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May Day Mine
Life in a small mining town can be like living in a fishbowl—with everyone knowing everybody else's business. Fifteen-year-old Jodi's mother wants her father to quit his binge-drinking and his dangerous job at the mine—even more so after a collapse leaves two miners dead and three trapped deep underground.
As tensions escalate both at home and around the town, Jodi seeks comfort with her friends, but soon faces a double betrayal. Meanwhile, her ten-year-old brother Jake reacts by joining a gang of schoolyard bullies who engage in increasingly dangerous antics.
As Jodi struggles to gain autonomy over her life, she begins to discover the person she really is. But with everything around her spiralling out of control, it may not be the right time to let her family, friends, and ultimately the whole town know—no matter how much she wants to.
For many young people today, sitting down and reading a book can be challenging. I don’t mean to suggest that we have shorter attention spans now or that our brains don’t function as well, but being caught in the hectic routine of school and homework can be a very effective distraction. This is made even worse by technology, meaning that even at home you’re still connected to the rest of your life (Not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that you can never fully get away from other aspects of your life). So coming across a book that is not only clear and entertaining, but that also contains an important message, is quite an occasion.
May Day Mine by Verity Croker is one such book. It focuses on 15 year old Jodi, growing up in a small mining town ‘where everyone knows everyone else’. When there is an accident in the mine and the relationships between her and her friends and family are tested, it becomes even harder for Jodi to come into her own and to accept who she is.
Verity clearly understands people, and manages to convey the characters thoughts and feelings completely genuinely. For many reasons, May Day Mine stands out from other books aimed at young adults.
One of these is its complete lack of pretension. Sure, it is aimed at teenagers but it isn’t the sort of material that is often marketed to be popular with that age group. The characters were ‘real’ and this was what made it so relatable, not like the characters in some young adult books that are written to seem ‘cool’. It was relatable because it could be related to, not because it tried to be.
The freshness and originality that all of this resulted in made the storyline even more entertaining. I found myself getting completely immersed in the plot, not only enjoying the book but trying to figure out what was going to happen in the end. This was helped along by the cohesion of Jodi’s thoughts, particularly the sort of internal monologue of hers that formed the narration of the story. Reading someone’s reaction to what’s happening in their life can be one of the most genuine forms of entertainment, as is proved in ‘May Day Mine’.
In addition to all of these things, same sex attraction and relationships are major issues in the book. Jodi’s internal questioning of her sexuality becomes a backbone of the whole story. For Jodi, trying to figure out what she feels and about ‘who she is’ is difficult, partly because so many other things are happening at the same time. Most young adults can sympathize with questioning yourself and your feelings, not just members of the LGBTI community, as teenagers usually have some sort of ‘coming into their own’ that they are faced with. Verity Croker depicts the ‘over whelmingness’ of this situation well, once again making the characters more relatable to all young people.
Aside from entertainment, the coming out of Jodie, both to herself and then to others is an important aspect of the story for many reasons. One of these is that it raises an awareness and understanding of sexuality. For most young people, right from birth heterosexuality is normalized. This is done simply by the complete lack of anything related to same sex attraction in material aimed at children. This absence creates misconceptions that can be quite damaging. Being gay or bisexual simply means loving others of the same sex, nothing more. But it is still often ignored and misrepresented, creating confusion over a relatively simple issue, and that’s where homophobia comes in. Because if you don’t understand something, how can you accept it? Misconceptions about same sex attraction being a lifestyle choice aren’t only incorrect but damaging, as are stereotypes depicting people who are gay as inherently different from heterosexuals. Just having books like this (that include same sex attraction shown in a positive, ‘normal’ light) for young people is a big ‘step up’.
May Day Mine was a sweet and original coming of age story that held an important message underneath. Featuring relatable characters and a genuine storyline, it was entertaining and managed to convey the mixed bag of emotions that come with growing up. Very relevant in modern society, particularly for more rural areas like the one featured in it, May Day Mine sets the scene for a whole new generation of novels. Even just reading it makes you want to write and get your own messages out into the world.
This morning as daylight arrived, I turned on the bed light and reached for my reading glasses. Then I picked up the book May Day Mine. It was so easy to read that I had finished the book before 10am. Loved it.
I have not read young adult fiction before so I was curious to understand the sophistication required in the story content, the language, and the story structure.
I loved the story – the internal and external worlds of families, the tensions of everyday living despite and because of catastrophes, how their dramas interconnect, and how love finds a way to surface whatever the situation.
I thought the flow of the book was excellent because I felt compelled to turn each page and continue on with the story. Creating chapters for each day is such a simple device yet it was so appropriate to help give urgency, and to identify changes in situations, feelings and environments. Also, I liked the simplicity of the language you chose for each character - maintaining appropriate vocabulary, sayings, tone, etc. I could ‘hear’ each voice.
Above all, the story should be reassuring for a young woman who is working out who she is and what she wants because the book confirmed it is okay to choose differently than most, and while not everyone will like your choice, it is still okay.
Thanks so much for giving me a good read. Very much appreciated.