A beautifully startling premise! Daily incarnation, and, the changing body doesn’t limit love. “A” wakes every day in a different body and no explanation is given. A world like ours except for one thing. I didn’t think the author would be able to sustain it, but despite some story gaps at the end, he kept the premise intact; even credible, if suspending disbelief is one of your pleasures. If it isn’t, then accepting this magical realism premise may not be up your alley.
What I find powerful and arresting is what this premise allows the reader to experience via the first person point of view of A: an absolutely original normal, one I have not heard expressed in YA literature before.The gender frontier is crossed repeatedly, until it is no longer the focus to a reader immersed in A’s pov. I find this an amazing accomplishment in literature.
Other frontiers are crossed as well, and it could be argued that dilution and didacticism intrude. I leave the love story and the ethical questions to other reviewers. But wow, despite any shortcomings, this is a prejudice-busting story, an adventure that, whether they like the tale or hate it, will in some nuanced way affect every reader’s perception of gender forever. Kudos to the author.
The book title, Never Fall Down, is borrowed from a command Arn Chorn-Pond gave himself in order to survive. He lived through the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Though Patricia McCormick tells Arn’s true story in a fictional format, she interviewed him extensively and traveled with him to the Cambodian places named in the story. Here is Young Adult literature that demonstrates how a boy of war becomes a man of peace. From the reader, it demands courage as few books do. It hauls open the eyes, wrenches the heart, and forever enlarges one’s compassion. McCormick has done the world a great service by bringing Arn’s story to light.
Here’s a clip from Harperteen: Author Patricia McCormick interviewing Arn Chorn-Pond: http://bit.ly/T0kKar
New York: BalzeR + Bray/harpercollins, 2012
The reader soars on the wind with this red knot of the subspecies rufa, flying 9000 miles every fall and spring. The author has written the story in such a way that the reader lives this shorebird character’s journey, and therefore comes to care deeply that its migration stopover sites are being trashed and dug up and polluted and degraded.
Hoose conveys to the reader how “each species belongs to a complicated web of energy” and that together these webbed ecosystems “connect everything from microorganisms to mighty trees.” The current wave of species extinction is far from natural, we learn from this author. It is caused by a single species, by our habits of consumption and alteration of nature, wiping out thousands of species. Hoose asks, if a particular species, like rufa, is removed, could a whole ecosystem unravel?
Scientists call this banded red knot, Moonbird, because its life journeying has totaled a minimum of the distance to the moon and halfway back. The reader can feel Moonbird’s urgency to migrate, can marvels at its ability to transform its body every year, and can grieve and exhilarate over the beautiful bird’s trials and successes. Most of all, the reader of this book becomes connected in consciousness as well as in eco-system with the great avian athlete/ survivor. At the end of the book, Hoose holds out hope with vignettes of young people changing the story and saving the Moonbird’s stopover sites.
New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
Instead of reading a review of this book by me, you can listen to this recording by author Lesléa Newman. She shares the backstory, her research, and she reads one of the poems from this important and moving book:
Somerville MA: Candlewick, 2012