Will a story told in believable first-person voice by a 75-year-old man truly strike a chord with a teen audience? The answer is yes, though it may be a smallish one.
Karl approaches the older man, an author, with a request. His new girlfriend, Fiorella, has tasked him with providing a series of written answers to questions she’s composed so that she can find out more about him. But Karl, an 18-year-old plumber who's no longer in school, is dyslexic; answering the questions is beyond him. Seeing something of himself in Karl, the author reluctantly agrees to help, but acquiring a good understanding of Karl is hard. Only slowly recovering from grief over his father’s death, the boy doesn’t like to talk about himself. The friendship the two form as Karl gradually gains knowledge of himself that isn’t based on the previous failures in his life is artfully, touchingly portrayed. It’s filtered through the fictional author’s aged point of view, which is punctuated with prostate issues and his own sorrow over the recent death of his wife. As Karl matures, the author also changes, finding a welcome release from his emotional pain. The storyteller’s unique perspective ultimately enhances the tale but also skews it to a more sophisticated group of readers.
This quietly understated performance captures the wistfulness of music in a minor key and is ultimately successful in its life-affirming message. (Fiction. 12 & up)