Last December Paperback – Dec 29 2009
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- Publisher : Penguin Canada (Dec 29 2009)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 160 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143170295
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143170297
- Item Weight : 181 g
- Dimensions : 13.46 x 1.27 x 21.08 cm
Best Sellers Rank:
#1,423,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #13,709 in Canadian Literature (Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Quill & Quire
Authenticity of voice is one of the key components of a successful YA novel. Attuned as they are to the minute linguistic shifts of their all-important peer groups, young readers will spot a misused “dude” or “chill” or song lyric and toss the book aside without a second thought.
If voice were the sole criterion for YA fiction success, Matt Beam’s novel Last December would be an early candidate for book of the year. (Beam’s photographic picture book collaboration with Joanne Schwartz, City Alphabet, was a Q&Q book of the year for 2009.) The first-person narrative, told by 15-year-old hockey-goalie wannabe Steven, is pitch-perfect in its vocabulary and serpentine, bizarrely lyrical sentences and dialogue: “I used to think that the big soft snowflakes made the outside warmer, because that’s kind of the way it feels, but Mr. Davis told us once that warm air holds more moisture, which is a dorky scientific word that means ‘water’...”
Steven has a new high school and a crippling crush to deal with, plus his unlucky-in-love mother is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child and needs her only son to start being the man of the house. When Steven befriends the charismatic Byron, a deeply troubled older boy who draws Zen life lessons from video games, readers are set up for a very “inside” look at coming to terms with responsibility, friendship, sex, and individuality.
That Beam chooses to subvert a few of the coming of age genre’s often rigid narrative conventions works in the book’s favour. More problematic is the novel’s over-reliance on Steven’s unique voice to achieve its effects. The book is cast as a long, rambling letter to Steven’s unborn sister; its manic tone hints that it may be a suicide note explaining the boy’s reasons for saying goodbye.
Unfortunately, the story Steven tells is not exactly rich in incident or tension. And Byron, whose own struggles are meant to trigger Steven’s descent, is never developed into a major character. Indeed, few of the other cast members really shine through the fog of the narrator’s realistic, but at times overwhelming, self-absorption.
Even teen readers can get too much of a good thing.
“Matt Beam has established himself as an insightful chronicler of the adolescent male experience.” - Canadian Children’s Book News
“The contrivance of the novel-as story, ‘letter or whatever’—works brilliantly, because Steven is an intelligent, likable character with an utterly fresh and original voice.” - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Beam offers a quiet, accurate, fully sketched portrait of an adolescent male facing life’s challenges.” - Booklist
“Author Matt Beam is able to portray the hopes and fears of an adolescent boy with both accuracy and empathy and leads Steven and the reader through this emotional labyrinth to a satisfying conclusion.” - CM Magazine
“Matt Beam has done an excellent job capturing the uncertainty and turmoil of adolescence. […] Beam blends humorous situations with highly dramatic and emotionally powerful moments, and he creates suspense that builds until the very last pages, urging his audience to read on.” - ALAN Online
“The narrative's combination of raw language and poetic insight rings true.” - The Horn Book Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Books
“The style of writing is right on mark; all teenagers will be able to identify with what Steven is going through and sometimes, perhaps, that is all a reader might need to realize that what they are going through is normal as well.” - Children's Literature
“The author skillfully weaves Steven’s journey from hopelessness to acceptance of circumstances […]. This title will be great for bibliotherapy with students who are experiencing multiple stresses in their adolescent lives.” - Library Media Connection
Top review from Canada
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Steven's dad died when Steven was only one. He doesn't know a thing about him. Now, about to have a little sister who also won't know her dad, he sets about trying to explain things to her. He begins to write Sam a letter. He's not sure when or if she will ever read it, but he writes about everything that's happened to them last December.
There was the new high school and Steven's desire to be part of the hockey team. There was a fight with a group of skinheads and the threat that they might come back for more. There was the irresistible Jenny and new best friend, Trevor, who got Steven involved in the high school social scene. There was Byron, the Ms. Pac-Man playing stranger, who always seemed to show up at the Donut Hole. All of these are intertwined in Steven's letter, along with the stress and pressure of being the man in the family for his pregnant mother and his soon-to-be little sister.
LAST DECEMBER describes Steven's struggle to adapt to the normal ups and downs of being a teen at the same time he comes to terms with being there for a mother about to become a single mother of two children. Using the concept of a letter, author Matt Beam takes his readers directly into Steven's thoughts as he attempts to provide history and guidance for his unborn sister.
Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"