I had mixed feelings about The Flame in the Mist. It opens with a family conjuring up nasty things in tribute to a dark god as part of a weekly familyI had mixed feelings about The Flame in the Mist. It opens with a family conjuring up nasty things in tribute to a dark god as part of a weekly family ritual. However, daughter Jemma can't create anything dark, and doesn't fit in with the rest of her family. It turns out that she isn't really supposed to be there, and that they have evil intentions for her. Together with her rat friends, she battles to escape the castle and the enchanted mist that surrounds the area. Of course, there is a prophecy about her that everybody else seems to know about.
There were a lot of elements I loved about this book. There are creepy child ghosts around the castle and in the mist, and the secondary characters were really enjoyable, especially the rats. A few of the secondary characters were also surprisingly complex, being a mix of both good and bad. I like the mythology behind the story.
Things I didn't enjoy as much: at times, the story dragged for me and I had a hard time staying engaged. There's a long time of travel and wandering, and although things happen during Jemma's travels, those are some of my least favorite kinds of plots. It made the book seem overly long, since it clocks in at well over 400 pages. There are also many fantasy cliches sprinkled throughout, so it sometimes felt like I was reading a book I'd read before.
Still, it's refreshing whenever I can read a fairly good, solidly fantasy young adult novel without it being an urban fantasy or Twilight ripoff. With a strong ending, The Flame in the Mist won me over at the end....more
David Levithan has tried something innovative and risky in Every Day: his main character has no sexuality, no gender, no physical body. The main charaDavid Levithan has tried something innovative and risky in Every Day: his main character has no sexuality, no gender, no physical body. The main character is meant to be a free-floating intelligence, fully formed as a normal person, but who switches bodies each day. The character, “A”, inhabits a different person in the same geographic area who is the same age as A. A has been resigned to never having permanence, having no family and no attachments, but trying to live the lives of others as respectfully as possible, and without disrupting those lives. A is simply a guest for the day, filling the physical form with its consciousness. Until A encounters Rhiannon. After a perfect day spent with her, A is in love and is determined to continue to see her, no matter what. The question is how.
I like that Levithan tried. I like that he went for it with a strange idea and created a story that worked, for the most part. I couldn’t help as a reader, though, to constantly sit back and unsuspend my disbelief to say, “Huh!?” I like weird, but this was weird in a place where I had a hard time reckoning it with the normalcy. A’s character felt like it would have been more at home in a world that was more obviously odd and surreal, but instead the reader is led to believe that A is a totally normal person in a normal world whose life is just a different form. The fact that Rhiannon seemed so easily convinced and was able to fall in love (hopefully this isn’t really a spoiler because it alludes to this in the blurb) was kind of outrageous to me. I guess what I’m saying is that I went along with it, because I wanted to see what Levithan would do, but I never truly bought in to the idea.
Much more interesting to me than the love story were A’s insights into the lives of people, which are gained by living as a different person each day. I liked seeing how it would feel to be in the body of an obese teen one day and to be in a model-gorgeous black girl the next. Levithan really tries to portray how even though we’re all different and going through our individual lives, deep down we all have a lot in common. I liked that. Levithan’s prose is nice to read, as always, if a little overdramatic sometimes. Still, I kept nodding along at the moments of real truth he shares from time to time.
Overall, I liked this book but I didn’t love it. I just couldn’t get past what A is, and the ways that the plot had to accommodate the idea of the character. It felt a bit contrived. I also had issues with the ending. I’m not sure how else it could have ended, but it petered out and felt a bit like, “Okay, I have to end this somehow. I guess this is how I’ll do it.” I know this book will have its fans, but I’m not enough of a romantic to let go of my hangups and fully embrace it. Right on for trying, though, Levithan. Points for originality....more
On the Bright Side is a lighthearted romp through what the afterlife might be like if you were a teenage girl**Review copy received courtesy author**
On the Bright Side is a lighthearted romp through what the afterlife might be like if you were a teenage girl sent back as a guardian angel for your frenemy. It was a nice change of pace to read a book written for a younger teen audience. There's no real angst here, other than the lost opportunity to tell your crush how you feel about him, and the knowledge that your family is sad about your death. Death is treated like an opportunity in this book: a place for Gabby to do her growing up. Yes, this is a coming-of-age novel with a dead main character. And yes, it does work.
Gabby's a force unto herself. She acts out a bit when she is assigned to Angela, the girl whose text caused Gabby to walk in front of a car, and who started dating Gabby's crush after Gabby's death. Even though she's supposed to protect Angela and guide her into becoming a better person, Gabby can't resist the temptation to do pranks over and over again. Then, Gabby becomes even more daring and ignores the rules, putting Cirrus at risk. I got frustrated with Gabby's character, until I looked back and noticed that I had friends who acted just like her in high school. Just because she doesn't behave the way I would doesn't mean that she isn't authentic. I could relate more to Gabby's best friend Jessica: a voice of reason who will back up her friend, but also sees how much trouble she's stirring up.
There is plenty of humor here, and no adult content, making this a great pick for a reluctant reader or a younger teen. The issues presented are universal enough that anybody can relate to Gabby's plight, yet it never gets too heavy. The plot moves along quickly enough that I didn't get bored, either. If you want a bubbly, wacky take on the afterlife, pick up On the Bright Side....more
This is the story of a young girl named September, who when tired of her dull life in Omaha, is taken away on an adventure to Fairyland by the Green WThis is the story of a young girl named September, who when tired of her dull life in Omaha, is taken away on an adventure to Fairyland by the Green Wind. There she meets a host of characters, from her beloved Wyverary (a Wyvern whose father was a Library), to a plucky lamp, to a trio of witches, and the wicked Marquess who rules the land. The purpose of her quest shifts as she goes along, but the real purpose is to have a great adventure in Fairyland, and to bring back happiness to the place.
It took a little while, but I grew to really enjoy and appreciate this story. I was torn about whether this is a book I could hand to my 9-year-old sister. On one hand, it’s very fun and imaginative, but on the other hand, there are a lot of really big words. I think an enterprising child could still read it and get the gist, but you may want to provide a dictionary to go along with the book.
The writing was a bit self-aware at times, as if Valente were entirely cognizant of how clever her audience must perceive this story to be, and acknowledges that fact. There are also some episodes and statements that are pretty clearly meant for an adult reader (maybe one who is reading this to a child as a bedtime story!) For example, we encounter death, who complains that people always seem to want to play chess with her, a reference to the Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal. This helps in its appeal to an adult audience as well as children.
Even though I listened to the audiobook, I am waiting to get a copy from the library just so that I can see the illustrations. I also had mixed feelings about the audiobook. Valente narrates it herself, and she doesn’t make a huge effort to do voices, or even to put much liveliness into the narration. Instead, it felt a bit like when my parents would read me a bedtime story. It’s pleasant in its own way, but I would love to re-listen to the book with somebody like Jim Dale narrating, and adding his own magical talent to the production.
Overall, this is a really compelling tale that operates along the same lines as books like Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Dorothy and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a quiet complexity to the storytelling, and the end with leave you smiling with nostalgia...more