This is the kind of book you're supposed to like and that is perfect for a classroom (on paper). It started off dry and continued that way, and everyThis is the kind of book you're supposed to like and that is perfect for a classroom (on paper). It started off dry and continued that way, and every chapter offered some sort of over the top teachable moment. After a while, I just couldn't take it anymore. Deza herself was a fine character in the way that you're fine with working on a Saturday or you're fine with that side of broccoli you know you should eat. She doesn't jump off the page, and I found the heavy-handedness of the writing to be tiresome. I got halfway through, which is when the plot as it were was just about to get going. I just couldn't take it anymore. I think kids are done a disservice because educators or librarians hype these books that you're supposed to like because they're by a certain author or touch on a certain topic without going over anything new. The writing needs to compensate for going over tired story lines, and in this case it doesn't....more
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I apologize, Christina, if you come across this review, because I know you loved this book and ICheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
I apologize, Christina, if you come across this review, because I know you loved this book and I know I supported it as a choice for our book discussion group. But, I hated this book. It didn't make any logical sense and seemed utterly implausible. I typically hate complex world building, but there was no world building at all here. And this whole faction thing... What? Huh? This story was just an endless series of torturous physical trials. The author seemed to be against violence and yet every time I turned around someone was being subjected to every form of torture but water boarding. And to what end? I didn't get a sense that the author fully communicated her intentions for this story. I don't know if she had any, other than maybe to cash in on the Hunger Games.
Tris was a self-loathing bore, whose only flaw seemed to be the fact that she just didn't feel like giving up her seat on the bus to old ladies. And she liked looking at her self in the mirror more than occasionally but not too much because one can't exhibit one of the seven deadly sins or whatever. This is yet another in a long line of dystopias with a thinly-veiled religious agenda. And I don't need that. And the themes the author dealt with were so pat and simplistic. And the character motivations... I didn't get what drove them at all. Four might've been the most wooden character I've come across in a while, and his relationship to Tris seemed to function as a way to indicate that she was caring but stupid for not being able to decode his cryptic messages about his feelings for her.
This author managed to make the rounds here. People who seek knowledge and think logically are obviously motivated by profit and have malicious intentions. They are also most likely not religious and would appear to follow none but Ayn Rand. While those who are selfless are clearly superior they need to lighten up a little bit and quit dressing like the Amish. Otherwise they're cool. I guess Dauntless would have been OK if they would just stop encouraging all that destructive competition and get back to being more like the Abnegation faction. The rest is all just gravy as far as the factions go. And why a society would enter into such a ridiculous mode of living is beyond me. What's in it for people? Oh and the author squeezed in a last-minute message about abstinence at the end just to remind you that teens shouldn't have sex, never, not ever until they're absolutely ready (most likely after marriage). I would have liked to give a brief synopsis about this book, but I don't understand what it was about. Each chapter gave one conflicting message after another, and the writing was so wooden I couldn't be bothered to pay attention after a while and started skimming. Sheesh....more
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This book was a real surprise for me. I don't normally like books about "issues." They're usuallCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book was a real surprise for me. I don't normally like books about "issues." They're usually so overdone and often sacrifice basic storytelling elements in favor of preaching. However, when done well, the story as a whole shines. In this case, Wonder is a book about a lot of great things: friendship, family, bullying, acceptance (of yourself and others) and finding your way. Auggie was born with a rare genetic issue that has left much of his facial features highly altered. He has undergone numerous surgeries to correct some of these issues, primarily to make it easier for him to eat and other medical issues like that. This kid isn't getting plastic surgery to look the way he would like - it's about quite a bit more than that.
At the start of this story, Auggie is 10 years old and is entering the fifth grade at a new school. He has been home schooled up to this point largely for health reasons. However, his parents are aware of the fact that he might encounter difficulties with other children who would not be so nice to a child who looks different. Auggie's parents are split on the decision to send him to school, though Auggie agrees to give it a try. While the story includes many serious moments, most of which relate to bullying and acceptance, the tone is light and inspiring. This story really has a lot of hope.
One of the best devices this author used included narrating the story from various points of view. It's not just Auggie relating the events here. We get perspectives from his sister, his sister's boyfriend and also her best friend and two friends of Auggie. This gives a much richer texture to Auggie's experiences and the world he deals with. I loved each character's voice. Even though each section was narrated in the first person, each point of view had a distinct identity.
There were a lot of things going on with this book, and some of those things were just little nuances that created a larger picture. I liked the song lyrics quoted throughout the story, references to David Bowie and Star Wars, the shifting tenses relative to the different narrators, Mr. Browne's precepts and the very human actions and feelings these characters demonstrated. Via was one of my favorite characters, thought it was hard to choose my favorite. Everyone brought something viable to the table. Hope this wins some kind of award in 2013!...more
This book had a cool title, but didn't deliver. I think the author used it as a hook to get you to read. It wasn't creepy or thrilling or anything likThis book had a cool title, but didn't deliver. I think the author used it as a hook to get you to read. It wasn't creepy or thrilling or anything like that. I was expecting something more akin to the stuff by Karen Cushman, but after 100-plus pages, I lost track of what was going on due to my constant zoning out. The characters were annoying and underdeveloped, and I didn't understand the world the author tried to build. At first it seemed like historical fiction, but there was all this talk of a necromancer, and I stopped caring after a while. Another disappointing 2012 read....more
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If you're gonna go for something, you might as well pull out all of the stops, and this book cerCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
If you're gonna go for something, you might as well pull out all of the stops, and this book certainly accomplishes that. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl wrote a Southern Gothic paranormal romance, and all that comes to mind in the genre is present here: prejudice, voodoo, swamps, grave robbing, the Civil War, Civil War ghosts, a family curse and a town that's not what it seems. This is the book you go to when you want everything that goes with Southern Gothic, and that's not really a bad thing. Beautiful Creatures is highly readable, and the pacing is great. Ethan Wate is part of one in a long list of old families in Gatlin County, South Carolina. Everyone knows everyone, and this town is kind of like the southern version of wherever the Gilmore Girls took place in New England. Ethan has been part of the in-crowd his whole life, but secretly resents how stupid, narrow-minded and shallow the whole town is. He can't wait to get out, especially since his mother died and his father holed up in his study, only emerging to shower and eat.
The story begins on the first day of Ethan's sophomore year. He's preparing for another year of sitting with the same friends at lunch, playing on the basketball team for lack of a better option and generally daydreaming until the day of graduation. But a new girl has arrived in town, and word is she lives in the "haunted" house at the edge of town with her uncle whom no one has ever seen. She even shows up to school driving a hearse. Though extremely beautiful, everyone agrees she's bizarre and lives in the wrong house with the wrong person. But Ethan has been dreaming about the same girl every night for weeks. He can't remember what she looks like, but she's always falling, and when he tries to grab her hand, she always falls away anyway. Of course Lena is this girl. He just knows it, and he thinks she knows it too. He's captivated by her. In a sea of sameness, she's completely different.
Lena is of obviously more than she seems, and tells Ethan to stay away from her; he's going to get hurt, he doesn't realize what's at stake. However, they can't stay away from each other and strange things start happening the more they're together. And storms seem to follow Lena wherever she goes, the wind blowing around her hair when there was no wind at all moments ago.
This book includes a varied and strange cast of characters that all fit into various molds indicative of this genre. There's the mysterious and creepy uncle, an eccentric housekeeper who practices tarot card reading, mean high school girls and the bewildered jocks who follow them, broken men and seemingly normal people who are hiding something in the strangest places.
This story feels familiar in a lot of ways, probably because it borrows from so many genre tropes. The writing also falls into that same tone that's present in most Southern gothic stories. I'm not a fan of True Blood, but I've seen enough of it to know Beautiful Creatures is the same thing but with teens. It's good for what it is. I did like it, but it's the kind of book that's highly enjoyable without being original.
As far as something that was unusual, this book was narrated by Ethan. Paranormal romances are usually populated by entropic but superficial girls who bask in being noticed by the unusual guy (i.e. Twilight). Ethan's kind of a naval gazer and spends a lot of time wondering when something real will happen to him and when he'll find a girl who embodies that ineffable something that equates to realness. The jock hiding depth has been done before, but it's not inauthentic. And Lena is your typical teen girl - everything is unfair and nothing is bound to go right. People don't like her because she's different and she just wants a normal life. I like Ethan and Lena, despite their flaws. This ended pretty predictably in many ways, but I'm intrigued enough to look a the sequel....more
I hesitate to "star" a journal, because the writer didn't compose his or her diary for the benefit, enjoyment or enrichment of others, however self-coI hesitate to "star" a journal, because the writer didn't compose his or her diary for the benefit, enjoyment or enrichment of others, however self-conscious said author might be. However, I would say while this journal had some lovely passages, it wasn't illuminating on the whole. It was actually quite depressing. Written during the most difficult period of Virginia Woolf's life, it shows more about her psyche but why she doesn't say than what she does. It's very methodical and routine in the first few years. You could tell she was trying to rebuild her mind after her first nervous breakdown. The diary just stops before difficult periods and resumes after she recovers. The travel sections are actually less interesting despite being more than just an account of her daily tasks, because they feel more straightforward in a way. You infer less about her life at this point, because she's merely outlining travel. It was clear, however, that she was deeply devoted to becoming a writer and did all she could to make that happen. I was hoping this set of journals would shed some light on the difficult events that characterized the rest of her life, but it shows how even in the seemingly open and free world of journal writing, we lie to ourselves or merely examine what we choose to examine. The memoirs she did that comprise Moments of Being are much more illuminating, open and honest.
One small section does provide some chilling backdoor insight, and it was hard to read. While vacationing in the country with her family (shortly before her father became ill), Virginia learned of a local woman's recent suicide by drowning in the Serpentine River. While shaken by this story, she writes about it in detail, speculating about the woman's motives for committing this act. Her writing about this incident has a fascinated feel to it, and it is an eerie sign of things to come for her. Like I said, this journal was an unpleasant read in many cases......more
I read a little over half of these, but I'm not inclined to continue at this point. I had read Katherine Mansfield before, and some of her work is briI read a little over half of these, but I'm not inclined to continue at this point. I had read Katherine Mansfield before, and some of her work is brilliant. Other stuff less so. I don't particularly like the short story format, so I can't say Mansfield did anything herself to stop me from continuing at this point. I just have too much read, and I'm not wholly captivated by her work. She's like a condensed version of Virginia Woolf but with much more of an inclination for turning the plot on its head at the end....more
This book just popped into my head randomly this morning. I read this as part of the school curriculum in 6th grade, back when teachers still taught "This book just popped into my head randomly this morning. I read this as part of the school curriculum in 6th grade, back when teachers still taught "classics" at all costs in school. I remember liking it, but unfortunately it was so long ago that I can't say for sure what kind of lasting emotional and psychological impact it left on me, so that's why it gets three stars. Given all the current fascination in children's literature with books about poor rural areas, the depression and the dust bowl, it's probably good to have this on my radar again, even if I highly doubt it's in my library's collection. Since everybody just reads the Giver in middle school now, it would be nice to see books for that age group with a bit more scope than just reading stories about the horror of badly drawn, oppressive, future worlds. Sorry Lois Lowry. I like the new trend of incorporating current literature into schools, but it would be nice if it remained high quality....more
This was a short, quick read with a very funny main character who was likeable in spite of being unlikeable. Some mature content makes this book moreThis was a short, quick read with a very funny main character who was likeable in spite of being unlikeable. Some mature content makes this book more appropriate for 6th grade and up....more
Another lovely book in this series. Susan Cooper's writing is lyrical in some sections. Her descriptions of the landscape in Cornwall evoke the moodsAnother lovely book in this series. Susan Cooper's writing is lyrical in some sections. Her descriptions of the landscape in Cornwall evoke the moods of the characters and the themes of her work excellently. In this story, one of the things of power has been stolen, and Uncle Merry, Will Stanton and the Drew children must recover on the cliffs of Cornwall. All the elements from this series are present, but this story showcases the power of empathy and kindness and also depicts the loneliness that comes with serving only your own ends. Jane was a bigger player in this book, and deservedly so, as her actions have a large impact on this story. I was disappointed there wasn't much emphasis on Will Stanton's character in this book, but the rest of the story made up for it. Nobody does mood like Susan Cooper (at least among children's authors), and the sense of dread you get from the pacing and the descriptions is great....more
Primarily an ironic look at Victorian society, this book still seems to convey Woolf's interest in how experience changes the mind, looking at the sigPrimarily an ironic look at Victorian society, this book still seems to convey Woolf's interest in how experience changes the mind, looking at the sights and sounds of life in detail. In spite of trying to write a satirical little vignette, the author's artistic concerns and interests shown through. Not the most riveting of her works, but it was pleasant. I like how Woolf examined manners and other aspects of London society as seen through the eyes of a dog, a snobby dog at that. This wasn't a remarkable story, but it doesn't need to be. I have a feeling this was meant to give Woolf a respite from something else she was working on at that time. Much like her short stories, this is more of a curiosity than a necessary addition to the canon. I like the author's social commentary, but she shines more when writing about relationships and the affects of time on the psyche....more
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This book was an intense page-turner and yet difficult to get through because of the subject matCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
This book was an intense page-turner and yet difficult to get through because of the subject matter. The dramatized story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a Cambodian boy forced into the life of a slave and then a child soldier under the Khmer Rouge regime. This is an understatement to say that this was a terrible, terrible time for humanity. Akin to the Holocaust, Arn is separated from his family, forced to kill others to survive and then armed by the Khmer Rouge in the final days of the regime. This book is probably best suited to eighth grade and up, though adults will find this material difficult to digest as well. Arn lived right in the middle of what came to be known as the Killing Fields - people were buried alive, had their organs cut out before their own eyes and executed en masse because of their perceived association with the old government.
I'm a bit speechless about this book. Arn is adopted by Americans, but his troubles don't end there. Americans remained suspicious of him, and he is plagued by nightmares of what he endured. He was nearly worked to death, but somehow managed to survived through luck and his own ingenuity. He becomes a member of a nationalist band comprising children, who are ordered to play when people are killed, so no one can hear the screams and the gunfire.
This book comes with an afterward and sources for more information about the Khmer Rouge and how to help rebuild Cambodia, which is still recovering from the effects of this short but terrible time in history. A short book, but gripping page by page. Patricia McCormick took a risk by giving Arn's voice a dialect reflective of a non-native speaker of English. It worked well, and you got a better sense of who he was by allowing his voice to remain the way you would hear it if he spoke to you himself.
A brilliant portrait of someone who never gave up even when he lost hope. ...more
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The Wicked and the Just could easily have been written by Karen Cushman, it resembles her work sCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
The Wicked and the Just could easily have been written by Karen Cushman, it resembles her work so much. She even blurbed it. I liked it though and don't consider it an outright ripoff. Medieval historical fiction about two girls dealing with widely different changes to their circumstances in 13th Century Great Britain. Cecily and her father are forced off their family estate by the older brother of her father, who has just returned from the Crusades and is the rightful heir to the manor because he is older. Cecily's father receives a post in Wales and may stay in a smaller home in an albeit more scenic location. Cecily is extremely angry about being uprooted and acts extremely imperious and bratty about the whole thing. Her passages are long and include all kinds of fun observations typical of a girl living during any time, let alone Medieval Great Britain. Upon settling in, Cecily meets Gwen, who lived in this house until the English showed up and more or less made servants out of all the native Welsh. The girls don't get along from the start. And Gwen's chapters are short and her mood is black. She hates these interlopers who have turned her into a servant.
It read very well, though I wish the author had provided some kind of glossary in the back. Many of the words were unfamiliar, and I couldn't make sense of some of the terms. It didn't ruin my comprehension, but it might frustrate a kid. Even though the chapters are delineated in alternating first-person, you don't get lost in who's who. I could tell the difference between Gwen and Cecily easily, because their speech patterns were different. And they referred to various characters with different spellings based on their different nationalities. Not something you'd necessarily hear when they spoke, but it adds a nice touch. Gwen's really hard and jaded. She loves her family and maybe even once loved the man who wants to marry her. But, in the wake of the English invasion, Gwen wants no part of the happy life she looked forward to before they showed up. Cecily meanwhile acts quite cruelly herself, and both girls come to learn what is wicked and what is just by the end. A great classroom book for middle-graders, who would have a ton of fun debating what constitutes justice and what constitutes revenge.
This book does not tie up neatly given the circumstances, but by the end of this story, some hard truths are learned by both girls. They may not end up friends, but given what happens to both of them, the understanding they reach and even mutual respect is satisfying. ...more
A good book about dealing with family issues. Ramona's father loses his job and this book deals with the effect it has on her family. Ramona also embaA good book about dealing with family issues. Ramona's father loses his job and this book deals with the effect it has on her family. Ramona also embarks on a campaign to get her father to quit smoking. I love the Ramona books. They really reflect the real lives of children and all they go through - good, bad and everything else....more
This was ok. I started skimming a little after the halfway point. The character development was too static, and Perry and Aria spent a large part of tThis was ok. I started skimming a little after the halfway point. The character development was too static, and Perry and Aria spent a large part of the book watching other people make active decisions rather than engaging in any meaningful choices themselves. Having two separate narratives worked in the previous book because you could see how each of them grew as they played off of each other. In this book, with the two of them separated for most of the book, it just created this "Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." kind of thing. Perry's section was less interesting than Aria's as he struggled to keep his tribe together after some infighting resulting primarily from her presence among them. Aria set off with their friend Roar to find Perry's absent sister in what amounted to a disastrous turn of events.
The pacing wasn't terribly bad, but I get tired of plot development with little character development. Draggin characters and dragging story made for a typically brittle part two in a trilogy....more
Super quick read about a boy named Nick who decides to make up a new word for pens called Frindle. This is at first done to annoy his English teacher,Super quick read about a boy named Nick who decides to make up a new word for pens called Frindle. This is at first done to annoy his English teacher, but it eventually becomes a declaration of independence. Nick can't figure out why some words have certain names, and when he doesn't get a sufficient answer, he embarks on an etymological adventure!...more
What a macabre little story that never gets strange enough to justify the odd beginning: Stella and Angel are staying with Stella's great-aunt LouiseWhat a macabre little story that never gets strange enough to justify the odd beginning: Stella and Angel are staying with Stella's great-aunt Louise for the summer (Stella's mother abandoned her, and Angel is a foster kid), and when Great-Aunt Louise dies unexpectedly one day, the girls bury her in the backyard so they don't have to go back into the foster system. Angel and Stella are very different and don't get along, but they must learn to work together to hide the fact that Louise has died. Over time, you can imagine that Angel and Stella learn to accept each other and become friends.
As far as this sort of thing happening, I think it probably has or even could happen. But I'm not sure I like it. I don't think Sara Pennypacker is encouraging children to do this, but more weight ought to be given to this. Stella tells the story and spends a lot of appropriate time reflecting on why her mother just can't seem to get it together. That to me seems like the story here, but it gets swallowed up by the side plot of trying to cover up Louise's demise. The author tries for some black comedy but doesn't really succeed, and instead it mostly just comes across as being in poor taste.
This book could have worked just as well without the whole "Louise is buried in the garden" premise. Two different girls are forced together and become friends... that could happen without the strange twist, and I think it would be more accessible to children, most of whom haven't buried their dead relatives in the backyard. Things don't wrap up entirely neatly at the end, but too neatly for my taste. You'll see. Stella's mother was too absent of a factor for me to really care that she never did turn up in person. Seems a bit convenient for me. Maybe fifth grade and up as far as audience? I'm not recommending it any time soon though....more
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So yeah - one star. I don't normally read books like this. I'm not too into paranormal or horrorCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
So yeah - one star. I don't normally read books like this. I'm not too into paranormal or horror, and I'm turned off by urban fantasy a lot of the time, with some exceptions. However, I gave this book a shot because I read a great review on a blog I like on the School Library Journal Web site. It's not hard to find if you're so inclined. I had issues with this book from the start. It's a modern-day twist on the Red Riding Hood fairytale. In this book, the wolf/wolves are werewolves who prey on young, vulnerable girls, and Red Riding Hood is depicted as two teenage sisters who hunt the wolves down and kill them. A little weird, but I was open to it. It seemed like it could have a cool feminist message, and the writer of said blog I mentioned above really harped on how great the bond was between these two sisters - the older of the two, Scarlett, was horribly disfigured protecting her younger sister Rosie when the wolves attacked them as children. Since then, Scarlett has defined herself as an avenging crusader, hell bent on eradicating the wolves. Rosie owes everything to her sister and works with her, but yearns for a different life. She also has a crush on Scarlett's only friend Silas, further complicating the situation.
I have several problems with this book. One, the author isn't that great of a writer. She loves to tell and rarely shows. You don't even really have to concentrate to get what's going on with this story. In fact, I was glazing over through the last third. Second, Pearce's inclusion of certain aspects of the traditional Red Riding Hood into modern-day Georgia don't really add up. For example, the girls wear red cloaks while hunting (yes, the kind with a hood). They don them in broad daylight with regular people around, who don't seem to bat an eyelash at the fact that it's Halloween all year for these kids. And then there's Silas, who comes from a long line of woodsmen who live in the forest and build their homes with their bare hands and who also know all about the existence of girl-eating werewolves. I don't get it either. While these are serious deficiencies, they don't absolutely ruin the book. They just make it pretty bland fare. My major problem with this story lies in how the author ultimately treats the plight of women (hunted by werewolves or in actuality living in a society that condones sexual assault; you may have figured out what's really going on here). It's nice that Scarlett and Rosie know how to kick ass, but by Page 150 or so, I came across an aspect of our culture I dread encountering in real life, let alone in a book: victim blaming.
These werewolves as symbols of sexual predators are attracted to vulnerable, helpless women who flaunt their sexuality. Scarlett and Rosie lure the wolves by exhibiting these tendencies. The wolves thrive on fear. Scarlett is out hunting one night and sees a large number of scantily-clad women, wearing lots of makeup and stumbling around drunkenly without a care. Scarlett dehumanizes them by likening their appearance to dragonflies, while Silas makes the statement that no longer makes this a feminist novel: It's like they're asking [for it]. I made a substitution here because he actually says they're asking to be eaten - same diff. Scarlett agrees with this sentiment. Now, I don't think Jackson Pearce intends to blame rape victims for their attacks; I just think she wrote herself into a corner and couldn't figure out how to get out of it. The protagonists are strong, but the victim blaming negates the good will outlined by the author in the beginning.
Soapboxing aside, I found the characters to be pretty flat. Silas was pretty blank-faced and bordered on creepy, and Scarlett was so consumed by revenge that at one point I thought she might want to consider counseling. I'm not judging - just saying. And here's Rosie caught in the middle of all of this. The poor girl just wants to take a few arts and crafts classes. Does it make her that bad of a person for wanting to make origami frogs for half an hour once a week instead of living and breathing hunting girl-eating werewolves for the rest of her life when there are other issues to be concerned about here? Seriously....more
What a nice surprise this book was! I saw it on that featured books section on the main page of this Web site, and the synopsis sounded intriguing. IWhat a nice surprise this book was! I saw it on that featured books section on the main page of this Web site, and the synopsis sounded intriguing. I love books about processing an event after it's over, which is what this story is all about. I loved Juliet, who at 32, has just finished writing under a pseudonym for five years about World War II. Her column was meant to provide a respite from this event while still focusing on it, and now that it's all over Juliet is ready to try something different... as soon as that comes along...
Something new pops up in the form of a letter from a pig farmer named Dawsey who lives on the Isle of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Nazis for the duration of the war. He came across a book Juliet used to own that still had her name and address on it. He liked it and was hoping for recommendations along the same lines. Through this minor occurrence, Juliet comes to learn all about the plight of the people on this island and the intricacies of their characters.
This was a short read with a tone that alternated between humorous and playful and reflective and profound. The entire novel is done in epistolary form, which is a refreshing technique even though it's not a new one. You also get a stylistic sense reminiscent of the literature, art and film from this time period without it coming across as hackneyed or like a pastiche.
I wish I could do this book as part of a club for teens at my library, but I know that I wouldn't have liked this book when I was a teen. It's a book about discovery and self-evaluation, but not the kind that comes with entering adulthood. It's clearly about a mature person who while still young is now trying to figure out what to do now that her early adult years are over. Within the context of such a life-changing event like World War II, it becomes even more profound....more
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If you read this book with a clipped Australian voice you can make it to the end without gettingCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
If you read this book with a clipped Australian voice you can make it to the end without getting too annoyed by all of the bad grammar and the weird dialect. If you read with an Appalachian voice, which to me is the only alternative given the parameters of the characters' speech patterns, you grow tired of that whole dialect thing quickly. Plus, it lends too much to a dust bowl vibe. You half expect the Joads to show up amid all of this talk of drought. Also, Battle Hymn of the Republic starts to loop in your head.
I picked this up because it got a good recommendation from School Library Journal. Amid all of this Hunger Games fervor, you can't have too many read-alike choices in your bag of readers' advisory tricks at the library. Very slow beginning, despite a promising first couple of chapters. The first 150-200 pages drag quite a bit. It doesn't help that there's not much description, spurred by the Cormac McCarthy style this author seems to be going for - no quotation marks for dialog, lots of terse remarks by the characters. This setting, a dust-ridden, future landscape in which most people live in a lawless world overrun by drug addicts and death matches, could have been so much more. However, the author doesn't describe it all that well and foregoes using her setting as a symbol of moral degradation, instead only conjuring dust storms when they suit her purpose.
Things picked up sometime after Page 200 - when Saba meets up with a bunch of scrappy revolutionaries and a drifter named Jack (are all drifters named Jack or is it just me?). At this point, actual action occurs even though Saba just spent the last 50 pages in a gladiator-style combat scenario. I like Saba, though she's very unlikable in a lot of ways. She'll do anything to find her kidnapped brother Lugh, but cares little for anything or anyone else - even her sister and the girls who save her from the death matches. But like the missed opportunity for good evocation of setting, Moira Young doesn't explore Saba's character as well as she could.
Things really rev up by the final third. Since the author squandered her early opportunities to make this book much more in depth and interesting early on, she had the good grace to turn it into an action story interspersed with romantic tension between Saba and Jack. It becomes much more predictable, but at least you know where things are headed at this rate. No longer left waiting for something bigger and more interesting to crop up, you can just sit back and let childish arguments and fights with flesh-eating worms wash over you like literary valium. I think I'm going to file this book under a pile of stuff that wasn't awful to read and gradually got better but ultimately turned out weak - stuff with sequels I may or may not get to any time soon. The main flaw with this book is a total lack of explanation for why things are the way they are. I can get over not knowing the details of the ecological disaster that brought us to this point, but why are people all hopped up on drugs? Why are people forced to participate in cage matches? What does this say about society? This had some of the same issues that Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi had - unexplained post-apocalyptic world, with characters that could have used just a bit more fleshing out. With Rossi's book, the writing was better and the characters were still more compelling than what I got from Blood Red Road. This book felt too much like a Hunger Games knockoff without the meat....more