Okay, I think I know what I’m going to do now.
It’s taken me a while. The two books I was assigned, The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin and The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, are a very good match for each other, as both are all about art and teenage artists.
However, they approach it in different ways. The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone is about one teenage artist, whose genius captivated the world, and whose life ended at the age of 18. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy is about a group of teenage artists (the Selwyn Academy of the title is an art school) who are largely still beginners in their art. Vigilante Poets deals with questions of the “how” and “why” of art; Addison Stone is more concerned with the “who.”
And, of course, the formats of the books are different. Addison Stone is a faux biography composed of interviews with Addison’s friends, pictures of Addison and her friends, and pictures of Addison’s artwork. All of these interviews took place after Addison’s death.
Addison is portrayed as your typical (cliche? archetype?) tortured artist. She struggles with mental illness, but is an artistic genius. She’s only a teenager and yet obtains fame in the art world and beyond. Her friends are fascinated by her, but no one seems to have quite known her, known who she really was.
Vigilante Poets is told by Ethan Andrezejczak, who is writing about the events of his junior year in a Starbucks. Ethan and his friends, Jackson, Elizabeth and Luke, attend Selwyn Academy. Artistic talent at the school comes in a wide variety of ranges, from Ethan who claims not to have any, to Maura, Ethan’s crush and a ballerina who’s been admitted to Juilliard. Their school has become the subject of a reality tv show called For Art’s Sake, in which nineteen students from the school (including Maura) compete to become “America’s Best Teen Artist” and win a scholarship. Ethan’s friends, especially Luke, shun the reality show, believing the school has sold out and that the show isn’t about art at all. And they come up with a plan to reclaim their school and its art. From there, the book examines ideas such as the relationship between art and artist and seeing people and things as they really are.
And Beth tells me I have to make a choice between these two books. Let me tell you, I have gone back and forth. The main reason I’m having such a hard time is… I can’t tell you.
Okay, that was mean. But true! There’s an event near the end of Selwyn Academy that I really, really didn’t like. To explain why would be spoilers. (I think I can say this: It’s the resolution of Baconnaise’s story.)
Up until that point, I was pretty sure I’d pick the book. I like it. It drew me in. The teenagers were annoying and pretentious at times, but, hey, so are real teens. So was I, probably. (Addison doesn’t feel very real. Neither do most of her friends.) So the decision became whether or not I should punish a book for one event.
And the wonderful and annoying thing about the rules of this battle is that I’m the only one who can decide that. I’m the one who has to decide for myself if one thing is enough to ruin everything.
I’ve had a lot of fun discussing these books (oops, am I supposed to say that? They were secret discussions, of course!), and, in the end, I’ve decided to go with the book that prompted the most discussion. I like talking about books. I think that’s a good enough reason to advance a book.
So, therefore, I am choosing The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy. Problems aside, you’ve already given me so much to discuss with my friends and I want this discussion to continue!