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June 18, 2011

A sweet short story: The Gift of Joy

The Gift of Joy - Young Adult VersionThe Gift of Joy - Young Adult Version by Valerie Maarten
Published May 2011

Read June 2011

This is a sweet Christmas time story (though from the cover you wouldn't guess it). Joy is orphaned by domestic violence at the age of 6. Though her father never laid a hand on her, he isolated her and inflicted emotional injury that follow her into adulthood. Her one wish has been to have a protector, and not just any protector but the older boy across the street whom she watches from the window. Joy believes with all that she is that this one wish is what caused her world to come crashing down around her that fateful Christmas.

Gabe is the young man across the street and he lost his heart the day he hit the little girl across street with a snowball. Fear of the girl's father and the admonishments of his own parents to stay away from Joy has Gabe trying to forget the instant connection he felt with her. Now almost 20 years later, he is again home for Christmas and catches a glimpse of the girl next door. He can no longer deny what his heart has longed for.

The interactions between Gabe and Joy are enjoyable and sweet. Though I think I liked the chase a little more, it was satisfying when he caught her. I didn't read the the adult version so I am not sure what changes were made. I know a sex scene is cut. It obvious in the abrupt way the story jumps from foreplay to the afterglow. It made me feel like a page was missing. While I am happy not to have to read the sex details, I do believe there needed to be a smoother transition. Possibly there was more graphic violence in the adult version as there were a couple of times I felt there was reference made to something that happened, but it wasn't included.

There were a couple of plot holes that my realistic drama reading side wanted answers to. (How did she remain so isolated through school - at first I thought the tragedy had occurred when she was older, but when it was revealed it occurred when Joy is 6 this question kept nagging at me). Most of the time when I reminded myself it is a short story I could put the questions aside and enjoy the blossoming romance. Gabe is the shining knight that every girl wants, yet, he is totally a guy (clueless about the mind and heart of a woman).

I have always thought Young Adult as it refers to literature has been a bit of a misnomer. I remember when I first graduated from the children's section of my library. The next section was called Juvenile, but then we moved and we had access to a larger library. This is when the confusion started. I couldn't find the juvenile section. Turns out it was labeled Young Adult. But I wasn't an adult, I was in middle school. When I was in my 20s I was referred to as a young adult by society, but I no longer read in the young adult section.

This book brought up the questions of why we call it young adult fiction and what makes a story young adult. There is only passing references to sex and violence in The Gift of Joy. However, the main characters are in their early/mid-twenties. By society standards, they are young adults. Yet, I am not sure if this particular story would appeal to readers of young adult fiction (presumably middle and high school age kids).

Would it be better to refer to YA lit as juvenile literature? Does the age of the characters play a role in the classification or is it purely based on the plot? I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment.

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