very different in many ways, but they do, eventually, come to understand each other.
Learn more about the book and author at Ellen Wittlinger's website.

--Marshal Zeringue