Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"Alan Cole Is Not a Coward"

Eric Bell is an author of middle grade fiction.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his debut novel, Alan Cole Is Not a Coward, and reported the following:
Alan Cole Is Not a Coward is the story of a twelve-year-old boy who is blackmailed over his secret crush on another boy in his class. Page 69, which opens chapter six, begins with Alan at the dinner table. Alan’s family is a major source of stress: his older brother is the blackmailer, his father is emotionally abusive, and his mother is a non-presence. The dinner environment is oppressive—even Mom’s tasty chicken stew doesn’t leave much of an impact—and so Alan retreats to a familiar setting: the art world. For Alan, art is like breathing; his attempts to change the world via a portrait of someone’s face permeate the novel. In the middle of this tense situation, he narrates:
I’m thinking about the principles of design Mrs. Colton went over today in art class, and how the scene in front of me would look if I painted it. Where would the emphasis be? On the clock? At the head of the table? On the carefully prepared food? Where would the movement flow? What patterns would be repeated?
This is Alan attempting to make sense of the illogical world before him. He doesn’t understand why his brother hates him so much, where his father’s anger stems from, why his mother has withdrawn from affection. His quirky new friends befuddle him and he struggles with the possibility that his crush might not reciprocate Alan’s hidden feelings. The world is overstimulating and messy and confusing. So when Alan turns to the vocabulary of his art, it’s with the goal of understanding his own world a little better. Throughout this chapter he sees things through an artist’s lens, noticing patterns and movement and other aspects of his toolkit.

Page 69 does not showcase any of the book’s humor—the family scenes are when the book is at its most serious—though Alan does mention the hot pepper flakes from the stew “practically leave scorch marks as they dribble down my throat,” which hints at the normal tone of his narration, full of exaggerated comparisons.
Visit Eric Bell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue