Guelph author writes to a younger market

By  Anna-Therese Pierlot, Youth Speak News
  • January 8, 2009
{mosimage}Hello, My Name is Emily by Joy Lynn Goddard (160 pages, 2008, paperback $14.95), Daredevils by Joy Lynn Goddard (178 pages, 2004, paperback $12.95), and Charlie’s Song by Joy Lynn Goddard (215 pages, 2007, paperback $15.95). All published by Chestnut Publishing Group.

Former journalist Joy Lynn Goddard turned her writing talent to producing fiction for a younger crowd. Goddard, a teacher at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Guelph, Ont., has published several books for children and young adults, the first three titled Hello, My Name is Emily, Daredevils and Charlie's Song. As in many coming-of-age books, Goddard has combined adventure with self-realization.

In Hello, My Name is Emily, she manages to bring attention to the problem of Internet stalkers while at the same time examining the complicated emotions of a young teenager searching for her biological mother. Goddard paints a realistic picture of a young girl’s attempt to find her place within her family and her life, providing a story that many at that age could identify with.

Goddard writes clearly and briefly, avoiding lengthy descriptions and sticking to the main plot, making the book pleasant and simple to read. The story grabs attention from the beginning and progresses quickly without leaving any lulls in the plot, and her tendency to end chapters with a cliffhanger makes it hard to put the book down. While the book is aimed mainly at “tweens”(about nine to 12 years) and young teenagers, the themes presented in this book reflect the issues of a teenage girl — not a young child — and are more appropriate for an older age group.

Some of the more mature scenes include moments of tension between Emily and her adoptive mother and an encounter with an Internet stalker. Hello, My Name is Emily is a page-turning, suspenseful story. Throughout the book there are a couple of mild romantic sub-plots to add interest to the main story, as Emily tries to understand her best friend Lizzie, who has recently gone “boy crazy” over a hockey player jock, and as she discovers that her own friendship with a boy named Alex might be turning into something more.

While none of the themes in the book reflect values that are specifically Catholic, it is definitely a “safer” read than many other “coming of age” books on the market, avoiding unnecessary exposure to “teenage” attitudes and sexual innuendo.

{sa 1410727645}Two other books by Goddard, Charlie’s Song and Daredevils, are also well-written and engaging stories, though neither have any indication of Catholic themes specifically, nor even God in general.

Daredevils tells the story of Lizzie, the only girl on the school hockey team, and her dreams of winning goalie of the year. As tension builds between Lizzie and her teammates, who treat her like dirt, and as she tries to adjust at home to the idea of a new stepfather and his “creepy” teenage daughter, Goddard addresses many issues including bullying, revenge, family instability and the danger of “dares.” Again, while advertised as a tween book, this is definitely for an older audience. The family situation at Lizzie’s home in particular is not exactly ideal (her mother, who is divorced, is planning to marry Pete, who is also divorced) and, while realistic, is not necessarily suitable reading material for anyone younger than 12 or 13.

Charlie’s Song focuses on Charlie, a young girl whose dreams are to become a singing star. When a Teen Idol singing competition comes to her school she thinks it’s a dream come true, but first she has to deal with complications at home, rumours and betrayal, even by her closest friends.

Goddard also brings out the sensitive issue of gambling and how Charlie’s mother’s addiction to the casino affects Charlie and her brother. The complicated emotions of a young girl are successfully portrayed as she struggles to deal with life in a one-parent home, be patient with her “slow” younger brother, and at the same time pursue her dream of winning Teen Idol.

A definite page-turner, Charlie’s Song is a fast-paced, suspenseful and at times exciting read. Goddard wastes no time with excessive description or explanation, sticking to the main plot and writing clearly and concisely.

As with the other two books, this story is not for the younger audience, due to mostly mature themes and some fairly intense sections, such as a potentially life-threatening run in with a dangerous gang. Of the three, Charlie’s Song is the most captivating, with Daredevils following in a close second. Hello, My Name is Emily is slightly less engaging, but may be the most appropriate for the younger age levels.

(Pierlot, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Morell Regional High School in Morell, P.E.I.)

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