I like novels, the longer and thicker the better, because I hate for them to end. For this reason, I don’t generally read short stories.
I had a pretty decent library of adolescent oriented material in my classroom when I taught grade 7 and 8. I looked for award-winning authors and popular writers of fiction and non-fiction, and tried to find something that would appeal to each class’s divergent interests and abilities.
One of the books I picked up was Traveling On into the Light by Martha Brooks. It had been chosen as A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and A Best Book for the Reluctant Young Adult Reader, among others. And yet it didn’t get read, not by the students, and not by me.
I have just finished reading it and realized what we all missed.
Traveling On into the Light is a collection of jewel-like stories. Martha Brooks is an amazing writer who uses words to paint tiny miniature scenes. Her careful portrayal of motive, character and setting is managed brilliantly. Her work is constructed in an almost Haiku-like perfection. I am in awe.
The stories feature protagonists in their mid- to late teens who are struggling with relationships, family and school. These aspects of life are the focus of most adolescents’ day to day lives.
My favorite story is “The Kindness of Strangers”. Laker, age 16, has become estranged from his family. His mother has chosen unwisely, and her new partner wants Laker gone. The resolution is neat, unexpected and perfectly fitting. And definitely not formulaic.
The actions and attitudes taken by the characters in each story help or hinder them in “traveling into the light” of self-realization.
These stories are best for high school-age readers. Adults would enjoy them too. Most young adolescents don’t have the experience.
I am sorry I waited so long. It is a book to be read and re-read.