Friday, September 15, 2023

Today's read... My Life Off-Key by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

The title on today's read made me pick it up. Music is such a wonderful thing, and not seen often enough in literature...which is strange considering how many people listen to the radio or sing or play an instrument. Of course not professionally, but think about all the school choirs and marching bands and such. And yet, how often are any of these mentioned in teenlit? This book circles more around family drama, but that's fine.

Another special aspect about this read is that it's intended for those teens who struggle with reading. It's under 100 pages and carries a lower reading level than most young adult novels.

by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
Orca Anchor
Young Adult Contemporary
96 pages

FEBRUARY 13th!!!

Seventeen-year-old Jen is shocked to discover that the dad she grew up with is not her biological father. Jen loves to sing. But the rest of her family can’t carry a tune. When a stranger named Mike gives her roses at her concert and reveals that he is her birth father, Jen's world flips upside down. Mike is a musician, just like Jen, and now she understands why she looks nothing like Steve, the only dad she’s ever known. When Steve learns the truth Jen's mom has been hiding all these years, he moves out, and Jen can't help but feel responsible. Worse, she doesn’t know who she is anymore. It feels like her whole life has been a lie. Is Steve still her dad? What about Mike? When it feels like her family is falling apart, Jen doesn't know where she belongs.


Emotions run high in a concise and smooth tale.

Jen's nerves are already approaching overload as she stands on stage to sing her heart out to the high school, but when a strange man gives her flowers in front of everyone, she has no clue what's going on. The news that this is her true father, not only blows her mind but has her entire family scrambling with the news. 

This is a book, which has been written for those teens, whose reading level isn't quite where the average young adult novel hovers. At under 100 pages, this is a quick read and won't weigh the intended reading group down. The chapters are well-placed to give short reading bursts with the opportunity to take breaks in between. Each sentence is concise and direct, keeping complexity and difficult vocabulary away. So, it fits the intended audience very well.

As to plot, this is a topic which the age group can sympathize with. Jen's worries and concerns as well as her interactions with her family come across in a fairly realistic way. Descriptions and thought-sequences are kept to a minimum, but the feelings still come across clearly and understandably. Some aspects could have been less choppily written, and a few of the characters' reactions surprised me, but it does keep the family drama and tension high. It's a nice quick read, which serves its purpose well.

And here she is...

Gail Anderson-Dargatz is the award-winning author of over a dozen books, including The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees, which were finalists for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She has also written a number of short novels for striving readers, including the Orca Currents titles Bigfoot Crossing and Iggy’s World, both JLG Gold Standard Selections, and The Ride Home, which was shortlisted for a BC and Yukon Book Prize. Gail lives in the Shuswap region of British Columbia.

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