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Remembering the Good Times is set in a small rural town in middle America where suburbia with its housing developments and shopping malls is slowly swallowing up the meadows and farm land. Two of the main characters in the book, Kate and Trav, represent the two extremes in the area while Buck is not too sure exactly where he fits. Kate lives with her mother and great grandmother Polly Prior in the house beside the pear orchard that her family has owned for generations. Trav's family, however, is part of the group of successful, upwardly mobile suburbanites whose subdivisions are changing the rural countryside. In the beginning of the novel, Buck is living with his mother and spending his summers with his father who works at the Slocum construction sites. When Buck's mother decides to remarry and move to Cleveland, Buck comes to live with his father in a trailer behind Scotty and Irene's gas station.

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Literary Qualities

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While not all critics have admired his work, Peck has won praise from many for the honesty and authenticity in his writing and for his ability to portray accurately the problems of growing up in today's society. Problems are not overplayed or sensationalized. Realizing that modern adolescents face more difficult and complex problems than prior generations, Peck populates Remembering the Good Times with believable characters, and presents subtle humor and a well-crafted plot that provides insight into the world of adolescents. As usual, Peck writes with a rich, yet easy-to-read flowing narrative and the descriptive details that make both the major and minor characters stand out as individuals. By telling the story from Buck's point of view rather than from Kate's or Trav's, Peck is able to step back for a better look at both the old-timers and the newcomers in Slocum Township. He is also provides subtle clues about Trav's decline and foreshadows the impending suicide. While references to Duran Duran, Boy George, and "Where's the beef?" may set the novel in the mid-1980s, its themes are still pertinent for adolescents.

Social Sensitivity

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Along with accidents and homicides, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in young adults. Because of this, writers are beginning to discuss adolescent suicide in nonfiction books and in novels. Some reviewers have criticized Peck for not providing concrete information on suicide prevention and for not really explaining the causes of teen suicide in his novel. But suicide is difficult to understand and Peck's purpose seems to be to make the reader aware of the existence of a problem that many try to deny. The power of this novel comes not from a technical exploration or case study of teen suicide but from Peck's ability to make the characters and their friendship come alive for the reader and to make the reader care about what happens to Kate, Buck, and Trav. In doing so, he also gives the reader an opportunity to think about the signs and signals given by Trav that the others ignored. Experts have suggested not focusing on suicide itself but, rather, looking at family relationships, self-esteem, academic pressures, and peer pressures as a way to present the problem. This is precisely what Peck does in this novel. In general, psychologists believe that discussions of suicide will not lead to more attempts. Rather, a well-informed discussion will end the myths surrounding suicide and present the harsh reality of teen suicide and its effects on those left behind, thus helping people to recognize and understand the danger signs that warn of a potential suicide.

For Further Reference

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 305

Crew, Hilary. "Blossom Culp and Her Ilk: The Independent Female in Richard Peck's YA Fiction." Top of the News 43 (Spring 1987): 297-301. Discusses the role of the strong female character such as Kate Lucas and Polly Prior and their importance in Peck's novels.

Garrett, Agnes and Helga P. McCue, eds. Authors & Artists for Young People. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1989. Presents an overview of Peck's life and career as a writer with extensive comments from Peck about his work.

Holtze, S., ed. Fifth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1983. Contains bio-graphical information and Peck's comments on his life.

Metzger, Linda, ed. Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Vol. 19. Detroit: Gale, 1987. Includes background information on Peck, a commentary on the importance of his works, and the text of a telephone interview with Peck on February 14, 1986.

Peck, Richard. Anonymously Yours. New York: Julian Messner, 1992. Pulls together, in an autobiography, much of what Peck has previously written in articles in sources such as School Library Journal and Horn Book, although the original sources are not cited. Describes his life and discusses many of the books that he has written and how his life and the books are tied together.

——. "Growing Up Suburban: 'We Don't Use Slang, We're Gifted.'" School Library Journal 32 (October 1985): 118-119. Looks at the pressures that suburban adolescents face, including the "permissive home and the elective school" and the solutions that they find such as group conformity and suicide.

Senick, Gerard J., ed. Children's Literature Review. Vol. 15. Detroit: Gale, 1988. Contains a biographical sketch, author's commentary, and excerpts from reviews of many of Peck's novels including Remembering the Good Times. Swing, Georgia Hanshew. "Choosing Life: Adolescent Suicide in Literature." English Journal 79 (September 1990): 78-82. Provides an overview of teen-age suicide incidents in Duluth, Minnesota, and the attempts of the school to discuss suicide through literature.

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