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Make Words, Not War

Meghan reviews Write Naked by Peter Gould, a book about idealistic teenage writers in idyllic Vermont. 

Make Words, Not War

BOOK REPORT for Write Naked by Peter Gould

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 3 and 7?
Talky Talk: Waldenesque
Bonus Factors: Hippies, Vermont
Relationship Status: First Love

The Deal:

Victor's a quiet loner (but not a mysterious loner dude, sorry) who spends most of his time thinking and trying not to be noticed. He's out riding his bike one Saturday when an old royal typewriter catches his eye at a yard sale, and the owner -- a softspoken Vietnam vet -- gives it to him, saying there's a story in it somewhere. So Victor takes the typewriter up to his uncle's cabin in the woods and, inspired by an illustration in one of his mom's old hippie commune books, tries writing naked. After a girl named Rose Anna sees him through the window (natch), the two end up writing together like Dashiell Hammet and Lillian Hellman (but without the smoking, drinking and massive fights) and have this crazy intimate relationship (mostly clothed, though) up at the cabin in the woods.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Y'all, Victor is totes sweet. I'm pretty psyched cos this is the second book in a row I've read where I just want to watch the young teenage boy grow up and have a nice little life with his cute little girlfriend, looking on with a fond older sister's "Awww ..." I love his inner monologue -- it took me a bit to get used to it, but I really liked how he jumps from idea to idea and explains it as he goes (like, he figures out how to take the typewriter up to the cabin because his bike reminds him of the way the Viet Cong smuggled supplies on bikes down the Ho Chi Minh trail). He has a slight quirk about not capitalizing "I" but capitalizing everything else that needs it (Y'all, obvs. I don't have a thing against proper/improper caps, but it did bug me a bit that "I" was the ONLY thing not capped, but whatevs. I got over it quickly). It's also sweet to read a romantic relationship from the boy's point of view, cos poor Victor is so lost and Rose Anna calls most of the shots and he feels so out of his depth and in awe -- but she's just as lost as he is, he just can't see it.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3 and 7?

Ok, I know. But the friendship between them is so tender and sweet that I don't want to make it all swoony and sexy. At the same time, they ARE 16 or 17, and can't help it. So there's a really deep current of connection that's purely intellectual and emotional, and it runs right next to another deep current of connection that's sexual and experimental. And it's cool to watch them try to figure it all out, and figure out how to maintain their friendship with all the other hormonal stuff swirling around. Plus, there's the scene the book opens and ends with (it's one of those flashback bookend thingies where you start in the present, then he says "Oh, wait, here's how we got here" then you end up back there. Ya know what I mean) and THAT is pretty sizzling. And also nice and realistic for two outsider kids.

Talky Talk: Waldenesque

Y'all this book is SERIOUS. I mean, no lolz at all. And it's supposed to be that way. And it's all about global warming and peace and how scary the world is today if you sit down and really THINK about it -- I mean, people are too busy trying to one-up each other in ridiculous arguments to actually go out and do something to fix all the problems. And both Victor's and Rose Anna's moms were commune chicks (and the author spent 10 yrs on a commune, btw), and they live in Vermont, so things are very Rachel Carson and deep and dire, interspersed with Rose Anna's feminist ecology fable about newts. BUT. They're also nice and poetic, and Gould has a way with words that is impressive but doesn't get in the way. You don't read some of his especially excellent passages and think he's just showing off (coughDaveEggersJonathanSafranFoercoughcoughMFAcough). They do fit the way Victor and Rose Anna think -- all worried about the world and wanting to make a change, but still so young and feeling like they missed out on the Great Opportunity of the 1960s (remember that feeling?). Very realistic, at least to my memories of my 16-yr-old self listening to Janis Joplin really loudly and wishing there was something I could do to make a difference but people today are so apathetic and sucky and grownups don't listen anyway.

Bonus Factor: Hippies

And not in a bad way. The kind of hippies who care about the environment and realistic recycling programs and would rather take things to Goodwill than throw them in the dump. And hippies who've moved off the commune to "grow up" and have "normal" lives, but they still are a little nostalgic for the optimism, but they're trying to make a change as best they can.

Bonus Factor: Vermont

Vermont seems like a cool place. The nearest mall is in Massachusetts! Maple trees! The woods and springs and farms everywhere! Real farmers markets, with real farmers, not just yuppie locavores-because-it's-the-latest-greatest-trend! Ok, I've never been to Vermont, but this book makes it sound like a whole other country to stuck-in-the-south-me. A refreshing shangri-la of a country.

Casting Call:

Vanessa Marano as Rose Anna

Vanessa looks like she can pull off Rose Anna's passion and frustration and idealism and unpredictability.

Devon Bostick as Victor

Devon's not hot, but looks like he might be when he grows up. He has that cute but gawky, geeky look I pictured for Victor -- that desire to hide in the background, and looks like he'd be completely out of his depth if a girl who looks like Vanessa paid attention to him.

Relationship Status: First Love

I'm too old for this relationship now, but I look back and feel very tender toward it. I want to cherish it and watch it grow up, and I want it to be a good memory for future-me, not a oh-my-god-what-was-I-thinking, MOM-do-NOT-ever-bring-him-up-again kind of memory. The book is so sweet and serious and idealistic and sixteen, and I loved it for that.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.