Originally posted on Teen Writers Bloc in response to the question, “What was the best book you read this summer and why?”
Unlike last month’s question (don’t get me started), this one was a no-brainer. I’ve read a lot of books so far this summer, but Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey was far and away the best. I learned after I bought the book that it was a 2012 Printz Honor Book, which didn’t surprise me at all. I haven’t read the other finalists yet, but I’m guessing that I’ll wish this book had won.
Jasper Jones first came out in Australia in 2009. Hey publishing industry, why do we have to wait for books in English to be available in English speaking countries? But I digress. The book takes place in small town Australia during the Vietnam war. It manages to avoid the standard Vietnam-era clichés while still shedding some light on what it was like to be a kid during that time. The setting is fantastic but not obtrusive—it never gets in the way of the characters. The main character is 13-year-old Charlie, who is refreshingly mature and intelligent. As the book opens, he’s visited by town misfit and ne’er-do-well Jasper Jones, who takes Charlie into the brush to share a terrible secret. As the mystery unfolds, so does daily life in Charlie’s town. We meet Charlie’s Vietnamese best friend, Jeffrey, whose family is realistically and never stereotypically drawn, and Charlie’s love interest, Eliza, who is a strong character with motivations of her own. While the plot is tight and the central mystery is compelling, some of the best parts of the book are lazy small town moments, when Charlie and Jeffrey are acting like boys, or when the town converges for a cricket game.
Considering my inclination towards science fiction and fantasy, I’m surprised that I consider a realistic book to be my favorite of the summer so far. And this leads me to the horrifying truth. The worst book I read this summer was a fantasy. I’m not going to name it. Let’s just say that I feel stupider after reading it. (And yes, Dhonielle and Amy, you warned me!) It turns out that sometimes realism is better. There, I said it. Excuse me while I have a cry.
Cover Image: Random House Children’s Books
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