“Read Books.” The handcrafted plaque that hangs above my desk is constant reminder of the satisfaction and pleasure a great – and even good – book delivers. As to be expected and embraced, a slew of YA books are being released on what it is like to be a “Digital Daughter,” to grow up in our fast-paced, always-on and often challenging technology culture. So, I am thrilled to announce that Our Digital Daughters has been asked to write book reviews. And, Maia Farina, DD Ambassador and owner of Instagram account @fanasticbooks, has offered to add her insight and wisdom.
Be it on Kindle, Nook or my preferred ink-on-paper, there is nothing like a well-crafted story to illuminate and bridge understanding of our digital culture, our relationships and our changing times. Oh yeah, and it’s fun too:-).
Today’s review is of YA Novel Edna in the Desert by Maddy Lederman.
Drive-in movie theatres are romantic, iconic and offer a screen like no other. In Edna in the Desert, by Maddy Lederman, the drive-in sets a sweet scene and a dramatic contrast for 13-year-old troublemaking, narcissistic and cellphone-addicted Edna:
“Edna’s stay in the desert had established the longest time she’d gone in her life without looking at a screen. This one was framed by the windshield from inside the jeep and suspended in front of the stars.”
Yes, this is a coming of age YA novel about young love and first kisses, but more poignantly, Edna in the Desert tells a timely story of the importance of empathy in the age of cellphones and social media. It looks at our screen-obsessed kids and what is at risk when meaningful human contact and face-to-face interaction becomes secondary to a smart device that becomes their third limb, mirror and hiding place.
When we first meet Edna, her harried parents are driving her away from her posh life in Los Angeles to her grandparents’ remote cabin in the desert. Banished to live in Dream Valley for the summer, “where the best thing to do is daydream,” Edna has no Internet connection and no semblance of her accustomed cushy lifestyle. Edna is faced with long empty days where she must cope with a list of chores spelled out by her reticent and stern grandmother and her only entertainment are books about pioneer women of the Old West.
“In the real world, a million things would have happened in Edna’s day by nine. Many of them would have been texts.”
But then in a truly cliché but well-painted scene, Edna is saved by “the best-looking boy she’d ever seen.” According to Our Digital Daughter Ambassador Maia, “She complains a whole lot and it is very annoying to listen to, until luckily she meets a hot guy named Johnny who saves her when she walks into the desert to try to run away. Johnny is seventeen and the age gap turned me off a bit. But I did like the relationship between Edna and her grandma.”
The book turns, as do the pages, as you happily experience Edna’s life away from Twitter and Facebook where there are such things as unstructured time, a desert oasis and a drive-in. You root for her as her narcissism fades and you realize that only through learning empathy will she herself be worthy of love.