Monday, September 17, 2007

Edenville Owls

Robert B. Parker's Edenville Owls might be marketed as a teen novel, but it's one that any fans of Parker's Spenser books will want to pick up. Not only is the character of Spenser foreshadowed in this, but as in many of Parker's books, there are traces of Parker's own life.

Bobby Murphy, the narrator, is starting eighth grade in the fall of 1945, after Roosevelt's death and the end of the war, when it seems to be a whole new world. Together with four friends, Bobby had formed a basketball team, the Edenville Owls. The five hung around together, played basketball without a coach, and became known around town as the Owls. They were already known to their new English teacher, Miss Delaney, a woman they all admire.

Bobby sometimes acts as a smart aleck, but it's actually to cover up how smart he is. His friend, Joanie, sees through him. They've been friends since they were three, and they still are friends. Bobby can talk to her when he can't talk to anyone else. He tells her about a stranger who argued with Miss Delaney, and his feeling the man hits her. Together, they hatch a scheme to find out Miss Delaney's connection to the man.

At the same time, Bobby and the Owls have found out how bad they are as a team. Bobby spends time observing other teams, so he and the Owls can change their techniques. Throughout the book, the team takes on teams that should beat them, but Bobby can "figure things out."

The one thing he has a hard time with is his feelings about Joanie. She's one of his best friends, but she's an attractive girl, and he's jealous when his friend Nick goes to a dance with her. Joanie is wise beyond her years, though, and she talks things through with him.

Edenville Owls is an interesting mystery, however for Parker fans, it's intriguing. Is Joanie modeled on his wife Joan, the woman he's known since childhood? Miss Delaney attended Colby College, just as Parker and Joan did. Bobby tells Joanie he wants to be a writer. In his comments that he wants to be honorable, like Philip Marlowe, the reader can see the beginnings of Spenser.

It might be marketed as a teen novel. I'm not sure teens would appreciate the details about life in the 40s, the way Parker's adult readers would. Bobby seems to be a young Spenser, and Joanie a young Susan. Spenser fans will want to check out this book.

Edenville Owls by Robert B. Parker. The Penguin Group, ©2007, ISBN 978-9-399-24656-2 (hardcover), 194p.

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