[DWJ] hexwood, archer's goon, and age

Philip Belben philip at axeside.co.uk
Sun Jul 6 14:29:08 EDT 2008

This is not a new thread, but little has been said, and I've only just 
got back to the list after I stopped reading it because of HoMW 
spoilers.  (Yes, even though I read the book _last_ weekend!  I got my 
copy as soon as it arrived - my bookseller friend hadn't even unpacked 
that shipment.)

Kyla, quoting Deborah:

>> I have a bunch of questions I'd like to run by the list, and
>> they'll be wicked spoilery for Hexwood and Archer's Goon, so if
>> you haven't read those, go away and have a cookie.
>> s
>> p
>> o
>> i
>> l
>> e
>> r
>> s
>> p
>> a
>> c
>> e
>> My questions are about protagonist age and expectation.
>> For fifty years, there's been a general assumption in
>> (non-picturebook) English-language literature published for
>> children and young adults that the protaganists are about 1-3
>> years older than the text's implied reader.  Obviously there are
>> exceptions, and obviously there's a difference between texts
>> marketed to children and YAs and those *read* by the same, but
>> still, it's a nice genral guideline.
> <snip>
>> But Hexwood and Archer's Goon both exhibit a trait which feels
>> unique to me: a text which, along with the protaganist, spends
>> most of the book ignorant about the protaganist's true adult
>> status.  In AG, this is less startling, because the siblings are
>> pretty childish even for Titans, so Howard's true age is less
>> disconcerting.

I'll interrupt at this point to say that DWJ does something similar in 
Time of the Ghost.  Sally is 13-ish.  Except (as we later discover) this 
was all 7 years ago.

>> But I find the age discrepancy in Hexwood to be really odd.
>> There's a *huge* difference between Ann's, what is it, twelve?
>> and Vierran's youthful adulthood.  *Especially* since there's a
>> romance, but not entirely.
>> How did other people react to the age fakeout?  If you read all
>> of Hexwood exactly as it was, but the character of Ann Stavely
>> was older -- say 19 -- would it be the same book?  Is the text's
>> implied reader Ann's age?  Vierran's?  Either? Both?

Since I was reading it when I was in my 20s, or maybe even older, I 
don't think the age thing mattered much to me.

It was the way the Ann character was destroyed, and her remains given to 
Vierran.  I found this really odd, especially when I was getting to like 
Ann as a character.

> Ooh, interesting. Ann is twelve, but two years older than her 
> twelve-year-old brother, I decided. Also, way back when we could ask DWJ a 
> question on the web site, I asked something about characters' ages, and 
> she said that "It is usually my deliberate policy NOT to give the ages of 
> characters in my books. It is so humiliating if you are a mature 
> 11-year-old and you find that the person you have been eagerly identifying 
> with is only nine. But I try to make sure that the age can be deduced by 
> those determined to know. I'm glad I got it right in HEXWOOD."

Are you sure Martin is as old as 12?  I must admit that I found Martin's 
age hard to assess, but when he was at home I mostly thought he was 
about 10.

Interesting about Jones's deliberate policy of not giving characters' 
ages.  I think she gives ages, or blatant clues, more often than not, 
but I haven't counted.  Examples:

Power of Three.  Ayna is "almost 14", Gair is a year younger, and Ceri a 
year or two younger still.

Homeward Bounders.  Jamie gives his age as 12 at the start, so he's 
about 113 at the end, I think.

Archer's Goon.  "Be Howard.  Be 13 again" or words to that effect. 
Admittedly this is close to the end.

Eight Days of Luke.  Better concealed here.  All I remember is that 
David is "of course" not under 10.

Fire and Hemlock.  Polly is 19, but most of the book is flashbacks, 
starting with Polly at 10, and giving plenty of reference points 
thereafter.  Another neat way at aiming the book at a wide range of ages!


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