When I took a young adult literature class during library school, I remember thinking how young adult literature is full of vampires, awkward moments, and other outlandish fantasy type books. That isn’t a bad thing.
However, it was a relief to read a young adult book that seemed more real, and included characters I could relate to. That book is The Rites an Wrongs of Janice Wills, by Joanna Pearson. It was just released on the Kindle at the beginning of October. This is Pearson’s first book, but she has written a number of essays and articles that are definitely worth checking out.
Despite the fact that The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is a young adult book, I could still relate to it for two reasons. The first is that the author is from my hometown, and this book was loosely modeled on this town. In the book it goes by Melva, North Carolina, also known as the Livermush Capital of the World.
The second reason is that it took me back to my high school days. Like Janice, I was also on the outskirts of things. Unlike Janice, I wasn’t that great of an observer. I just had my nose buried in a book.
Janice Wills is a budding anthropologist, who aspires to get her anthropology notes published in Current Anthropology. She makes detailed notes about the various social crowds at Melva High School: popular, theatre, jock, etc. You have your usual high school cafeteria set up with each group at separate tables.
The Rites and Wrongs of Janice Wills is hilarious and has a biting sense of humor. Janice gets a lot of joy out of making fun of the popular crowd. It makes me wonder where she comes up with stuff she says about them. But, in the end, there are lessons to be learned and the journey towards discovering who your real friends are.
“It seems that most young adult fiction nowadays is full of the dark, the macabre, and the fantastic. While much of it does have merit, I’ve been feeling a certain nostalgia for stories about the joys and pains of growing up… without werewolves and/or abusive relationships. ”
“I wasn’t sure if this would be that book about the nerdy, ugly girl who somehow got the hottest guy in school. It kind of was that book, but it was a lot more than that. I literally LOLed during the whole time. The way Pearson ties together teen angst, awkwardness, and humor is unlike any other.”