Second, I'm happy to have found a book and a movie that are small scale. Anymore, it seems like a story has to be epic-sized: a family in the midst of The Great War, teenagers battling fatal cancer, civilization at the edge of nanopocalypse, or the zombie apocalypse, or the Khan-apocalypse. I like giant epic explody stories as much as the next person, but frankly ... I'm a little burned out. So it was very nice to find two quiet little stories in which most of the action is inside the human heart.
One is a book:
The other is a movie:
They can both be classified as Young Adult, or coming-of-age, or bildungsroman (if you want to be fancy), but they are certainly not just for teenagers. My husband is actually the one who alerted me to Daniel Handler's little gem of a novel, which I'd bought as a Kindle daily deal and promptly forgot about. He wanted something quick to listen to on the way home and the Kindle book had Audible narration attached to it. Although his normal fare is Wittgenstein, Richard Rhodes, or Shelby Foote, he very much enjoyed this short novel. My son listened to the book next, and then my daughter and I both read it. It is just what the title indicates: a post-breakup analysis. It's told from the point of view of the teenage girl doing the breaking up ("I am dumping this box on the porch, Ed, but it is you, Ed, who is getting dumped."), a narrative trick which is always a feat for a grown man to pull off. Not since Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone has a guy so artfully captured a girl's POV. It's also hilarious, which will come as no surprise to those who enjoyed Handler's work as Lemony Snicket.
Similarly hilarious and heartfelt is The Kings of Summer. I found it as we were flipping through Amazon's movies for streaming, and remembered that Suze had pre-recommended it. (Suze, you will have to help me out here: I can't remember if you saw the trailer and knew it was a winner, or if you read a good review of it, or what; but I do remember you were keen on it for some reason.) It's about two boys who get totally sick of their lame parents and run away to live free and wild in the forest. (The third boy is an oddball who tags along, mostly for comic relief.) It is not meant to be realistic: a trio of skinny boys are not going to be able to build a functional home in a few days, one located in a clearing walking distance from civilization yet somehow totally unfindable by worried adults. But once you suspend your disbelief, you'll thoroughly enjoy this modern-day Tom Sawyer fantasy.
I'll probably talk more about these two stories in my next Writing Sisterhood post, after our January break, but for now I'll just leave it at this: some critics of these stories are giving them low ratings for "low stakes." But we forget that stories don't always have to be propelled forward by OMG-we're-gonna-die scenarios. It takes a good storyteller to craft momentum out of everyday stakes, and these two stories do exactly that.