Monday, October 29, 2007
A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Urban, Linda. 2007. A Crooked Kind of Perfect.
I read this book initially for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. Now, less than a week later, I have reread this little gem of a book. It's a book that I would describe as practically perfect in every way. (I don't know if Linda Urban would want me to stress the near-perfect part since the message of the book seems to be that nobody can be perfect, that life isn't perfect. But even the message seems perfect to me.) Our heroine, Zoe Elias, is ten-going-on eleven. She has one dream--a very big dream. She wants to play the piano. In what could be one of the best openings of all times we read about "How It Was Supposed To Be" versus "How It Is."
I was supposed to play the piano.
The piano is a beautiful instrument.
People wear ball gowns and tuxedos to hear the piano.
With the piano, you could play Carnegie Hall. You could wear a tiara. you could come out on stage wearing gloves up to your elbows. You could pull them off, one finger at a time.
Everybody is quiet when you are about to play the piano. They don't even breathe. They wait for the first notes.
And then you lift your hands high above your head and slam them down on the keys and the first notes come crashing out and your fingers fly up and down and your foot--in its tiny slipper with rubies at the toe--your foot peeks out from under your gown to press lightly on the pedals.
A piano is glamorous. Sophisticated. Worldly.
It is a wonderful thing to play the piano.
The next chapter...Zoe's reality...
I play the organ.
A wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ.
The Perfectone D-60.
That's it. The entire second chapter. What a statement! But I better watch my exclamation points in this review, just in case Zoe (or her creator) is reading. Zoe really doesn't like the excessive and unnecessary use of exclamation points.
Zoe's life isn't perfect. She wants to play piano, but she's stuck with the Perfectone D-60. She wants to be playing real music. She's stuck with beginning level songbooks like Television Themesongs and Hits from the Seventies. And her social life? Well, she's been recently dumped by her best friend because her friend's interests are changing--lip gloss, tv, music, clothes, and boys. That leaves Zoe with no one to sit with at lunch, doesn't it?
Usually, Wheeler Diggs is a mess.
Except his hair.
On anybody else, his curly hair might look goofy, but on Wheeler Diggs it looks just the right kind of wild. And it's dark, which makes his blue eyes look even brighter. And his smile, which is kind of lopsided, looks like he's trying not to smile, but he can't help it.
Which is why, sometimes, every once in a while, somebody will smile back. And sometimes, most of the time, those people will get punched in the stomach. Which is why even the kids who sit with him at lunch are a little bit scared of him and why, really, Wheeler Diggs doesn't have a best friend, either. (58-59)
Wheeler and Zoe are the unlikeliest of friends. But when he follows her home from school one day--to get his hands on some more of her dad's cookies--it's the beginning of an odd but satisfying friendship. Though Zoe doesn't admit this for the longest time. In this book, the reader sees if practice really does make perfect. . .and if wishes really can come true.
The characters, the relationships are about as perfect as can be. I've never seen family dynamics so well captured, so well displayed. Linda Urban has created memorable, authentic characters. The book has it all--moments of happiness, frustration, disappointment, loneliness, and joy. And plenty of humor!
It kind of goes without saying, but for the record...this is one that I love, love, loved!
Linda Urban's website is great too! (I better watch those exclamations.) You can find the recipe for Bada-Bings cookies. You can read her thoughts on writing 'the perfect' book. (She writes in part that: "There is no perfect book. But there is a novel to be written that is perfectly you.")
And of course, you can find out more about Linda Urban on her bio page. She also has a livejournal page where you can read her latest thoughts.