Thursday, 25 November 2010

Review - Fixing Delilah / Sarah Ockler

Things in Delilah Hannaford's life have a tendency to fall apart. She used to be a good student, but she can't seem to keep it together anymore. Her "boyfriend" isn't much of a boyfriend. And her mother refuses to discuss the fight that divided their family eight years ago. Falling apart, it seems, is a Hannaford tradition.
Over a summer of new friendships, unexpected romance, and moments that test the complex bonds between mothers and daughters, Delilah must face her family's painful past. Can even her most shattered relationships be pieced together again?

Review - Fixing Deliliah arrived on my doorstep unannounced today.  I didn't know it was coming or why it was there but I dove in nevertheless.  It was a gift that kept on giving.

What is impressive about Ockler's sophomoric effort is her willingness to explore the darker emotional aspects of life - grief, desertion and helplessness - but still keeping a firm hold on the light and hope.  In depicting the conflicted and very real teen experience, Ocker leaves nerves bare.  They are rubbed raw and let loose on the characters that colour the Hannafod family's chosen existence of denial and silence.  The barren nature of this family's communication is as frustrating and infuriating for the reader as it is for Delilah.  The connection between the five Hannaford women is strong regardless of their status in live or death.  All the women are shaded wonderfully with flaws, quirks and definite perspectives on life.  Ocklet skirted sometimes problematic issues of melodrama and heavy handed expositions to present a broken, yet strong familial unit.  For all the fiery aspects of Delilah's nature, the family dynamics are strong and highly emotive while also quiet and complex.  That is not to say that there aren't some heightened situations but the author links it strongly to the reader's empathy so that the reality plays instead of the drama.  Ockler has presented a complex, real and damaged group of characters that are familiar, yet distinct, and it is the strength of this title.

The romance aspect plays well and will definitely strike a chord (pun intended) with the audience.  At times Ockler leans too heavily on childhood connection and sexual chemistry to make Delilah and Patrick's relationship authentic.  So much of the connection portrayed was implied rather than experienced which was disappointing.  While his ambitions and passions were depicted clearly, the real sense of the guy was clouded by the idea of him (the archetype, if you will) versus what Ockler actually presented.  Additionally, the character of Emily became a 'tell' device in the romance but it remained relatively unobtrusive.  The romance plays too lightly in contrast to the depth and complexity of the family storyline. So well constructed is the family aspect that this reader found themselves wanting to be back in the silent and pained depths of the Hannaford family, the real meat of the story.  Poor Patrick seemed almost superfluous.

All credit to Ockler for peppering a slightly formulaic concept of the guy next door with unpredictability.  The arrival of one character never eventuated as one may have predicted.  Also what is presented as a probable cliched situation is subverted.  Both play realistically and are refreshing in a contemporary YA romance.  Ockler also integrated the enticing and scary elements of Deliliah's sex life.  She refuses to judge but instead presents Delilah's choices as understandable within the sphere of a coping mechanism.

Ockler's beginning to carev a name for herself with well constructed teen stories of loss and the ties that bind.  It is curious to wonder if the audience will see a second volume involving Delilah's journey as she puts what she's learnt into action and perhaps search for the missing piece of the puzzle.  That being said, this title stands alone strong.

Truly impressive in its depth, sincerity and emotional connectivity.

Published: December 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: gift
Origin: USA

10 comments:

asamum said...

What a fantastic review. I have this on my list for the YA Contemps challenge but it is a must read now.
What a lovely thing to get a surprise book.
Thanks Adele

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I loved Twenty Boy Summer, and have been looking forward to this one. Thanks for the great review.

Katie Edwards said...

I really want to read this book, and I'm going to order it as soon as I've been paid next week. Great review, telling just enough to keep me wanting to know more, without giving too much away. Glad you liked.

jenniferpickrell said...

What an awesome surprise to receive a book unannounced (I'm jealous!)

Thanks for the review, I've been looking forward to reading this book.

Adele said...

Get it, get it, get it!

Katie - thanks for the feedback, it's something I've been trying to improve on...being critical but not spoilerish.

bartium said...

Excellent review of April! I wondered about this, and am anxious to try it, because I like the voice of writing Ockler. She has a knack for addressing difficult or taboo subjects.
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jimmy said...

I loved it! It covers many themes, depression and family and friendship and self discovery. The book is about a girl named Delilah Hannaford and especially in Vermont.
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kevinya said...

She used to be a good student, but she can not hold out longer. Her "boyfriend" is not much of a girlfriend.

altonfereds said...

I simply adore Sarah Dessen, so I will have to pick this one up. I love these sort of family dramas/mysteries, where there is a lot hidden underneath the surface.
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john said...

I thought this was an moving, emotionally stirring book that I loved from beginning to finish.
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