I just finished Edenville Owls by Robert B. Parker. It is the prolific mystery writer's first book for teens. Taking place just after WWII and full of period detail, this book could be considered historical fiction. But wait, it's also about a basketball team hoping to win a big tournament, so it could be considered a sports read. But wait again, most of the plot centers on the mystery of the strange man threatening fourteen-year-old Bobby's teacher, so it could also be considered a mystery-suspense novel.
One book, three genres, same price---which is absolutely free if you get it at your local library. You can't beat that with a stick and eat it.
I liked the book, finding it a fast, easy and entertaining read. Parker really made me feel like he knew the 1940s era. I liked the main character's relative naivete, coupled with his earnest desire to be a "good man." I couldn't have cared less about the basketball aspect of the story, but I'm sure people who are actually interested in sports would appreciate it. I liked the main character and his gang of friends (though I really couldn't tell one friend from the other, aside from the one who was female). All in all, this is a good fast book, one that would be a very successful recommendation to a reluctant reader, especially a boy. This was definitely a stereotypically "boy" book. It's also good for younger teen readers, though older readers will appreciate it too. Though there are some serious themes like racism and violence, there is nothing over the top, and for parents who worry about such things as naughty language, aside from two instances of swear words and two racial epithets, language shouldn't be an issue--all of the shocking utterances make perfect sense in their context, it should be noted.
My quibbles with the novel are few. The thing that struck me most glaringly was the overly simplistic language the author chose to use. Sentence structure was repetitive and very simple. I wondered if Parker had dumbed down his prose or if his books for adults are like this too. I certainly hope Parker didn't feel the need to simplify his language for his teen audience as that would be fairly insulting. However, I got used to the choppy sentences after awhile and just accepted that it was his style. Plus, the plot was good enough to keep me hooked and turning the pages so I forgave the simple style. My second quibble is that the characters of some of the supporting cast, notably the teacher, Miss Delaney, are pretty flat. Miss Delaney is basically the damsel in distress, one with an interesting back story but not enough oomph on her own. Since Miss Delaney is essential for plot only and not as important as our main character or his best friend, Joanie, for whom he has conflicted feelings, her lack of spark tended not to matter overmuch. I noticed it, but let it go. My final quibble: I wish this had a jazzier title than Edenville Owls.
All in all I enjoyed this book. It might even inspire me to try one of his adult books. But that will have to wait until I work through the mound of teen books I have checked out right now. Look forward to more posts coming soon!