Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan
Publisher: Running Press Teens
Pub. Date: March 22nd, 2011
Age Level: 15+
Source: For review from publisher.
Synopsis via Goodreads
Purple Daze is a young adult novel set in suburban Los Angeles in 1965. Six high school students share their experiences and feelings in interconnected free verse and traditional poems about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock 'n' roll, high school, and friendship.
Although there have been verse novels published recently, none explore the changing and volatile 1960's in America— a time when young people drove a cultural and political revolution. With themes like the costs and casualties of war, the consequences of sex, and the complex relationships between teens, their peers, and their parents, this story is still as relevant today as it was 45 years ago.
Purple Daze provides a unique look into a tumultuous period in our country's history that became a major turning point for many things. The 60's were a time of war, drugs, racism, and rock n' roll good times; this story provides you with a taste of it all.
First thing's first, while I thought the characters were well done and distinct, I don't feel that I really connected with any of them. There were some I really liked, some I didn't, but the constant, random switching between perspectives and the overall brief length of the book kept me from being able to really grab hold of a bond with them. However, I really appreciated how many different opinions and views on the same subjects that I was able to receive because of the numerous perspectives. There some characters, though, that I would have liked to have seen more of. Particularly Nancy as I found myself really wanting to be able to get inside her head more. My two favorite characters were easily Cheryl and Phil. What I loved most about Cheryl was that even though Phil and Mickey were gone, she still kept in touch, becoming their loyal pen pal, and I admired that. I can imagine there were probably a lot of guys who joined the military, or were drafted, who didn't hear from their friends once they left. I thought Phil was easily the most respectable of the guys and I enjoyed reading his letters from Vietnam. (I'm a big fan of The Things They Carried.) Don, while I didn't mind him at first, proved to be a total jerk. As for Mickey, well Mickey just really confused me in that he was protective of Cheryl and warned her against sleeping with Don but then turns around and calls his girlfriend, Ziggy, a slut and talks about how he likes how easy she is. And poor Ziggy, while she is very promiscuous, there were times I kind of felt bad for her and I got the impression there was definitely more to her than people took the time to see.
Purple Daze is a vivid portrayal and exploration of the 60's, touching on both the lighter and heavier aspects of events and happenings during the year 1965. There was humor and fun but also some strong, deeper emotions and meanings as well. Knowing that this story is based on the author's own life during this year just made everything feel that much more real. Weaved into the plot are factual excerpts from famous speeches, events, etc, and I thought these were included in in a way that was informative and intriguing, but not overbearing. I really felt that they added to the plot. My only actual complaint, which is becoming a bit of a pattern, is that I think the plot could have greatly benefited from the book being longer.
The writing was something I had very mixed feeling about. I love verse, I really do, but it just didn't quite cut it for me this time. At times the writing seemed a bit confusing and it never accomplished that smooth flow I come to expect from books written in this format. I don't think the fact that this book barely tipped 200 pages and was told from six different perspectives helped. However, there were times when the writing took on a more raw and authentic edge and this I did like. Also, considering the circumstances under which Purple Daze was written, I can see why Shahan would have chosen the verse format. This story is based on Shahan and her experiences during the 60's and I can see where writing this in prose would have required more fabrications and exaggerations if the book was to hold the same, or a longer, length. Writing Purple Daze in verse did allow it to stay more genuine to what she, and the other people it's roughly based on, went through. All that being said, I think if this book had been longer--What'd I say? Pattern, much?-- it could have formed a more connective flow.
The ending of Purple Daze was nothing spectacular but it was realistic and suitable, leaving me contented and maybe even a bit happy.
So while Purple Daze may have had its flaws, I also found it to be a very worthwhile and entertaining read. I can honestly say that I have never read anything like this book and, in the end, I'm still glad to have read it. I can tell this story probably won't be everyone's cup of tea--why always tea, why not coffee or milk?-- but if it sounds interesting to you, then I say go for it. Since Purple Daze is such a quick read, it is possible that I will read it again later on down the road.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan
Posted by ~The Book Pixie at 3/22/2011 09:13:00 AM