‘Close Enough’ by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Close Enough by Nora Shalaway Carpenter, 2020

The magic trick:

Encompassing a teenager’s point of view without condescending

What constitutes YA fiction?

Does it need to be somehow simpler than real adult literary fiction?

That seems demeaning. I’m not sure that’s true.

What it does need to feature is young adults. That makes sense. And I think those young adults probably need to be learning a crucial life lesson or finding a moment of epiphany.

But doesn’t that describe almost every single coming-of-age story? Hell, doesn’t that describe just about every short story?

Genre constraints and rules are probably pointless anyway. But I think if anyone does ask me for a classically YA short story, I’ve found one that checks every possible box: Nora Shalaway Carpenter’s “Close Enough.”

Our protagonist is a senior in high school, facing a series of conflicts that perfectly balance the specific and the universal. She’s never felt quite West Virginia enough for her West Virginia community, having moved there when she was young. Meanwhile, her college plans are taking her to New York City, away from her best friend. And, hey, she also likes a boy.

I told you, this story has it all!

It encompasses the concerns and point of view of a teenager without ever condescending.

And that’s quite a trick on Carpenter’s part.

The selection:

Mori’s eyes opened. “What’s wrong with West Virginia?”

“Huh? No, that’s not what I meant.” Alina tried again. “We have snakes in our cellar.”

Mori stuffed her hands inside her sweatshirt’s front pocket. “You wouldn’t if you sealed it. Your dad knows that.” She kept walking.

“I guess.”

“And besides, black snakes aren’t poisonous.”

Alina nodded. “Um, true.”

Mori kept silent, her pace quickening. Alina sprinted a few steps to keep up.

“Is, uh, everything okay?”

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