Monday, September 22, 2008

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

"I am sitting cross-legged on an uncomfortable seat, waiting for a speech to start. It has been approximately forty-five minutes since Mom and Dad left me here. I am going to be here for the whole summer, and I do not know a single person. I open the big new journal Mom gave me last week. So far all it has is a title page which says “Field Notes” in block letters. I turn to the first blank page and write:
hypothesis: taking an actual class in archaeology will serve to confirm nicola lancaster in her lifelong dream of becoming an archaeologist.

I scratch out “lifelong dream,” because it doesn’t sound scientific enough, and write “proposed vocation,” but that sounds pompous, so I write “lifelong dream” again, and then above it, in larger letters, “ignore: this is dumb.” Then I write: “speech notes” just in case I actually take any."

Empress of the World is another book that I read for my Young Adult Literature class. I should start off the review by telling you that it is not a book that I would teach in a class room given some of its content and that it's LGBT fiction. That's not to say that I wouldn't teach a novel with a gay character in it, but I would be more prone to teach something like M.E. Kerr's book Deliver Us From Evie. While Empress of the World was not terribly explicit or anything like that, I felt like it pushed the boundaries just enough to potentially make a lot of students and parents angry. I would save my battles for a book that I felt was more significant. However, if I had a student that was in the process of coming out I might gift it to them for reading on her own time.

The novel is focused on Nicola, a bright girl interested in archaeology sent to study at the Siegal Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth. Back at home Nic is virtually friendless but at her orientation to Siegal she stumbles into a group of various social outcasts (computer geek, preacher's daughter, music nerd) that instantly accepts her. The reader follows Nic through her eight weeks of class where she manages to come to terms with the fact that she isn't straight, enters into her first relationship (with the preacher's daughter, no less), suffers through a breakup, and deals with other adolescent milestones like going to her first dance and finally sticking up for herself when classmates bully her.

The name of the novel comes from Carmina Burana, which ties in to the book because of Nic's interest in music. When she's sulking over losing Battle (who she nicknames Empress of the World) , you can usually find her playing her viola.

Ryan has written one another novel, a follow up to Empress, called The Rules for Hearts. Beyond that, she creates comics with her husband Steve Lieber.


Carlton said...

Your YA fiction is more grown up than mine.

Nihil Novum said...

This book needed more Greek gods.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to ask if it worths trying to find this book and read it in english. (i' m from greece)