Friday, July 31, 2009

Poetry Friday: Reflecting on Kendra

Oh we were on fire, but like accidental burnings
we were everywhere, raging out of control
hormones consuming flesh but
we overlooked each other.

Last night I finished Kendra by Coe Booth. Stellar writing. Brutal. Kendra is fourteen, sexually active and unable to reconcile her how body responds to her desire and what she emotionally wants. With the read fresh in my mind, this draft came to mind. It was a response to writing prompt earlier this year.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Slyvia at Poetry for Children.


Melissa said...

Striking. I love how it conveys such force and passion--making it all the more tragic that such power couldn't be used to truly connect and see the other.

zettaelliott said...

After my issues with Tyrell, I was actually warned by a reviewer NOT to read Kendra...maybe I'll wait a while and give it a try. I'm posting my review of Song Yet Sung right now...will link to Color Me Brown

zettaelliott said...

sorry--thought that was a quote from the book! think you can finish that poem? Does having two daughters make the issue of teen sex more difficult to write about?

Color Online said...


No, having the daughters doesn't make the issue more difficult to address. What is difficult is having been a daughter.

There is so much working in Kendra. But the ending is not real for me. Booth gives the reader a pass, an ending that relieves the emotional reeling and that doesn't work for me.

Every Renee and Kendra, social worker and counselor knows Kendra does live that kind of ending that soon and many never do.

I'm still trying to process why she ended the book the way she did. Did she think behind Tyrell, readers needed the ending she provides or did the publisher think it was needed?

For me, it contradicts everything that came before it: a very painful but true reflection of the estranged relationship between a confused, needy daughter and mother who doesn't want to parent, a grandmother desperate to save a child she can't, and a child who in real life would spend years acting out sexually, self-destructing while very possibly exceeding in other areas very much like Renee did.

Anonymous said...

SORT-OF SPOILER CONTAINED IN THIS COMMENT: I'm right with you on the ending of the book. I work for a non-profit organization that runs book group discussions with young adults (mostly in alternative high schools) and read "Kendra" this summer (we've used "Tyrell" with our groups before and consider Coe Booth a genuinely GOOD writer). A co-worker and I both read the book and consider it highly consumable--we both finished it in less than a day, and predict the youth we work with will eat it up. However, the ending just killed me. I seriously had to stop and think about what bringing this book to a group of young women would say to them about how likely it is things will just "work out" if they just "love him enough." (Not quoting from the book there, but those hackneyed phrases are the only ones that leap to mind as I try to convey how the ending hit me.) In the end though, quality young adult novels can be hard to come by; and even harder to come by is literature that gives teenagers the opportunity to critically think about emerging sexuality, family relationships, consequences of decisions you make, and how you become who you are at various points in your life. "Kendra" does all that and more.

Color Online said...


I feel the same way and that's why I'm going to actively promote the book. I do think we need discussion behind it because the population at the non-rofit where I volunteer the ending in no way reflects the realities in these girls lives. They have difficulty forming healthy, intimate relationships and often continue until they either become pregnant, contract STDS or both.

Andy said...

Your reflection is adolescence in a nutshell. Powerful. Andy

Color Online said...

Hi Andy,

Love your profile. I like your description, rabid. We could talk for hours. :-)

Taste Life Twice said...

This is soooo good. I feel like I have to post it up somewhere or something, but my parents will look at me funny lol


Andy said...

Thanks, C.O. I can tell from looking around your site that we'd have much to talk about!


Tarie said...

WOW. All other words fail me for that poem. I love it.

I wonder if Kendra is available in Philippine bookstores. I would like to read it. :o)

Color Online said...


Maybe we can work out postage. If you can't get it, let me know.

Tarie said...

Thanks, Susan! I'm going to check my local bookstore and then try to order it if it isn't available.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thanks for joining the Poetry Friday fray-- and for sharing a poem response to what looks like a powerful book.