ChaseR: A Novel in E-mails - Michael J. Rosen

Everyone in the country has mice, and they're everywhere, and there's no trapping in those little humane traps we used to set so you can drive the mice somewhere in the country to be free. WE'RE THE PLACE YOU DRIVE THEM TO!

Chase Riley just moved to the country from Columbus the summer after seventh grade. It's a very small farming community and he and his parents live on about 90 acres of land. Well, Chase is in for a bit of culture shock. For one, there's the seventeen-year cicadas, which are in full force when the family arrives that summer. Then there's all the hunters: Chase is shocked by what he sees as the bloodthirstiness of families and classmates he meets, and it only gets worse when one of his dogs gets shot and injured. The book is about many things, but mostly it's about coming to terms with living in a different place, being in a different culture, and if you know me then you know that's a pretty relevant topic.

The entire story is told through e-mails that Chase sends: to his friends back in Columbus, to his older sister in college, and so on. You don't get anybody else's responses, just Chase's outgoing messages. Sometimes there are personal messages; sometimes a few in a row to the same person. Sometimes he sends out an e-newsletter to his entire buddy list, like an early form of blogging. Of course, there have been other books told through correspondence (or text messages, or Facebook status messages) so this is not an entirely new concept. Still, it fits the character and the time period.

But the book was published in 2002, and the particulars of electronic communication have changed so much that I'm not sure young adult readers today would relate to ChaseR. Aside from concerns about hogging the phone line for dial-up, this is a world that is pre-cellphone, pre-iPod (he talks about tapes!), pre-Facebook. He does make some excuse about not having instant messaging. The book was written at a time when people still made ASCII art because e-mail only came in plain text and monospace fonts. It was a time before widespread blogging, before Twitter and Facebook meant that we're in constant contact with our friends, for good or ill.

So while I did enjoy the book, it seemed more like a period piece, something that could only have taken place at a particular point in history, unlike The Penderwicks, for example. I think it would be interesting to see what some of today's teenagers think of the book, particularly those around here—would they feel more of a bond to Chase or to his new neighbors?

Fed to jonathan's brain | February 15, 2010 | Comments (0)


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