The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous

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by Suzanne Crowley
     
 

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Thirteen-year-old Merilee Monroe maintains a Very Ordered Existence, VOE for short. As long as she keeps up with her minute-by-minute daily schedule, she can avoid the internal trauma caused by change and spontaneity. So when two very distracting newcomers arrive in town, Merilee does her best to ignore them and stick to her plans. But can even a VOE have some room

Overview

Thirteen-year-old Merilee Monroe maintains a Very Ordered Existence, VOE for short. As long as she keeps up with her minute-by-minute daily schedule, she can avoid the internal trauma caused by change and spontaneity. So when two very distracting newcomers arrive in town, Merilee does her best to ignore them and stick to her plans. But can even a VOE have some room for friendship?

Editorial Reviews

Rocky Mountain News Pick of the Week
. . . Purely felt, beautifully worded . . . Crowley is a wonderful storyteller, both in her conversational style and in crafting characters that you can't shake from your thoughts - and don't want to.

Publishers Weekly

Crowley, the mother of a teenager on the autism spectrum, shows an astute understanding of her characters' psychologies but tries to encompass too much in this first novel, narrated by a girl with Asperger's syndrome. Merilee Monroe, a 13-year-old who is obsessed with dragons and filled with "astonishing" words she cannot express out loud, finds a soul mate in Biswick, an eight-year-old damaged by fetal alcohol syndrome, the son of a visiting poet. Merilee's growing affection for Biswick is beautifully drawn, but subplots regarding other citizens of Jumbo, Texas, their eccentric behaviors and the emotional baggage they carry, grow burdensome. The novel's slow-moving plot and shifting focus present other potential obstacles. On the other hand, both the dialogue and Merilee's unique thought process come off as authentic, compensating for some of the novel's weaknesses. The town of Jumbo-home to famous "ghost lights" that appear in the middle of the night and the legendary "conquistador tree," under which a treasure is reputedly buried-adds an aura of mystery that coincides with a theme about miracles. The biggest miracle of all is the one Crowley handles with the greatest skill: the change that occurs in Merilee as she ventures at last beyond her "very ordered existence." Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Ruth Cox Clark
Crowley's daughter, who has her own "unique view of the world," is the inspiration for this heart-stirring introduction to thirteen-year-old Merilee Monroe, a girl whose life revolves around keeping her V.O.E.—Very Ordered Existence—intact. Her V.O.E. has become increasingly difficult to maintain with mentally disabled, eight-year-old Biswick O'Conner following her everywhere. Folks in Jumbo, Texas-population 1,258-once thought Merilee might be a genius because she could quote Shakespeare at age three, but Merilee knows that there is a "thin line between genius and bottom-barrel stupidness.o Crowley's first-person narrative opens wide Merilee's frenetic yet very astute mind. Sensing the internal battles that her daughter is fighting, Mama gives Merilee a journal to release her bottled up words, but what flows out are detailed drawings of dragons of every shape and style. Secondary character development in this small-town yarn is impressive, with bad-tempered Grandma Birdy so real that one can almost feel the sharp edge of her words, which are tempered by the West Texas, common-sense drawl of newcomer Veraleen and the unconditional quiet love of Uncle Dal. Merilee, who defines herself as having "some sort of qualitative umbrella, asparagus problem" might not always be understood, but she is loved, especially by Mama who makes sure that Merilee can spend a quiet afternoon in Mama's bookstore, reading Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene from the monthly box of classics specifically ordered for Merilee. Using one of Merilee's favorite words, this book is marvelous. Offer this gem to young teens who enjoyed Cynthia Lord's Rules (Scholastic, 2007) and Sarah Adams Kocha's The Boy WhoAte Stars (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061231995
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/28/2009
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous

Chapter One

It didn't take long to find out. News travels fast in Jumbo. Even on a hot Saturday morning when the world is moving slow. I was making my usual rounds with my litter stick and my binoculars, and I was at the old Dixie Dog Drive In picking up trash left by the teenagers who hang out there on Friday night. Bug and Tootie McKelvey came and told me.

"There's a new retarded boy," Tootie blurted out, and Bug pushed at her for stealing her thunder. Tootie has more freckles than face and that's all there is to say about her. "He's funny looking," she added, icing on the big-news cake.

This was not a surprise to me. I knew Biswick was coming practically before he did. I felt it deep down in my dry bones that morning. A change was on its way and I didn't like it one bit. Not one bit.

"Humph," I snorted. "Marvelous." Lately my brain's been grabbing words and just throwing them out there to the world. My thoughts are clear. But when I try to speak, sometimes it sounds as if I picked up my words secondhand, like bits of tattered lace at an estate sale. And my voice sounds odd, too. Mama says I sound like an old soul while Bug is always screaming at me to stop "talking like a granny."

Anyway I have a tight schedule on Saturdays and I don't like to be interrupted, which Bug well knows. I lead a Very Ordered Existence, VOE for short. Everything is all lined up in my life and if anything is out of order, I get all "nervy," which is what Grandma calls it. It mostly feels like being on fire. I stared vacantly at Bug and Tootie, hoping that would be enough to make them go away.

"He's eight, supposedly, but Mary Alice Augustine saw him and says he looks more like a kindergartner. And he doesn't have a mother, and his daddy writes commercial poetry," Bug stated with the authority of a professional gossiper. "Which means Mama will invite the daddy over for dinner to get him to do a reading at the bookstore, which means we'll get to meet the kid first. And I bet they are gonna have to bring that funny little bus for retards over from Whiskey."

Whiskey is our sister town about ten miles away. It's got more stuff than we do, though, like the rinky-dink hospital where I was born and even a drive-thru McDonald's.

Bug's eyes got all big as she glanced down at my red high-top sneakers.

My "uniform" is a source of extreme embarrassment to Bug and she is always trying to mess with it. I wear the same things every day—a yellowy-orangey shirt with the words Dilley's Chicken & Feed emblazoned on the front (Daddy brought it back from some agricultural conference and I took to it), a pair of army green cargo pants, and my (rain or shine) red high-tops, which Bug calls retardo shoes because they have Velcro flaps instead of laces.

I had been missing my high-tops for several days because Bug had snuck in my room in the middle of the night and stole them. But this morning I found them sticking out of the Dumpster behind the Rexall Drug. Bug was pissed.

"You are an idiot!" she spewed, all flustered. "I bet the new kid dresses just like you."

"Spectacular," I muttered, spearing a Big Crush can with my litter stick.

"Spectacular? Oh Merilee! You are such a spaz!"

To which I replied, "It's controversial, not commercial poetry."

Bug stuck her tongue out at me, pulled Tootie along with her, and off they went to spread the exciting news to more enthused and grateful recipients.

I pulled the can off my stick and began looking for my next prize. I devote thirty minutes daily to picking up litter, two hours on Saturdays—9:12 to 11:12. I'm saving the world one Crush can at a time.

It's Merilee Monroe, my name. I know. Isn't it terrible? I would probably even snicker, too, and I'm as polite as you can get. You can't imagine how many times I've heard "Mer-i-lee we roll along, roll along, roll along!" sung at my back. I'm not the least bit merry and everyone knows it. In fact, Grandma Birdy scolds me to get my butt off my shoulders and smile once in a while. Mama says I'm the moral compass of the whole wide world, and that I try to hold every sad thing there ever was in the palm of my hand. It's true. I think life is one big dream-squasher.

I also, by the way, don't look anything like Marilyn Monroe. My nose is so big and fat that if I lay down you could land a 747 on it. When Mama's not around, Grandma says someone hit me with the ugly stick up in heaven and the only time I should venture out is on Halloween.

Merilee. According to Grandma Birdy, my mother, high on the birthing drugs, spouted out this monstrosity of a name (or something similar), and the ding-dong candy striper wrote that down without consulting any of our kin. This all happened thirteen-and-a-half years ago. It could have been worse. Grandma Birdy thought for sure my mother said, "Mercy," which would have most surely stamped me with a holy name. I'm glad that didn't happen 'cause God knows I don't believe in him.

There's no middle name. I guess that candy striper thought Merilee was a mouthful and didn't ask for anything more, or maybe Mama finally passed out. The story has a murky-water tinge about it, like so many other old family stories.

When my little sister came along, Mama, being the visionary and stir-the-pot lady that she is, continued the dumb tradition she had started in her delirium, three-and-a-half years earlier. Mama has . . .

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. Copyright (c) by Suzanne Crowley . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Suzanne Crowley has always been fascinated with Elizabethan England, and according to family lore, she is a descendant of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. She is also the author of The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous, a Book Sense "Top Ten" Pick. Suzanne Crowley lives with her family in Southlake, Texas.

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Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
When I started reading this little gem of a book, I thought that it would be a fast read. I was mistaken. It took me awhile to read it because of the thought that had to be applied to comprehend the wonderful story. I selected this book to review because being a teacher, I have had the pleasure of having some autistic students in my class. I teach 10-12 year olds and I wanted to see some insight into the minds of my students. This gave me a lot to chew on. Merilee is being raised in a small town in West Texas. She lives with her mother, father, sister, and a very mean ole grandma. She has a very ordered existence where she does everything on a time schedule. If her schedule is messed up, she gets nervous. Into this existence comes two new characters, Veraleen and Biswick. Veraleen is a big woman with a very big heart, and Biswick is an 8-year-old boy who has been affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. The two of them help Merilee discover who she really is. The characters in this kind of slow-paced book are bigger than life. The town of Jumbo is made up a lot of strange people. Merilee is very smart but can't say what she wants to say. Everything gets locked up inside her mind. But she is very caring about the people she does care about. She gets picked on in school, which was the hardest thing to read about since I am a school teacher, and she gets verbal abuse from her grandmother, which is finally explained in the last chapters of the book. THE VERY ORDERED EXISTENCE OF MERILEE MARVELOUS is magical, and I am the better from reading this marvelous story.
Emily Green More than 1 year ago
this was a good book in some ways it was hard to falow but it was still good.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Merilee Monroe leads a Very Ordered Existence (V.O.E. for short). She¿s pretty much got everything in her semi-boring life in Jumbo, Texas all planned out, practically to the minute. For Merilee, there is no room for messing around, because that would only ruin her precise schedule. But what Merilee doesn¿t realize is that while she can try to control her life as best as she can, she can¿t stop others from intruding, namely little Biswick and big Veraleen. With these two newcomers to Jumbo, Merilee¿s V.O.E. has just about vanished. But although Merilee is upset about losing all the order in her life, it¿s through interacting with these two new friends that Merilee learns to love and be loved. I have mixed feelings over The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous. On the positive side, the story was cute and had a nice ending on the other, much of the middle was lacking. It was hard for me to get into this story because, frankly, it was rather boring. There were times that I sympathized with some cruel treatment of Merilee, but then later I would forget because of the lackluster plot. One issue I had with Merilee was that I could never figure out how old she was she was so precocious yet sometimes she seemed so immature, creating a unique but strange main character. Plus, Merilee¿s love for her V.O.E. seemed like a compulsion, bordering on a disorder, which would make it seem like she is one of those left-brained thinkers, but then Merilee also had an imagination when she liked to draw dragons. It was all a bit confusing, and I have to say that I preferred many of the minor characters, such as Biswick, to Merilee. There was a multitude of subplots, which sometimes kept the plot mildly interesting, but didn¿t help the story in the end because most of them were just left off in the middle of the story. The one possibly redeeming part of the story may have been Merilee¿s journey as she learned her place in the world, but unfortunately, this lesson came at the very end of a mediocre story. In all, I would not recommend The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous except to very patient readers, or readers who love wacky minor characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is OUTSTANDING. It shows kids that are a little different that they're not alone, and they're also very special. This book shows that you can make room and time for unexpected things in life- it makes you laugh and cry. Enjoy!