Unplug & Read Week is an annual event to encourage children and teenagers to back away from the “screens”—computers, tablets, smartphones, and television—and do something in the real world. This year’s event runs from April 29 to May 5, 2013.
In the hope that reading a book will be one of the real world activities chosen, Random House Children’s Publishing has made a video and sponsored a blog tour to feature some of the publisher’s latest titles. Although I too spend a shameful amount of my day in front of a screen (I’m now writing the first draft of my WIP in a notebook for reasons that I explain on my personal blog), I’ve signed on to be part of the tour. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Carolita Blythe’s debut YA novel Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl, which was a special treat for me because I actually lived in the same Brooklyn neighborhood at the time the novel takes place.
Set in the gritty streets just south of Prospect Park in 1984, Revenge of a Not-So-Pretty Girl portrays high school freshman Faye Andrews, who takes out her anger at her poverty, plain appearance, and abusive home situation on the popular girls at school. Outside school hours, she and two equally homely and troubled friends mug people for money and for fun. One winter afternoon she knocks down an elderly woman—reputed to be a famous and wealthy actress—while she and the friends are ransacking the woman’s apartment. When the woman does not get up, Faye begins to worry about “karma,” how her actions will affect the course of her life even though she and her friends escape unpunished. In fact, nothing goes right for her after the incident—she has a big fight with her friends, her estranged father moves away for good, and the boy she likes humiliates her. Faye decides to make good by returning to the apartment to see if the old woman is still alive.
If Faye’s life doesn’t magically improve as a result of her first act of decency, she does gain a new perspective on herself and those around her. This is an important and powerful story, and above all, it is real. Yes, real—like the real world we’re going to experience once we step away from all those screens. The author, who was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States, captures the language and the popular culture of her African-American and West Indian characters. Those interested in film history will appreciate the snippets of information from the elderly actress’s life because it’s not something that one would find in a textbook or see on TV today—but imagine a tabloid from a century ago, and it would have been there.
Here’s a link to the Unplug & Read video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsbhj6_ha94&list=UU9LvODN4v9P3dxwOIYlBULA&index=1