Tuesday, February 23, 2021

"Dragonfly Girl"

Marti Leimbach is known for her bestsellers, Dying Young, made into a film starring Julia Roberts, and Daniel Isn’t Talking. She is interested in neurodiversity and has shared the stage with young inventors at the Human Genome Project (Toronto), the National Autistic Society, and the University of Oxford. Her interest in science influenced her YA thriller, Dragonfly Girl.

She teaches on the Masters Programme in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Dragonfly Girl is her eighth novel, but her first for young adults.

Leimbach applied the Page 69 Test to Dragonfly Girl and reported the following:
The page 69 test works in an intriguing way for Dragonfly Girl, getting right at the central difference between my heroine, Kira, and most other people. “My brain isn’t normal,” Kira declares on page one, line one of the novel, before lamenting the weirdness and deficiencies of her intellect. By contrast, on page 69, someone talks about her mind in a different manner, one that not only helps her understand where her unusual intelligence comes from, but makes it clear that this is a gift, not a curse.

The scene takes place in the early hours in a hotel’s small library. Over cups of tea, Kira meets for the first time a man who will change her future: Dr. Gregory Munn. In his senior years, Munn’s understanding of scientific genius has the benefit of many decades. From him, Kira learns something remarkable about her own history as Munn tells her that he knew her father, which shocks her. She also learns that the way she thinks is very much like her father's way of thinking.
My father’s name is so unexpected, and for a moment it’s as though his ghost has entered the room.

“He was an extraordinary young man. When I was reading your paper it was like déjà vu. It could have been his work.”

I never knew my father. He had a drinking problem and made stupid decisions when drunk. One was to try to interrupt an armed robbery not far from our house. I was only a baby when he died.

“You are very like him,” Munn says.

I can’t just sit here mute. He’ll think I’m even more ridiculous than I am. “How did you…how did you know him?” I say.

Munn clears his throat and smiles. “I was a fan, really. I take an interest in people who are, one might say, preternaturally gifted. He didn’t have the benefit of higher education, yet there he was. Something bordering on the miraculous. I used to visit him in that garage where he worked."

I nod. The garage was an outbuilding on a poultry farm. More like a shed. And the reason he was there instead of at a proper engineering lab was, again, because of the alcohol.

“It was as though he could pluck things from the future and bring them back to the present day.”
Spoken so casually, the reader will not necessarily pick up on the importance of Munn’s declaration that he has an interest in those who are “preternaturally gifted”. However, it’s exactly this interest that causes Munn to offer Kira an after-school job in his laboratories, leading to both her extraordinary discovery. And it turns out that Munn isn't the only one interested in people like Kira. She will become the prize over which Munn and an as-yet unknown rival in the book wrestle. Kira has no idea of the huge rivalry between these powerful men, nor the role that she will play in a drama she cannot, at this point, imagine. And yet, there it is on page 69. The library scene is one of those which the reader will reflect on later after learning much more about Kira’s perilous situation. Therefore, I declare the test a success!
Visit Marti Leimbach's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dragonfly Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue