Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer of My Utah Writers - THE WAY HE LIVED

As I continue my quest of reading books by some of Utah's talented authors, I must say I am proud that this state can boast that it could become a YA Author Factory. Just as BYU earned the reputation of cranking out super-star quarter backs, Utah is producing an amazing array of WonderWriters.

Among these writers is Emily Wing Smith, author of The Way He Lived. There were so many things I loved about this novel, including the format. Each chapter tells the story about Joel, an outstanding young man who sacrificed himself to save others when a Scout troop ran out of water while hiking the Grand Canyon. Although Joel brought enough water to stay hydrated in the heat, some did not. He died of heat exhaustion because he deprived himself in order to help his fellow scouts and leaders.

As we view this teen through the eyes of his sisters and friends, we learn about him AND them. Using lines from "Monday's Child" to title the sections, Emily hints at what we can learn about the sister or friend. For Example, "Wednesday's child is full of woe" establishes Miles as the wayward friend who is deeply impacted by Joel's death.

Emily also uses first and third person narratives to tell the story, even using fictional blog entries, chats, and other communications to share intimate details. Included among the details are connections to life as a Latter-day Saint, a Mormon. Because Joel and his friends live in a community where most citizens are members of that church. I appreciate her realistic portrayal of teens who embrace AND struggle with that religious culture.

When I closed the book, I knew Joel a little better, but I was left with dozens of questions, too. Some about him, but mostly, I wanted to learn more about Miles, Norah, Alden, Claire, etc. I was still worried about Joel's mom and dad, too.

Isn't it a great book that leaves you wanting more?

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