Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bookin' It: Ferris Beach by Jill McCorkle

While I was on Vacation, I really took a bite out of my reading list (which is less of a list, and more of a goal to read at least 12 novels this year). Ferris Beach was one of my vacation reads, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a coming of age novel, which is my jam. Funny, how I never get sick of the genre.

The novel chronicles Katherine (Kitty) Burns's coming of age in early 1970's North Carolina. Growing up for Kitty is kind of like waking up from a series of daydreams. The people that she idealizes often fail her miserably, while others surprise her with genuine kindness. The author, Jill McCorkle once said of her writing: "I like to populate with stereotypes . . . because I know there's a good chance that as soon as these people start walking and talking and thinking that they will step beyond the boundaries" (cited in Bennet, 9), and I think this strategy is part of what makes Ferris Beach both enjoyable and thought provoking.

The story takes place during a transitional period in Kitty's old-school Southern neighborhood, where the introduction of "split-levels" and an influx of new neighbors challenges inhabitants that are striving to perform with the decorum and polite reserve of a particular social class. The new neighbors (particularly Kitty's new best friend's mother) often behave in ways that shake up the current order, and this dynamic has a profound effect on the development of Kitty's teenage identity. Throughout the course of the novel, Kitty's ideals and fantasies give way to a reality that alternates grim and triumphant (kind of like, well, reality).

Top 3 Favorite Things About Ferris Beach 

  1. The main character. One of the things I love about her is that she isn't boy crazy. She has a handle on her relationships with guys. She has a say in her relationships with guys. I mean, she's got a case of the teenage insecurities, but it doesn't make her desperate, and she's pretty deliberate about what she gets into. I admire that. I wish I was like that as a teen!
  2. The sad-factor. There's heaps of sad stuff. There are troubling class issues. Good and bad folks die. People get hurt. I really do value having my heart broken vicariously in fiction-town.
  3. The emphasis on the relationship between individual development and place. It's what I wrote my thesis on, and while I was so over it for the last year or two, this book made it fascinating again!

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