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Photographs are most often employed as mementos, capturing raw instances of life many hope will anchor us to a time and place that defy forgetting. But so often, photos also serve as maps, capable of weaving an imaginary set of lines that connect us --- sometimes against our will --- to people and events we never knew or never stopped to consider. CLICK, the new novel from Arthur A. Levine Books, offers a stunning reminder of how photos can do more than jog the memory and document an event. They can link lives, inspire action and --- when necessary --- help us define who we are.

Mirroring the idea that photos can join together disparate lives, CLICK is written by not one but 10 young adult novelists --- David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Margo Lanagan, Gregory Maguire, Ruth Ozeki, Linda Sue Park and Tim Wynne-Jones --- each contributing their decidedly unique storytelling abilities to this ambitious project. Each writer has crafted a single chapter, all of which mosaic together to form a single snapshot from a multi-generational story.

The novel begins with Maggie and Jason, teenage siblings whose grandfather, world-renowned photographer George "Gee" Keane, has just passed away. To Jason, Gee has bequeathed a cache of photographs, a nearly living library of history that spans Gee's global career. Maggie receives a puzzle box with seven sea shells, one collected from each continent Gee visited, and the message, "Throw them all back." Their inheritances send Maggie and Jason on separate but determined quests that will lead them to discover more of who their grandfather was and who they themselves have yet to become.

The stories of Maggie and Jason are woven around flashes back in time, taking us along with Gee on his journeys across the world, documenting war and injustices with his trusty camera. We meet Annie, a sickly girl in the United Kingdom whose obsession with the sea could hold the key to identifying the father she never knew. We meet Lev, a teenage political prisoner in Russia who creates a symbol for his escapes that proves important to Maggie. Each of the stories, no matter the time period or continent, are linked to Gee and his drive to make his photos capture the humanity in often inhumane situations.

What works best in this patchwork novel is the mastery with which a very complex story is allowed to be laid out so simply. Although we jump around in time and space, beginning with Maggie and Jason as teens and ending with Maggie in a quasi-bleak future, the through-line of the narrative remains strong and engaging. Each author grabs a hold of the reader with their contribution, offering a unique portion of the puzzle that at once deconstructs Gee Keane and sets Maggie and Jason on a course for self-discovery.

Oddly enough, what makes the book unique might also be its greatest flaw. At times, switching writers, and therefore voices, became distracting. Some writers chose first-person narrators (not necessarily a bad thing, but it often created a tonal shift that was occasionally jarring). Some used their natural talents for symbolism in ways not utilized by the other writers. Of course, this is to be expected when drawing from a pool of such talent. But while the narrative keeps the strands of the story tied together, I found myself wishing for more consistency in style. Some chapters could stand alone as short stories, others are inexorably tied to the covers of the book. One has to wonder what each of these authors might have done of their own accord if presented with the synopsis.

Still, this is a book not to be missed because it prominently displays each of the involved authors writing at the top of their forms. The chapters by David Almond, Tim Wynne-Jones and Margo Lanagan were stand-outs, striking at the emotional heart of the novel with unrelenting mastery of technique.

CLICK, to paraphrase an old saying, is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma: a book that demands multiple reads because each time through it will reward the reader with another beautiful layer of meaning. It should be noted that all royalties from sales of the book will benefit Amnesty International. Gee would have wanted it that way.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on October 1, 2007

Click
by Nick Hornby, Roddy Doyle, Gregory Maguire, Linda Sue Park, David Almond, Tim Wynne-Jones, Ruth Ozeki, Deborah Ellis, Margo Lanagan, and Eoin Colfer

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0439411394
  • ISBN-13: 9780439411394