Dreamland Social Club/Tara Altebrando: Reflections

Friday, June 10, 2011

Last week, thanks to Meghan Cox Gurdon's Wall Street Journal article, "Darkness Too Visible," the young adult book world was aTalk and aTwitter (and aFacebook and aBlog, including me, here.) Are the books being written for younger readers too twisted, tormented, unhappy? Do they sensationalize, titillate, and provoke in psychically annihilating fashion? Do they dumb things down or reach over and through? Can censorship be defended? Do real writers write YA?

Conversations like that one give birth to generalities. Today, I'd like to get specific. I'd like to suggest that Tara Altebrando's newly released Dreamland Social Club be given a chance by those who have lately argued that YA is a lesser form of art. No genre, I'd like to suggest, is immune from the flat-footed, a-musical, overly simplified eye roll of a tale. Nor, on the other hand, does genre itself preclude beauty and sophistication.

With Dreamland, Altebrando, a Harvard graduate with well-respected adult titles to her name, provides proof—again—that contemporary young adult literature can be smart, full of heart, and veering toward classic. That its sentences can be crisp and alluring, its context rich and richly researched, its plot complex and original. Dreamland is the story of a teen named Jane and her brother, Marcus, who find themselves (along with their dad) living on Coney Island in their deceased grandfather's house. There's an old carousel horse tethered to the living room radiator, reels of strange old cinema in the attic upstairs, grandmotherly attire in a bar basement downstairs, and a set of keys that lead to forsaken wonders in the old amusement parks. This is a world filled with tattooed boys and giants and miniature people. A world in which a young amputee dances hard. A world that pits heartless developers against the long survivors of this town.

It's a world, and it's a story.  It is also, evocatively, history and all that Altebrando's imagination does with time now gone.

Look, if you have a moment, to see how Tara Altebrando writes. Then buy the book to find out what happens for yourself:
She stood at the window for countless silent minutes, studying the view. Raindrops clung like white pearls to the black electrical wire strung between the house and a wooden pole at the end of the yard. Other buildings loomed there, with their fire escapes zigzagging between windows, and Jane thought of the countless Brooklynites who lived there, unaware that there was a new kid on the block.


taltebrando said...

Aw, Beth. You made me cry! Bless your heart.

Melissa Walker said...

One of my favorites this year. Glad you thought so too, Beth!

Beth F said...

Just from the extract you shared I would buy and read the book. Will but it on my list.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Not sure how I missed this the first time around. Thank you, Beth for directing me here! Going on my list.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP