Lynn: Cindy and I are getting ready for our annual round of fall conference presentations, so we’re in flat-out intensive reading mode. It reminds me of our BBYA committee days when we read 400-plus books a year. There were definitely many downsides of that experience—like never being able to see a single TV show or movie for three years—but there were an equal number of benefits, like reading many, many books that I otherwise may have missed. I’ve been feeling like that again this fall as I gallop through a long list of to-reads. Note to self: READ FASTER!
I read Tommy Wallach’s Thanks for the Trouble (2016) several books ago, but it apparently has taken up residence in my head, because I find myself, in quiet moments, thinking about it still. Seventeen-year-old Parker Santé is skipping school on Halloween and looking for easy pickings to steal. He enters the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where he sees a beautiful girl named Zelda Toth with unusual silver hair. She has wads of cash, which Parker steals then returns to her. In turn, she tells him she is going to spend all her money on a needy person, then jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Parker hasn’t been able to speak since the auto accident that killed his father five years ago and communicates through notes, and he isn’t sure what to make of her story. Zelda proposes a deal: she’ll spend her money on Parker if he’ll apply for and attend college.
Zelda also tells Parker she was born in 1770, has never aged, and is tired of living. She is just as determined that Parker not “squander his life” as Parker is that she not commit suicide. And so begins a life-changing weekend as each tries to convince the other. If the premise sounds grim, let me assure you that this novel is also rife with witty banter, romance, and philosophy, as Wallach explores the idea of immortality and the richness of life, love, and loss. Whether Zelda is actually almost 250 years old adds a dollop of intrigue to Zelda’s character, which Wallach has imbued with a fascinating perspective and that makes her ultimate choice one that will get teens thinking and talking. Thanks for the Trouble is no trouble at all.