Monday, May 7, 2018

"Captain Superlative"

Jessica Puller has an MS in elementary education from Northwestern University and earned a BS and departmental honors in theater from Northwestern's School of Communication. She is an award-winning member of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and a published playwright.

Puller applied the Page 69 Test to Captain Superlative, her debut novel, and reported the following:
From page 69:
But as I hid from view, I watched her give the atrium a quick glance; then she ducked out the door herself.

And I followed her.

I don’t know where the momentum came from. The part of me that was my dad, maybe? I don’t know. Anyone else would have left well enough alone, I think. I just knew that I suddenly had a whirlwind of desire to follow her, to see where she went and what she did and who she was while doing it. I thought that maybe, once we left the school, she’d start to be herself. You know, a normal girl. But as I darted from tree to tree—dark bare branches cutting into a cloudy gray sky—Captain Superlative continued to zoom down the sidewalk with her arms out, the synthetic curls of her wig bouncing against her back. She was flying.




The act went on.

There wasn’t a lot of town, as far as Deerwood Park was concerned, of course. The school was set on a side street, surrounded by square little houses with white siding and gray rooftops. The end of the block turned into the downtown area. But downtown wasn’t much more than a few shops, a gas station, the post office, the ice rink, the movie theater, a burger place (without a drive-through), and the train station. The grown jewel of it all was the park.
Is this page representative of my debut novel, Captain Superlative? A little bit yes and a whole lot no.

The protagonist of the story, Janey Silverman, is on a journey to discover who she is and who she wants to be. A large part of her journey involves the pursuit of Captain Superlative, the mysterious superhero who’s been zooming through the halls of her middle school, performing random acts of kindness. The passage on page sixty-nine is the first time that Janey works up the nerve to follow Captain Superlative, to actively search for answers instead of just standing back and watching the world go by. Her first steps to discovering who she really is, deep down inside.

Sounds pretty representative, huh? Like I said, in a way it is. But it’s also missing one of the most critical elements of the entire novel.

To explain, I should mention something about my background. You see, I didn’t start out as a novelist. That came later in my career. In the beginning, I was a playwright.

In fact, Captain Superlative started its life as a play.

My dream is for one of the great Stephens (Sondheim or Schwartz) to help me turn it into a musical.

But I digress.

Theatre is built largely on dialogue, what people say; or, okay, sing. And that’s the very critical ingredient of the story missing from the sixty-ninth page of Captain Superlative. It’s also probably my favorite element of the story. I love the way that the characters interact, particularly Janey and her Father. It follows the old, middle school adage of “show, don’t tell” by demonstrating their closeness and their love.

But, of course, don’t take my word for it. Take a look for yourself!
Visit J.S. Puller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue