Tuesday, June 1, 2010

They Never Came Back

So there I was, on the elliptical machine at my gym, wondering if the woman two spots down could hear my quick breaths, indicating that tears could be forthcoming at any moment. I had just finished reading Caroline B. Cooney's novel They Never Came Back and I was thinking, "This is exactly the type of novel I want to write."

I found the book while I was strolling through the library's section of new novels for children and teens, and the sparse words on the back of the book caught my attention.

Cathy decided on facts. "I don't live here in Greenwich," she told him. "I live in Norwalk."

"You look like Murielle," he insisted.

She asked the logical question. "And who is Murielle?"

This caught my attention because I thought it might be similar to the novel that I'm writing. In case you don't know, my novel is about a girl who shows up at her new school and to everyone else she looks like another girl who already goes to that school. She has, in fact, replaced the girl and continues to trade places with this girl, pretending to be her, until she can figure out how to make it stop. I thought They Never Came Back might have a similar situation in it, so I checked it out. Anything that sounds like it could be remotely similar to my book gets my attention because 1) I want to see how the author handles the situations we share in our novels and 2) I find the topics interesting (that's why I'm writing my own novel about it).

As it turns out, the book's plot was nothing like mine. It's about a teenager who looks like a girl who was lost to her family when she was put into foster care years before. The question throughout the novel is whether the high school girl is really the little girl who was lost five years ago or just someone who looks like her.

I'm so glad that the book gave so little information on the back because I probably would not have read it if I knew what it was really about. I have my list of what I tend to look for in books. I like them to include one or more of the following criteria:

-Novels that mess with time and space

-Books written by Madeleine L'Engle

-Memoirs about random events in life like not buying anything unnecessary for a year

-Books written by Donald Miller

-Novels that take place in pre-modern England

-Novels that have modern day characters who turn out to be wizards or demi-gods

-Books (both fiction and non-fiction) that incorporate faith in a creative non-cheesy, non-preachy way

-Books about Amish people

-Novels with other worlds or magic

-Young Adult novels that take place in the future after most of civilization has died off and now humanity is making a new start

-Historical Fiction*

You may notice that foster care is not a part of the list. It's not something that I usually read about. Yet I'm so glad I read this novel. Along with foster care there were other fantastic themes in the book-identity, family, God, how our personal choices affect those around us, etc. The reason why I say it is the type of novel that I want to write is because it has such a wonderful mixture of entertainment, faith-filled themes (it is not a "Christian" book), lighthearted relationships (ie high school crushes) and thought provoking concepts. I think I may have found a new favorite author. I can't wait to check out Cooney's other novels.

*If any of these genres interest you and you would like some recommendations let me know. I would love to share my favorites with you.


  1. Have you read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and what did you think of it, if so? Love your blog!

  2. My boss' daughter told me about Stargirl and it sounded good, but I haven't read it yet. I'll have to add it to my list of what to read. Thanks for the recommendation and the encouragement.