Wednesday, March 27, 2019

MG Speculative Fiction Review of Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu


Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books
Number of Pages:  328
Published:  February 12th, 2019
Source:  Library

Opening Line:  "Jenny Horowitz likes horses and the color pink and asking lots of questions about things I don't want to talk about." 

It's the middle of the school year and Elodee and her twin sister are moving from Juniper to Eventown for their mom's new job.  It's the families chance at a fresh start from an event that occurred that changed the family, brought on an incredible sadness and a considerable amount of pain.  Which they now refer to as "The Before."  Eventown is to be their after, a new beginning, an opportunity to leave their sadness behind.  

At first glance, Eventown is slightly quirky but also an idyllic place, there's no cars, television or computers.  Everyone walks to school or work.  The houses are identical, including the rose bushes out front.  Their new home even comes with a box of recipes for Elodee, gymnastics for Naomi and everyone they meet is nice and friendly.  

Shortly after their arrival, Elodee and Naomi participate in an orientation where they learn  Jasper Plimmswood founded Eventown after the town he lived in was destroyed by a major hurricane.  As a part of orientation for new members of the town, they're encouraged to relate six stories from their past.  Naomi completes the orientation process, but Elodee's is interrupted leaving her with three untold stories.   Something that seems to separate her from her sister and causes them to begin to drift apart.   

In Juniper, Naomi was really good at hiding her sadness, behaving in ways considered "normal."  She had a public face for her friends and family,  and a private face that she only shared with her twin.   She's concerned about what other people might think and so she tries hard to fit in, not to stand out.  Whereas, Elodee carries her worries and concerns with her.  She's been considered "loud, a weirdo."  And in my opinion very brave.  She's sort of Naomi's protector the loud to Naomi's quiet to draw the attention to herself and away from Naomi.  Elodee also uses cooking and baking as a way of processing or expressing her feelings.  A vanilla cake with confetti sprinkles on top might signify a celebration, but with a strawberry, raspberry, peanut butter center to show her confusion about moving.  She makes apology cookies with bitter coffee bits for calling someone a bad word and adds just the right spices and heat to her angry pasta when she feels left out.  Naomi desperately wants the kids in Eventown to like her and goes to great lengths trying out things that she would never do before, like playing the cymbals while Elodee plays the triangle.          

When Elodee avoids telling her three last stories, she also begins to realize that Eventown isn't as idyllic as she first thought.  For one creativity and experimenting aren't encouraged.  Before she could create dishes that were messy and bizarre but now she is only encouraged to use the recipes from the box at home.  There are only three flavors of ice cream ever and smores never have peanut butter on them.  Traditions are followed.  And being inquisitive or asking questions about why things are the way they are is discouraged.   When the families presence begins to have an impact on Eventown, changing the town,  Elodee comes to the realization that the price her family paid to live in Eventown is too high.  She also resolves to show her family that their shared memories, even the difficult, sad, messy ones are better than not having the shared knowledge of their happy memories. 

Eventown is an interesting place where life appears to be perfect.   So why did I keep having this niggling feeling, a persistent, annoying discomfort that something was about to happen?  Because it's an idealistic place with a flaw, giving up all your sad, angry,  lonely, joyful memories to live in a community free from creativity, inspiration, and the stories that connect you to your past.  Maybe you gave up the pain of those past memories, but you also lose the connection with your family over those shared memories.  I really commend Elodee for wanting to hold on to all of her memories as unpleasant as they might be and helping her family to heal from them too.  In terms of what the precipitating event from before was, it's slowly revealed toward the end of the story.  I think it's probably the first time I've wanted to jump to the end of the book to read ahead, I didn't and am glad I didn't because it's really worth it to read it all the way through, but have a tissue handy.          

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