* Nominated for the 2013 Pushcart Prize
Dragonflies in the Cowburbs ($15, 6X9″, 104pp, September 2013, ISBN: 978-1-937536-51-0, Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-68114-146-6, LCCN: 2013917417, Click to Purchase on Amazon): Francesca Butler (“Fresca”) is a 17-year-old girl who lives in what she calls the “cowburbs.” Not quite the country and not quite the suburbs, the cowburbs offer Fresca adventure and room to grow, but also confusion and loneliness. The story is told from the point of view of a smart and sometimes sarcastic teenage girl who struggles to find happiness after the tragic death of her father, the mysterious disappearance of her friend Laurel Dee, and her boyfriend’s battle with Internet Addiction Disorder. Fresca loses a friend who dies from inhaling fumes from an aerosol can, and develops a close bond with her best friend, Veronica, who eases her through a case of “textitis” from too much texting. Veronica becomes an inspiring role model for Fresca when she shaves off all of her hair to protest the importance placed on physical attractiveness in their high school. Fresca also depicts a close relationship with her mother, whose “seventh sense” allows her to understand Fresca in intimate ways, but this relationship is challenged when her mother acquires a new boyfriend who doesn’t seem to like Fresca, or teenagers in general. With the help of her mom, her friends, and a sense of humor, Fresca discovers that love and happiness are not only possible, but waiting for her amidst a flock of dragonflies.
Donelle Dreese is the author of two poetry chapbooks: A Wild Turn and Looking for a Sunday Afternoon. Her poetry and fiction has appeared in publications such as Quiddity International, Hospital Drive, Roanoke Review, Connotations, Souvenir, Appalachian Heritage, Runes, Gulf Stream Magazine, Journal of Microliterature, Gadfly Online, and Conclave. She was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2013 Louise Bogan Award for Artistic Merit and Excellence by Trio House Press. Donelle is also the author of America’s Natural Places: East and Northeast, a travelogue. She is an Associate Professor of English at Northern Kentucky University, where she teaches literature, creative writing and composition.
“Donelle Dreese’s young adult novella, Dragonflies in the Cowburbs, unfolds in a series of poignant, witty, and lyrical vignettes formally reminiscent of The House on Mango Street. As readers, we spend a year in the life of Francesca Butler, an ‘unpopular sixteen-year-old who already feels as if her life is controlled by the hounds of “no” and “not now.”‘ This coming-of-age narrative captures so much of our contemporary zeitgeist, from Facebook status updates to a bad case of ‘textitis.’ Yet the story itself is timeless—a young woman struggling to make her way in a world fraught with contradiction and loss. Francesca muses, ‘What about a singer who permanently loses her voice? She must find other ways to sing.’ And this, I marvel, is what Dreese herself has done. She has found a way to sing with grace and conviction in a story (and a world) that raises more questions than it answers.”
—Julie Marie Wade, author of Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures and Small Fires: Essays
“At seventeen years old, Francesca Butler has already endured many major losses, yet her trials have not made her bitter, but instead have served to make her a thoughtful observer of life. Our window into Fresca’s world in Dragonflies in the Cowburbs offers a charming glimmer of hope for the future, a world in which today’s young people are able to do more than merely cope as they strive to make sense of a world that most often appears to be without harmony, logic, or compassion.”
—A.M. Garner, author of Undeniable Truths
“With smart, quirky Francesca telling her episodic story, Dragonflies in the Cowburbs is a promising debut.”
—George Ella Lyon, author of Holding On to Zoe