Weekend Pick for January 13, 2023
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This week's suggestion is brought to you by Jacob Blocker, another student of mine who is in his residency year. Soon Jacob will be teaching a class of his own, but today he is actively engaged with teaching methods, pedagogy, and constant search of the books that are relevant to secondary school students.
Pinned is a young adult novel by Sharon G. Flake that centers around the budding romance of two differently abled African American teens: Autumn and Adonis. Autumn is a girl who excels in wrestling and cooking. She’s an immediately likable protagonists with an outwardly cheerful disposition and tomboyish bravado. Adonis is a boy who excels academically and carries himself with a maturity that often seems beyond his years. He is well respected but lacks Autumns approachable charm, something that may make him read as unreasonably harsh early on. What complicates the tentative teen romance are the problems the characters “wrestle” with.
The dual protagonists take turns narrating the events of the story. Flake’s use of first person is excellent for placing the reader into the minds of the distinctive teens. Adonis’s dialogue and narration is written in Standard American English which reinforces the character’s adherence to academic and professional standards. In contrast, Autumn speaks and narrates in African American Vernacular English (AAVE). The use of AAVE gives Autumn’s side of the narrative a cadence that is immediately recognizable. The effect is convincing, with the two protagonists truly reading as distinct characters. It is important to note that Flake never sacrifices easy readability for style. The book’s writing is clear and approachable, often using highly direct wording and structurally simple sentences.
What makes Pinned appealing is how Flake believably and neatly handles developing the two oppositional yet romantically drawn teens and fits them in a believable setting. Autumn’s struggle to keep pace in class and Adonis’s complex around his disability are portrayed without downplaying or aggrandizing the characters’ angst. The adults of the story are handled with sympathetic realism, with Flake giving enough clues, whether it’s Miss Baker’s frustrated attempts to motivate Autumn academically or signs of Mr. Epperson’s declining health, to convey that even grownups face their own personal battles. Flake’s adults are never fully regulated to the background even as they don’t hold the stage.
Pinned is a straightforward but close look at how two contrasting characters can be deceptively similar when viewed otherwise strong people thrown off balance. The novel is a quick, easy read with well-developed adolescent characters and a poignant message about interpersonal prejudice and overcoming mundane adversity.
Stay well and keep reading, friends!
Till next week,