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
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!