Jun 25, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Young adult literature which coalesced as a separate genre in the 50's and 60's is generally defined as writing appealing to a 12 to 18 year old age group. These books have protagonists that younger readers can easily identify with. Plots , however, are not simplistic. Their popularity has led to deep embedding and influence on popular culture as many have been filmed. S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders has become a classic and the launched the careers of Tom Cruise, Diane Lane and Sonoma County resident, Tom Waits among others. the Hunger Games, The Harry Potter franchise, the Twilight series all fall into the Young Adult category. Their trademark is high interest and strong, linear plots. These, oftentimes, “coming of age" stories are stepping stones to the classics.
Author, Deborah Taylor-French, has presented us with a heroine who is 12. She is right on the cusp of adolescence, but her story has appeal for not only those a little younger but for senior citizens as well. Having been born right on the dividing line between California and Nevada, Nevada California Cimino is precocious and curious and like many other 12 year olds she does not always do as she is told. There have been many suspicious fires in her rural California area, a theme very close to our own reality. Nevada becomes a Jr. sleuth and she is the one who finds out who the arsonist is and why he sets the fires. Along the way she rescues people and dogs and cats. She has a quirky queue of friends. One of her cohorts is Maeve Kassidy. When rushing after her barking dog in the middle of the night, Nevada saves Maeve's family after spotting smoke coming from their farm. Native American, Amy, is another buddy in her circle as well as the nerdy, bright Asian, Lee Yuan. Nevada adores her father but her rambunctious assertiveness is very different from her fussy, glamorous mother who spends a great deal of time on the road touring with her band. Above all, Nevada has an affinity for, "...all things dog" and assures us that, "there is no such thing as a bad animal." Her Keeshund, Henry, and the German Shepherd K-9 officer, Rocket, figure as important characters.
The author does not dilute her prose or write down to her audience. At times she is even lyrical: "....white petals on a climbing rose glowed like tiny moons", "...dark smoke was zigzagging like a flock of blackbirds", "...blue green acacia leaves rippled like piano keys played by the wind."
Taylor-French has given us a pre-pubescent Nancy Drew for our age. Her book is part of a Dog-Leader series. The author and Sonoma County resident is very much an animal activist and has been involved in California's Artists in Schools program. In Nevada Cimino she has created a heroine that is not only an inspiration for young girls but for all of us as well. She is strong, courageous and smart, a feminist with some soft edges.
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