Monday, August 16, 2010

Book review - Take Me There and the Truth

Slang in dialogue is a tricky tool. I try to avoid it for two reasons: 1-It changes so fast and publishing moves so slow; and 2-If you don't write it well, well... it's just painful.

But that's the first thing that struck me in Susane Colasanti's Take Me There. Colasanti is a master of using slang in her teenage characters' dialogue, and not just slang. References to movies like Memento and Serendipity...

And even though it's a little dated, it works because the characters are so engaging. TMT is focused on three high school kids, Rhiannon, Nicole, and James, who are friends living in New York City, and one significant week in their lives.


Rhiannon's boyfriend has just dumped her, James and Rhiannon have been friends for years and James has a big crush on her, and Nicole is dealing with some heavy-duty life issues she's been supressing.

Without giving away too much, Rhiannon's character has a nice arc from making lists of how her life was better when she was with ex-boyfriend, to taking charge of her destiny, to sharing an earbud and dance with James... Awww...

And Nicole's love interest is a charmer. I think readers will like him. James also is an engaging male character, and it's fun being in his head. (The book is written from three different POVs, so you get each lead's internal monologue.)

Colasanti draws the reader right in their NYC neighborhood very well. It's been a while since I've visited New York, but it felt very much like a presence in the book.

I remember thinking the whole time I was reading "this is a gentle read," but I can't explain what I mean by that. Nicole's issues are not gentle in the least, and they're all dealing with stuff...

Maybe because the story opens with these guys on the edge of their conflicts, and then leads us smoothly through the resolutions in a satisfactory way that doesn't feel too tidy. I also liked the musicality of the writing.

The entire book has a nice rhythm to it. You can feel the beat of the conversations, down to Colasanti's use of "And like" to start paragraphs or "And so I go" to introduce dialogue. It feels very authentic.

There's some language in the book, but it's not jarring. There are no adult situations, although adult things have occurred before the story opens.

TMT is romantic and angsty, and justice is served. I give it a nice, solid B+. I felt an emotional connection to the characters, I wanted to see how their problems were solved, and I think readers will dig it.

And now for the moment of Truth...

Continued from Friday, the truth of my statements revealed~

1. FALSE. At my elementary school, they never even had a contest for collecting postcards from different cities. But a friend of mine's little boy had to do this, so I stole the idea...

2. TRUE! I graduated from a coffee cupping class in college. It was a six-week course put on by a gourmet coffee house in Baton Rouge, and being a coffeeholic, I LOVED it. (Fyi, "cupping" is what folks "in the biz" call coffee "tasting." It's very similar to wine tasting. You should watch them do it sometimes... fascinating.)

3. FALSE. My brother and best friend both had summer jobs working in snowball stands, and while I kept them company and made myself sick eating snowballs, I was never an employee.

4. FALSE. I only lost half my left front tooth after I fell off the handle bars of my brother's bike at the age of 12... Yep. I'm Jim Carrey.

5. FALSE. I don't really have a nickname, but JRM and I like to call people "Magee" preceded by either an obtrusive body part or personality tic. For example, my blogging buddy Rayna would be "Drabbles Magee." Pam Anderson would be... well.... Nevermind. It's silly, I know.

6. FALSE. I toyed with the idea of being a biology major until I barely earned a C in freshman biology at LSU. Then I realized I'd better stick to English. (I got my *master's* in journalism... and that's when the writing career began for real.)

7. FALSE. My first attempt at creative writing was a graphic novel titled Fury Woman. (I actually referenced this in my blog recently.)

So there you go! School's back in, so I'll be writing away til Thursday. See ya then, reader/writer friends...

17 comments:

Ezmirelda said...

Whoa, I was way off! Haha
awesome book review, I'm putting it on my "to read list".

Elliot Grace said...

...how is it that 95% of us all have a chipped tooth from those cursed monkey bars in grade school:)

Funny stuff!

LTM said...

@E: no worries--it's the careful weaving of the almost-truths that fools ya~ ;p

@EG: I have so many playground scars... I also played w/the little boys, so stitches were my friend... ;p

Jen said...

Great review! I'm terrible at slang when I write so I avoid it at all costs, luckily I don't use slang at all so it's very easy!

I'm sorry I missed the truths and lies the other day I would have loved to guess but I could tell you that I would not have gotten it right, your truth was way to awesome! Maybe I could have formed a love for coffee then!!!

PS - Your letter for the book club is on its way ;)

KarenG said...

Aha, the one that sounded the most false was actually the truth! And I totally agree with you on slang, it's like dialect. It can ruin (or date) a book if it's not done just right.

LTM said...

@Jen--for me it depends on the WIP... Can't wait to see the book! :o)

@Karen--Yep! It was actually hard to coming up w/an unbelieveable truth... ;p

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I don't use slang or dialect. I opt for the word rhythm that each country or race seems to have.

Slang today is cliche tomorrow. As always you have a fascinating blog, Roland

A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...

LOL. As usual you are too funny; I kept giggling with these TRUE/FALSE statements. Gosh I wonder what my silly nickname would be. I have never heard of some of these things, you sure know how to pick which life facts to share!

LTM said...

@Roland: No YOUR blog's fascinating... ;p

@APD: You can be Pixidust Magee. :D They're really all just done in fun, after all... I really just grabbed whatever floated into my head. Hmmm... :o)

RaShelle said...

Hello darlink - I agree with you on slang. It's just plain scary. Your truth is cool!!! Yay you. =D

Cruella Collett said...

Sneaky! I was only right with #7 - I couldn't forget your Fury woman so easily... I still think your family probably should stay away from bikes, though... ;)

Creepy Query Girl said...

thanks for sharing this review! Sounds like a good read. I for one love slang in dialogue if its done right and it sounds like she's a master.

LTM said...

@RaShelle & Katie: I dig me some slang if the writer's a jive talkin hipster w/some smooth literary moves...
But it dates your book--and not in the "hey, you're hot" kinda way. ;o)

@CC: neener neener! I just knew everyone was going to choose coffee cupping... Ah, Fury Woman. I can still see her black ballpoint brows. ;p No bikes here--you should see the hills in our 'hood. Scary...

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Great book review! I've seen your comments around a lot and thought I'd drop by.

I think slang is a fantastic tool. How do you feel about spelling speech impediments, or accents? Do you prefer them spelt out, or just told how someone speaks?

Are you a writer? Then you MUST enter this CONTEST!

LTM said...

He-he-hello! Yep, seen your coy face around as well--and here we are.

You're right. Slang can so create your character and make him/her real in the reader's mind. In TMT, the character Nicole was straight outta Juno. for me. I could literally see her. So I give Colasanti props.

As for your Q, I remember being a young reader and HATING when authors wrote phonetically. (Like to make you read as the speaker spoke.) Mainly b/c I could never *get* it... ;D

Now that I'm trying to be a novelist, I avoid doing that. But it's a personal thing for me--I remember Little Leigh the Reader.

Still, in my WIP, the characters live in the deep south, and so I try to use turns of phrase that I hear a lot in my current locale--and that I've heard a lot growing up...

is that the same?

I think anything done well works, yes? :o) OK, here I come...

Tahereh said...

thanks so much for the review! i've been wondering about this book for awhile. maybe i should pick it up :D

JRichard said...

What happened to Devils and Detriment?