Books: “The Scavenger”

April 7, 2018

She Was Nice to Mice coverIn 1977, I reviewed a book about Queen Elizabeth I, who was the British monarch from 1558 to 1603. It wasn’t the dense tome the topic might suggest, nor was it written by an historian.

This was a little book called She Was Nice to Mice, written two years earlier by Ally Sheedy, later a very successful actress, when she was 12 years old, and illustrated by her friend Jessica Ann Levy, who was 13.

The book, published first by McGraw-Hill and then in paperback by the Dell Publishing Company, was a fanciful look at the public and private life of the queen, told in the form of a memoir written by a mouse that lived in the palace. The discussion of Elizabeth’s relationship with the Earl of Essex, including a peek into the boudoir, has prompted a lot of lively discussion among readers.

J.L. Willow

J. L. Willow

This book came to mind recently as I was reading The Scavenger, a novel published last year by a high school junior who writes under the pen name J. L. Willow.

Willow, by her own account, has been a writer since she was six years old. I identify with that; I was the same way. I filled many notebooks with fiction, essays, and poetry while my mother good-naturedly encouraged me to “go outside.” I eventually went outside and took the notebook and pen with me. When I was 11, one of my elementary school teachers told me, “When it’s time for you to think about a career, you should seriously consider being a writer.” I’ve been a professional writer and editor for 53 years.

Because of my own experience, I am drawn to books written by young writers. When Willow told me in a chance meeting that she had written The Scavenger, I was eager to read it. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Scavenger 3The novel is the story of four people whose lives intersect amid a crisis in a New York City community that has experience the drug-overdose deaths of several young people—a circumstance that has prompted an active police investigation focused on the school. The four principal characters in the book play various roles in this drama, which involves a drug dealer and a troubled boy whom he inveigles into drawing teenagers into addiction.

Willow uses a engaging device to tell this story, devoting each chapter to a first-person narrative by one of these characters. Her storytelling is enhanced by the fact that she has a keen ear for everyday speech and the ability to convey it in the written word.

I’d like to be in my teens again and finding my way as a writer. I’ll content myself with following the literary career of this young artist.

The Scavenger is available from Amazon and as a Kindle download.




4 Responses to “Books: “The Scavenger””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    Funny how things work out. I wanted to major in English, and ended up being senior class poet, but everyone around me told me that English wasn’t practical and writing even less so. As a matter of fact, I had to call my high school to get a copy of the poem I wrote for graduation. I didn’t even keep a copy of it.

    I’d love to go back, too — if I could go back as the person I am now, things might take a different track.

    I’m just delighted that you were encouraged, and that this young woman’s being encouraged and achieving some success. Reading the reviews was quite entertaining; I’m going to have to read the book to see where on the spectrum I come down.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Ally Sheedy’s book was remarkably sophisticated for the work of a child. The business about her relationship with Essex generated some pretty heated debate among readers who posted reviews. As for me, I went through college bent on a career in radio, but I got diverted to print while I was in graduate school. If you were to go back as the person you are now, do you think you would have pursued poetry, fiction, non-fiction — all of the above?

      • shoreacres Says:

        Well, today I’m thinking about a small chapbook style collection of my etherees, but if I were to bestir myself to do a book, it would be a collection of essays. I have a title and a website, so perhaps I should get with it.

        Suffice it to say, when I grow up I’d love to be John McPhee. 🙂

      • shoreacres Says:

        It just occurred to me — I’ve never been drawn to fiction. The real world’s far too interesting.

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