Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Assignment: # 1 of three popular mass market fiction narratives
Publishing info: New York: Hyperion: c. 2003. 196 p.
Genre: Inspirational fiction
Grades: 10 and up.
Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, doesn’t appear to be a follow-up to Albom’s first novel, Tuesdays with Morrie, except in its sentimental language and delivery. Written almost as a parable, think John Steinbeck’s The Pearl, this novel, or more aptly novella, is about the life of an unremarkable man, amusement ride maintenance worker Eddie. His life takes on significant proportions when he dies on his 83rd birthday in rather spectacular fashion. While moving on to the hereafter, Eddie learns the purpose of his former life through the novel meeting of five people who have had some type of influence on his mortal life. The novel then goes on to illuminate the reader that lessons can be learned and applied to our own lives by what Eddie experiences. Personally, I am surprised by the amount of individuals, including young adults, who said they read this book and loved it. Definitely not one of my favorites, but at least I can discuss it in an informed manner. I doubt I would go out of my way to recommend this to high school students. However, if a student liked Tuesdays with Morrie, than this book should be a hit. The writing, although a bit saccharin, is not difficult by any means and may account for its extended time on the bestsellers list. What may prove useful to those who read it is Albom’s message that no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, or how insignificant our lives may appear, we are not isolated and our actions and the actions of others can make all the difference in the world. The book follows along the six degrees of separation popularity.
Chill Factor by Sandra Brown
Assignment: # 2 of three popular mass market fiction narratives
Publishing info.: New York: Simon Schuster: c2005. 338 p.
Genre: Romance, Mystery
Grades: 10 and up.
Sandra Brown has written a number of mysteries over the years that have been equally successful with the adult market, and have appeal with some young female adults. In this novel, Chill Factor, the main character, a recent divorcee, Lilly Martin is unknowingly at the mercy of a serial killer, Ben Tierney, after she quite literally runs into him when she loses control of her car during an ice storm. Lilly is returning to her Atlanta home after emptying her North Carolina mountain cabin she’d shared with her ex-husband of personal possessions. Distracted and exhausted following a heated argument with her ex-husband Dutch Burton, the local town’s chief of police, Lilly sets off on dangerous roads only to find herself hitting Ben Tierney who is walking along the road. Coincidentally, Tierney was stranded in the mountains after visiting one of many gravesites where he had left the bodies of young women he has killed over the last two years. Forced to return to her cabin with the injured Tierney, Lilly, is unaware that she is taking care of a serial killer who later becomes the focus of Chief Burton’s investigation into the disappearance of the five women. Stranded by the storm and their personal ailments, Lilly and Tierney are increasingly attracted to one another while in town a frustrated Chief Burton is trying to reach his ex-wife. The novel takes on more twists as Lilly begins to suspect Tierney as the serial killer, Blue, and her ex-husband realizes that her cabin mate is the suspected killer. Brown includes small town politics in an effective subplot that involves the abusive high school football coach, his son, a drunken sand truck driver, the FBI, a meddling pharmacist, and his extremely proper sister. Although the novel is marketed to adult women, I have had students in the past read Brown’s novels because of the skillful mix of a romantic thriller. If I had a large enough of budget to cover mass market fiction and nonfiction, I would purchase her work along with Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks and VC Andrews because of the amount of interest.
True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
Assignment: # 3 of three popular mass market fiction narratives
Publishing info.: New York: Warner Books: c2005. 464 p.
Genre: Romance, Contemporary fiction
Grades: 10 and up.
In Nicholas Spark’s novel, True Believer, a born skeptic and science journalist, New Yorker Jeremy Marsh, specializes in exposing frauds who prey on the innocent and misinformed. His most recent objective is to uncover the truth behind mysterious lights that appear in a decaying graveyard near the quaint town of Boone Creek, North Carolina at the invitation of local citizen, Doris McClellan, a diviner who also can predict the sex of unborn children. Curious and ready for a break from New York, Jeremy travels to Boone Creek and ends up falling for the local librarian, Lexie Darnell, the orphaned granddaughter of Doris McClellan, who he relies on for research materials. Unfortunately, Jeremy’s appearance and search into the graveyard’s mystery makes him the unwanted focus of the Mayor’s attention and effort to promote the lights for tourism. Romantic interest develops between big-city Jeremy and small-town Lexie despite their respective pasts and the efforts of a jealous would be boyfriend, local deputy Rodney Hopper. The novel is a bit predictable in its formula; the main characters fall in love, they break up, and finally and happily they reunite. All’s well that ends well. The novel has a subplot of misguided intentions both romantically and economically. This is a fairly easy read and bit too sweet and predictable for my tastes. However, one cannot ignore the popularity of Spark’s novels with men and women. I found myself having to bite my tongue when one of male colleagues shared how he really enjoyed Spark's work after I started to complain about “having to read” one of his books for the class. Who am I to judge? Just keep them reading.