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Some years ago when I first began writing seriously, I got together with a few others and we tried to start a critique group. At an early meeting, I read a passage of my work-in-progress and one of the others jumped all over me about point of view. She claimed I could only know what one person was doing, seeing, thinking, etc. I suggested that an omniscient observer was a valid point of view, but she dismissed that idea as idiotic. I brought Bel Canto to the next meeting to show an example of omniscient observer that worked awfully well. Shortly after, the group broke up.
It seems to me in this day and age, the vast majority of published fiction is written in either first person or close third person. What I’ve read in writing books and heard at conferences is that this has become the way things are done so as not to confuse our readers. Kind of insulting, I think, but it is what it is. It can be a distraction unless it is done really well, and that is actually rare. I just finished a book in which the omniscient observer point of veiw is really done well, so I recommend that you run right out and get Holly Goldberg Sloan’s debut novel,
I’ll Be There
This is a young adult book, but since I read a lot of YA and write YA, this should be no surprise. But I must say, even if you don’t read a lot of YA, you should give this one a try. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this book. (My friend Morgan Mussell just posted What is YA and Who Reads It
on his blog. You might find it interesting.)
|Holly Goldberg Sloan
|I’ll Be There
is the riveting story of two brothers, one seventeen and one twelve, who live in the most precarious of conditions. Sam and Riddle live not so much with their father, but in spite of him. They were jerked away from their mother and some semblance of a home when they are only two and seven by their father, a darkly villainous man who is driven by a larcenous soul and strange voices only he can hear. The boys have been kept from anything normal since he took them. They’ve had no school, no permanent place to live or health care or enough food to let them thrive, etc. Riddle, asthmatic and allergic, can hardly breathe much of the time and seldom speaks. Sam is a hero almost from the first page, doing what needs to be done to protect his brother and keep them both in survival mode. But they are special boys. Riddle is an extraordinary artist. Sam is a gifted guitarist, self-taught, and music is his salvation. Sam goes to church every Sunday he can. Not because he is religious, but because of the music. It is in a small-town church Sam and Emily meet.
Emily, also seventeen, is the shy, quietly intelligent, and sensitive daughter of a college music professor and a nurse. Her best friend persuades Emily to go out with a popular boy, Bobby Ellis. She’s not much interested and it shows. What could possibly make her more fascinating to Bobby than that? But she’s not playing Bobby. She is captivated by Sam and can’t get him out of her mind. She finds him and makes sure he can be in her life. Bobby becomes obsessed with Emily and, in following Sam and investigating him and his family, spooks the boys’ crazy, paranoid father and sets things in motion that careen wildly out of control, endangering the boys in unimaginable ways.
Sloan has created characters who will grab your heart and hold on for dear life, taking you with them on this incredible journey. And it’s a love story, and I’m always a sucker for that. But it’s not just a love story about Emily and Sam. Sam and Riddle’s love for each other is powerful and amazing. And there are other kinds of love that grow organically around these characters that make it a very rich read. How good is this book? I was grateful I had to wait forty-five minutes for a test at Kaiser today so I could have some uninterrupted time to read this delicious book. There wasn’t a moment I spent with I’ll Be There
when I wasn’t thrilled to lose myself in the pages. Oh, and don’t forget Bel Canto
, that other well-written book written in the omniscient observer point of view.