Spotlight On: Fine Lines

Those of you who are roughly between the ages of 20-30 and female and were the type of lonely child who dreamed about life on the frontier or tundra or shipwrecked beach more than whatever inane boy band on the cover of Bop!, those of you out there would be glad to learn about the healthy mix of nostalgia and faux-paintings of sad/exasperated/lovestruck teenagers that is "Fine Lines," Jezebel's back-from-hiatus column devoted to all things Young Adult.*

Written by Jezebel contributor Lizzie Skurnick (also, "Lizzie Skurnick"? Most adorable name ever. Whenever I read the column I imagine a smiley 80's style 12-year-old with big crimped hair, crushed neon socks in high tops, and a thousand bracelets), the column focuses on a different YA book a week (past selections include: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Jacob Have I Loved, and Homecoming). Lizzie breaks it down for the readers, usually in the kind of breathless excitement reserved for such things that you are unabashedly passionate about. And, between plot summaries and thoughtful character musings, Lizzie helpfully points out the details that make a book leap off the page and stick in your mind (stomach?).

Some might argue books like the Little House series and Julie of the Wolves would have been insti-classics regardless of the lavish descriptions of mud-packing and igloo-making, to which I say it is precisely this level of detail that, for me, tattoos these books on my heart. If you don't get hungry reading how Miyax, aka Julie, a 13-year-old who has run away on the Alaskan tundra, makes owlet stew, as "she sliced her birds into delicate strips and simmered them slowly and not too long. ... Then she drank the rich juices and popped the tender meat in her mouth," well, I just don't even want to know what kind of person that makes you.

These are the kind of books that make me imagine, seriously, where I can get a pig's tail and how to get it on a stick and roast it slowly while fighting over it with my (older, prettier--oh jealousy!) sister, a la Little House in the Big Woods. While in school we focused on plot development (the rise, the climax, the falling action), truly these were the things that made the books seem real to me (and is it any surprise that there is a whole collection of Little House-inspired cookbooks? I would do anything for one of Ma's homecooked Johnny Cakes on a cold winter morning).

Without getting too B.A. in Literature on you (finally found a use for it!), the food scenes often comprised pivotal moments in the characters' lives:
--Miyax uses the traditional Eskimo skills her father taught her to find and prepare food on the tundra, skills that, she later finds out, he has come to reject by the end of the book
--Sarah (of A Little Princess), reduced to poverty and hunger, uses the money she finds on the street to buy beautiful, sugary hot-cross buns and chooses instead to give them to a starving girl, thus learning an important lesson in charity, selflessness, and survival
--And Mary's (The Secret Garden) development as a person is handily charted by the growth of an appetite and her ability to appreciate healthy hunger and good, rich British porridge

I've listed the most foodie Fine Lines columns below, but they're all worth a read. And! If you do like them, Lizzie is currently penning a book based on the column, and you can sign up on a list to be alerted when the book is available. Until then, check out the column, set your tastebuds to "salivate" and lose yourself in the gluttonous magic of literature.

A Little Princess: Reversal of Four Buns
Julie of the Wolves: The Call of the Wild
The Secret Garden: Still No Idea What A Missel Thrush Is
Little House in the Big Woods: "I Play With A Pig Bladder Like It's A Balloon"

*At the risk of fueling gender stereotypes, I presume my male readers' knowledge of such golden stuff is woefully inadequate. It's not too late! I encourage you to raid your sisters' reading shelves, as the lessons gleamed from such strong women as Harriet the Spy and Dicey Tillerman would make anyone a better person.

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