Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review - Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson

As a teacher librarian with a penchant for reality novels and a focus on Social Justice, I'm familiar with Laurie Halse Anderson and her novels. 'Speak' is a fantastic view of how a traumatic event can impact and change you, 'Wintergirls' is beautiful and tragic in it's portrayal of eating disorders. When doing a search of books about prom for a display, I found that Anderson had published one called 'Prom'. Intrigued, as most of the books about prom I'd found previously were very bubbly and her writing to me thus far was anything but bubbly, I decided to pick it up.

'Prom' is the story of Ashley Hannigan, a graduating student who does not care about prom in any way, shape or form. She does not begrudge her friends for being excited, but it's not for her. School isn't really her thing either - she's close to dropping out, has no college plans and has more detentions than she has days left in school to serve them. Her boyfriend TJ has been kicked out of school already and says he's saving money for them to have an apartment together. Then, the worst happens: the teacher-adviser has taken the money that had been paid by students for prom which means it can't happen. Ashley's best friend, Natalia, the head of the prom committee is devastated. Through her own special charms, a wish to help her friend and a deal with the principal to take care of some of those detentions, Ashley finds herself in the middle of the prom whirlwind and an active - and leading - member of the prom committee. Will it work out? Will Ashley lose the chip on her shoulder and find school spirit? Will the students have a prom to remember? And, if they do, what role will Ashley have played in it?

I had expected the novel to be a little cheesy, even though it was written by Anderson. From the first page I learned that no, it's not going to be cheesy. It was a strong story told around the occasion of prom. The story of a 'normal' teenager and her life and how this event happened upon it. At the end Anderson thanks 'normal kids' who said to her that their story is never told. Which is true - we learn of kids going through situations, kids who are going through supernatural situations, kids going through dystopian situations and kids who think a pimple is a situation. This was a refreshing view on prom and how for some people, it's not that important. That sometimes, crappy boyfriends and humiliating after school jobs is the best that it can be. And that sometimes, it takes a major kick from an unexpected place to make your life find the right path.

'Prom' is a fairy tale. It's not your standard tale, but it is a fairy tale, none the less. You have Cinderella in the character of Ashley (even her name evokes the ashes of her allegorical match), the Fairy Godmother in the character of Natalias eccentric grandmother and the evil stepmother in the form of the Vice-Principal. You have her helper mice appear as her family and friends, all supporting her through her endeavors. Ashley happens to be on a quest and the discovery of that means she begins to grow into her ambitions. At the end, the reader is left with the feeling that she might just get her happy ending.

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