On Chasing the Skip by Janci Patterson


*Heavy Spoilers (Visit Spoiler Ratings and Guidelines for ThinkyRead’s spoiler policy).

I can’t make up my mind with this book. I picked it up from Amazon after listening to Janci’s guest appearance on my favorite Podcast, Writing Excuses. The plot sounded interesting and I do like YA, so I gave it a try. However, as I said… I still don’t know how I feel about it.

Unlike a lot of YA I read, this one sounded really… young. I enjoyed Ricki’s voice and found her to be an interesting character. Her obsession with lists is fun and the way she reports on the world as though she’s writing an unbiased report introduced some really interesting and creative ways to tell the story. Ironically this was my favorite way to experience Ricki’s emotions.

What bothers me is this: As we will discuss on Wednesday, the protagonist in young adult fiction is often a couple years older than the target audience and either acts a little younger than they are or a little older. Ricki managed to act both.

Ricki and her Dad
Ricki’s story was interesting enough to pull me through from beginning to end, but it didn’t keep me from wishing, praying that she would just OPEN HER EYES and realize objectively (like a good reporter) everything her Dad is doing for her. Instead she’s constantly in denial.

Ricki and her father obviously have a rocky relationship. The poor girl wasn’t blessed with great parents, so I understand why she doesn’t trust him, or like him, or want him. I also understand why she felt like he didn’t want her around either.

Maybe I don’t exactly empathize with Ricki as well as I could have because I’ve known for every moment of all of my nineteen years that my parents love me more than just about anything else in this world. But not only does Ricki think her dad doesn’t want her, she tries to convince herself of that.

And that’s exactly what 15 year-olds do!

We all did it: “I’m 15 now, lived a long time, and know how the world works. Obviously, if point A is fact (My dad never cared enough to be in my life for 15 years) than point A is ALWAYS fact no matter what. Just because dad is showing interest now doesn’t mean he loves me or wants me. I don’t know what it means, but it can’t mean that.” It’s funny how that’s a completely normal thought process for kids. And it’s sad how very destructive it is.

Running to Destruction
Of course Ricki becomes enamored with the gorgeous, flirty, totally-using-you skip that her Dad catches. How easy to get her way when she acts up in the worst way possible?

At first I thought it was odd how easily Ricki let herself be swayed by this mysterious, very dangerous man, but then I got to thinking about myself.

I used to think that I could somehow control the world. I knew what I wanted and why I wanted it and made all sorts of plans for how I could “take control of my own life.” But I never had the guts to act on them. I never even had the guts that Ricki had to step out of line. But it’s what I wanted to do.

In that context, it makes complete sense why Ricki would run off with a strange, dangerous guy to get her way. She hates where she is and she’s not exactly thinking about the consequences. But what I like about Ricki is that she is always mindful of the consequences whether she realizes or not.

She’s 15 *Spoiler Warning*
As I mentioned earlier, Ricki doesn’t act her age. For most of the book she’s acting like a winy thirteen year old, moaning about her life, her dad, her boyfriend, or anything she can find to complain about. Sure, most of it was motivated by the unrest of living with her dad, but seriously, by the end as it became more and more obvious that her mom wasn’t coming back, could she stop!? Maybe her Dad was supposed to get annoyed with her, but the readers? I doubt it.

On the other hand, the scene with Ricki and Ian late in the book, just before the climax is NOT suited for 13 year olds to read. In my opinion it didn’t fit with Ricki’s mental maturity at all. This is where I feel she acts a couple years older than she is. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe Janci wanted to contrast her age and actual maturity. She does point out that Ricki was not ready for what this boy had in mind and maybe one point of the scene was to help Ricki to understand her own age.

Not to make anyone feel awkward, but I thought I’d point out that the scene gave off the “sex vibe.” Janci is good at sensory writing and reading it can make a person’s heart pound even though nothing actually happens. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

I wouldn’t mind handing my thirteen year old this book if it weren’t for the fear that my she would enjoy that scene enough to start looking for more of it at far too young an age. At thirteen kids don’t have such a great filter for that kind of thing and can easily get themselves in way over their heads way way too early. But maybe this is all just me.
*Spoiler Warning End*

This was an okay read, but I wouldn’t recommend it. My reasoning for that has little to do with the story and more to do with the content: The writing style and composition of the piece simply screams for 13-15-year-olds, but I wouldn’t hand it to my daughter until she was at least 16.

I didn’t find this book particularly deep as much as a stereotypical story told in a new setting. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and, from a writing standpoint there are still a lot of things to learn from it. Character quirks, for instance. Janci pulled those off really well.

One Last Thing *Spoiler warning*
My absolutely favorite thing about this book is that Ricki and Ian didn’t work out. This is what made it worth reading. Seeing a character stumble through a story like this, having all her actions lead her down the wrong path, then being redeemed by a father figure who was always watching out for her just made me happy.
*Spoiler Warning End*

Enjoyed this post? Support the blog by picking up a copy of Chasing the Skip by Janci Patterson from Amazon.com. I thank you. Your brain, which is increase in size with every word you read, will thank you too.

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