If I wasn't convinced before, I am now: If you want to read great local writing, read the young-adult fiction writers.
It's an embarrassment of riches, really. Just within the last 18 months or so, we've seen terrific work like Sara Zarr's Sweethearts, Ann Cannon's The Loser's Guide to Life and Love and Emily Wing Smith's The Way He Lived. Now here comes Everything is Fine., the second book by American Fork resident Ann Dee Ellis. And once again, we have a work that deals delicately and forcefully with the unique challenges of adolescence.
Mazzy, the heroine of Everything is Fine., is facing plenty of the challenges typical for her age. In the summer before she begins middle-school, she's wrestling with the nature of her friendship with the boy across the street, and playing with the changes in her body by stuffing her shirt with oranges. But she's facing unusual challenges as well: Her father is absent while trying to advance his career as a sportscaster, and her mother is practically catatonic as a result of a trauma that's initially unspecified. Neighbors try to help, but in that way that adolescents have, Mazzy's sure she can handle things on her own.
As she did in her debut novel This Is What I Did:, Ellis employs a staccato rhythm in which thoughts seem to be grabbed as they're flying through the protagonist's churning mind. They're emotional snapshots, and they're potent both in what they reveal explicitly and in what they show Mazzy trying to hide from herself. Most impressively, Ellis conveys the compassion of the people around Mazzy even as Mazzy herself seems unable to appreciate the help they're offering her.
Like her talented local contemporaries, Ellis has a gift for understanding the typical internal drama of young adults, and conveying it through stories of atypical drama. Local youth have the luxury -- and pleasure -- of a lot of local writers who "get" them. And their work is worth getting, no matter your age.