Caroline Cooney by Pamela S. Carroll Summary
Cooney's large body of work for adolescents defies easy classification. She has written award-winning adventure, suspense, romance, family, mystery, and historical fiction, as well as action-driven horror stories and a time-travel trilogy. Her purpose in some books, most notably horror like The Perfume, is just to encourage reluctant readers to enjoy literature. However, in her most serious and artistic books, Cooney relies on a source that is likely to surprise her readers: biblical stories and parables. For example, readers can find the seed of the idea that eventually became Whatever Happened to Janie in the story of King Solomon's wisdom when he was asked to decide which of two women, both of whom claimed to be mother of an infant, should be recognized as the true mother. The parable of the Good Samaritan provides a backdrop in several of Cooney's most successful novels. Cooney's understated use of biblical stories, and the way her Christian faith subtly informs her fiction, are explored in the book. The organization of the text reflects Cooney's major fiction categories: the "Janie" mysteries, romances, catastrophe novels, horror and suspense novels, the time travel trilogy, and her historical fiction. Representative books are discussed in detail within each chapter. Although most of the text is devoted to critical analysis of her literary work, and of the intersection of fiction and faith in her novels, Cooney's biography is also presented within the frame of her life as a single mother of grown children. The influences of her talents as an organist who played regularly for her church, the lessons she has learned from her children when they were teenagers, and life experiences that have led her to consider issues of race and gender, are examples of issues that are discussed. For children's and YA libraries and students of children's literature.