Click by Various Authors
Plot Summary: Click has a meandering narrative, allowing its characters and setting to travel and become fluid. However, the one constant is a friendly old man named Gee who is armed with amazing stories and a camera. Gee has made quite an impact on many individuals' lives including his own granddaughter Maggie. When Gee passes away, he leaves Maggie seven seashells from the oceans of all seven continents and gives her the task of throwing them all back. From there, the narrative switches to many different characters along the way. One is a young lady who thinks her father might be a fish. Another chapter chronicles the story behind a famous shot of Muhammad Ali. A few others follow Gee into tragic situations in which he must take pictures of victims of the atomic bomb and of the Communist regime. These all lead to a reintroduction to Maggie in the distant future when she has only one seashell left.
Critical Analysis: As it was advertised, Click is one story written by ten different authors with one chapter apiece. Without a strong driving theme, the story would be lost. Fortunately, the idea behind following a man with a camera is simple but open enough to allow for continuity in the story but creativity as well. The most thought-provoking chapters are the ones that explore who cameras truly capture. One particular story shows the power of photographs when a character photographs a shy and aloof young woman for an art showing. Once she sees the simultaneous beauty and sadness of these pictures, she seems to embrace a new life outlook.
Though it is an interesting idea, the format of Click has only a fifty percent success rate. Half of the time when I moved on to the next chapter, I lost the "flow" I get when reading and I had to get used to the next author's writing style. By the time I got acclimated, the chapter was over which was frustrating. I know it's too much to ask to have ten authors try and write similarly, but I feel more of an effort could have been made. While I was picturing a story more like a creative writing activity where one person leaves off a leading sentence and the next continues the story, Click instead felt like a series of loosely related vignettes.
My only other criticism is that Click occasionally felt a bit preachy. The proceeds of the book go to Amnesty International, which is great. However, I feel that a few of the authors took that idea a bit too far and wrote melodramatic and sappy stories designed to try and evoke emotion. Instead, they fall flat.
Reader's Annotation: Ten authors write a chapter apiece chronicling the fascinating life of Gee, a photographer who has quite literally been around the world.
Author Information: Some of the more recognizable names include Nick Hornby and Gregory Maguire. Though the former garnered the most attention for High Fidelity and the latter for Wicked, both of these authors have branched out into writing young adults novels as well. A few of the authors are award winners, including Margo Lanagan who won a Printz Honor for Black Juice and David Almond who won a Printz Award for Kit's Wilderness.
Source: the back of the book
Genre: ya realistic fiction/short stories
Curriculum Ties: The Taro story could be used to help understand foreign relations between the United States and Japan after the atomic bomb. It was a dramatic and controversial short story, so it'd be likely to spark discussion.
As previously mentioned, Click has a strong thematic presence throughout. It'd be a great literary example to teach the concept of a theme.
Booktalking Ideas: What is the power of a camera? Why does the young girl change when Jason takes pictures of her for the art show? How is Gee remembered via his pictures?
Reading Level: Grades 9 and up
Challenge Issues: N/A
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.
Why I included this title: The ten authors, one book idea piqued my interest. I figured teens might pick it up off the shelf for the same reason. I'm also a fan of Nick Hornby and Gregory Maguire's work, so I was curious to see their contributions. Finally, I wanted to include at least a few general fiction stories in my list.