Friday, August 05, 2005

Ellen Emerson White

Ellen Emerson White is a great YA writer who had poor timing. She is up there with Meg Cabot and Sarah Dessen. Her books are wonderfully plotted; the characters are those I expect to see on the street, in the library, next door; and the dialogue.... I would kill to write dialogue as witty and funny and realistic. But, EEW was publishing her YA stuff back when I was a YA, and somehow her work is overlooked. Out of print. And, sadly for me, her current work is either children's or grade school level.

EEW is worth tracking down, whether in libraries or used bookstores. I hope that sometime soon she starts writing YA again.

My recommendations: Friends for Life and Life Without Friends. In FFL, Susan returns home to Boston for high school, eager to be reunited with her old friends Colleen and Patrick. Then Colleen dies in a drug overdose, and no-one believes Susan's insistence that it had to be murder. A tightly plotted murder mystery. LWF is a companion book; the main character is Beverly, whose life sucks... in part because she was involved with the wild group of kids who were involved with Colleen's death in FFL. In LWF, a person who has made mistakes realizes that everyone is entitled to a second chance.

The President's Daughter, White House Autumn and Long Live the Queen! are about my favorite EEW character, Meghan Powers. In the first book, Meg's mother, a senator, decides to run for President. And wins. TPD follow's Meg's trials and tribulations of being the daughter of a presidential candidate -- and then the president. The first female president of the US. In the second book, Meg's mother survives and assassination attempt; in the third, Meg is kidnapped by terrorists. While all three deal with sensational topics, what makes these books so great is EEW's ear for believable dialogue. Meg & her younger brothers argue like real life siblings. Some things are dated: Meg's love of TaB, Joan Jett and Hillstreet Blues. One plot running through all three books is Meg's relationship with her mother. Mom is not condemned for being the ultimate working mother; but at the same time, the demands of Mom's "job" and the impact on her family are neither ignored or trivialized.

Romance is a Wonderful Thing is a standalone book about good girl Trish and bad boy Colin. I heart Colin.

The Road Home is very similar to China Beach: Army Nurse Rebecca is finishing her tour of duty in Vietnam. TRH follows Rebecca from Vietnam back home, as she tries to adjust and her friends and family fail to understand what she's gone through. I didn't realize it at the time, but TRH is a sequel of sorts to 4 books EEW wrote under a different name (more below). While Meg may be my favorite EEW character, TRH is my favorite EEW book.

The 4 "other" books are the Echo Company books, following a group of soldiers trying to survive in Vietnam. One book introduces Rebecca from TRH. I've only been able to read 2 of the 4. Published under the name Zack Emerson, they are: Welcome to Echo Company; Hill 568; Tis the Season; and Stand Down. You do not have to read these 4 to read TRH; but these are good books, about teenagers trying to survive a war, the intensity of friendships, the everyday dangers.

Edited to add: while trying to find some information online about EEW I found blog entries by other fans: a great blog entry here, and another here and news of A NEW MEG BOOK (yes I had to shout that one.) Can anyone confirm the new books?


eliza said...

Hi Liz, I saw that you'd linked to my old entry about Ellen Emerson White in my stats and thought I'd follow up. Apparently my entry turned up in a search that EEW did, and she dropped me an e-mail in October of 2003 saying that she was working hard on a sequel to Long Live the Queen and that it was a long and ambitious adult book. Needless to say, I was thrilled both to receive the e-mail and to learn she was writing about Meg again. I have not heard anything about it since then, but I sure hope it's true.

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz,
Supposedly, yes. Like Eliza, I had gotten an email from Ellen Emerson White, only it was in response to a review I'd written on Amazon about one of her books. We emailed back and forth a couple of times this spring, and at that time, she did confirm that a new sequel would be coming soon. Joanna (