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PURPLE DAZE by Sherry Shahan


by Sherry Shahan

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: March 22nd, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7624-4071-9
Publisher: Running Press Teens

As leading-edge baby boomers turn 65, this novel in verse tracks their coming of age in 1965, a year marked by social and political unrest, racial violence and the official onset of the second-longest war in U.S. history. Readers’ guides are six white, working-class, suburban Los Angeles teens—Ziggy, Cheryl and Nancy, paired with Mickey, Don and Phil—fearing and longing for change to rock their world. Soon Phil receives his draft notice and joins the Marine Corps; Mickey joins the Navy to escape an alcoholic single dad and dead-end future; opportunist Don watches from the sidelines. Left adrift and dissatisfied, the girls start to break free of the passive role assigned to them. A kind English teacher (readers will notice parallels to Nikki Grimes’s Bronx Masquerade, 2001) helps Ziggy find her footing; Nancy discovers the anti-war and feminist movements. Interspersed with historical tidbits and individuals—recent Vietnam history, civil rights struggles, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr.—this loosely chronological collage is most effective in the letters Phil, mired in Vietnam, sends to Cheryl. Because they don’t affect the characters directly, other historical events depicted—civil rights especially—have little impact. Nonetheless, a valuable, vivid snapshot of how Vietnam shaped a generation. (historical timeline) (Historical fiction. 14 & up)