The Compulsive Reader: Stranded by J.T. Dutton

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stranded by J.T. Dutton

Kelly Louise is not happy when her mother plucks her out of her city life in Des Moines and moves them to the tiny town of Heaven, Iowa to live with her judgmental grandmother and perfect cousin Natalie. Natalie relentlessly tattles on Kelly to their grandmother, and Kelly can't seem to make any friends in Heaven with the town's biggest drama on everyone's mind: the newborn infant abandoned in a cornfield. Kelly doesn't really care much about the tragedy, but she's about to find out that the baby has everything to do with their move, and will force her to make a decision that will change everything.

Stranded takes a very complex and tragic issue and looks at it from a different and unique perspective. Kelly Louise is a very different and interesting character who is bold and puts on a pretty fearless front, but can be a little grating in her search for attention and chafes at any form of restriction. She struggles with being seen as the "bad child" and with being compared with Natalie, who her grandmother considers perfect, an issue that adds plenty of drama to the novel. Dutton's characters are very multifaceted and layered, and no one is really as they appear at first, especially Kelly, Natalie, and boy-next-door Kenny Stockhausen, which just makes them all the more convincing. Dutton also does a very good job of playing out Kelly's confusion and frustration in the ways she acts out: setting things on fire, purposely upsetting her grandmother, and getting involved with Kenny. Though it may be hard for some readers to understand her, Kelly Louise is a fascinating character, and her narrative is never dull. Stranded is a sharp, thought-provoking book.

Cover Comments: This cover is nice enough on its own (I like the way the title is splayed sideways across the photo), but I feel that it really doesn't fit the book. The model on the cover doesn't really remind me of Kelly Louise, and she never really visited the field, and the book took place in winter...however, it is a decent cover, and I think it will intrigue readers.

ARC received from publisher.

By the way, if you live in the LP of Michigan, northern Ohio or northern Indiana, you should come out this weekend to the Borders (on Lohr Road) in Ann Arbor where J.T. Dutton will be signing with Kristina McBride (author of The Tension of Opposites). The signing is on Saturday, and if you are planning on coming, let me know! My email address is thecompulsivereader@gmail.com!

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