For the Orca Soundings readings, I read Comeback by Vicki Grant, Back by Norah McClintock, and Responsible by Darlene Ryan. In general, they are all very short books- the longest is Comeback at 132 pages- with very short chapters, small pages, and a great deal of whitespace. They all feature teenage protagonists and are told in first-person narrative. They are all problem novels: in Comeback, the father is an embezzler who fakes his own death and the children must deal with the shame; in Back the protagonist is the witness to a revenge murder; and in Responsible the protagonist stops a bully from sexually assaulting a classmate.
One thing that I liked about the novels is that there is no fairy-tale happy ending. Nothing is completely settled- all of the protagonists have to decide how to go on with their lives and continue to deal with the consequences of their actions. While there are moral lessons, by and large they are not explicitly crammed down the readers’ throats. The lessons evolve more naturally as the characters face situations that force them to grow up a little more.
Most of the focus of the novels is on the plot- the characters and setting are only loosely fleshed out. For example, the narrator of Back is never named. The books don’t name the cities the characters live in. The time period appears to be relatively modern- Comeback mentions the Disney channel and Mad Men, but the other two don’t even have those pop culture references to place them. It is fairly easy for the reader to imagine themself in the role of the narrator, especially with the first-person narration. The language is simple- the sentences are short and the vocabulary is not difficult. The plots are straightforward and filled with action. There is a great deal of emphasis on the characters’ internal lives and how they feel about the events happening to them.