Young Adult Novels by Norma Howe
Author of Novels and Stories for Young Adults

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Necessary Noise:
Stories About Our Families as They Really Are

Necessary Noise Editor: Michael Cart

Published by
HarperCollins Children's Books
June 2003

Book Description

Once upon a time that was not so very long ago, a family was described as a man, a woman, and their offspring. That was what families were. These ten stories talk about families the way they really are.

Siblings coping with their younger brother's overdose. A girl terrified of her older sister's dual personality. A boy trying to adjust to his life with two mothers. A father visiting his son on death row. These are stories of today's families -- fractured, blended, at risk, non-traditional, and some that are even still nuclear.

Noted anthologist Michael Cart asked celebrated young adult authors the question "What does 'family' mean today?" The ten stories in this anthology provide some illuminating -- and sometimes surprising -- answers. Here family is defined by the connections between all kinds of people -- and the necessary noise they make.


Gr. 9-12. Some of YA fiction's best voices are collected in this anthology of 11 stories about what it means, these days, to be in a family. The definition of that experience is complicated: in Walter Dean Myers' "Visitor," it encompasses a death-row meeting between father and son. In compiler Cart's "Sailing Away," it means two boys' friendship and romantic love for one another. Teens will relate to these varying visions and see themselves in the protagonists, even though in two of the best stories the central characters aren't even high-school students. Lois Lowry's hilarious and charming "Snowbound" stars a college freshman who has brought home her ne'er-do-well "minimalist" boyfriend (who, as part of his minimalism, does not wear underwear). Norma Howe's story features two college-age siblings (one of them married). But teens won't care, because Howe gets to the very heart of sibling rivalry and the difficulties of expressing (and, for that matter, feeling) familial love. Cart's informative introduction about the evolving family sets the tone for this first-rate collection, on the leading edge of YA fiction.
John Green Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Publishers Weekly
Each of the 11 original stories in this eclectic collection redefines the notion of family in 21st-century terms. Because premises, plots and writing styles vary tremendously, not all selections will hit home with all readers, but nearly everyone will be able to find someone familiar in the montage of colorful parents, siblings, aunts and uncles here. Facing the most unconventional end of the spectrum may be Rita Williams-Garcia's protagonist, Jason, who struggles to adjust to his parents' divorce and his mother's new lesbian partner. Walter Dean Myers's nameless father and son meet for the first time in 20 years-just before the son, now an inmate, is scheduled to be executed. Other selections, like Norma Howe's "Siskiyou Sloan and the Eye of the Giraffe" and Sonya Sones's story in verse, "Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde," focus on the more universal theme of sibling rivalry. Lois Lowry, Nikki Grimes and Joan Bauer are among the other authors represented. As with his previous collections (Love and Sex; Tomorrowland), Cart (who also contributes a selection) does a superior job arranging the narratives. Lighthearted pieces bookend grimmer tales, and the dramatic intensity smoothly rises and falls as the book progresses. Although some works strain to fit an up-to-date mold, this volume, as a whole, offers an honest, fair representation of families in and out of the mainstream. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

This latest collection of ten original short stories gathered by the editor of Love and Sex (Simon & Schuster, 2001/VOYA June 2001) and Tomorrowland: 10 Stories About the Future (Scholastic, 1999/VOYA December 1999) is a fully satisfying blend of humor and heartache, examining that most inescapable of human contrivances: family. Families and family-like relationships of all breeds are represented here, including extended-family eccentrics, sadistic siblings, estranged fathers, and brother-friends. Joan Bauer's Hardware opens with the promising, "They tried to drag Aunt Phil from the street," later qualifying, "But she was angry and she had a hammer." Visit by Walter Dean Myers describes the bittersweet reunion of a father with his son, now on death row. Three of the selections by authors Nikki Grimes, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sonya Sones are composed in free verse. Oates's A Family Illness is a grief-stricken conversation between a mother and her teenage son, who is afflicted with mental illness; and Sones's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde is an appealing tale of the older sister all readers love to hate. Snowbound, Lois Lowry's story of a family trapped indoors together, is certain to help all readers appreciate the escape of the outside world. This strong collection, with a variety of writing styles and voices, captures the push-pull relationships of young adults with the families that bind them. It is a great book to recommend to readers looking for a new favorite author, with its sampling of excellent writing, or for short-story fans who prefer a quick read with a lasting flavor. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High,defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, 256p - Diane Masla

School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-These short stories by recognized young adult authors are compelling examples of contemporary literature dealing with all types of family issues. The subject material varies from Walter Dean Myers's powerful description of a father visiting his son on death row to Lois Lowry's tale of a snowbound family reacting to a visit from their college-freshman daughter and her rude, unkempt boyfriend. All of the selections deal with contemporary situations and how these characters attempt to deal with whatever "family" means in their particular experience. Some of the families are fractured idealistically, some physically; yet all must find ways of coping. The stories are tight, characters are realistic, and situations are all too familiar for today's teens. Witnessing these characters as they resolve their problems will enable students to give voice to their own "necessary noise."-Susan Cooley, formerly at Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Cart's assemblage of disparate, original tales examines the indispensable--sometimes merely unavoidable--clamor and clatter of the first village. His longish introduction provides perspective on family life and the quirky power of family relationships. An odd assortment of relatives fights for its small-town family business in Joan Bauer's story, the lightest of the lot. In Norma Howe's, a skeptical young father stretches his imagination to admit his younger sister's religious view of the world. The terrors of families gone wrong are here, too: there is Sonya Sones's frightening look at a deeply angry and abusive teenager from the point of view of her principal victim--her younger sister. Joyce Carol Thomas's mother-son voices, in her account of a young man's schizophrenia, vibrate with hope. Six poems from Nikki Grimes retell a Bible story with contemporary echoes. Walter Dean Myers's narrator is a father in conversation with his long-estranged son, a young man who is in his final hour on death row. A strong, challenging collection by the best in the field. (Fiction. 13+)