Lark by Tracey Porter:
When sixteen-year-old Lark Austin is kidnapped from her
hometown and left to die in a snowy forest, she leaves behind two friends who are stunned by the loss. As Lark's former best friend, Eve can't shake the guilt that this tragedy was somehow her fault. Meanwhile, Nyetta is haunted each night by Lark's ghost, who comes through the bedroom window and begs Nyetta to set her soul free. Eve and Nyetta realize that Lark is trapped in limbo, and only by coming together to heal themselves will they discover why. Virginia
Tracey Porter's stunning narrative about love and loss demonstrates that forgiveness can never come too late.
Summary from Goodreads.
Lark is a slim volume that tells the story of After. After Lark Austin is kidnapped from gymnastics practice and found in the woods of her Virginian town two days later – tied to a tree and dead from exposure. It’s the story of the two people who knew her best – her former best friend Eve and Nyetta, the little girl Lark used to babysit. It’s the story of Lark, trapped in the forest and doomed to become one more lost girl unless someone will acknowledge and remember what happened to her. Alternating between point of views, Lark (the book) chronicles the livings’ attempt to move on and Lark’s attempt to escape from the in between in which she is trapped.
While never overly graphic, Lark is a disturbing tale that layers the stages of grief with Lark’s immediate afterlife. In trying to save Lark from the horror of becoming a lost girl, the story explores the often contradictory messages young women receive when one of their own is lost to violence.
I don’t remember why I added this book to my reading list – it might be that it reminded me of the Miranda Gaddis/Ashley Pond murders (which it obliquely references), or the beauty of the spare cover. Porter’s lyrical writing style is compelling, lending itself to Lark’s transformation and Nyetta’s dreamy experiences with her ghost. Occasionally the prose made it harder to differentiate between Eve, Nyetta and Lark’s first person narration. It wasn’t until Nyetta and Eve finally interact that Nyetta’s much younger age became apparent despite being referenced several times before in the text. That said, the story and the message are incredibly important and handled with a great deal of care.
A lot has been said about teen reads with dark themes* and their importance in YA literature. As many, many people (see #YASaves) have already provided eloquent and cogent defenses, I can only add this:
If you want to know what your child is reading, you have to read those books as well. Don’t forbid it, instead talk about it. Use it to be engaged in their life and discuss your feelings on the subject matter. Lark has some very strong passages in which Eve deals with her anger towards Lark’s death and her guilt over the disintegration of their friendship. It allows the reader to look at the mixed messages and abuse that girls receive from authority figures within the context of a greater story.
These are things you need to talk about, not bury your head in the sand. Bad things happen to good people, bad people and the random who are in between and it is left up to the living to deal with this.
Lark is not a perfect book, but it’s a book that deserves to be read, shared and discussed. Read it with your daughter.
Talk about grief and guilt and the fear of letting go. Talk about what right and wrong and what truly is acceptable.
Talk, damn it.
Yes, there are wonderful books out there that let us escape to a better place, but there are those out there that help us realize how to cope with the bad place we may already be in. Books impart knowledge, make us question, engage and look beyond ourselves to the great what if.
Why would you want to take something so wonderful away?
You can purchase Lark from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.
Book Source: One of those places where people go to learn – the library.
*Ironically, the most popular “dark issues” book that I sold to teen girls? A Child Called It. That’s right, an autobiography shelved in the self help section…no where near where our YA books lived.