DISPLACEMENT by Thalia Chaltas


Age Range: 12 - 15
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In first-person free verse with halting rhythm, 17-year-old Vera narrates her sojourn in a tiny desert town she’s never seen and doesn’t know.

Vera wants to be someplace unfamiliar, someplace that doesn’t invoke her younger sister, who died in a drunken ocean swim, nor her older sister, who’s tried to replace their absent mother but seems aloof, so she hitch hikes to the desert and gets out at Garrett, where "nobody knows me." Despite her obvious grief, Vera’s voice doesn’t easily inspire sympathy. In a mostly abandoned mining town characterized by “scraping-the-bean-can / unapologetic / starkness,” Vera squats in a deserted house and scoffs at the two part-time jobs she finds (“It’s certainly not what my once best friend Rob / would have called ‘rocket surgery’ ”). Mercantile owner Tilly lisps, her pronunciations mercilessly spelled out: “He’th an artitht! / Bowlth, jugth, plateth, / thellth it all it all on the Internet.” Vera crushes on Lon, a businessman whose Indian identity is frequently reiterated: “I glare at him, / leaning forward / having dumped the heaviest words / directly onto his black-feathered Native head.” Lon doesn’t live up to Vera’s expectations (“Frickin’ noncommunicating-handsome-half-Hopi,” she stews), and the text casts him as bad guy; only Milo the ceramicist is truly likable here.

The verse’s irregular, faltering beat matches Vera’s defensive grief well, but Vera herself retains an unlikable air of entitlement even as she moves on from the desert and back into her real life. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: June 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-670-01199-5
Page count: 364pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2011


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