Saturday, 16 January 2010

Review: Silver by Norma Fox Mazer

Title: Silver

Author: Norma Fox Mazer

Year: 1988

Rating: 5/5

Plot: Sarabath Silver isn't like the rich kids at her new school. She isn't driven to school in her dad's new Bentley from their multiple-roomed mansion, and allowed to go out on shopping sprees with her friends.

Sarabeth lives in a trailer park with her mum, where hard work and budgeting are number one on the agenda. Her mother is determined her daughter will grow up to have a better life. And Sarabeth doesn't let a thing like money stop her having fun as a regular teenager.

At school she manages to make friends with a group of popular girls, who Sarabeth imagined to be leading perfect lives. However, as her new friends begin to confide in her, she soon discovers that something is very wrong and that Patty, the blonde of the group and most known for her unpredictable moods, has been keeping the most painful secret of all.

Review: The one YA book I remember from my teen years is Silver by Norma Fox Mazer. I can't think of any other book I devoured more.

I recently came across it, covered in a mile high of dust, after having neglected it for the last 8 years or so and decided to re-read it with a new adult perspective.

While the story's clearly a bit dated (modern YA lit is now filled with references to mobile phones and facebook), the strong message of teen friendship still shines through and is what's important.

What I found interesting about this book, while I was a teenager, was that it touched on themes I'd never come across before. One of Sarabeth's new friends, Patty, is being sexually abused by her uncle and her mother refuses to believe her. This is an unfortunate situation that millions of children find themselves in to this day, and it's important that we have books like Silver to support those that feel scared and alone.

Issues like this aren't brought up enough in literature or film. While children might seen an advert or poster giving them information about what or who to turn to if they're being abused, a fictional - and relatable character - in a book or a film might give them the extra push they need to speak out. Especially if that character leaves them feeling less isolated.

Another message - maybe not quite as prominent but equally as important - is that of pre-judgement. Sarabeth's upbringing leaves her feeling somewhat vulnerable to the 'rick kids' at school. She imagines that they have everything they could ever want in life and are the very definition of 'perfect.' What she discovers about Patty teaches her that it doesn't matter what you have or own in life, or even where you come from. Money doesn't necessarily buy happiness and, while Sarabeth and her mother aren't always financially stable, they have the closest relationship.

If I ever have daughters, I'd like them to read this. It's a YA book from my own childhood and one that I still love and think is very well-written. The issues I mentioned are treated with some delicacy but enough emphasis is placed on what's important.

I'd recommend anyone who enjoys a piece of YA lit to give this a go. As I said, it's a little dated, but it has plenty of heart and a good message.

About the Author: While visiting Norma Fox Mazer's website to look for information on her, I was saddened to discover that she passed away in October from brain cancer. She was 78 years old.

Norma Fox Mazer was an American author who is best known for her books for children and young adults.

She was born in New York City but grew up in Glens Falls, New York, with parents Michael and Jean Garlan Fox. Mazer graduated from Glens Falls High School, then went to Antioch College, where she met Harry Mazer, whom she married in 1950; they have four children, one of whom, Anne Mazer, is also a writer. She has also studied at Syracuse University. - Taken from Mazer's page at Fantastic Fiction.  


The Bookworm said...

Very cool that you re-read an older favorite and still enjoy it.
It does sound good, and sounds like it has some important messages, great review.

serendipity_viv said...

I love finding books that played a big part in my growing up. It is like meeting an old friend again.
I am glad you found this one again and enjoyed it just as much.

Ceri said...

Naida - Yeah, I really enjoyed getting back into it. :)

Vivienne - Me too. Films also play a huge part in my childhood (Is that weird? haha).

B.Kienapple said...

It's funny how earnest YA used to be! I love old-school YA, Judy Blume and the rest.

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schatzi said...

I know NFM was a big deal when I was growing up, but I think Silver is the only book by her I read.

Is it the one where she thinks she's drunk on Champagne, but it's just sparkling grape juice?