Daily Archives: August 28, 2008

Alive and Well in Prague, New York

The lovely Daphne Grab, of The Longstockings and Class of 2k8 fame, so kindly sent me one of her final ARCs ages ago. I’ve been really eager to read this book for months, and I saved it to the very end of my holiday so that it could be my last summer read.

Here is a charming and tender book, from beginning to end. It’s about making sacrifices for family, facing scary emotions and situations, and knowing who you are. I loved it and I hope it finds many readers. Matisse Osgood is a New York City girl, through and through. So when her family makes the move to a very small town upstate, she is none to pleased about it. What could Hickstown USA possibly have to offer a cultured city chick such as Matisse? At first, Prague is about as dismal a place as Matisse had anticipated, complete with catty cheerleaders, lame pep-rallies and an apparent over-appreciation of apples. Combine this with the reason the family left Manhattan to begin with, Matisse’s sculptor father’s serious illness, and it’s not looking like Prague, New York is going to be anything but awful. As it turns out, cool is lurking in Prague after all, and it’s only a matter of time before Matisse finds it.

One of the best aspects of this book is Matisse. You’ll admire her confidence in herself, in the ways that she’s different in her interests from the typical high school kid. I liked how she’s a believable and interesting mix of strength and fragility, as she moves through the toughness of day-to-day life with a sick parent, loving her dad so much and almost being afraid to love him all at once. The whole novel just felt really honest and natural. I like putting a YA book down and feeling like the central character has figured a lot out, but not in a way that seemed forced or contrived. You’ll find that here.

At its core, Alive and Well in Prague, New York is about being open to people, those we already love, and those we barely know, and how hard this can be especially when judging others feels so easy and safe. For such a slim book, there’s a lot to think about in Daphne Grab’s first novel. I’m excited to see what she’s working on next.

Check out this lovely trailer. I think it captures a lot of the spirit of the story (then read the book!):