Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide: The Trouble with Marlene by Billie Livingston and Film Studies by Caroline Adderson

Annick Press introduced their Single Voice series April 2010. While Annick has talked a lot about the series, I haven’t been able to find anything that explains their goals with Single Voice or what they’re hoping to achieve. Annick calls Single Voice “a ground breaking and provocative young adult fiction series” so that’s a clue. More clues: “exploding with urgency,” “unflinchingly real,” “authentic voices” and lots more of the same. And while all of these things help to build a picture, none of it tells us what Single Voice is.

As far as I can tell, the Single Voices series combines two novellas from two authors connected by a single theme. And aimed at YA readers. So you get a single book with two covers. Look at it one way, it’s one book, flip it over and it’s another. In some regards, there’s nothing particularly new in any of that. I had a copy of Black Beauty that flipped over to The Call of the Wild back when I was a kid. (Though I put more miles on the Black Beauty side, for sure.)

Beyond sharing the same spine, what seems to connect Single Voice, however, are stories with the sort of sharp, raw edge that invite people to say things like “exploding with urgency,” “unflinchingly real.” Still, in contemporary books for readers 15 and up, there’s nothing particularly new there, either.

So, from the beginning, my take on Single Voice has been pretty hands-in-pockets: some interesting stuff, certainly, but a gimmicky enough presentation that I wanted to reserve judgment. What changed my mind was an entry to the series with a lot of firepower. Followers of Canadian literature will be familiar with the names of both authors: Caroline Adderson and Billie Livingston, both of whom have written the sort of well-received novels that invite awards and critical praise. And both women write the sort of novels that invite grown-up critics to say things like “exploding with urgency” and unflinchingly real.” When that book landed on my desk, I had to pay attention.

It will not surprise you to learn that Livingston’s The Trouble with Marlene and Adderson’s Film Studies “explode with the urgency, drama and confusion of adolescence.” The subjects of both books will demand a mature teen reader with a taste for something a bit more sophisticated than, well, Black Beauty or The Call of the Wild.

To be honest, I’m still a little iffy about the series. But you have to love that Annick is trying something a little different in their packaging and, clearly, trying to be certain to get literature into the hands of readers who will enjoy it. And, seriously? Anyone who can offer me more Livingston and Adderson -- under the same cover yet -- is worthy of attention.

There are more books in the Single Voice series. You can read about them here. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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