Monday, March 29, 2010

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont

A couple years ago, I was enchanted by the cover and description of a book called Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont and purchased it. This was, of course, a big deal since I am not a book buyer.

Although that book ended up being less than I hoped, I was excited to see that de Gramont would be releasing a teen book this year -- GotS featured a prep school girl, and I had the hopes that when aiming to reach the teen audience, rather than the adult audience, the story would come together a little better.

Every Little Thing in the World delivered.

Sydney Biggs has been getting in more and more trouble lately -- and when she and her best friend Natalia steal a car, that's the end of the rope for Sydney's mother who decides she needs to spend time with her father while they figure out a punishment.

While away, her mother and father decide the best means of punishing her for her poor behavior is to send her to a summer camp in the wilds of Ontario, Canada. The lessons in self sufficiency and survival should help her learn to be more responsible and think through her actions. As Sydney calls Natalia to break this news to her, Natalia lets Sydney know that she, too, will be joining her.

Oh, and Sydney is pregnant but she hasn't told anyone except Natalia.

Every Little Thing in the World follows Sydney as she not only spends an extended period in the wild but as her relationship with Natalia changes. Once best friends, their time on punishment has really changed how they relate to one another and to other people their age. Then there is the issue of the pregnancy, which tears the two of them apart and pulls them back together at the very end of the story.

While the story itself is not the most unique or necessarily the most well developed -- a number of jumps in time and in plot, particularly near the end of the story, were not cohesive with the pacing -- the writing is excellent. de Gramont has a talent for strong writing and attention to detail and syntax which makes the bumps in pacing almost forgivable. In addition to the pacing, I found that the mother and father figure in the story weren't fully fleshed and the ending made her mother especially flat.

Perhaps the biggest strength in the story is the development of Sydney as a character. When the book opened, I didn't feel that connected to her, nor did I find myself caring too much about the predicaments in which she'd found herself. As the story progressed and as tensions rose between her and Natalia, I found myself really caring about Sydney and about what she was going to do about the pregnancy. As readers we're led to believe a couple of different things about this issue, and the way it ends both is and isn't expected.

Every Little Thing in the World will appeal to those who enjoy realistic fiction and coming-of-age fiction. Fans of Amy Efaw's After will eat this one up for sure. There's quite a bit of language and situations that will be a turn off to those who prefer cleaner reads, but I think the writing itself makes this a worthwhile read.

Although I found Gossip of the Starlings a let down, I think de Gramont has found her voice in young adult fiction. She writes a strong, realistic 17-year-old in this story and I think that Sydney's voice will be relatable to teens who find themselves in tight spots. I read an interesting interview de Gramont gave on one of the blogs where she discussed the epilogue in the story. Having read the interview before the book, I read it a little more critically, and I have to agree with de Gramont completely: it could go either way. It both works and could work without being there.

So, though this title contains a lot of what we see in teen lit -- especially the pregnancy, trouble-making teen -- read this one for the writing and for the character of Sydney. I think this is an easy cross-over title for adults, as well, who may already be familiar with the author.

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