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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Counting by 7s, POV

I wrote about this book in a Christian Science Monitor Middle-Grade Roundup. You can see my short review HERE.

But I want to say a few things about it from a writer's perspective.

And especially that dratted multi-character POV thing.

In this book, I love it and think it works perfectly.

Willow Chase tells most of the story, in first person chapters. She's the "highly gifted" --she says this herself-- multi-racial, adopted child of somewhat older parents who don't really appear except as Willow shares her memories of them. That's no spoiler. It's obvious from the very beginning of this novel. We're shown the tragic event that sets the story in motion and upsets Willow's world.

I loved everything about this young woman. From her name, to her outsider-ish personality and that she knows she's not the average middle-schooler surrounded by friends. Her attempts to fit in at the new school her parents have chosen are failures. Despite someone (Mom, for sure) leaving a Teen Vogue magazine on her bed, featuring a teenager with "hair the color of a banana" and a wide smile, Willow chooses her gardening outfit for her first day at Sequoia Middle School. Without the binoculars around her neck. She does wear her new glasses, with "frames that looked like what Gandhi wore." They were perfect "because I was going forward in the brave new world in peace."
Or so Willow believes.

Then there's her school counselor. Dell Duke, whose chapters are 3rd person, and I think mostly past tense. Chapters often shared with Willow's new friend Mai. A few chapters are in the voice of the cab driver, Jairo Hernandez, who thinks Willow must be some kind of shaman, not to mention an Alberta Einstein.

Can you see how complicated this sounds? You know what- it's not!
The writing flows seamlessly and beautifully. The story moves quickly.

Having recently read quite a few books told by different characters, I'm beginning to zero in on the difficulty of reading and of writing one. I agree with a reviewer of a different book who they can take on a drive-by quality. The literary equivalent of speed-dating. You just get settled in with one character and another begins telling a completely different, though usually interwoven side of the story.

In the case of Counting by 7s, this just isn't the case. You hardly notice that it's not Willow's story to tell because every character has something to say about her, some connection, an emotional bond being forged.

If you google Multi POV or some such, you'll find a lot of hates. Dreads and drats.
But I think it's being used a lot more in kids' books. Some work. Some don't.

I happen to think COUNTING BY 7s works in all the right ways.

If you're still reading and hope to go away with some helpful writing info re: POV, a few links--

Linda Urban's discussion, via her NESCBWI presentation- 

Janice Hardy spells it out HERE:

Darcy Pattison. Always trustworthy. Especially like that Seedfolk comment, re: community-

Not specifically about writing for Middle Graders or Young Adults, here are some big Do's and Don'ts (Dos and/or Don't's just didn't look right...)-


Holly Mueller said...

Thank you for the links! This would be a great discussion for my students! I LOVED Counting by 7s and thought the POVs added to its complexity in a brilliant way. There were several challenging things about it - the time structure, symbolism, metaphor, characterization, etc. All amazing and perfect for gifted kids. I love hearing a writer's perspective on books!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

What a great post! I've heard so many wonderful things about this book. I'm going to add this to a future Writing Links post.

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks for your comments. I just noticed this is one of my "most viewed" posts.

I think this book will continue to resonate with readers, young and old