Nell’s Quilt by Susan Terris was one of those random library finds that appeared on the display shelf and caught my eye. A historical piece set at the turn of the century, the story follows eighteen-year-old Nell as she reluctantly agrees to marry a young widower with a small child. As her dreams of college melt away, and her guilt grows at being a burden to her parents in their hardscrabble farm life, she sinks deeper and deeper into depression until even she hardly recognizes herself. The only thing that sparks any interest in her, any life, is the ever-growing crazy quilt she is piecing together, with squares representing everyone and everything important to her.
Though I was a bit turned off by certain elements that struck me as anachronistic, the story did hold my interest. Nell’s descent into anorexia and obsessive-compulsive behavior, her depression, were vividly written. I did question whether it was accurate to transport psychological problems which seem to me to be very much associated with modern-day life and media influence, into a historical time period. That’s not to say that there weren’t young women suffering similar disorders in 1899, and I certainly don’t have the detailed knowledge of history to critique the issue properly. It just struck me as odd from time to time. But it was an interesting premise nonetheless, and the book was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. If you like historical pieces, this might interest you.
If you’re more into contemporary young women’s stories, then I highly recommend Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen. After learning that a different book of hers was one of YALSA’s Teens’ Top Ten–and after enjoying one of her short stories in the anthology Sixteen–I decided to check out this stand-alone piece about outcast Colie, whose mother is a world-famous fitness guru.
Colie leaves to spend the summer in a tiny beach town with her eccentric aunt, hoping to escape her mother’s exuberant fame and the rumors of skankitude that dog her at school. She doesn’t expect much out of the summer, but she ends up working at a diner and meeting waitresses Morgan and Isabel, unlikely best friends who take her under their wing. Colie also meets Norman, a college art student who lives in her aunt’s basement and is a cook at the diner. The well-drawn cast of characters challenges Colie’s view of how the world works, as she discovers that everyone has their own obstacles in life to overcome and their own ways of overcoming them. She finds friendship, wisdom, and strength in unexpected places in this quiet, vivid, funny, and surprisingly deep story.