Monday, October 3, 2016

Cynthia Toney's "Bird Face" Series

 I bought 8 Notes to a Nobody book for my daughter and she loved it so much I had to read it myself. I was immediately swept into the drama of a young adolescent from a broken home, dealing with a healing parent and all the ups and downs of school. I was reminded of a recent art exhibit of street scenes from small towns and how the artist, through his use of color and brush strokes, made the ordinary appear extraordinary. Similarly, it requires a skilled writer to take what is basically a simple story from every day life and plunge the reader into the quiet tragedies and triumphs of the characters, not unlike those that are being played out all around us. Making a story which is equally appealing to young people as well as to adults is another gift as well. The heroine of 8 Notes to a Nobody is Wendy, who is struggling with the unhappiness of her home life. I found myself identifying with her mother who is trying so hard to build a life for her child on a limited income. And yet by the end of the story I realized that Wendy's comparative poverty not only spurs her creativity but protects her from many of the pressures of the lavish lifestyles of her peers. She gradually sees that those who appear to have everything also struggle with insecurities. I also enjoyed the setting of Louisiana and the cultural environment unlike any other.

Having loved the first book, I dived immediately into the sequel, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Wendy, our heroine, is now fourteen and everything seems to have come together for her. Not only does the boy she likes seem serious about her, but suddenly there is another boy who is interested as well. Her mother has married again; Wendy's life has several new levels of complexity. Plus her dear little old lady friend is showing signs of dementia. In the midst of it all, Wendy has become aware of a long lost uncle who was involved in a scandal which no one speaks of. Determined to discover the truth, Wendy unravels the mystery and in doing so helps herself to face the problems of the present time. Like the 8 Notes, the second novel deals with contemporary teenage issues in a southern setting, adding a rich flavor to the story.


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