By Barbara Korbal
In a culture still arguing about whether or not carbon emissions are destroying the planet, two young adult novels engage the debate about global warming and climate change. In Freaking Green, Laura F. Sanchez uses home space as a site for exploring these ideas with her beautifully crafted narrative. And in The Diary of Amy, the 14-Year-Old Girl Who Saved the Earth, Scott Erickson uses humor and wit to detail one girl’s quest to get to the roots of environmental problems in order to save the whole planet.
Sanchez, a native New Mexican, situates her story in Albuquerque and conveys it through the teenage eyes of Jasmine. Eccentric, leftist-leaning Aunt Olivia shows up in the opening scene as a dead person in a shipping crate; the plot begins to thicken as a manila envelope containing the aunt’s will offers a challenge to the cash-strapped family. If the familial unit can cut their total carbon footprint by 80 percent over the course of the year, they will inherit Aunt Olivia’s millions. If not, her estate goes to Greenpeace.
Sanchez has done a marvelous job crafting the characters in this work, depicting the attitudes of each family member as they try to modify their behavior into a greener way of living. We witness the evolution of each quirky family member, as they move from downright anger, to extreme irritation, to a renewed sense of zen-like purpose of creating a greener lifestyle. Importantly, Sanchez provides the reader with real-life facts and statistics on carbon emissions produced by a typical family. This book teaches about climate change as much as it provides an entertaining read. Multiple references to real places in Albuquerque add another fun dimension to this novel for local readers.
Like Sanchez, Scott Erickson deals with global warming in The Diary of Amy, the 14-Year-Old Girl Who Saved the Earth, although his take on the topic is considerably less optimistic. Erickson’s novel is more satirical; even the notion that anyone can save the world is really his tongue-in-cheek commentary on the current politics surrounding the contentious climate change debate. The novel begins with Amy’s decision to camp in a local Oregon wetland to halt its destruction by a development company. She successfully halts the destruction of the wildlife refuge, and gains national notoriety as a young activist. Encountering corporations and nasty politicians, Amy uses a youthful exuberance and keen intellect in her attempt to try and halt the process of global destruction.
Erickson’s work includes many teachable moments. His well-researched commentary forms the basis of Amy’s diary as she works to create a more ecologically healthy world. Sarcastic and sardonic, the book’s biting humor isn’t for everybody. However, it’s hard not to feel disillusioned; the facts, as he repeatedly shows us, back him up and reflect the uphill battle that Amy faces.
Taken together, both Freaking Green and The Diary of Amy portray the cultural debate on climate change for a young adult audience. The humor in both these works makes for an entertaining read, while addressing the serious ecological problems that their age group will be trying to solve for many years to come.
Colors of the Southwest at New Mexico Museum of Art
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