Spring is finally in the air! Say goodbye to the winter blahs and hello to some great debut novels for your Spring reading. Marcy and I are super excited to share our picks with you! Thank you to all of the fabulous debut authors who have agreed to participate. Marcy and I are looking for many more reviews to follow.
Welcome to May’s version of - First Friday - Five Favorite Things - Debut Novel Day. In this monthly series, we ask five simple questions about a debut novel that will hopefully entice anyone reading this post to pick up the novel and read it themselves, and/or give them at a glance some insight into the author's writing style and voice as well as how some of the characters might think or act. We do this by presenting, first, answers to our Five Favorite Things, followed by the author's answers in a follow-up post.
This month we're pleased to highlight debut YA novelist, Bethany Crandell and her novel, Summer on the Short Bus, an interesting take on what it’s like to have to experience living in conditions and with a group of people completely different from anything or anyone you've ever known. We witness the emotional growth that takes place inside the main character, Cricket.
Bethany lives in San Diego with her husband, two kiddos, (one of whom is differently-abled) and a chocolate lab who has no regard for personal space. She thinks that laughter is the best medicine, that avocados make the world go round, and that Jake Ryan is going to show up at her door any minute now….
1) What is your favorite line or paragraph from the novel as it relates to the main character's development and/or growth?
Dave – There were so many places throughout the novel that show when Cricket, the main character, grows, but my favorite is when she is sitting with one of the camp attendees, a wheelchair-user by the name of Aidan. She has had a heart to heart talk with him about one of the camp counselors, Quinn, with whom she has a crush.
Neither of us says anything for a while. We just sit with his hand covering mine, soaking up the warm day. It’s the first time since the blowup with Quinn that I feel the slightest bit good about myself. It’s also the first time since I’ve been here that I’m not uncomfortable that the person sitting next to me can’t walk.
Marcy – At this point in the story, Cricket is finally coming to terms with the person she was and the person she wants to become.
I find myself nodding with an artificial smile, as I try to make sense of what I’ve just heard. At nineteen Fantine has already pursued a lifetime dream. The only lifetime dream I have involves me and a limit-free Visa. But the real mind-number is that Hannah Montana and her wheelchair of doom has made it to the freaking Olympics. How is that even possible?
2) What is your favorite chapter ending or cliffhanger?
Dave - My favorite cliffhanger came toward the end of the book. So as not have to issue a “spoiler alert” I’ll simply say that it had me hoping the one thing Cricket is asking for is the same one thing I was hoping to see addressed.
“Actually, yes. There is one more thing…”
Marcy – This chapter ending made my jaw drop. As to not spoil it for you, I’ll change the real name to "she" and not include the entire paragraph, because I want you to be surprised too!
I shake my head. "She was the only one. She's told me before - he wouldn't talk to anybody else about her-"
3) Who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Dave – My favorite secondary character is Katie, a friend from Cricket’s other life. To me, she has a very small but important role in the novel, even though the only meetings we have with her is via a cell phone. It’s through these telephone discussions that we see the true contrast in Cricket’s character. Through these conversations we see the girl who she was before coming to Camp I Can, and because of that, we can appreciate more the changes that occur in her while she is there. Following, is a line of dialogue that I hope will help you to understand.
“Not sure, really. He’s super cute and drives an H2. That’s as far as we’ve gotten. So what’s the deal there? Are the retards still driving you crazy?”
Marcy – My favorite secondary character is Claire, a camper at Camp I Can. She is both sweet and funny and says exactly what’s on her mind. In this scene, Cricket is extremely upset and Claire is trying to cheer her up.
“Claire,” I say, trying my best not to snort. “It’s…it’s…”
“Huge?” she says encouragingly.
“Yes!” I erupt. “It’s huge. Why did you paint that?”
“I wanted to make you happy.” She says, her round cheeks blushing. “A giant wiener makes everyone happy!”
The laugher in the tiny shed is contagious. Fantine is hinged over at the waist cackling, and Meredith is shaking so hard I fear she may topple out of her wheelchair.
Oh, and one more from Claire telling it like it is…
"Yeah. You're bitchy," Claire adds. Heaven forbid any conversation pass without input from her. "Is it about this morning? Or do you need more Midol?”
4) What is your favorite line or paragraph of description?
Dave – Cricket has lived a privileged life. Her father sends her to work for the summer with underprivileged children. Her first impressions of the camp sets the stage for the rest of the novel.
The car slows to a crawl as we make our way through a steel gate and onto the property. Out the side windows the view is nothing but trees and shrubs, though the windshield provides a much different view: a health inspector’s wet dream. It’s a huge wooden structure with a green tin roof, two windowless front doors, and a rusted-out dinner bell that must’ve gone down with the Titanic.
There’s a hillbilly porch that wraps around the entire building, a collection of steel rocking chairs, and even a pair of oak barrel planters with overgrown geraniums spilling out of them.
Sliding a faded yellow curtain from the wall, she reveals a tiny room housing two wood-framed cots, a cracked window no bigger than an economy-fair porthole and a shelving system made of plywood, cinder blocks, and about two thousand spiderwebs.
Marcy – Cricket’s mom died when she was a little girl. This brief description gave me such a vivid image of Cricket’s mom through her eyes.
"She's so beautiful, " I say. The way her blond curls bob like birthday ribbons when she laughs, swaying over the thin, antique lace of her peasant style dress. Calling her beautiful should be a crime. She's so much more than that.
5) What is your favorite line of dialogue?
Dave – While Cricket is becoming more comfortable with herself around disabled people, she realizes that other people have had feelings similar to hers. It helps her deal with things, especially when this comment comes from Aidan, one of the camp attendees who has lived in both the disabled and able-bodied world.
“Because I wanted you to know that being uncomfortable around disabled people doesn’t make you a horrible person - it makes you honest. It makes you real.”
Marcy – Quinn overhears a conversation between Cricket and her friend Katie. This is how he responds when Katie is curious about what expensive sports car Quinn drives.
"And for the record, I drive a '97 Chevy pickup. It's got a big ass dent in the bumper and the upholstery's torn to shreds. Make sure you tell Katie."