Backlist to the Future: Blue Thread

A Hero for Adults Both Young and Not-So-Young

I still read young adult books. Maybe I’m not supposed to. I’m certainly not a young adult anymore. However, many young adult books tackle the same issues that adult fiction novels attempt to wrestle with; and usually, these issues are dealt with in a more honest and straightforward fashion than their adult fiction counterparts. I have also found the characters in young adult fiction to appeal to my sensibilities more. They are just as complex, but lack the bitterness and inability to commit that many “grown-up” novel characters express. Young adult characters are still allowed to be heroic. But don’t adults need heroes still, too?

As the second book in Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s Blue Thread series, Ninth Day, nears release, it seems only appropriate that we revisit the first book. Blue Thread first hit the shelves in February 2012 and won the Oregon Book Award in 2013 for young adult literature, and is nearing its second printing. Many would probably credit the success of this book to the protagonist of Blue Thread, Miriam Josefsohn. Her character commands every page with bravery, passion and intelligence. I certainly found myself rooting for her. Her focus in pursuing her dreams inspires me. Her dedication to justice chastises me.

Miriam is certainly not the only star of the novel, however. Each of Feldman’s characters are real people created out of ink and set onto paper. Tirtzah shows just as much bravery as Miriam does in much fewer pages, and each of her sisters has their own quirks, personalities, and convictions. To make the reader empathize with the protagonist is a mark of good writing. To make the reader engage emotionally with secondary characters is better than good. I was just as frustrated with Miriam’s parents as she was. I repeatedly wanted to argue with them, to maybe shake some sense into them, because Feldman had made me forget on some level these people were products of her imagination. That is truly beautifully developed characterization.

Of course, while Feldman’s characters make you care about the events recorded in Blue Thread, her historic and descriptive details make the setting believable and invite you to step into Miriam’s world of 1912. I especially appreciated the attention given to the field of publishing of that time period. Feldman spent some time in a vintage letterpress print shop while researching her novel, which shows in the smattering of technical jargon interspersed throughout the novel, as well as in the descriptions of ink, press, and how the printing staff worked. Partly I appreciated this for selfish reasons, as I am interested in the same areas of business as Miriam. But, even if you do not dream of a future owning a print shop, Feldman’s attention to her research lets you understand Miriam’s passion and, at least for the space of the novel, share in her dreams.

So, are you looking for a novel for a young adult that blends history and legend, adventures and relationships, and heroic bravery and human failure? Or do you need such a novel yourself? It is my bet you will find something in Blue Thread that will appeal to you, whether you’re sixteen or sixty-five.

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