Audacious author Lauren Myracle accomplishes something of a literary miracle in her second young-adult novel, ttyl
(Internet instant messaging shorthand for "talk to you later"), as she crafts an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls.
Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls. Grownups (and even teenage boys) might feel as if they've intercepted a raw feed from Girl Secret Headquarters, as the book's three protagonists--identified by their screen names "SnowAngel," "zoegirl," and "mad maddie"--tough their way through a rough-and-tumble time in high school. Conversations range from the predictable (clothes, the delicate high-school popularity ecosystem, boys, boys in French class, boys in Old Navy commercials, etc.) to the the jarringly explicit (the girls discuss female ejaculation: "some girls really do, tho. i read it in our bodies, ourselves") and the unintentionally hilarious (Maddie's IM reduction of the Christian poem "Footprints"--"oh, no, my son. no, no, no. i was carrying u, don't u c?").
But Myracle's triumph in ttyl comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words: "SnowAngel: 'cuz--drumroll, please--ROB TYLER is in my french class!!! *breathes deeply, with hand to throbbing bosom* on friday we have to do "une dialogue" together. i get to ask for a bite of his hot dog.'"
Myracle already proved her command of teenage girl-ness with Kissing Kate, but the self-imposed convention of ttyl allows a subtlety that is even more brilliant. Parents might like reading the book just to quantify how out of touch they are, but teens will love the winning, satisfyingly dramatic tale of this tumultuous trio. (Ages 13 to 17) --Paul Hughes
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8-10-Three high school sophomores, lifelong best friends, are now facing a variety of emotional upsets in their personal and social lives. Angela is boy crazy and emotive, but able to lend support to her friends when they need it. Zoe is the quietest and most self-effacing, considered by some to be a goody two-shoes but in fact headed full speed into a very dangerous relationship. Madigan is the hothead, less certain of how to grow up than she allows anyone, including herself, to see. The entire narrative is composed of the instant messages sent among these three, from September into November, as they each get involved with dating, sort out how to have friendships with others, cope with disasters that range from wardrobe issues to getting drunk, and offer one another advice and defiance. Each character's voice is fully realized and wonderfully realistic in spite of the very limiting scope of the IM device. Page layout mimics a computer screen and each girl IMs in a different font and in her own unique verbal style. (The title is IM jargon for "talk to you later"). Myracle not only sustains all this but also offers readers some meaty-and genuine-issues. Both revealing and innovative, this novel will inspire teens to pass it to their friends and will suggest to nascent writers that experimenting with nonnarrative communication can be a great way to tell a story.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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