“Rosetta Stones” by Catherine Parra Dix is an excellent example of the truly relevant young adult fiction available to the readers nowadays, and it makes me realize how far this genre has come since the days I was at that rather awkward age between adolescence and adulthood. This might well be the reason why I so often grab a “Young Adult Fiction” book these days and why I tend to enjoy them immensely. “Rosetta Stones” definitely stands out in the best possible way, being truly finely crafted and immensely powerful. I admired everything about it – the complex and well executed plot, the memorable and believable characters, the impeccable pacing, the sparkling dialogue, the brilliantly different and recognizable voices of the five narrators, the vivid descriptions of the landscape… One point that I found particularly fascinating was the fact that Ms. Parra Dix does not whitewash anything and very bravely shows the readers that life is not always fair. You can be a good person and try to do only good and righteous things, but that will not automatically protect you from evil. Really bad things do happen to really good people. And a short moment of fun can have very, very long-term and tremendously horrible consequences.
The story opens with four extremely close high school friends, who are about to graduate, heading to the remote Gila wilderness for a “Senior Ditch Day” party. Antonia, Joey, Javen and Sonny have been pretty much inseparable since childhood. Being one short step from the adulthood is changing their relationship in many ways, what with them discovering who and what they really are and want to be as well as with some early crushes developing into more serious feelings. While Antonia and Joey seem to be particularly close, it is pretty obvious that Javen also has strong feelings for Antonia, and consequently harbors considerable resentment towards Joey. Sonny has always been the quietest of the four, and he is seriously looking at his place in this group and reevaluating it. The shifting roles create a fair amount of tension, which only grows worse with a chance encounter that Antonia had with a strange, slightly disturbing young man. Adolph turns out to be every teen’s worst nightmare and he ruthlessly tears their lives and their happiness to shreds. While I do not want to disclose too much of the plot here, let me just say that the ensuing battle between the forces of good and evil really resonated with me and that I absolutely loved the rather unexpected and unconventional ending.
I found “Rosetta Stones” to be a very compelling and engrossing book, as well as one with a highly distinctive and unique voice. I highly recommend it to both young adults and those a bit older who have not forgotten how it feels to be searching for one’s identity as an adult. Hopefully this will not be the last book written by the exceptionally talented Ms. Parra Dix and I will definitely be on the lookout for more of her writing.