On with this month’s event recap! On Saturday the 17th, Jessica (J.L.) Powers came into the store to read from and discuss her debut novel, The Confessional. This was a really great event in a couple of ways. Of course, we had a good turnout and sold books. That’s always nice.
But, in fact, my favorite thing about that event was the discussion after the reading. The Confessional is a book that can’t help but spur on debate. It tackles huge, and hugely important, issues: racism, terrorism, school bullying, immigration, homophobia and grief (to name a few). So we talked about the border with Mexico, and how it’s changed after 9/11; about the tensions between white Americans, Mexican Americans, and Mexicans; about kids, and how those tensions and politics affect their lives; and, of course, about the book itself and Jessica’s inspirations in writing it.
The book itself is a heck of a read. Set in an all-boys Catholic school in El Paso, Texas, it’s a cross-over young adult novel. It is for and about teens, particularly teenage boys, but it also contains some language and adult situations. Told in alternating narratives by six teenage boys, it starts with a fight at school, and then a murder, and then dives into how the politics and cultural tensions of the time shape these violent incidents and the reactions to them. It’s also a whodunit, made especially intriguing by those six narrators — some you like, some you don’t — and the uncertainty of knowing that one of them could be the killer. Here’s another excellent review, if you want the School Library Journal‘s opinion.
All told, this book is an edgy and thought-provoking read. I’d recommend it for mature young adults (16 and up, in general) and for adults and book groups interested in exploring border life, culture, and politics.