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THE VERY ORDERED EXISTENCE OF MERILEE MARVELOUS by Suzanne Crowley

THE VERY ORDERED EXISTENCE OF MERILEE MARVELOUS

By Suzanne Crowley

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-06-123197-1
Publisher: Greenwillow/HarperCollins

Crowley’s debut is a slow-cooked homage to small-town eccentricity and ritual. Thirteen-year-old Merilee rarely speaks but collects her town’s secrets and “hold[s] every sad thing there ever was in the palm of [her] hand.” Her VOE (“Very Ordered Existence”) includes exact schedules, elective daily litter pickup and avoidance of touch, but the overheard word “asparagus” is the only label of her rites and rigidity. Two separate strangers, a former nurse and a lonely disabled child sweep into town and disrupt Merilee’s routine. The story meanders sweetly, sometimes including excessive backstory of the town’s oddballs, and may drag for readers seeking a fast plot. A terrible change that Merilee refers to at the beginning is far from jolting and functions more as a slow sense of impending doom rather than a single moment of chaos. Crowley’s pleasantly smooth prose creates an overall tenderness despite Merilee’s personal need for distance. The dénouement is emotionally implausible but amiable, with a gentle touch of magical realism. (Fiction. 10-14)