Message in a Bottle
Valerie Zenatti, trans. by Adriana Hunter
London, Bloomsbury, 2008. 157p
I'm finding that a lot of teen novels fit the bildingsroman category, telling the story of a young girl or boy as they live out their youth and grow into fully rounded adults. Message in a Bottle is no exception.
But there's a twist. This novel is set in Jerusalem and Gaza, documenting the correspondence between Tal and Naim. Following the explosion of a bomb near her home, Tal reaches out for help by sending a message in a bottle to the Gaza strip. She hopes to find a young teenage girl there, who, like Tal, is confused and shocked by the war between the Palestinians and Israelis. Instead, she finds a young man who is disillusioned by the middle east and angry at society. At first, he is rude to her, trying to crush her optimism; but he slowly opens up, as her honesty is impossible to resist.
I found this book to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I can never claim to understand what it must be like to be in the position of those like Tal and Naim, but Zenatti did a great job of trying to take me there. I think the most incredible thing is how easy it is to relate to Tal and Naim, despite their distance from the reality of teenage life in England.
All teenagers struggle to understand their place in the world, and growing up is a process of learning about yourself and others. Tal and Naim portray this perfectly, alongside the backdrop of conflict and death. As such, I hope this novel will make British teenagers realise how good they've got it.