Saturday, February 3, 2018

Book Review: 'Dragon' by Amanda Linehan

Maryland author Amanda Linehan is a fiction writer, blogger and INFP (and for those unfamiliar with that acronym, INFP = introversion, intuition, feeling, perception – people who are creative, quirky, humane, and individualistic). She has indie published two young adult novels and a series of collections of very fine short stories. Her short fiction has been featured on Every Day Fiction.

Amanda’s ability to paint the atmosphere of high school classrooms and hallways and interaction of friends is on a par with the best writers of the YA genre – and that may be our first clue as to why she lists herself as an INFP! Her story is of this world, not paranormal as the title suggests. But the clever way she introduces the significance of the title points to her innate artistry for making stories work: ‘She happened to look up and catch the grade on the paper of the guy who sat to her right and up one desk. An A. She knew his name was Dave and that he was a senior, but didn’t know much else about him. This was a little odd, as they had been going to school together since the sixth grade. But she didn’t think anyone else knew much about him either. He didn’t talk much, and when he did, she figured it was probably to discuss role-playing games and fantasy novels. She was embarrassed just to know what those were. As far as she could tell, he wore the same denim jacket every day of his life, no matter the season. And even worse, he had hand drawn a picture of an elaborate dragon on the back of the jacket in black marker, which stood out against the worn denim and juxtaposed its utilitarian nature in a strange way. To be honest, the drawing was kind of cool, but Silver found no rational excuse for why it should be on the back of a jean jacket. She had the vague impression that Dave was a good artist in general, but couldn’t remember why she knew that. Also, she couldn’t think of anyone— even in the weird crowd— who she knew to be his friend.’

But on to the story: ‘Silver has it all figured out. She’ll finish high school with fantastic grades, more popularity than most, a resume to impress the most stringent college admissions officer, and a rock-solid plan for her future. There’s only one thing standing in her way – an A in Advanced English. When she teams up with an unlikely ally - the outcast with the hand-drawn dragon on the back of his jacket - her path becomes clear and she devises a plan to steal the final exam and guarantee that she gets an A in English. If she fails, it will cost her everything. But if she succeeds, she’ll only have to do one thing. Decide just how far she’s willing to go for perfection.’

Situations that face most young students on a daily basis, yes, but the manner in which Amanda weaves her story the bigger questions facing students as they enter adulthood makes her book not only a fine read, but also a dollop of sage philosophy. Grady Harp, July 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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