Two Brigham Young University graduates have recently released books for young adults. Both are from more mainstream publishers — Little Brown and Razorbill, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. These books stand out with their unique style and storylines.
"EVERYTHING IS FINE" by Ann Dee Ellis, Little Brown, 154 pages, $16.99
When tragedy strikes and a teen becomes the parent, what happens to the teen?
Everything is far from fine in Mazzy's life. Her parents used to be happy. They used to dance, twirling and laughing. They both used to love Mazzy. That was a long time ago.
Mom is sick. She doesn't go into her art room anymore, in fact she won't even get out of bed. She's stopped eating, too. Bill, who does home health care, brings Mom pills when she runs out, rolls her onto her stomach or onto her back, and helps wash her.
Dad has been gone on business for weeks. He said it would only be one, but one week turned into two and two into three. Now he's coming home. He has to — the government has become involved.
Mazzy's been going through the motions, caring for Mom, fixing food and cleaning the house. She has her own pain, but no one seems to notice, not the stuff that really matters.
What at face value seems simple becomes intricate and telling in "Everything is Fine," an engrossing look at the resiliency of youth. Ann Dee Ellis' spare prose is telling and poetic as she brings Mazzy's fractured world to the page with earnest detail.
"TAKEN BY STORM" by Angela Morrison, Razorbill, 288 pages, $16.99
If ever the idiom "don't judge a book by its cover" should be applied to a book, that book would be "Taken By Storm." The back-cover synopsis might lead readers to expect a squeaky clean, LDS young adult novel, but that isn't exactly the case.
High school senior Leesie Hunt is biding her time in the little town of Tekoa, Wash. She can't wait to leave. A practicing Mormon, Leesie dreams of getting a scholarship to BYU. She also has lots of rules: no kissing, drinking, smoking, no dating outside her faith and definitely no sex.
Michael Walden is Leesie's opposite. He measures love with physical touch. Having just lost his parents in a violent hurricane, Michael is withdrawn and depressed. A deep-sea diver, he feels guilty for their deaths and wants nothing to do with this land-locked little town.
Leesie feels drawn to Michael. He's falling apart, and Leesie is the only one who can make Michael feel whole. As their relationship develops beyond friendship, Leesie struggles to balance her beliefs with a new rush of feelings and desires.
Written in the form of diary and poetry entries, and Internet chat conversations, "Taken By Storm" has a style all its own. Though a little clunky at the beginning, readers will enjoy this format once they get into a rhythm.
In the beginning, "Storm" reads like an LDS youth pamphlet, with Leesie responding to temptation with word-for-word accuracy. But as the book develops, feelings of intimacy heat up. Little is left to the imagination as Leesie and Michael explore their relationship. Though handled in an appropriate and sensitive manner, it may be too much for younger readers.
Author Angela Morrison's distinctive mix of poetry and modern dialogue bring the subjects of peer pressure, religion and grief to the forefront in an accessible and dramatic way.