Purple Daze – Sherry Shahan (2012, Running Press, Philadelphia)
Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a novel in verse – it couldn’t have been told any better any other way (plus, it’s pretty cool!). And don’t read anything else until you get your hands on Purple Daze – you NEED to read this now.
Set in the 1960s at the height of the Vietnam War, Purple Daze is the chronicle of the lives of a group of American teenagers: Ziggy, Mickey, Cheryl, Nancy, Don, and Philip. The friends are faced with the hell of war, the torture of high school, the uncertainty of the future and the turmoil of the era – the kind of emotional angst that kicks the reader in the stomach and then knees you when you’re down. These little poems and clippings from newspapers and documents of the day set the scene and deliver the goods in page-turning gut-checks – some of it is so funny you want to laugh until you cry, other times, you’re just crying. Purple Daze is an incredible lesson about a time that must not be forgotten – a must-read if your history is a bit rusty. My only caution is that while this is marketed as a YA novel, the language and content is a bit extreme and may not be suitable for younger readers. Although teenagers are the protagonists, I’d actually bump this up for a more adult readership.