Book Review: ’89 Walls by Katie Pierson
College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity. Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite. Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret; it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare fisted for their beliefs and each other—in the clear light of day.
This past Saturday, Katie Pierson visited my book club at the library. She came as part of a series of Minnesota YA authors I’ve arranged for this spring. So far we’ve had visits from Jackie Lea Sommers, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Katie, and in May will be joined by Carrie Mesrobian. Cool, right? Katie’s visit was a good time. She read to us from her book, talked about its path to publication, and answered all of the really smart questions the small group of teens had for her. I’m so grateful to all of these authors for their willingness to visit my library and hang out with these smart teens.
’89 Walls is set, unsurprisingly, in 1989. This book stands out to me for a lot of reasons. It’s extremely political. It’s not just that Quinn’s a Republican and Seth is a liberal. We see them in school in a class that is always having deep and detailed discussions on the political events happening in 1989. At home, Quinn is often talking politics with her dad. Seth is always wearing political tshirts. I can’t really think of any other YA book that is focused so heavily on real-life politics. The 1989 setting makes this historical fiction (possibly much to the dismay of those of us who well remember 1989). Many of the teens I know are obsessed with the 90s (I don’t think I’ve ever really left the 90s, so I get it) and one of the teens at Katie’s talk noted that this book was appealing specifically because of the time period it’s set in. Katie’s book also tackles abortion (and the politics around it), class, college opportunities and expectations, and sex. Seth’s mom has MS and her health is failing fast. Seth is her sole caretaker, as his father died in Vietnam. Quinn’s relatively cushy life is so far from Seth’s situation. We don’t often see characters like Seth in YA—teens who have to care for their parents—nor do we see a lot of parents with degenerative diseases. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I know plenty of teens who are very interested in politics, so while Seth and Quinn’s conversations together and in class can be very fact-filled, I don’t think that will turn off young readers. In fact, Monday as I was leaving the library, one of the teens who was at Katie’s talk came in holding her copy of the book (as Katie was kind enough to give every kid a book) and said she was loving it. This well-written book is a unique look at an important time in our political history. Readers will root for Seth and Quinn, who have a very natural and easy connection despite coming from completely different backgrounds. Give this to teens who have a weird nostalgia for a time they didn’t live through, to teens who are politically aware, and to readers who want an against-the-odds love story.
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Publication date: 06/19/2015
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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