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Nuance And The Danger Of Issues In Young Adult Fiction

Sunday 29 September 2019


From The Irish Times:


Marcus Sedgwick
Marcus Sedgwick is a masterful writer
but his latest novel is a frustrating one.

Nuance and the danger of issues in young adult fiction

New work from Marcus Sedgwick, Shirley-Anne McMillan and Kit de Waal

By Claire Hennessy
Saturday 28 September 2019
© 2019 The Irish Times.

“Well, the difference between a writer and philosopher? I reckon they both ask questions, but only the philosopher tries to give the answers too . . . So when a philosopher is thinking, and thinking, and they wanna say something but they don’t exactly got an answer, well, then they write a story instead.”

I sticky-noted this quote from notable YA author Marcus Sedgwick’s latest title, Snowflake AZ (Zephyr, £12.99) with more than a little incredulity and irritation. It comes nearly 300 pages into a novel, a story, that is heavy on “answers”, or certainly on telling the reader what’s wrong with the world and why. The space for questioning, for ambiguity, felt slender at best.

Sedgwick is a masterful writer; it would be foolish to deny that. But his latest endeavour is a frustrating one, not least because there’s such potential here. Inspired by his own difficulties with doctors listening to him about chronic fatigue syndrome, he penned a book about a lesser-known and even more “controversial” medical condition, multiple chemical sensitivities – an umbrella term for those severely affected by products such as perfumes, pesticides, and plastics (ie products of our modern world).

The novel begins with 18-year-old Ash arriving in a small Arizona town to find their (there’s a deliberate avoidance of gendering the first-person narrator) long-lost stepbrother, and finding a community of people whose chronic illness has led them to live as far away from “civilisation” as possible. Ash’s initial response to this group will resonate with those familiar with long-term conditions: “You don’t look ill.”


Full article…


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