Thursday, December 13, 2007
Velde, Vivian Vande. 2007. Remembering Raquel.
Remembering Raquel is an interesting novel. Told from many perspectives, many narrators, it is an examination of one girl, a so-called social "nobody," an invisible, is remembered after her tragic death by her classmates.
It's amazing how much dying can do for a girl's popularity.
I mean, I'm sitting here in the funeral parlor watching Erin McCall and my other classmates standing around Raquel Falcone's dad, each one of them acting like Raquel's best friend. i don't know if Erin's just doing her usual center-of-attention thing, or if she's actually trying to make Mr. Falcone feel better. That's what you do for a dead person's family--tell them she'll be missed even if you never once had a nice word for her or about her.
I know what I'm talking about: I was there in homeroom when Mrs. Bellanca broke the news.
She told us all to sit down, and I have to believe that was at least partly so she could see where the empty desk was--I don't think she was exactly sure which one to connect Raquel's name to. Certain kids have a tendency to be invisible.
"I'm afraid I have some bad news for you," Mrs. Bellanca said.
Her plan to prepare us did the opposite. I couldn't have been the only one who suspected that another standardized test was about to be announced. Or an assembly . . . (1-2)
It's a short read. And it's a powerful one in my opinion. Different narrators, different stories, different observations about life, about living. All voices trying to make sense out of the death. Raquel was coming out from a movie, chatting with people on the sidewalk, when suddenly she was in the street right in front of a coming car. Was it accidental? Did she trip? Did she lose her balance? Was she pushed or shoved? Or did she commit suicide?
Overall, I recommend this one. I enjoyed it. It was fast. And while it wasn't "fun" necessarily--books about death and grieving are never 'fun'--I think it is important. There are many books this year that show that actions have consequences. That actions, that words--either harsh or kind--do make an impact. This is one of those kinds of books. I think the "invisible" misfits or outcasts of a class are ignored by classmates and teachers. Because they're ignored, because they're invisible. I think some must think it's okay. That their inactions aren't harmful, aren't as psychologically damaging as physical or verbal abuse. Anyway, I think this book is good in that it gives readers a chance to walk in many different shoes, to see life through many eyes.
But now, all of a sudden, it's Poor Raquel, and Sweet Raquel, and No-I-Never-Talked-to-Her-in-School-but-She-Was-My-Role-Model-and-Best-Bud Raquel.
And this gem of wisdom comes from Stacy Galbo's chapter:
You can be in (which is a select few), or you can be not in (which is the vast majority), or you can be out (but then you're not part of any crowd, because that's what "out" means). So I do my best to set a good standard to be civil to all, and to talk behind the backs of only the outest of the out. (82)
Now I feel terrible. And I wonder: What would have happened if I had gone out of my way to be nice to her? If I hadn't just refrained from bashing her, but had tried talking to her--about hair and clothes and diet and stuff? Not enough contact with her to jeopardize my own standing, which I've worked so hard to attain, but enough to help her improve herself so she wouldn't be so sad and hopeless. (84)