Wednesday, December 15, 2010

YA BOOK REVIEW: Eli the Good by Silas House

I’ve seen Eli the Good by Silas House (one of Kentucky’s finest contemporary authors) marketed as a young adult book, but after reading it, I’m not sure why. Unless it’s simply because Eli is young. I’ll just recommend it to young and older adults and let you all decide for yourselves who likes it more.

Eli the Good takes place in 1976, the year of the bicentennial. The protagonist, Eli Book, is a ten-year-old boy. Actually, the way the book is narrated, he’s an adult looking back on his ten-year-old self. This was a pivotal season in his life—his youthful innocence was stripped away as he not only became aware of family turmoil and secrets but also learned how to cope with the results. His father, a Vietnam veteran, suffered from PTSD. Eli’s sixteen-year-old sister was going through some major adolescent rebellion. And Eli’s beloved Aunt Nell moved in for an extended visit. She had been a war protester, and the residual tension between Eli’s father and Nell threatened to boil over at every turn. Finally, Eli’s best friend Edie learned her parents were going to divorce, and Eli had no idea what to do to help. This is a lot for a ten year old to process, but we see it filtered through the eyes of the adult Eli became. It makes for a beautifully tender story.

Also, don’t forget, it takes place in 1976. House fills the book with references to music, clothing, movies, even brand name foods that were popular then. For today’s young adults, this is historical fiction. For many adult readers, this is a stroll down memory lane.

House is an award-winning writer for good reason. The prose is gorgeous. Eli is a sweet protagonist, and you can’t help but hope that in a family this full of love, the problems will somehow sort themselves out.

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