Friday, September 22, 2006

Strange Times at Western High

I have to get over some Emily Pohl-Weary appreciation before I mention her new YA series featuring super-sleuth Natalie Fuentes. Emily (who two handfuls of people will remember reading at our last April poetry series at the Jane Bond from her book of poems, Iron-On Constellations) is faboo. Here’s a bit of to-do on Emily *hunkers down*: Emily won a Hugo Award for her biography on her grandmother, Judith Merril, “Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril”, which was also a finalist for the Toronto Book Award. She’s a former editor of Broken Pencil magazine, and currently edits Kiss Machine, the “funky art/lit hybrid”. Her first novel, “A Girl Like Sugar”, was great and could also be considered for a young adult audience. She edited a female superhero anthology called “Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks”, *huff huff*, AND, something that I am crazy-excited about, Emily has been writing a female pirate comic book, called “Violet Miranda: Girl Pirate”, which has seen two fantastic issues and expects two more. (I was going to put in all these links to each of the titles/projects Emily is part of, but I will instead direct you to her website which has the appropriate linkage:

‘Kay. “Strange Times at Western High” is the first in an anticipated girl sleuth series starring Natalie Fuentes, a ballsy 16 year old who loves Nancy Drew (as does Emily, and I remember reading somewhere about her craziness for the Nancy Drew video game). Natalie is the daughter of journalist parents, recently divorced, and of Argentine/Jewish background. She’s always the outsider, moving from school to school, in a nomadic army-dad way, because of the nature of her parents’ jobs. She has settled in Western High, somewhere in , after moving from , and is immediately thrown in the lap of a mystery involving violence, hidden sports equipment, shady coaches, and the Golden Girls, a blonde posse of the bullying type.

The mystery surrounding Western High moves along customarily, but it is in the details of her characters where Emily shines brightest. She references specifics from culture, hacker culture, urban exploration culture (I was most excited to see), graffiti and comic book references, and to Spanishfolk music. And I’m talkin’ pretty hip references, such as:

“Are any of you named Ramiro Lopez?” [Natalie] asked…
“Who wants to know, Maggie Chascarillo?” asked Romeo.
“That’s not my name,” she growled.
“What, no sense of humor?”…
“What,” she spat. “Do you think you’re the only guy who’s told me I look like Maggie? Puhlease. How many punk Latinas are there in comics? Let me help you out: I can count them on my middle finger”

Oh, and Natalie makes a Zine about her life called “My Very Secret Life”. The pages in the book have little doodles as if they have been taken from her zine, but otherwise, I would have loved to see some more details about her zine (granted, she IS in the middle of issues and has all of this sleuthing to do during the story, I can’t have it all).
And two last funny things I loved. Ruth, Natalie’s friend at Western, is a complete dork. Keep in mind this girl is circa 16 and she’s doing things like running and cartwheeling at people instead of just walking up, and actually throwing air punches to express frustration.
And also this line was great: “It got worse.Much worse. By the end of the night, I had to pull them off each other. And now they’re in love. He’s taking her to Red Lobster”
And there’s a ton of other stuff I won’t catalogue here. I just checked out Emily’s blog ( and she mentions her work on book two of this series. So we’ll see it soon, hopefully.
Here are some linkas:

Strange Times at Western High: A Natalie Fuentes Mystery
Emily Pohl-Weary
Annick Press
Annick says 11+

(posted by Mandy)

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