Molly Shaffer’s young adult novel THE PURPOSE OF ME isn’t light fare for teenagers, but rather serious reading for people on the threshold of adult life. It deals with some of the darkest issues a young person can face; the kind of things that can derail a life before it has really begun. I won’t mention the exact issues because I want to avoid spoilers, but will say that the lasting trauma of such issues can carry over into and dominate adulthood. This makes Ms. Shaffer’s novel an engrossing read for adults of any age, even antiques like me.
The prose here are excellent and pull you in right away. The plot revolves around a misplaced diary found at a local thrift store by a young woman named Rigby. The narrative alternates between diary excerpts and Rigby’s life, a parallel structure that gains resonance as the story progresses. The deeper I traveled into the story, the more real it became. The words and actions of Rigby and the unknown diarist are chillingly authentic, and I eventually began to lose any sense of this story being fiction. The author has an unmatched deftness with this dark subject matter. The acknowledgements at the end of the tale reveal the reason behind this aptitude for portraying pain.
In the end, the dark material that constitutes this novel is handled with such honesty and sensitivity that the result is uplifting. I would strongly recommend this novel for any young adult struggling to make sense of the onset of adult realities, any older adult still struggling with the carnage left behind from childhood, or anyone who loves someone beset by such issues. Personally, I had a happy childhood, yet I found myself engrossed and moved by this novel. Basically, I find it hard to imagine anyone being unaffected by this story.