My reading last week took me out of my interest zone as I read “The Carnival at Bray” by Jessie Ann Foley. This book has a slow start, but by the end I was humming through pages. If you like a book that includes a teenage pilgrimage to a concert, an impulsive mother, the likeableness of impure characters, and a story of first love, then look no further and give this book a read.
All young adult books are “coming of age tales” in their own way, but this book left no doubt as the reader follows Maggie from Chicago U.S.A to a town near Dublin, Ireland. Her impulsive mother has drug her children to another location, once again, due to her falling in love with a man and marrying him in a matter of months. Worst of all for Maggie is that this moves separates her from her beloved uncle, Kevin. Kevin is not a great role model, but carries the personality and air of a Kerouac/90’s rocker/Jeff Lebowski mix. Maggie loves him for his simple but deep advice on cutting back the layers of life in order to live and love more deeply. The narrative goes from there as Maggie must find a way to reach the memories of life that she desires: love, passion, stories, stability, friendship, meaning. All of this culminates into a pilgrimage to Rome with a boy in order to see grunge band Nirvana in 1994.
This is the author’s first book and even though my description above may sound boring (oooo a teenager must adjust to a new surrounding with a no guidance from a degenerate mother, while having addicts for role models) it was very sound, and went beyond teenage cliches. This author has a wonderful diction that will cause some teenagers to head to the dictionary every now and then. Also the authors ability to use juxtaposition in a chaotic world is spot on.
First love was discussed in this book with quite a bit of depth. I think anyone is a liar if they say “I don’t like first love books because they are too sappy” or “I don’t like first love books because they are unrealistic.” They don’t like them because there will probably be the stinging memory of first love in their minds, and they don’t want to be sad. And frankly, I don’t blame them. This is the same reason why I don’t read first love books heavily, or listen to nostalgic old love songs too much. The stuff is kinda depressing. But we have to remember these books are written specifically for young adults, and books don’t need to crush the dreams of a seventeen year old boy or girl. They are in a fragile state, in many areas, so it’s okay to have a happy ending. It is a good thing to turn first love into an ideal setting, because really that is what it is. Overall, this book addresses the question of whether to give into love or “duty” when the two sides face one another.