Posted by: jeannineatkins | October 5, 2009

What I’m Reading: Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney

Blue Plate Special is a novel for mature teens told in the voices of three girls dealing with the beauty and difficulty of what they inherit. I began sinking into each girl’s separate story, and felt there was just enough discovery and action to keep me there, without feeling too torn as I began the next section about the life of a girl in another decade. I marveled at how Michelle enticed me to become absorbed in each distinctive and urgent voice, while deftly leading me to another. Gradually, gracefully, connecting themes and images came together.

Madeline’s life is shaped by first love, then huge disappointments, Desiree’s by careless parenting, and Ariel by family secrets. In various ways, these girls face the too realities of sexual and emotional coercion, violence, unplanned pregnancies, and rough mothering. We see ways these shape and scar, though there’s always hope for tenderness, fragile connections, hard-won wisdom, and courage, especially in the form of speaking up for oneself. Beautiful language also redeems, particularly for Desiree, whose sections are written in free verse.

I met Michelle Kwasney years ago in the basement of the Hatfield MA library where I also first heard Jo Knowles jbknowles read her work. It’s been great to share cups of tea and an occasional celebratory glass of champagne – the miracle of manuscripts to books — over the years. Blue Plate Special is generous, brilliant (okay so I like her) Michelle’s third novel, after BABY BLUE and ITCH (both Holt) and the first YA novel from Chronicle who did an amazing job in giving us a book we want to hold in our hands. The slightly wide pages offer a welcoming space for the three sections, and the paper seems particularly soft. The end papers are brilliant blue, and the cover evokes the theme – of broken pieces perhaps coming together, though never completely.

It’s not a read for those who seek escape, but I can imagine girls who desperately need reflections of themselves or friends reading this novel as if could save their lives. It might.For more information, to hear an excerpt of BLUE PLATE SPECIAL, or download reading group questions, go to:,book-info/store,kids/products_id,8242/path,2-13-116/title,Blue-Plate-Special/



  1. Beautiful review, Jeannine!!!
    Michelle is such an incredible writer. Her words can be so tender and harsh at the same time. Simply amazing.

  2. I like how you put that: tender and harsh. I know you’re looking forward to reading this one, and I’ll look forward to your thoughts!
    It’s always kind of sad how fast one goes through work you know took years. Even if that’s the point. But I will go back to this. xo

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