When I think about coming of age books, I love to think about The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry (or as I call her, MPL) because the girl in the book is so kickass and you know how I feel about PowerGirls!
Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.
The Earthquake Machine is the kind of coming of age book I wanted to read when I was a teenager: Adventure. Love. Hate. Desire. Travel. Knives. Crime. Did I mention Knives? Our protagonist Rhonda has a difficult life and decides to go on an adventure deep within Mexico to find an old family friend. This story is girl power to the max. You won’t believe the strength that Rhonda discovers within herself during her adventure.
You are transported to Mexico within the pages of this book: to the land of Indians and Spaniards and Mexicans and mole and Spanish. Lowry gets it right: the bright colors of the sunset and the paint; the smell of the food cooking; the depth of the passion that the Mexicans feel for each other and for their religion. You forget you are reading a book in English and you become a friend walking along the streets of a small Mexican town next to Rhonda turned Angel, speaking in Spanish and following her story.
Rhonda/Angel’s search leads her to experiences that will shock, horrify, and make you laugh. To be sure, there are sexual situations within the story that are not for everyone but reflect a teenager’s interests and curiosities. Lowry’s coming of age story will make you yearn to be go on an adventure and force you to question your beliefs.
This is the best coming of age story I’ve read in a very long time and a perfect blend of multicultural richness.
Did I mention that both Mary and I lived in Austin for a time?