Now, I love Lisa McMann. I’ve read every single books she’s published, and both of her heroines, Janie anPut another one on the board for Lisa McMann!
Now, I love Lisa McMann. I’ve read every single books she’s published, and both of her heroines, Janie and Kendall, have made my list of the Top Ten Girls in YA. McMann is awesome at creating a world that feels real and implementing paranormal elements. Going into this book, I knew it would be different for three reasons: this book is written from many POVs, but mainly boys’ POVs; this book is intended for middle-grade kids (so not quite children’s, not quite YA); and it’s a combination dystopia/fantasy story. I’m prepared for all of these things, because McMann writes in a way that will make anyone seem normal and real.
However. This book starts out really rough. We don’t even know why the Unwanteds are unwanted until much later. Alex’s parents immediately forget about him after The Purge. We don’t get any sense of what Alex’s life was life before he was Purged. I realize the story is about Alex’s journey post-Purge, but it would have been nice to get a little window into his home life. We do get a little bit of that later, but it’s really jarring and unsettling watching families just shrug and walk away as their children are taken away to be killed.
Alex does journey, too. This is really a coming-of-age sort of tale and Alex has to fight his preconceived notions and prejudices throughout the first half of the book. Alex is different, and he chafes at the restrictions placed on him, even though he doesn’t understand the restrictions. His friends begin to learn magic, and one in particular, uses it against him as pranks. There’s typical teenage romantic angst, and while I rolled my eyes at a lot of their antics, I wasn’t taken out of the story. These teenagers act like young teenagers, and I like to roll my eyes at them to piss them off. Nothing makes a fourteen-year-old speechless with rage like rolling your eyes. Alex grows up too. He learns that family ties are not unbreakable, and he begins to develop better judgment of character.
There’s a war looming, and it comes fast and hard, and I skimmed most of it. Lisa McMann or not, I don’t like fantasy fight scenes. I skim for dialogue and that’s about it. You sort of know what will happen before the battle starts, but the book reminds you that the fighting is far from over.
I liked this book a lot. Like all McMann books, it’s a quick read and engrossing from the (almost) beginning. Alex is a sympathetic character, and instead of raging at him when he did stupid things, I felt sorry for him and related to him. Let it be known, though, that this book will draw a lot of Harry Potter parallels, which I don’t think is fair. Harry Potter is not the be-all, end-all of YA fantasy, and hey, at least the teachers don’t abuse the children like they do at Hogwarts! (Don’t come after me. I spent like fours hours refreshing the Pottermore site the other day. I love it, you love it, your mom loves it, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.)...more
Really quick, this is the only link I could find to buy this book. The ISBN is invalid, according to most sitesOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
Really quick, this is the only link I could find to buy this book. The ISBN is invalid, according to most sites, and others just don't recognize the name or author. Weird, right? Maybe it will become more widely available after the publication date? Also, longest summary ever, right? Jeez. However, anything with a sentient cat has won me over before I've even begun, if I'm honest. This cat, Pokos, reminds me of Grimalkin from Maguire's Wicked Years novels: blunt, forward, and not really that sensitive. Catherine herself sort of starts off badly. She sneaks out of her palace, gets robbed, and is clotheslined by a branch while fleeing. Pokos eats her horse. She is not a happy camper. From the third chapter, I suspected she had some kind of precognition; she mentions very realistic dreams more than once. This apparently has to do with being around Pokos. They pick up another girl, Bessie, in a village and end up running from Catherine's betrothed, the Candlewax King. I liked him, Cyril, the Candlewax King. He's very haughty, and he and Catherine are off to a bad start, but I think it'll get better. There's a lot of action in the first part, which I appreciated. Infodumps are no fun for anyone!
I'll admit to first being annoyed that Catherine disguises Bessie as Princess, because I just felt like I already knew the ending. I won't spoil it though. It was just extremely awkward reading about Cyril picking his way around Bessie, while assuming Catherine is a servant boy. Cyril is drawn to Catherine-as-Kenneth in a way that makes reading kind of cringeworthy. I even skimmed most of the detailing-the-landscape-of-Candlewax parts, just hoping someone would figure it out and stop it. I am put out of my misery after only a few chapters, but man, how I writhed. Things work out though, and Catherine continues on her journey. We meet The Betrayer, as well, but I won't spoil his identity. I'd also like to mention that the trodliks remind me of the Diggers from the Bone World series. They were gross in those books and they're gross in this one too!
Another thing that's gross? When Catherine and her party arrive in Cinna, she "immediately dislikes" a beautiful, confident-looking woman with a tight bodice. Lovely. There's going to be a Man Stealing Whore in this novel, that was my first thought. I was wrong about it in this instance, but it's not uncommon. I need to rant about it. Look, people, women can be ugly or beautiful, dainty or not, and still be nice people! The tightness of the bodice does not reveal a person's nature, so can we just stop with this bullshit trope? It shows up in every YA book that has ever existed (okay, that might be hyperbole) and I am sick of it. Not every story needs a woman out to steal the protag's man, and really, it's unrealistic. Bah. Granted, Julia isn't working alone and she wasn't trying to steal Cyril either, but there is only so much "instant dislike" between female characters that I can take, you know?
I skimmed so much description in this one, but I still liked the way it was written. Catherine wasn't overly sheltered or annoying or too stupid to live, and the plot didn't really drag at all. It's pretty vanilla when it comes to the Catherine/Cyril romance, too. They wait forever to kiss and there's no way we're getting even a fade-to-black. Which is fine. I guess. I just liked Catherine and Cyril a lot as people, and they got over their issues really quickly (especially for YA). Catherine does her own thing and Cyril doesn't want to "contain" her or anything. They fall in love. It's nice. They have some sweet scenes that I enjoyed reading.
In all, I liked this one. It's sweet and descriptive, with a real plot and a back-burner romance. Plus, it's legit fantasy, and I love that. This one comes out tomorrow, so be sure to check it out if you're so inclined....more
First of all, the page designs on this thing are beautiful. I stared at them for awhile every time I reached aOriginally published at Nose in a Book.
First of all, the page designs on this thing are beautiful. I stared at them for awhile every time I reached a new chapter. The summary is pretty self-explanatory. We follow Ruby Rose, the girl with two first names, as she tries to solve a murder that has been pinned on her janitor father. She and her friend, Rex, seek out of the help of an old recluse they call “the Window Lady.” There was something different about this book that I couldn’t quite put my finger on at first, but I think it’s the lack of dialogue. That’s not a problem for me; it was just something I noticed when I compared it to other MG/YA novels in my mind. That’s not to say there’s no dialogue, but it is sparse in the very beginning. I liked it. It was almost lyrical sometimes. Another thing I liked about Ruby when I was first introduced to her is that she appears to have OCD. I can relate, Ruby, especially with the constant counting (hers are three and one, mine is six or eight). I did find myself wondering if this world is dystopian or not, but I was never quite sure.
I get a little bit of a Harriet the Spy feel from this one, and I like that! I loved Harriet when I was a kid, so it’s cool to watch a more modern version investigate. When we meet the Window Lady, or Mrs. Whitmore, properly, I decided I liked her. She wanted to help these two kids even though she’s a recluse who doesn’t leave her apartment. She wants to help Ruby clear her father’s name. I like that. She’s an unlikely hero, Mrs. Whitmore. You know what else I like? The racial implications in chapter eight. Before this, I wasn’t sure if this book was just a silly story about a girl detective, but the “Go take an English class, Raoul” (p. 68) line really got to me. In a good way. A way that makes you think. That’s around the time I got really interested, and this book became really fun to read. The only thing that continued to bug me a little was the dialogue! At first, it’s so sparse as to not exist, but in the middle of the book there’s so much slang I don’t understand that the dialogue becomes hard to read!
Eventually I figured it out and I enjoyed the book a lot, but there was so little backstory. You learn about Ruby in bits and pieces, and the rest in crumbs. You don’t learn Rex is Jamaican until almost the end of the book. We never learn anything more about the setting, other than Ruby and her dad live in a 1000+ apartment housing project. So this story isn’t really character-driven, and I could definitely tell the author is a science writer in real life. There’s some chemistry talk that went right over my head (I’m a psychology brain, not a chemistry brain) but it was still enjoyable. The science talk happens in maybe two chapters, so it’s nothing overwhelming. In all, I liked this one. It was cute, and the kids were resilient and bright. I thought it was a nice little read for middle-grade students and absolutely no romance! I think this one is worth a try....more
I love middle-grade! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m nearly done with my undergrad degree in SpeciaOriginally published at Nose in a Book
I love middle-grade! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m nearly done with my undergrad degree in Special Education, and lately I’ve been really interesting in finding good middle-grade novels for my future classroom (here, let me recommend two MG novels by Laura Amy Schlitz, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair and The Night Fairy) so I just really wanted this one when I saw it up on NetGalley. Plus, it’s got a little history thrown in there, which is always a plus when choosing novels for a classroom! This one starts off with a little backstory before we meet Colophon and the modern day Letterfords. Colophon’s family sounds stifling, with a rigid seating hierarchy at Thanksgiving dinner and a strict rule that ownership of the company passes to the eldest child only. Her family is rich, owning a huge home with its own library. Colophon is twelve and has her own laptop. None of this stuff bothered me, but I was kind of amused by all the stuff in the Letterford mansion, the formal way her family spoke, and her interactions with her brother. Plus, I love a good black sheep, and Cousin Julian fits the bill quite well.
As we got into the mystery, I found myself liking Colophon more and more. Where at first she seemed annoyingly inquisitive (a common trait among intellectually gifted children), she later seemed charming and precocious. I started to really like both her and the little mystery she’s solving. While Mull Letterford, Colophon’s father, is trying to save his family’s publishing house in Georgia, Colophon herself eventually travels to London to get down to business trying to find the hidden family treasure. The relationship between Colophon and Julian is fun to watch unfold, because Julian has been almost outcast his whole life. I found it amusing that his way back into the family’s good graces was his twelve year old cousin.
As the book goes on, it becomes increasingly obvious that someone is trying to sabotage Mull’s reign as head of the publishing house. Colophon’s main suspect is her father’s recently reappeared cousin, Treemont. I felt so sorry for Mull during his scenes, but even his catastrophes are humorous (to us, at least), keeping a whimsical air about the whole thing. During all of this, Colophon is with cousin Julian in Stratford-upon-Avon, and while the clues fall into her lap a little to easily, the story is cute and fun, and the mystery is easy to follow. Colophon’s brother, Case, who seems like an insensitive jerk in the beginning, turns out to have some depth in him after all. This one was a quick read, but I enjoyed it immensely....more