When people discuss what genre titles like Young Adult and Middle Grade mean, they invariably end up with the question – do these tags refer to the audience or the subject matter. Before reading Snow in August, by Peter Hamill, I’ve never been able to think of a novel with a child protagonist written for adults. This is not to say that I think the book is inappropriate for teenagers. There are a few violent scenes, but violence is nothing unusual in YA fiction. The book’s nostalgic tone made me think Hamill wrote with an adult audience in mind.
Goodreads summarizes the book, stating: Set in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in 1947, this poignant tale revolves around two of the most endearing characters in recent fiction: an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy named Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a refugee from Prague.My Nana has been trying to get me to read this book for years, but in the past I’ve resisted. The subject matter (race, religion, and baseball) aren’t high up on my list of interesting topics in a novel. I’ve also had trouble connecting with male-centric books in the past.
Despite my preconceptions, Snow in August is a great read. Michael Devlin is a well-drawn character you can’t help but fall in love with. His struggle to do what is right despite neighborhood pressures are nuanced and relatable. His characterization is the main strength of the novel. Additionally, the settings of Brooklyn and Prague come alive through Michael and Rabbi Hirsch’s descriptions.
So if you are looking to read a book about children, not written for children I suggest you pick up Snow in August and let me know what section of the bookstore you think it belongs in.