Caletti, Deb 1963–

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Caletti, Deb 1963–

Personal

Born June 16, 1963, in San Rafael, CA; married (divorced, 1999); married Elliot Wolf (a publisher), 2004; children: (first marriage) Samantha Bannon, Nicholas Bannon. Education: University of Washington, B.A., 1985.

Addresses

Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail[email protected]bcaletti.com.

Career

Writer. Bellevue Community College Center for Liberal Arts, Bellevue, WA, member of advisory board; speaker; lyricist.

Member

PEN, Amnesty International.

Awards, Honors

Washington State Arts Commission fellow, 2001; International Reading Association (IRA) Young-Adult Choice designation, and Cooperative Children's Book Council (CCBC) Choice designation, both 2004, both for The Queen of Everything; National Book Award finalist, Chicago Public Library Best-of-the-Best designation, and School Library Journal Best Books designation, all 2004, IRA Notable Book designation, New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age selection, and PNBA Best Book Award, all 2005, California Young Reader Medal finalist, 2005–06, and PEN USA Literary Award finalist, Washington State Book Award, and YALSA Best Books finalist, all for Honey, Baby, Sweetheart.

Writings

YOUNG-ADULT NOVELS

The Queen of Everything, Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2002.

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2004.

Wild Roses, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.

Work in Progress

The Nature of Jade, a young-adult novel, due 2007.

Sidelights

Award-winning author Deb Caletti's first young-adult novel, The Queen of Everything, is set in the Pacific Northwest, where Caletti makes her home. After her parents' divorce, seventeen-year-old Jordan McKenzie chooses to live with her more "normal" parent, her optometrist father, on an island in Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington State. With this decision, the teen left behind her free-spirited mother, who, together with her kinetic artist husband, runs a boarding house populated by an interesting assortment of characters. When Jordon's dad becomes obsessed with the beautiful and married Gayle D'Angelo, however, the teen fears he will do anything to get rid of Gayle's husband. Jordan makes some poor choices, as well, developing a crush on a handsome but cruel classmate at her new high school before noticing the attributes of the brother of her best friend. She must also deal with the death of a grandparent. Other characters include Melissa, Jordan's coworker at a weightloss center run by an eccentric religious couple, and Big Mama, a fishery worker who looks out for Jordan.

In The Queen of Everything Caletti patterned Jordan's parents somewhat after her own: as the author explained on her home page, her mother "was a bit of a hippie like Jordan's mom." While Caletti's father is in the optometric field, as she has assured readers, he is otherwise nothing like Jordan's dad. A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that in her debut novel the author "expertly succeeds in capturing the way a smart teen can grasp and skewer her world and what passes for everyday normal in a wry tone that never fails to recognize the seriousness of the situation." Miranda Doyle noted in School Library Journal that "teens will gain insight into how obsessive love can drive even ordinary-seeming individuals to commit terrible acts," while in Booklist Debbie Carton wrote that Jordan's "authentic teenage voice … will hold readers, as will the emotional issues of sadness and abandonment."

As Claire Rosser wrote in Kliatt, in Honey, Baby, Sweetheart Caletti "fills the pages with wonderful images, sharp dialogue, and memorable characters." The narrator in this young-adult novel is Ruby, a high schooler whose life changes during the summer between her junior and senior years. When Ruby falls hard for the handsome Travis, she spends most of the summer riding with him on his motorcycle. After the seemingly jobless Travis gives her a gold chain, however, Ruby learns that he has been breaking into houses and stealing. Although she realizes that being around him could be dan-gerous, Ruby's feelings for Travis make it difficult for her to break off the relationship. Her librarian mother, Ann, who has been abandoned by Ruby's philandering father many times, knows what her daughter is going through, and the two make a pact to break their dependence on their irresponsible men. A friendship with an elderly woman and a trip down to California to reunite the woman with a caring former lover helps Ruby learn an important lesson about the quality of real love.

Reviewing Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg commented that Caletti "writes a compelling, multigenerational story," while Lynn Evarts wrote in School Library Journal that "young adults will see themselves in Ruby and, like her, have some laughs on the road to wisdom." Evarts concluded by saying that Honey, Baby, Sweetheart is "full of heart, fun, and energy," and a Kirkus Reviews contributor dubbed the book "tender and poetic."

Caletti again explores teen emotions and broken homes in Wild Roses, a "rich novel" that deals with "themes of passion and recklessness," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. When Cassie Morgan's mother remarries four days after her divorce to Cassie's dad, the seventeen-year-old astronomy buff takes an instant dis-like to her new stepfather, Dino Cavalli. A manic-depressive violinist and composer, the volatile and moody Dino proves difficult to live with and levelheaded Cassie decides that passion in life, and in people, is a thing to be avoided. Her attraction to Dino's equally passionate student, Ian, presents a problem, therefore, as Cassie attempts to create an emotional balance in her life.

Caletti "keeps up her funny, smart banter" in Wild Roses, according to Claire Rosser in Kliatt, the critic adding that the "outrageous family story" is "entertaining without being shallow." The novelist's "perceptions on divorce are crystalline," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic, adding that Caletti's tale is "populated with delightfully oddball … characters and shot full of genuine wit." Booklist critic Jennifer Hubert deemed the novel "a good selection for mother-daughter book clubs," while in School Library Journal Susan Riley concluded that, containing "profound observations and vivid … language," Wild Roses is a "multifaceted and emotionally devastating novel" that will "stick with readers."

In her novels, Caletti sometimes uses profane language, and this fact has caused some to criticize her books. Addressing this situation on her home page, the novelist explained her reason for including profanity: "It's simple, really. Some people swear in my books because they are the type of people who would swear. Others don't, because they are the type of people who wouldn't swear. Honesty is the most important thing to me in my work. If I'm not being honest, then I should be fired from my job. It is not my aim to show an idealized world. It is my aim to show the world as it is in all of its beauty and messiness and variety and wackiness and rare moments of perfection."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2002, Debbie Carton, review of The Queen of Everything, p. 590; May 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 1613; October 1, 2005, Jennifer Hubert, review of Wild Roses, p. 47.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, June, 2004, Deborah Stevenson, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 411.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of The Queen of Everything, p. 1610; May 1, 2004, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 439; September 15, 2005, review of Wild Roses, p. 1023.

Kliatt, May, 2004, Claire Rosser, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 6; September, 2005, Claire Rosser, review of Wild Roses, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2002, review of The Queen of Everything, p. 62; June 7, 2004, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 51; November 28, 2005, review of Wild Roses, p. 52.

School Library Journal, November, 2002, Miranda Doyle, review of The Queen of Everything, p. 158; July, 2004, Lynn Evarts, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 102; November, 2005, Susan Riley, review of Wild Roses, p. 129.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2003, review of The Queen of Everything, p. 465; August, 2004, Pam Carlson, review of Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, p. 208.

ONLINE

Deb Caletti Home Page, http://www.debcaletti.com (June 12, 2006).

Seattle Post Intelligencer Online, http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/books/ (November 15, 2004), John Marshall, interview with Caletti.