Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Horse Camp - Nicole Helget and Nate LeBoutillier

Synopsis: When their mom said she was sending twelve-year-old Percy and Penny and their little brother, Pauly, to stay with an uncle they’d never met, she tried to make it sound better by saying that Uncle Stretch’s farm was a horse camp. Well, the farm animals are actually chickens and pigs, and the only two horses are mean-tempered and not too keen on being ridden by kids. As Penny puts it, “This farm is like the eighteenth century, but way worse! The water has a rusty taste, and all the meat used to be animals on the farm.” If there is one thing the twins can agree on, it’s that between endless chores, no Internet or cell phones, and the prospect that their mom might have to stay in jail (even though some people say she’s a hero), horse camp is a big, fat joke. Will they ever have a real family again? Or is there a family for them right here? (From Goodreads)

I generally don't read Middle Grade fiction and I make very few exceptions. However, I did get really excited about this one and I was very quick to read it once I got my hands on a copy. In my undergraduate days, I took Contemporary Fiction with Nicole Helget. And let me tell you what - this woman is brilliant. I learned more about writing in her fiction class than I did in any creative writing class I ever took. Honestly, I hated EVERY single book she picked for the class (Tomb for Boris Davidovich anyone? I read it four times and still didn't understand it. I could probably read it 80 times and not understand it), but I still loved going to that class and soaking up everything she had to say. Nicole Helget has also written a memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways, and a novel, The Turtle Catcher. Both are exceptional. Nate LeBoutillier is her husband and it was interesting to see what they came up with together.

I have to admit that reading her MG fiction after her adult novels was a little surreal. It was hard for me not to overlap her memoir with Horse Camp, but once I kind of got beyond that it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read. It's told from the point of view of twins who have been separated from their parents. There's a whole lot of family drama going down and the kids get shipped off to their uncle's farm. Not gonna lie, I didn't connect with Percy - I guess I just don't quite understand the psyche of the pre-teen boy. But I was delighted with Penny - she grew so much through the book. She was annoying and self-righteous, but by the end she'd become friendly and open minded.

But what I loved, was that I could totally see all these characters five years down the road. I actually spent time thinking about who Penny and Percy would be when they were 18. The farm seems to be constantly growing and it's so full of life. Between the setting and the characters, everything feels so real, I have no problem believing that Penny and Percy's lives go on. I believe that these characters grow up and fall in love and get in all kinds of trouble, but I believe that they will be happy.

After reading hordes of YA lit, it was refreshing to read an MG novel this vibrant. It's nice to see the possibilities of where my most beloved, slightly older, characters could have come from.

1 comment:

  1. That's so cool that you had a class with the author! I wish my school had had that class.

    ReplyDelete

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Horse Camp - Nicole Helget and Nate LeBoutillier

Synopsis: When their mom said she was sending twelve-year-old Percy and Penny and their little brother, Pauly, to stay with an uncle they’d never met, she tried to make it sound better by saying that Uncle Stretch’s farm was a horse camp. Well, the farm animals are actually chickens and pigs, and the only two horses are mean-tempered and not too keen on being ridden by kids. As Penny puts it, “This farm is like the eighteenth century, but way worse! The water has a rusty taste, and all the meat used to be animals on the farm.” If there is one thing the twins can agree on, it’s that between endless chores, no Internet or cell phones, and the prospect that their mom might have to stay in jail (even though some people say she’s a hero), horse camp is a big, fat joke. Will they ever have a real family again? Or is there a family for them right here? (From Goodreads)

I generally don't read Middle Grade fiction and I make very few exceptions. However, I did get really excited about this one and I was very quick to read it once I got my hands on a copy. In my undergraduate days, I took Contemporary Fiction with Nicole Helget. And let me tell you what - this woman is brilliant. I learned more about writing in her fiction class than I did in any creative writing class I ever took. Honestly, I hated EVERY single book she picked for the class (Tomb for Boris Davidovich anyone? I read it four times and still didn't understand it. I could probably read it 80 times and not understand it), but I still loved going to that class and soaking up everything she had to say. Nicole Helget has also written a memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways, and a novel, The Turtle Catcher. Both are exceptional. Nate LeBoutillier is her husband and it was interesting to see what they came up with together.

I have to admit that reading her MG fiction after her adult novels was a little surreal. It was hard for me not to overlap her memoir with Horse Camp, but once I kind of got beyond that it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read. It's told from the point of view of twins who have been separated from their parents. There's a whole lot of family drama going down and the kids get shipped off to their uncle's farm. Not gonna lie, I didn't connect with Percy - I guess I just don't quite understand the psyche of the pre-teen boy. But I was delighted with Penny - she grew so much through the book. She was annoying and self-righteous, but by the end she'd become friendly and open minded.

But what I loved, was that I could totally see all these characters five years down the road. I actually spent time thinking about who Penny and Percy would be when they were 18. The farm seems to be constantly growing and it's so full of life. Between the setting and the characters, everything feels so real, I have no problem believing that Penny and Percy's lives go on. I believe that these characters grow up and fall in love and get in all kinds of trouble, but I believe that they will be happy.

After reading hordes of YA lit, it was refreshing to read an MG novel this vibrant. It's nice to see the possibilities of where my most beloved, slightly older, characters could have come from.

1 comment:

  1. That's so cool that you had a class with the author! I wish my school had had that class.

    ReplyDelete