Friday, August 31, 2012

Review of Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan

Purple DazePurple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.

Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing and volatile 1960's in America-- a time when young people drove a cultural and political revolution. With themes like the costs and casualties of war, the consequences of sex, and the complex relationships between teens, their peers, and their parents, this story is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.

One of my first books in verse was What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, which I first read as a middle schooler, and I’ve had a soft spot for this format ever since.  When I received a pitch for Purple Daze, I was intrigued because of this and the period in history and that it took on this format.  Although Purple Daze does not lack emotion, it tries so hard that it left no impact on me.

Purple Daze has been one of my quickest reads of 2012.  Although some passages are written in the form of prose writing assignments or letters instead of poetry, it’s still a fairly short book.  Readers get to see how characters interact with each other, as well as their inner monologues.

These elements make Purple Daze an interesting story, but are ultimately why I didn’t like it.  This book is told from the perspective of six different characters, which was too many for me given the length of the book.  I picked up on a few basic plot points, but got confused and never really tied the whole format together.  Coupled with the odd formatting, it meant that even though I read the book, I had a hard time absorbing what I was reading.

I was underwhelmed by the literary quality of Purple Daze.  This story had a great deal of potential, but read as thought it required more stringent editing and plotting.  As a librarian, I would pass this book on to a teen looking for a book about this particular period, but otherwise, I’m dubious about recommending it.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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