Franco, B. (2009). Metamorphosis Junior Year. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Appetizer: During his junior year, Ovid begins reading the myths recorded by his namesake. He begins seeing his own life and friends as characters from Greek myth and he records his observations in illustrations, narratives and poems in his journal. He's also working to express himself in other art forms, like sculpture. And he definitely needs the way to express himself ever since something happened to his sister and Ovid's parents began micromanaging his life.
One of my favorite aspects of this novella was Ovid's hopes for getting a girlfriend. Early on he writes that he could use an intervention from the gods. Venus though, because he doesn't trust Cupid (p. 14). Then, after two different people do hit on him in his sculpting class, Ovid figures it is Cupids doing since "by sending me a man and an older woman--'cause he probably got word I was interested in this girl at Lambert" (p. 31). I was entertained.
Of course, many of the other references to myth have darker nuances, but that still present issues that will be very relevant to teens. The Icarus-type-girl is getting high too often. The Narcissus-type-guy has a beautiful face, but cuts himself. Another of Ovid's friends has an eating disorder, another has been raped by a family member and on and on. With all the references to myth, I was strongly reminded of the poems in Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block. In fact, you could probably declare Metamorphosis: Junior Year to be the "guy version."
With each chapter averaging two pages, the occasional poem that leaves a lot of space on the page, the illustrations and the fact that the book is only 114 pages, this story is a very quick read. It could also draw in a lot of reluctant teen readers who wouldn't normally give a full novel a chance. But having said that, this novella includes a lot of gaps in the text, things the reader is left to imply and references to Greek myth. Both of these could be discouraging. Personally, I also had trouble keeping all of Ovid's friends straight. I had to make a list of their names and note what their primary problem was to keep them straight. But then, I've always been bad with names.
Metamorphosis: Junior Year would be awesome to pair with some of Ovid's myths or The Metamorphosis. And since the book is so short, it's an easy pair. As opposed to Going Bovine with Don Quixote, which together would send most students running.
"So here I am in my room with this notebook I got for drawing, and now I'm writing in it, too. In a desperate attempt to retrieve my sanity from the trash. There better be some god of journals and blogs who cares about what I'm saying, or I'm screwed" (p. 3).
"Would things be different or better with me now if my parents had given me a normal name? Probably not. My name can't be what's screwing me up, because I've had it my whole life...and it wasn't till the family crisis that I wrote Is life worth living? on the bills in my wallet" (p. 7).
"Bottom line, I could really use an intervention from the gods--Venus, to be exact. I don't trust Cupid" (p. 14).
"Thena was center stage
in her own tragedy
of mythical proportions
and I didn't have much of a part to play.
I was mostly backstage, wishing, wanting
to go back to Act I.
Missing her" (p. 42).
Tasty Rating: !!!