So if you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that I’m not the world’s biggest historical fiction fan. That said, I have a big love for near histories as well as novels in verse. And of course, a great story will always get me on board. Sherry Shahan‘s PURPLE DAZE is all of these things. The book spans the year of 1965 as a group of teenagers write in journals and exchange letters in a world that is changing — and quickly.
As the story opens, the whole group — Ziggy, Cheryl, Nancy, Don, Mickey, and Phil — live in the same L.A. neighborhood, and some of them go to school together. But Ziggy and Mickey’s relationship is on the rocks — not that his less-than-admirable opinion of her as “the kind of girl who puts out” is helping — and Phil is about to get drafted into the Marines, putting his girlfriend Nancy in a tailspin. Cheryl is the only one who writes him regular letters, while she keeps a private journal about her crumbling relationship with her best friend Ziggy, her blooming relationship with her mom, and her creepy neighbor next door. Mickey is about to take a big step of his own, sick of his dad’s drunken behavior, and Don is on the verge of making a big mistake in his relationship with Cheryl. But one thread binds them all: much-needed friendship in the face of fear, flux, and change.
The lives of these six teens are so interwoven. The author is irrelevent, because it is the poems these characters place in the pages that makes this novel special. They speak to each other and to the reader. Spliced between the characters’ stories are quotes and newsclips from political leaders and pop culture figures, keeping us up to date with the goings on of 1965. The novel is, in a word, unforgettable. In three words, it’s a beautiful experience.
Check back during April, National Poetry Month, for a Q&A with the author. In the mean time, rush out today to find your copy of PURPLE DAZE from Running Press. (Yes, Running Press is a small press, so if your bookseller or library doesn’t have it, make sure you ask them to order it for you!)