Point of View in *Futhermore*

Furthermore is a wonderful novel. Whimsy isn't my thing, or it wasn't, until I finished this tale in a flurry of turning pages, rapid heartbeats, and yes, even a salty tear or two. I'm even making a foolish attempt at imitating Mafi's prose style, I was so enamored with it. So go out and read this one right away. I'm telling you, it's awesome.

In particular, I loved Mafi's use of point of view, a first-person narrator looking back on the events of the story--in past tense. That said, 99% of the novel reads like third person omniscient because the narrator spends 99% of the time bouncing in and out of characters' heads. Mostly we're in close third with our heroin, Alice. But then we also spend a good amount of time occupying the brain of Oliver--her frenemy. And we even flit into the mind of some minor player a time or two. Often, though not always, chapter beginnings return the reader to the third omniscient and immerse them in a surreal setting that grows more layered throughout. It's like first, third limited, and third omniscient rolled into one.

This approach allows Mafi to shine in many ways. We get the lush, imaginative setting, incisive explications of her characters' emotional states, and her charming, conversational pronouncements to the reader. It provides an array of options for controlling pacing and the slow release of information crucial to enticing the reader forward. It's also key to guiding young readers through internal conflict as relationships change and the protagonists' quest increases in difficulty--we know what all the good guys are thinking, leaving our minds free to embrace the alluring entrapments of Furthermore. There are places where emotions are told in a violation of the "show-don't-tell" mantra, which just so happens to drive writers mad. (Okay, maybe it drives me mad; I hope you're okay with it.) But I think this is okay--it's freeing in fact. What narrator looking back on an adventure doesn't tell you how they felt?

Tahereh Mafi's Whimsy

I'm reading Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, and I'm struck by the lush descriptions opening each chapter, not to mention Mafi's first person asides. Check this out:

"The center of town was always a bit of a shock for Alice no matter how many times she'd wandered through, and I can't say I blame the girl. It was a bit of a shock at first glance. The endless sequence of bold buildings appeared to be shoved together in what was, apparently, a fine show of geometry well studied. Curves shook up and into straight lines, tops capped by triangle or dome or dollop of roof (depending on the storefront) while walls were textured by octagonal, triangular, and starlike tile work."

Where to begin with this description? It's whimsical, lovely, delicious. Her lyricism and tone make it easy to embrace a description of a setting Alice has walked through many, many times--with most writers I would be like, "Get to town already!" Not here.

I imagine the town as an assemblage of brightly-colored blocks and Play-Doh. The child who built it is insisting to the first-person narrator that her creation is as sound as any architect's blueprint as she presents it to us. But it's far more beautiful for the opposite reason. The first-person narrator is a loving mother speaking with a suppressed smile, a whimsical touch that makes this passage all the more intoxicating.

Alive!

After many moons, my blog lives! I'm reviving this sucker to write about books in the kids lit category. Posts will focus on craft in Middle Grade novels both realistic and SFF, though I might sneak in a YA now and again. And maybe just maybe, I might share my own struggles (whine and complain) as I revise my books with the hope that some of you will commiserate.

That said, my goals aren't entirely about you. I've got to nail down this market! Happy writing.