I have several different layers of reactions to this book.
Started reading it when it was first published and didn’t quite manage to get too far. I was...moreI have several different layers of reactions to this book.
Started reading it when it was first published and didn’t quite manage to get too far. I was sufficiently intrigued by the premise and the tone (smart and snarky and somehow languish as well — there’s a definite “drawl” in the sentence delivery here) to pick it up again and finish it this time around. And gosh, how much I HATED parts of the book!!!
Good things first: Grossman definitely knows his fantasy tropes and knows how to subvert some of the conventions. Magic isn’t easy. Magical lands can really hurt/kill you. Being a magician might not be as glamorous as one think. And he definitely delivered some cool inventive magic powers in the book. I love the transformation from human to geese, the various elemental and physical magic spells and powers, and the time/space travel scenarios, among many other minor and interesting magic tricks.
But.. but… but…. Quentin is SUCH A BORE. Such an angsty whiny little man that I simply couldn’t muster any compassion for him and his predicaments. The constant search for happiness and the disappointments, the high school and college romantic affairs that turn out to be just petty relationship drivels. And Alice as a super-magician was just a convenient device so she could save the day and sacrifice herself so that Quentin can somehow have a revelation (a bit too little too late) at the end of the tale.
Grossman managed to create a really unattractive fantasy book that makes me want to cry… in making sure that the readers realize that magic and the fantasy world is Real and is Hard and is Dangerous, he also made sure that much of the charm of a great fantasy novel is destroyed by his words.
Upon discussing this book with my teen readers, though, I realized that perhaps it’s just me being a middle aged reader who is tired and sick of anything dealing with relationship conflicts. These high school readers sense and fantasize about all those college romances as something to ponder and to look forward to and to experience in their near future. So, those quarrels, sex partnering, betrayals, loyalties, etc. add to the attraction of the book, not diminish it. I heard that the sequel is better.. should I continue??(less)
This new book by established author Jerry Spinelli has sparked quite a bit of conversation in the children’s lit. circle. And at my Children’s Literat...moreThis new book by established author Jerry Spinelli has sparked quite a bit of conversation in the children’s lit. circle. And at my Children’s Literature Circle (a monthly book club that I host for faculty at my school,) our teachers (and one student) had quite a bit to say about the book as well. So, here’s a short synopsis of what we discussed last Friday (April 19th.)
We were lucky enough that an 8th grade boy, hungry and in need of some sustenance wandered in to the classroom where some yummy chicken fingers called to him. We said to Z (his initial) that we’d love to give him this book to read and get some feedback, since one of the common sentiment was, “Who would read this book? Whom is this book for?” But Z surprised us by saying, “Oh, that book? I read it. I really liked it.”
So we fed Z, asked him to stay for the beginning of our discussion and share with us his reaction. He told us that the book was easy to read and he really enjoyed it. These are some of his own words. “It resonated with me.” ”How the author describes it gels with my own childhood.” “I was confused at first. Thought it was purely fantastical world… until it became clear that it was a childhood… it felt tribal.” ” It feels like a new fantasy world.” ”It would have felt sadder if I had read this earlier.” Or, as we agreed, for a younger reader, it might not speak to him/her at all!
After Z left, we had a short moment of collective reflective silence — hmm… so this book IS for someone, and at least for this one 8th grader, everything WORKS beautifully. Z also told us that he read the book in one day — which we all agreed that is the way to go. Not a book to read in piece-meal, putting down and picking up again. But we also all agreed that it was NOT an easy book to get in to – not by a long shot. Anyone staying with the book until the end appreciated it so much more than they had originally thought possible.
We thought that it is daring for Spinelli to create such a unique world and he did quite a great job maintaining it. Not an easy task. Some of us felt that toward the end, there’s a bit redundancy in reviewing all the areas of “childhood” (Hokey Pokey) and that tightening it up more would have been emotionally stronger. Someone in our group suggested that the book should have been a short story.
We thought that this book will speak most directly and effectively for those who have LEFT Hokey Pokey. (So, early teens, teens, and adults.) And it probably will only speak to those who actually lament or miss their childhood.
Is the Allegorical land too obvious for some readers? It is, somewhat, for me and a couple of other adult readers. But it seems to have worked quite well for the 8th grader and there is a sense of revelation and pride in being able to name what Hokey Pokey is!
I grappled with the view points somewhat — if this is supposed to be the internal landscape of Jack, why would we be able to see so clearly some of the other characters’ internal journeys? Especially that of Jubilee’s? Or perhaps this is NOT an internal landscape but a SHARED Childhood Experience of those who live through it together? Some leave earlier than others and some want to leave while others want to hold them back.
I wish that the strong dividing line of “BOYS are this” and “GIRLS are that” is less clearly stated to allow for better enjoyment by me with a 21st century sentiment.
I also think that the comparison of Spinelli to Joyce (by plenty of people) is quite off base and that this is not an example of “stream of consciousness” style!
This was definitely a conversation propelling book! I’d love to hear more opinions for young readers!(less)
I put up two covers for this book because I found it so strikingly obvious that the UK edition and the US edition attempt to appeal to different reade...moreI put up two covers for this book because I found it so strikingly obvious that the UK edition and the US edition attempt to appeal to different readers. The UK edition has the back of a man in robe holding a gleaming dagger while we are stared at by a beautifully young woman with mysterious patterns overlaying her skin. Even the type choices are different (not to say that in the UK Sedgwick’s name is the selling point while in the U.S. he has to be “explained” as a Printz honor recipient.
The two design of the title are even different where the UK version Midwinterblood is one word but the US edition the title reads Midwinter Blood.
I have to confess that I was not all that impressed or emotionally invested at the beginning of the book. It’s that darn high expectations syndrome again: high and enthusiastic praise and push from Monica and the publisher. Both of them compared the book to other titles I loved — and especially titles that have what I consider “beautiful” writings (such as Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch.) When I didn’t see the sparkling prose that I was expecting, my eagerness dwindled. And, the US ARC proclaims that there are Seven Stories of Love and Passion which I interpreted as each story would be an incredibly passionate romance (again, in the vein of Lips Touch.) Perhaps it’s my close-mindedness, but perhaps this description is indeed misleading. And from hindsight, I could see how each tale IS a story of passionate love, just not all romantic love.
I am so glad that I stayed with the book. As it is really clever and original. The seven stories going back in time, each interconnected in some way, and each containing some unsettling elements (which I adore in short stories,) piece together a whole picture that is powerful and affecting. Sedgwick even granted my wish by bringing us all back to the first tale, the first characters, and giving us closure.
I’m still left with a couple of questions, though: 1. Are we to interpret the characters ask speaking a Scandinavian language and that everyone of them is from the same linguistic cluster (the Journalist, the Archeologist, and Airman, specifically) They all seem to have no problem communicating with each other, no matter the time periods and whether the encounter is within the community or with outsiders; and 2. I want to know more about the Orchids and their origins and powers and perhaps stories of greed and desire because of their special qualities.(less)
I’ve never been a big fan of Batman — not his back story, and not his perpetual sorrow and the lasting vengeance. This tale didn’t change my mind. Cer...moreI’ve never been a big fan of Batman — not his back story, and not his perpetual sorrow and the lasting vengeance. This tale didn’t change my mind. Certain aspects of it are intensely interesting — the fact that he self-hypnotized by putting another trigger phrase within his new identity is super clever. But, it all plays out too well and he is just too clever to make the second half of the story satisfying… you almost want him to fail. Definitely not my favorite story to date!(less)