Giraffe People – Jill Malone (Bywater Books)

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Buy it direct from Bywater Books

I envy writers who are able to create a large cast of
characters and manage to juggle them all, giving them all their own plot
episodes yet keeping them in the reader’s mind when they’re not on stage.
Lambda Literary Award winning Jill Malone does this effortlessly in her latest
release, Giraffe People, all these bodies in a relatively fixed orbit
around her central character, Cole Peters.

Fifteen-year-old Nicole “Cole” Peters seems to have
everything: a talent for sports, musical gifts, and a hot (if a bit drab)
boyfriend. If that wasn’t enough for this daughter of an Army Chaplain, she
also has Meghan, who is eighteen and sponsored for West Point by Cole’s
parents. Cole’s friend as well as her tutor, Meghan has some secrets of her own
she betrays one night, confusing herself as well as Cole.

Cole is a marvelous character. By turns contemplative and
frenetic, she hurtles through her life in a whirlwind series of school
projects, functions, practices, and rehearsals as if she’s too afraid to stop.
When she does stop, she wonders why her boyfriend, Jeremy, won’t sleep with her
but her mentor, Meghan, will. She’s always with the guys in her band, or the
girls on the team, or her family (thus the rather large cast). Malone is
totally in her fifteen-year-old glory with Cole, whose actions, decisions, and
speech are never anything less than age appropriate.

My second favorite character, Bangs, also has an important
role. He’s a moneyed skater dude with, like many of the kids in this book,
talent to burn. A lover of old movies, punk, religious philosophy, and
alterna-culture, he challenges Cole in ways that Meghan cannot.

Malone’s first-person prose captures the tumult of fifteen
with a precise clarity that puts us right inside Cole’s heart. Careening
whipcrack from triumph to disaster and back again, this is action-filled
writing that pauses briefly to consider and then is off on the next adventure
or the new experience—dangerous stories told with lethal accuracy. Setting is
irrelevant. It’s as breathless as you remember adolescence being.

And speaking of how you remember adolescence, stick around
for the final three paragraphs in which Malone manage to recast everything you
just read. It’s an unexpected finish; one might even call it a fearless move,
but Malone is obviously a writer who loves to take changes.

I can hardly wait to see where she goes next.

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

 

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