This post is all in praise of Jenny Valentine. So be prepared. There' s not gonna be any criticism or any shades of disliking here. I just love this author so much, I'm gonna share it with you once again.
After reading Finding Violet Park because of the amazing cover art, I discovered her addictive writing. Now, after reading more of her work, I can happily say I'm a fan.
When the World Book Day books came out this year I was pleased for two main reasons:
1) The format of the books. No more thin, impossible-to-pile-in-neat-stacks books, but bookseller-friendly double volumes, which don't slide off every two second. They also occupy less space and cost the same as one book, thus giving the chance to kids (and me) to discover more than one author.
2) Jenny Valentine's Ten Stations.
I had no clue what it was about, just that it was a special short story written for the occasion.
Imagine my delight when I found out, reading it, that it's a follow up to Finding Violet Park! I got to meet Lucas again, together with his little brother Jed (now 7) and his granddad Norman and I got to know Mercy a bit better, although at times I wish I hadn't.
The story tells of how one day Lucas and his older sister Mercy decides to give their mum a break and bring Jed and Norman to the Science Museum.
"How hard can it be?"
Very, is the right answer.
I found this short story funny in a tragicomic sort of way. The characterisation is again the best part of the story. The adventure in the London Tube is another chance for Jenny Valentine to develop her wonderful characters. While putting them in a puzzling situation which could have turned into a nightmare, she shows us more about their lives, their weaknesses and their relationship with each other. The stars here are of course Jed and Norman. The funniest parts are all about them and their interaction with the surrounding.
With Jed and Norman getting on escalators, for example, can be a tricky experience:
You'd think Norman's brain went to sleep before they were invented.
"Moving stairs?" he said. "I can't be doing that."
"You just close your eyes and jump" Jed told him, and they did it, and Norman toppled a bit and then levelled out and smiled at his feet. It occurred to me that Jed knew best how to teach someone about escalators because it wasn't so long ago he'd learned himself.
But also walking through a crowd, waiting for a train, getting on a train, and make sure you're all still together when you get off, are no easy feats.
If you haven't had the pleasure to meet Lucas and his family yet, this is the quickest way to do it. I doubt you would regret it.
If you have read Violet Park and liked it, then this is obligatory reading!
The second book in line is also the second book Jenny Valentine's has published. It's called Broken soup and it boast another wonderful cover art. It's both different and similar to Violet Park.
Broken Soup is narrated by a girl, Rowan. She's a teenager, who, after her older brother Jack dies, is practically left in charge of her 6 year-old sister Stroma. Her mother has let herself slip into a dark abyss of sorrow, and her father has moved out. So Rowan experiences what it means to be a single parent at the age of 15, while still going to school and having to do homeworks every day. It's exhausting, but she can't bring herself to tell her dad the truth about her mother's depression.
One day, while queueing in a grocery shop, Rowan is approached by a good lucking guy with an American accent, who claims she had dropped something. Too embarrassed to say no, she accepts the object she hasn't actually drop and puts it in her pocket.
The object is a negative of a photograph.
Because of this simple act, her life changes. Slowly and gradually, but it definitely does. She meets Bee. Wonderful and friendly Bee, she is a breath of fresh air for Rowan's bereaved and lonely life. She starts hanging out in Bee's house and meet her unconventional family. But more importantly, she decides, thanks to Bee, to go forward and find out who the mysterious guy is and what the mysterious negative holds.
The charm of Jenny Valentine's style relies in the characters, I've already said that. But of course is not just that. It's in the way she describes emotions, which belies an attentive observation of human nature. It's in the metaphoric language, exemplified in the title, which can say so much with very little words. It's in the palpable love for all her characters. And in the fact that I feel I should reread this book right now to be able to explain why it was so good, because there's so much to highlight and to appreciate.
Oh, and there's a bit of a surprise ending, which combined with everything else that happens before, is a wonderful heart-warmer.
There. I found another comfort author to read when everything else around seems awful and unbearable. I almost feel reluctant to read her new book, The Ant Colony too soon, because I should save it for when I really need some comfort reading.
Till then, I hope to have converted as many booklovers as I can :)
Jenny Valentine doesn't seem to have a website, but she's on bebo! Check it out!
other blog reviews:
All my little words
In the tower
Have you also reviewed Ten Stations or
Broken Soup? Please, let me know!