The events and grief of September 11, 2001, will be explored in fiction for many years to come as our nation continues to work through the most profound, gut-wrenching event of our times. It’s no surprise, then, that 9/11 will also have continuing impact on Young Adult fiction, even though today’s teens were in elementary school at the time.
Virgin Territory, James Lecesne’s next novel after Absolute Brightness, is in its own way a post-9/11 recovery novel. 15 year old Dylan and his dad have lived in the small town of Jupiter, Florida for the past 9 years. Still feeling like an emotional and physical outsider, Dylan is basically sleepwalking through life. When the summer starts, Dylan’s busted by his dad for having an online romance with a 37 year old woman, loses his online privileges, and has to get a job. He finds work at a run-down local golf course as a caddy and settles in to the mindless monotony of lugging clubs for old duffers until one day the image of the Virgin Mary appears in the bark of a tree on the course.
When word spreads, the sleepy town is inundated with the traveling hordes of Mary followers, all hoping to get close to the image to receive a miracle. Among the crowd, Dylan meets Angela, a beautiful, charismatic, and slightly dangerous teen whose mother has them on the Virgin circuit. She has two followers, Desiree and Crispy, and soon enough they adopt Dylan into their “Virgin Club.” For the first time in years, Dylan starts taking risks and caring about others and he finds the emotions and memories he’s held carefully in check coming to the surface and finally having to be dealt with.
Lecesne takes Dylan on a emotional journey from the isolation of depression and loss towards forgiveness, acceptance and hope. Dylan’s recovery was a long time coming and feels genuine in its unfolding. My one quibble with the book is the timeline: at numerous points, Dylan states he was 6 in 2001, and yet there’s a pivotal scene when he’s viewing a video of himself and his mom that was taken in 1997 and he says he was 5 in that video. Despite this, and a few other stumbles, Dylan’s quiet, sometimes funny, and genuine journey back to life is an enjoyable read.
- Posted by Cori