Publisher: Bywater Books
Jill Malone is an award winning author for her previous books, but Giraffe People is probably more readable by the general public. This is likely to due to the fact that it’s a coming of age story, something that most people can relate to.
Cole Peters is fifteen years old; a difficult age for anyone, but especially the child of a military chaplain. Cole is trying to figure out who she is, what she wants and where she fits in the general scheme of the universe while dealing with the shifting impermanence of military life. As she says in the book, “We never get to keep anything. Never. Temporary quarters, and temporary friends, and temporary school…” It’s no wonder that Cole boomerangs all over the place in her emotions and perceptions. She seems happy playing soccer and dating her boyfriend; then she seems willing to give them up for the rebellious life of a rock and roll band. Is her admiration for Meghan, an older girl who is preparing for West Point, simply the normal hero worship for a role model or the budding of early lesbian interests? Cole describes herself and her family by saying, “Nigel and Nate and I have the exact body of our dad: stooped, long-legged, with a narrow chest and flat feet. We’re like giraffe people.” Maybe what she’s saying is that it’s very difficult to be normal and different at the same time.
The reader can feel sympathetic towards Cole on a number of issues, mainly because she has so many issues to deal with – teenage, the military lifestyle, a girl in athletics, indefinite sexuality, and her father is a chaplain, bringing in the religious aspect. What’s left for the poor kid not to have to deal with? The most interesting one turns out to be the impact on the life of a military child. This is an area most people never consider, but the constant shifting of areas and the inconstancy of friends and schools is destabilizing more than anything. It provokes a question of whether or not families with children should be in the military or if they should be stationed in one place for longer periods of time.
Giraffe People is the least esoteric of Malone’s books, but perhaps her most thought provoking because it deals with issues almost anyone can relate to. The reader can identify with struggles that have been experienced. It might not be a good idea to give the book to an actual teenager however since it might upset more than help them.