What a Novel Idea?
Since I am presently at work on a YA work of fiction, I decided it was about time I did a little extra reading in the genre. After googling YA Fiction and coming up with several intriguing lists of authors, I quickly realized that I was severely lacking in my working knowledge of young adult authors and titles. Except for Sherman Alexie’s excellent autobiographical novel (The Completely True Autobiography of a Part-time Indian), there wasn’t a popular YA title to be found that I had read cover to cover. The only thing close was S.E. Hinton’s classic, The Outsiders…..and in this case…..I had only seen part of the movie.
After a careful search through the Barnes & Noble Young Adult book section, I came home with The Pigman by Paul Zindel. Published in 1968, this warm, sensitive story revolves around two sophmore high school students growing up in the New York City area and the lonely widower they befriend through a crank calling stunt. Overall, the short novel turns out to be an intriguing journey into the world of high school teachers. Even though this is something we all experience, authors who can portray this critical time of life skillfully are not very abundant.
The way that Zindel tells this story is quite unique, for I can not offhand think of another novel where this device is used. In The Pigman, the narration is done through the eyes of the two main protagonists, John Conlon and Lorraine Jensen. This is accomplished by using each character to narrate alternating chapters. This method works extremely well, even though on occasion the reader may have to doublecheck to see which character is speaking. Since their lives are so intertwined and they often refer to their friend of the opposite sex during the dialogue, the confusion is infrequent and short-lived. In the long run, the dual narration makes more lively reading and I am a bit surprised that the device is not used more often by contemporary writers.
About the Author
With eight plays, just as many successful screenplays and scores of published novels to his credit, Paul Zindel should be a household word. Although his literary works have entertained many readers and received numerous acclaims, Mr. Zindel has remained outside the mainstream literary circle. This situation has not changed since Paul passed away in 2003. Perhaps it is the writer’s modest life in New York City that has created this dilemma.
After completing college in New York (Wagner College), Zindel went on to become a high school teacher before becoming a professional writer. Perhaps, it was Zindel’s tenure in the NYC school sytem that allowed him such good insight into the world of teenagesr, which is so expertly revealed in The Pigman.