Thursday, February 15, 2018

"The Precious Dreadful"

Steven Parlato is an award-winning author and poet. Upon the release of his YA debut, The Namesake, Publishers Weekly called him “a name to watch.” A college English professor (with a giraffe-filled office), illustrator, and actor, Parlato has played roles including the Scarecrow, Macbeth, and the Munchie Mania Guy in a Friendly’s training film. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, two teens, and a Binks-like cockapoo.

Parlato applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Precious Dreadful, and reported the following:
On first putting my page 69 to the test, I thought, Hmmm. I'm not sure this represents the whole book. I also wondered: Would this engage a curious reader? There's no big romantic gesture, no menacing ghost-girl, no recollected trauma--all elements central to The Precious Dreadful. Nope. Page 69 features an aftermath.

The scene follows one in which my protagonist, Teddi Alder, and her single mom, Brenda, engage in a pretty epic battle—verbal-verging-on-violent—over Teddi's potential boyfriend, Aidan. On this page, as Brenda attempts to make nice, we see a surprise element—tenderness—within a relationship I generally describe as toxic.

When Brenda suggests Teddi introduce her to Aidan, the conversation goes like this:
"Oh shit...that's just..." I make this medicine-taste face. "Ack."

"Not the response a mother dreams of."

"Aidan and I aren't even officially going out yet. It would be epically bizarre to introduce him to my family. Such as it is."


"You know what I meant."

"I suppose I do."
That exchange features what Teddi would likely call “Typical Alder Woman Bluntness”. It nicely represents the dynamic between these two, their bond that swings between us-against-the-world and us-against-each-other throughout the book. That connection with her terribly-flawed mother shapes Teddi profoundly. The bond with Brenda has forged in Teddi the strength of an alder tree—while leaving her deeply scarred as well.

In the end, for its revealing glimpse of one of the novel's core relationships, I guess this passage from The Precious Dreadful passes the page 69 test after all.
Visit Steven Parlato's website.

--Marshal Zeringue