Wednesday, August 22, 2012

80s TEEN NOVEL : "Probably Still Nick Swansen"

Probably Still Nick Swansen by Virginia Euwer Wolff
     One of my English teacher friends asked if I wanted about three bins full of old books, and I said yes. There's no library funding, so I'm big on donations. Whatever we can't use for our library I take to a used book store to trade in for store credit, which I use to get things we CAN use.
     As I was going through all the old books, I found this little paperback gem from 1988. The cover illustration struck me as pathetic, along with the tagline, "What's wrong with being Nick Swansen?"
     If you have to ask...
     Then I flipped it over and read the synopsis on the back:

Nick has a problem. No, problems.
Nick is 16. He is still trying to learn how to drive. He's an expert on some things, not so good at others. He's haunted by the memory of his sister who drowned nine years ago. Nick is a "Special Ed" kid.

He's been teased about it. But that doesn't stop him from asking Shana, a former special ed classmate, to the Prom. That, Nick thinks, will be really special.

But things don't always go the way you plan.

Suddenly Nick wishes he was anybody but who he is... anybody but Nick Swansen.

     Oh, dear. Poor Nick Swansen in his awkward tuxedo, waiting for his "special" date. And what's up with that seemingly random brick of tragedy tossed in, about Nick's dead drowned sister? Like Nick's struggles aren't enough "teen issues" for one book without a haunting accidental death from the past? Virginia Euwer Wolff, you are one hard and unflinching writer.
     There's even a nice little insulting "Author's Note" at the beginning of the book, which reads:

This book contains some incorrect grammar and punctuation in order to tell Nick Swansen's story in language that is consistent with his.

     Wow, Virginia Euwer Wolff, I'm not sure who's more insulted by that, poor Nick Swansen, or the reader.

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