Posts Tagged ‘contemporary male YA’

skinandbonesFrom the publisher (Albert Whitman & Company): Sixteen-year-old Jack, nicknamed “Bones,” won’t eat. His roommate in the eating disorder ward has the opposite problem and proudly goes by the nickname “Lard.” They become friends despite Bones’s initial reluctance. When Bones meets Alice, a dangerously thin dancer who loves to break the rules, he lets his guard down even more. Soon Bones is so obsessed with Alice that he’s willing to risk everything–even his recovery.

I have a personal connection with SKIN AND BONES. I met author Sherry Shahan while we were students together at VCFA. When I heard the announcement for the sale of this novel, pitched as, “ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST meets LOVE STORY set in an eating disorder hospital in which an aspiring ballerina and a quirky nerdboy fall desperately in love only to become each other’s next deadly addiction,” I knew I had to read it!

In this realistic YA novel, Bones is worrying about making friends and falling in love – exactly like many other teen boys. Except he’s doing this within the walls of a residential treatment center for eating disorders.

This is a tough book that gets into the nitty-gritty tricks of the eating disorder trade: Faking weight checks, sneaking in laxatives, adjusting menus and food prep. It’s an exhausting feat, starving one’s self. Some of the people Bones meets are over-eaters, some are bulimic. It’s interesting how all the different groups and hierarchies are established within the treatment center.

During the course of his stay at the hospital, Bones falls in love with enigmatic Alice, a ballerina who’s been to this place before. Many times. Bones doesn’t see her struggle at first. He only sees perfection.

The thing is, eating disorders are a very real issue. All my life I’ve known people with eating disorders. Although plenty of people – most, I’d say – have some kind of issue with food, (aka bad habits); I mean actual life and health-altering disorders. And as a parent of a pretty girl who is also an athlete that has spent the majority of her life in tight-fitting lycra, I’ve been on guard a bit with regards to body image issues.

One day at work, a mom was in the middle school health office having lunch with her eighth grade son. He was a nice boy, handsome and articulate. Wiry and athletic in build, all-around fairly average. I mean average in the very best way. She was pleasant and friendly. How nice, I thought as they sat together chatting. And different. It’s the rare eighth grade boy who eats lunch with his mother at school.

Once he left to go back to class, his mother sighed and shook her head. The worry was clear on her face. She shared with me the reason for her lunch time visit. Her son had been struggling with anorexia. He was only just getting back to school. He needed supervision to ensure that he consumed enough calories.

This student’s trigger had been long distance running. After having success – and tying that success to concurrent weight loss – he’d become obsessive about his training program and started denying himself food.

It just kind of broke my heart to see this boy who looked so perfect in his lovely average sort of way and to meet his nice mother who was trying to hard to help him and know that he was fighting these demons already. 

So glad Sherry has written this book for this boy and the many others who share this struggle. Sherry is going to stop by soon in one of our author spotlights to share more about the story behind this story. Bring your stories and questions!

Sarah Tomp


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I wanted to be writing a “Book Thoughts” post today, but I haven’t quite finished The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X Stork.

Oh my. This is a book to savor. Gorgeous, evocative, and worrisome. Plus, I am dragging my heels (eyes?) a bit – I am worried about the ending. I’ve been worried about the ending for quite a while. So much that I am actually NOT reading the last page/chapter before I get there – which I have been known to do.

The other night we had a critique group meeting and one of my brilliant fellow critiquers made an off-hand remark that dialogue should reveal emotion more than plot. And that the action/story needed to be told outside of dialogue. It was in the midst of another important discussion and not long after we were booted from our spot, so I didn’t tackle her and force her to tell me more, but this comment has stuck with me the last few days.

Well, the dialogue in The Last Summer of the Death Warriors is brilliant.

Because so much of the story is based on the developing friendship between tough guy boxer Pancho and philosophical and frail D.Q., there are a lot of conversations between the two of them as they journey out into the world – and also inward, into their hearts and souls.

Book Description: When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony’s Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he’ll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister’s killer. But then he’s assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth. D.Q. tells Pancho all about his “Death Warrior’s Manifesto,” which will help him to live out his last days fully–ideally, he says, with the love of the beautiful Marisol. As Pancho tracks down his sister’s murderer, he finds himself falling under the influence of D.Q. and Marisol, who is everything D.Q. said she would be; and he is inexorably drawn to a decision: to honor his sister and her death, or embrace the way of the Death Warrior and choose life.

Nuanced in its characters and surprising in its plot developments–both soulful and funny–Pancho & D.Q. is a “buddy novel” of the highest kind: the story of a friendship that helps two young men become all they can be.

Some ways dialogue is used to enrich this story:

  • Early in their relationship, Pancho and D.Q. talk, except that each boy is talking about something different. There is a gap of disconnect between them.
  • While traveling in the car, Pancho sits in the back seat and listens to a conversation between D.Q. and Father Concha – there are few to no dialogue tags and yet we don’t need them. And, even though Pancho is mostly silent, he’s a part of the conversation through his inner thoughts.
  • What is NOT said between the two friends is often as important as what IS said.
  • Later in the book, when their friendship is more solid, there is a conversation between them as they lay in their beds in the dark. There are no fillers here – no action, no inner thoughts, no sensory reminders, just talk. As it would be in the dark. Intimate, straight conversation.

And any writer needs to read this post by Francisco X. Stork.

Dole out gentle mercy to yourself…

Sarah Wones Tomp


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