Love As a Trick in the Head

Engle tends to make a common literary trope into a page-turner, because she is not afraid of the weird. The fish-out-of water scenario and deft prose in her 2013 debut work, Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Lightbrought to mind Mark Twain’s 1889 classic, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Part of that is the author’s early exposure to classics such as,
 Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, Joanna Spyri’s HeidiLewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and  The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I could go down the line with other examples, but suffice to say she draws readers toward the familiar then takes them to an odd place.

Metal Mouth, the newest novel, extends the trend into a dazzling fresh plot. Just about the time you think, I know what’s going to happen, you’ll be wrong. 

Engle’s main character, Mahlorie, rises out of a cascade of whiny, contemporary teen protagonists as a beacon.  Don’t misunderstand. The girl is confused and furious about her parents, schoolmates, life, love, and loneliness as anyone your are likely to hear in the hall at a local middle or high school. Her voice is as real and at times grating as  Rafe Katchadorian, the main character in James Patterson’s Middle School Series. 

 In fact, some readers might want to turn away by page 20.  Hint – read past page 50. The story twists from tedious to tense, and readers drop into suspense. Mahlorie gets braces, nearly dies in a lightning strike, and meets what might be a boyfriend, if he is real. She can hear him in her head. He hears her. They roll down the road to weird with an end that does not disappoint.

 How? Why? Read the novel. Young readers will want to know about how braces bring boys, or what Mahlorie does with the guy.  Read. The smooth prose, clever plot twists will snag  middle-schoolers.  Adult readers will marvel at how Engle so clearly channels teens. 

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I am a storyteller, author, editor, blogger, and retired university professor of Creative Writing. Now in Central Florida, I still teach every now and then, but write most of the time. Most recently, I poetry was featured in Mo Joe The Anthology. My last book, 10 Stories Down, a poetry collection published in September 2011, is inspired by several long-term stays in Beijing. Life and Other Things I Know: Poems, Essays and Short Stories (Elephant Eye Press, 1999), was the first. Throughout the years, the list expanded to include: African American Children's Stories: A Treasury of Tradition and Pride, Grandma Loves You: My First Treasury, African American Stories: My First Treasury, Like A Dry Land: A Soul's Journey through the Middle East and contributions to Take Two, They're Small, an anthology of poems, memoir, essay and fiction on food. My poetry, fiction and essays have also appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Washington Living, Upstate New Yorker, The Southern Quarterly, Reporter Magazine, Drylongso, Fyah, MentalSatin, Pinnacle Hill Review, Invisible Universe, Bridges, Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine, New Verse News, and UpandComing Magazine.

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