Koertge, Ron. 2004. MARGAUX WITH AN X. Cambridge. MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763624012 [Suggested Grade Levels 7 and up]
Margaux has a problem. She is drop-dead gorgeous and academically brilliant, but she is immensely unhappy. Her dad is a compulsive gambler and her mom is addicted to the shopping network on TV. These superficial adults have no inkling of what is going on with their daughter.
Margaux is tired of her life and Koertge hints in a series of foreshadowing events that she has endured something horrible. Neither of her parents is willing to listen to her. She accidentally meets Danny Riley who is an animal activist and a nerd. Each of them suffers a painful secret that is eventually confided. Their unlikely friendship propels the plot.
What makes MARGAUX WITH AN X such a standout is Koertge’s language. He has created a character that finds solace in words. Because of her love of language and her brilliance, words fall from her mouth as gracefully as poetry. In fact, the language here is more poetic than most verse novels. Danny, too, is good with words and provides Margaux a much needed break from boys who are overawed by her good looks: “She loves that he knows that word [incarnadine], has seen it in context, looked it up or divined its meaning, remembered it, found a place for it talking to her” (Koertge, 2004, 57).
The topic of characters at the opposite end of the social strata finding friendship is not a new one, but Koertge manages the juxtaposition of the two main characters with exquisite sensitivity. He never talks down to his audience, instead treating his characters with the intelligence and understanding that they deserve – a rare gem.
Compile a vocabulary list of unfamiliar words used by Margaux and Danny. Try using them in sentences.
Compose blank verse using lines and phrases from the text.
Other books on abuse and family violence:
Mazer, Norma Fox. Silver. ISBN 0688068650
Oates, Joyce Carol. Freaky Green eyes. ISBN 0066237599
By Cay Geisler