The Library Card

Author: Jerry Spinelli
Year: 1997
Genre: Children's fiction

Meaghan always talks about the tremendous potentiality in giving the right book to the right child at the right time. Jerry Spinelli has taken this important truth and put it through the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle machine: books are the magic potion that can cure naughty children of their naughtiness.

Spinelli reminds me a lot of Stephen King. They both put a lot of energy into creating individual, well-rounded characters with distinct identities and a history of personal tragedy, and then throw those characters into ridiculously contrived plots so that they can get an emotional response from the reader. There's a difference, though: I expect horror novels to be manipulative because that creepie-crawlie feeling is escapist, not authentic. (I expect fans of romantic comedies feel the same way.) Spinelli, on the other hand, has delusions of significance. He seems to think that if he can force you to feel sympathetic for his desperate runaways and preteen misfits, then they must be deserving of genuine sympathy.

The sad thing is that if he just told stories about these kids without trying to push you so hard (as he did, more or less, in Maniac Magee), you could feel for them. As it is, you just feel cheated.

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