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Young Adult Fiction


YA Fiction Review

by Lauren Alise Schultz

In You’ve Got Mail, one of my favorite movies, Meg Ryan plays a Manhattan Children’s bookstore owner whose shop is a treasured part of their neighborhood until a chain store moves in around the corner and puts her out of business. Ryan’s character is a sweet, whimsical woman who holds a reading hour for the children in her shop; dressing up in a princess hat and calling herself the Storybook Lady, one Saturday she reads to them a passage from Boy by Roald Dahl:

It was I and I alone who had the idea for the great and daring Mouse Plot. We all have our moments of brilliance and glory, and this was mine. “Why don’t we,” I said, “Slip it into one of Mrs. Pratchett’s jars of sweets? Then when she puts her dirty hand in to grab a handful, she’ll grab a stinky dead mouse instead.” The other four stared at me in wonder. Then, as the sheer genius of the plot began to sink in they all started grinning. They slapped me on the back. They cheered me and danced around the classroom. “We’ll do it today!” they cried. “We’ll do it on the way home! You had the idea,” they said to me, “so you can be the one to put the mouse in the jar.”

Although several people had recommended that I read Roald Dahl’s childhood memoir, I was finally inspired to order myself a copy when I was rewatching You’ve Got Mail – and I am so glad that I did. This passage is one of many in Boy that make the reader shiver with the deliciousness of childhood, a subject for which I have a very soft spot. The memoir details Dahl’s idyllic summers spent at home, the horrors of English boarding schools, and several traumatic experiences with doctors in a time before the regular use of anesthetics. Consequently, the reader is constantly experiencing either the elation of adventures in the local candy store, the satisfaction of a perfect day spent swimming in the Norwegian fjords, the terror of several childhood operations, or disbelief at the ways in which British schoolmasters and prefects were allowed to mistreat and abuse the pupils at these fine institutions of learning.

These details aren’t part of any particular plot, but rather a series of musings about childhood. But despite the lack of a strong driving force through the narrative, Dahl had my riveted attention and I finished the 160-page memoir in a single day. There is something about the descriptions and details of someone’s magical childhood that make me exceedingly happy, and I spent the larger portion of the day with a huge grin on my face (except when my mouth dropped open in shock at the descriptions of the removal of Dahl’s adenoids or the car accident in which his nose is almost “cut clean off!”).  I would recommend this memoir for most adults, as well as children who are perhaps a bit older and have already read a few of Dahl’s novels.

Boy Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl
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