I had a lovely and leisurely lunch with author Jenny Moss before heading off to San Diego. She brought me a copy of TAKING OFF. I brought my copy of SHADOW. Now, I have two autographed books! We talked about books (really?) and authors we admire and how to handle folks who post negative stuff online without thinking (literally, sometimes, I think the anonymity of the various online forums permit give some folks license to post careless comments; someone posted a less-than-enthusiastic review of one of my books with the comment that they had not finished reading it yet). Jenny shared a stanza of poetry from Edna St. Vincent Millay with me that has me wanting to do back and read more of her poems. We shared our passion for classics and contemporary books.
So, I picked up TAKING OFF (Bloomsbury 2011) and headed off into the wild blue yonder of Clear Lake, home of NASA, and the 1980s, era of big hair and shoulder pads and other fashion disasters. It is also the home of Annie, a teen who is unsure about her future. She loves writing poetry, but that is not something that mirrors the plans her mother or boyfriend or best friend have for her. Her mother wants her to apply to college as does her best friend (specifically UT so they can be together). Her long-time boyfriend might be thinking about more serious commitments. And then Annie meets Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe's confidence and her friendliness inspire Annie. She might just be ready to take some risks with her future and her dreams. <6>
Moss recreates the 80s, a very different time here in Texas (I have been here since the mid-70s) without weighing down the narrative with details that are not necessary (and would that not be an interesting activity for an English class: how much detail is needed to convey a different time?). Not only is Annie a well developed character, the adults also are fully realized. As we mark the 25th anniversary of The Challenger disaster, here is a story that subtly reveals how history is alive and well in all of us today. McAuliffe's legacy lives on, not just in Annie in the novel, but in all who hold on to a dream and see it through.