Friday, July 8, 2011

The Piper's Son, Melina Marchetta

Remember that time Kady picked The Piper's Son for her favorite book of 2011 (so far) and then tried to pick it for all five of her slots? Well, we give her the shot to tell us a little bit more about the book and just why she loved it so much.

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Holey Moley y'all, Melina Marchetta wrote a grown-up YA novel. How is it grown up? Well, the book takes place 5 years after the events in Saving Francesca, and it follows the same core group of characters. So if you're doing your math, you'll know that the main characters are 21 to 23. Some of them have graduated university, some have dropped out and only one minor character actually seems to know what he wants to do with his life. The book also splits the story pretty evenly between the 21 year old Tom Mackee and his 42 year old single and pregnant Aunt Georgie. For a YA novel to give both respect and consideration to the problems of not only actual young adults, but also middle aged women, well that's not only grown-up, that's revolutionary. 

So is The Piper's Son actually a YA novel? Yes. The Piper's Son is YA because it delves so deeply into family, both biological and the ones that we create for ourselves. It's a novel about grief and pain and making the decisions that help you grow from a child into an adult.

Two years ago, Tom's Uncle Joe was killed in the London subway bombings. Loosing this son, younger brother and favorite uncle tore Tom's family apart and it's only now that they're beginning to emerge from their own individual grief to understand the effect Joe's death has had on the other family members. 
For Tom, Joe's death sucked everything good out of him. He turned his back on his friends, and on the only girl he ever loved, as he fell into alcohol and drugs and eventually dropped out of school. For his Aunt Georgie, Joe's death created the opening for her ex-boyfriend to come back into her life and her bed. When the story begins, Tom wakes up in the hospital after a bender that he can't remember. With no place left to turn, Tom moves into his aunt's house and takes a job at a local pub, The Union, where he comes into contact with his old friends, the ones he abandoned when Joe died. Georgie is having her own problems. Her twin brother (and Tom's father) Dominic is gone, presumably drunk, her mother and stepfather live too far away to actually be a part of her life and she's pregnant. Sam, the love of her life and the father of her unborn child, broke her heart 5 years ago when he got another woman pregnant. He's back in her life, but in a strained and temporary way, and her pride prevents her from admitting to anyone what she wants out of their relationship. 
As Tom and Georgie struggle to make sense of their new reality without Joe and attempt to pull their disparate family members back together, we also learn the story of Tom Finch. Tom Finch was Georgie and Dominic's father and only a young man when he went to fight in Vietnam and never came back. Their mother married his best friend, Bill Mackee, and his absence shaped the way that Georgie, Dominic and later Joe grew up. The Finch-Mackee family has been defined by loss since it's formation in a way that no one truly understood until Joe also died too young and in a foreign country. 

The Piper's Son is one the bravest and most honest books I've ever read, YA or otherwise. Characters that we loved in Saving Francesca are struggling with growing up, and even the most brilliant former students find themselves unsure of how to find happiness. Georgie and Sam are compelling and fully three-dimensional in a way that adults in YA rarely are. There is romance, as Tom reaches out to Tara Finke, the girl he loved and then left, but it's a different kind of romance than the heady rush of first love that is present in Marchetta's other novels. This is a slow burn and every moment has to be earned with every action judged against past transgressions. 

Read this book. Now. 

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