Initially I was a little put off by the main character's need to introduce himself so obviously (had the same is...moreThis was very powerful in some places.
Initially I was a little put off by the main character's need to introduce himself so obviously (had the same issue with Mighty Miss Malone and Lions of Little Rock. First person pitfall. And I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the use of dialect.
But this book swept me up, and after the first few pages, I got lost in it. One sitting.
Loved the touch of the boy his life intertwines with, Tommy. Loved his family, and believed them. And the setting felt more real than any other book I've read this year. Wilmington, for all its pain and prejudice, was incredibly beautiful in the eyes of a boy who'd grown up there, full of small details.
ALso, I can't remember the last time I read a middle grade book that ended so tragically. There is real violence here, and Wright didn't wriggle her way out in the end. I was impressed.(less)
I can't put my finger on why I don't love this book more.
But I think it has something to do with Deza's transition from happy-kid to aware-of-the-wor...moreI can't put my finger on why I don't love this book more.
But I think it has something to do with Deza's transition from happy-kid to aware-of-the-world-around-her-kid. It happens so suddenly, and although she's very aware of what her family's going through (almost hyper aware of herself), the shift feels like-- I don't know-- like she gets on a roller coaster ride of Depression-era pain, and comes off it a new person.
ANd while it's true that pain can tumbleweed in life, and while its also true that a kid can suddenly become aware of the tumbleweed, this tumbleweed feels like a little too much, too fast.
I found myself thinking about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for some reason. That subtle filtering of awareness and adult comprehension of poverty through childlike magic and wonder. I wished for more of that here.
That said, it's a good book. It just fell a little short of what I wanted.(less)
I had to hold off reading this for months, because I've been at work on my own Secret Garden tribute (in a sense--though very different from this) and...moreI had to hold off reading this for months, because I've been at work on my own Secret Garden tribute (in a sense--though very different from this) and was afraid to be influenced by Potter. But wow, so glad I finally handed my book in, and so got to read it!
It's a gem of a book-- precise and spare and beautiful, and lonely. But also fun and adventurous. I loved it. It follows the classic pretty closely, but updated, and with some great twists.
It also had echoes of Great Gilly Hopkins in the beginning. ANd something about the character of Jack reminded me as much of Spiller (The Borrowers) or My Side of the Mountain as it did Dickon.(less)
I don't know where to begin. It's Adrian Mole on speed, but raunchier, and deeper. Figure that out.
Plot: Geeky boy who has distanced himself from the...moreI don't know where to begin. It's Adrian Mole on speed, but raunchier, and deeper. Figure that out.
Plot: Geeky boy who has distanced himself from the world, and obsessively makes movies with a friend, and has a sharp eye for social patterns and a potty mouth, finds himself forced into the role of concerned-friend of a dying cancer patient he barely knows. The book is his "journey" but it's hilarious and self-aware and it scoffs perpetually at being any kind of journey. Despite the fact that it truly is a "coming of age book."
This book managed to make me cry from laughing (ask my husband, who was forced to hear line after line read aloud, whether he wanted to or not). And then, at the end, it made me cry again for real.
It also did a fair amount of shape-shifting. Interrogated itself. I don't know how to explain myself any better than that. I want to read it again and figure out how it managed.
Rounded up. Really a 3.5, I think. The writing is clear and strong, descriptive. The story is inventive. Details are wonderful.
But the age of the prot...moreRounded up. Really a 3.5, I think. The writing is clear and strong, descriptive. The story is inventive. Details are wonderful.
But the age of the protagonist feels confused to me, even for 1952. And the "bad guys" and politics feel flat and simplistic, for a book which has attempted to address such matters. It's as if Meloy intended to get into these issues in a more serious way, but then lost steam (or her initial project was edited into a simpler one). Also, I struggled here, as I do with a lot of books (including my own) about how far I can suspend my disbelief concerning the kid/parent relationship, once the adventure starts up. I don't buy that they'd just leave her with the gin-soaked stranger while they went out of town for work. And I know how impossible this can be to navigate (truth be told I'm struggling with it now myself, which may be why it bugged me so much) but I think Meloy could have found herself a better device to get Janie off on her own.(less)
Okay, so here's what I've been puzzling over with this book-- it's a PRIME example of the sort of book that sometimes struggles to find the right read...moreOkay, so here's what I've been puzzling over with this book-- it's a PRIME example of the sort of book that sometimes struggles to find the right readers, I think. Because it takes real risks, in quiet ways. It doesn't announce itself as "quirky" or "zany." It just is those things, because it is human, and humans are those things...
The book is charming, yes. It is funny. The characters are real. The writing is impossibly good, without requiring flourishes. It is smart and witty and SIMPLE. In theory, everyone is supposed to like all of those things. But somehow, books like this get misread. Or overlooked.
What makes me love it best is what an irritating review I just read disliked about it. It is PARTICULAR. It is pointed. It is honest.
If you need things to be sweet and sympathetic at every turn, or DRAMATIC, look elsewhere. This book has a tiny but real mean streak. It makes fun. It paints a real portait of real people with adept humor, and with empathy too, with humanity.
Here is a test. If you LOVE this line like I do (whether or not you are Jewish) you will love the book. If you think this line is too mean, you maybe won't:
"The camp Allie and her sister go to," said my mom, "is, well--"
"IT'S FOR THE GOYIM," interrupted Ace.
(and then, a few lines later, about the same church camp, and what they do there, and why Zelly can't go)
Ace shrugged, "IT'S A PROVEN FACT: JEWS CAN'T MAKE FUDGE. THE GOYIM. THEY KNOW HOW TO MAKE FUDGE."
It is not that the book is about Jews that makes it particular. It's that it's a little mean. Zelly doesn't like Ace. WE aren't supposed to entirely like him. And yet, we appreciate him on many levels.
If this book resembles anything I've read, it resembles The View from Saturday. It's better than most of the books I've read this year. But it wasn't written, I don't think, for reviewers. It was written for kids smart enough to get it, human enough to laugh.
I thought the first book was inventive and compelling, but that this one rang hollow. I just didn't believe Katniss truly wanted to sacrifice herself...moreI thought the first book was inventive and compelling, but that this one rang hollow. I just didn't believe Katniss truly wanted to sacrifice herself for Peeta. It was too disconnected/undeveloped as a character shift from the first book. And without that, the entire book felt off. It also felt strangely lopsided. The second half of the book also seemed to sprint along too fast, and wrap up too quickly.(less)