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Pickle Me This

May 4, 2016

Flannery, by Lisa Moore

flanneryThere was little doubt in my mind that Lisa Moore could pull off a YA novel. I remember her teen character in Alligator, which was a book that just delighted me when I read it first, and the vividness of her point of view. And as a writer who so skillfully employs word as tools to create meaning, I was sure she had the deftness to tune her work to a different kind of reader. Which, of course, didn’t preclude me from reading it too. If she wrote One Direction fan fiction, I’d probably read that as well. Lisa Moore’s name is a literary hallmark.

So it’s no surprised that I really enjoyed Flannery, her latest book. The title character is a  sixteen-year-old girl whose best friend has started ditching her for her cool musician (and slightly dangerous) boyfriend. Meanwhile, Flannery has got to complete an entrepreneurship project with her partner Tyrone, who she’s known since they were babies and is quite possibly in love with, but he’s not showing up to do any work, plus her free-spirited artist mother can’t afford to buy Flannery the new biology textbook she’s required to have, and keeps writing about Flannery on her parenting blog, which other kids at school are actually reading.

Flannery’s voice and point of view represents a stable force in a crazy world, and she’s an amazing mix of confusion, steadfastness and yearning. And naturally, I was very interested in her mother’s character, which Moore renders with just as much nuance. I think a lot about a mother’s right to tell her own story, even when her child is part of that story, because suggesting otherwise is another way of telling a woman to shut up. I do think that when a mother writes about her child with a great deal of thought, she can do this successfully, although Moore shows that Flannery’s mother Miranda is not too thoughtful about her blog (which disappointed me a bit—I would have loved some substance here), or anything, for that matter. Except her love for her children, of course, which is demonstrated in lovely, pointed ways—Miranda swooping in to exalt Flannery’s entrepreneurship project, her intuition regarding the well-being of her son, which her smartass daughter doesn’t give her credit for. Moore shows the the imperfect mother is the only kind of mother, and sometimes that all a child needs.

But of course none of this would be of much concern to the novel’s target readers, for whom Miranda would only be peripheral, I think. Those readers will be just as wrapt as I was by the story though, by Flannery’s incredible outlook on the world, but menacing shadows at its edges. And yes, there is edge here, real significant danger, and Moore so successful melds these points into a true, believable life, rather than using them for more sensational purposes (as bad YA novels might do, and even as a very good one like Raziel Reid’s When Everything Feels Like the Movies did quite deliberately). As the world’s is, the emotional spectrum of Flannery is wide. There is a scene in a  mall food court where Flannery is betrayed by Tyrone that will break your heart as profoundly as that scene did in Moore’s February when her character waits in a bar for a date who never arrives.

Moore doesn’t push syntax and narrative structure quite as hard in Flannery as she does in her other books, which is the one significant way that the book is a break from her oeuvre. But here and there in her prose sparkles in just the same way her readers have come to expect: “The sun was so low that its reflection was a perfect bright red circle on the water’s surface and as the boat swing around, the circle was smashed into a thousand pieces that skittered away from each other and then floated back together, making the perfect circle again.” Such an extraordinary sentence! And what a gift to any reader, regardless of their age.

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