The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is a national association of librarians, library workers and advocates library services for teens. Each year they give out an Alex Awards for ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002.

talk-funny-girlOne of the winning books this year is The Talk-Funny Girl (Crown, July 2011) written by Roland Merullo (Micronesia 1979–80). The  novel is set in central western New Hampshire. It is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who lives with her parents in a cabin in the woods. They belong to a cult that believes the sins of the adults are forgiven through the suffering of the children. (”Suffer the little children. . .” a Biblical verse they grossly misinterpret.)

They are abusive and tremendously reclusive, but they send their daughter out to get a job on her seventeenth birthday and her loving aunt secretly arranges for her to work with a man who his building his own “cathedral” in town.

This man and the aunt rescue her from a harsh life. The title comes from the fact that her parents are so isolated they develop their own dialect of English. However, the novel is told in standard English, with the woman looking back at her life.

I believe Roland is the first RPCV to win this special award. Congratulations, Roland!