My review is mixed. What makes this book stand out is most of all the tone. It is written in a very striking, noticeable voice that is almost but not...moreMy review is mixed. What makes this book stand out is most of all the tone. It is written in a very striking, noticeable voice that is almost but not quite overdone. It's the pitch-perfect flavoring of the story that made the book so successful. Add to that the title character, Despereaux, is well-crafted and very likable.
On the negative side: Everything else. There is great cruelty portrayed in the book, treated with a seriousness that makes it inappropriate for younger children who otherwise might get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Especially when you consider that a lot of the cruelty is from parents directed at their children. It was mildly upsetting to me, and I'm 31. When you strip off the fairy-tale aesthetic, what you have is essentially a book for adults that tries to grapple seriously with evil, and yes, forgiveness. I think the author shows that she is capable of writing a truly great children's book, but this is not it.(less)
Bad writing. At least a dozen phrases in this book actually made me cringe.
In its best moments, it reads like a light retelling of what should have be...moreBad writing. At least a dozen phrases in this book actually made me cringe.
In its best moments, it reads like a light retelling of what should have been an epic length cartoon movie in the tradition of Disney's Robin Hood. It has a colorful, memorable cast of cute animals, complete with funny voices, a dumb-as-hell love interest, and an utter absence of anything resembling a believable inner life for a single character. Oh and don't forget the bumbling, harmless villain whose mostly self-inflicted defeat can be smelled from the earliest pages. Don't get me wrong -- it would make a pretty great cartoon. But as a novel, it's a tedious experience. For some reason I kept reading, though.(less)
This is a story about a boy and a girl that are treated very cruelly at a summer camp and decide to disappear together. It has a adolescent alienation...moreThis is a story about a boy and a girl that are treated very cruelly at a summer camp and decide to disappear together. It has a adolescent alienation / Thoreau vibe as they try to scrape together food and shelter. I've got a real soft spot for minimalism and survivalism, so I enjoyed following their decisions and seeing how things went.
Yes, as you will read in the other reviews, in the beginning their clothes are stolen and they are marooned on an island together, naked. Sure to hook the adolescent reader!! Ha. But the author doesn't dwell on it and it ends up being a story about to kids who are, through the vast majority of the book, clothed. I didn't find anything that would make me object to my own kid reading it when he is able.
This would make a good book for an adult-led discussion with adolescents. There's a lot of places where a casual detail that a kid might not dwell on is actually an interpretive key that could prompt some good reflection. There are no perfect people (or complete villains) in this book. An adult could help a young person critically question the decisions and the beliefs of the very sympathetic main characters, for instance. There's hints about this but it's very minimalist.
The narrative has small gaps in it. The reader is being encouraged to fill in the blanks. This is not only true chronologically, but also, for instance, in places where the author suddenly stops explaining the motivation of the main characters and leaves it up to us to work out why they suddenly start acting a certain way. So the text is deliberately pedagogical, but not in an irritating way.(less)
This young adult fiction is masterfully crafted. There's a lot of interesting twists in the plot, and I was pleasantly surprised a couple of times, an...moreThis young adult fiction is masterfully crafted. There's a lot of interesting twists in the plot, and I was pleasantly surprised a couple of times, and I don't mean that in a trivial way. The first person voice it was written in has some great moments, too. I loved reading this book because it was both an interesting story and written in an interesting way.
Why is it not five stars? Slightly too much repitition of the phrase "I'm not lying" and other phrases that got old near the end, slightly too much nastiness on the part of certain villains to the point that it strained the suspension of disbelief, plus about three plot twists out of maybe thirty that made me cringe because they were two conventional. But none of these flaws were really glaring. This is borderline stuff. It really has 4.5 stars in my book.(less)
I decided to start reading through the Newbery Medal winners, and I started with Moon Over Manifest.
Yuck. I give it a mixed review and two stars. The...moreI decided to start reading through the Newbery Medal winners, and I started with Moon Over Manifest.
Yuck. I give it a mixed review and two stars. The beginning is awful. The last third of the book is actually not that bad, but that doesn't save the experience. If I was assigned to read this when I was a young adult I would NEVER have gotten through the first quarter of the book before giving up. I think the author had some really great ideas and some elements of the story that she was passionate about. But in terms of writing as a craft, I give it a very generous D.
1) Protagonist is annoying.
2) Some main characters receive so little development that you can't keep them straight (Quick, think of something that Ruthanne or Lettie did or said. Which one of them was it? Are you sure?)
3) Each and every villain is a one-dimensional cliche.
4) The big reveal is stupidly obvious from the very beginning. (In fairness, when it finally does get addressed, you don't get the impression that the reader is supposed to be all that surprised. But it's still irritating.)
5) I literally keep getting confused about whether it is day or night. That's how bad the sense of time is. There's really a general lack of description in the whole book that leaves you mind kind of lurching around grasping for a mental image.
6) Too many names, not enough reminders of where we've seen the person before. I was totally mystified when Lester Burton showed up at the end. I kept saying "Isn't his name Devlin?". And so on. I know this is a regular hazard of books that introduce whole small towns of people, but the author needs to hold your hand a little more. I was trying!
All that said, there were some neat tie-ins and that very last surprise about Ned's origin was a big one. There were definitely some places where you say "Hey that's neat and interesting, without being so coincidental that it seems fake or contrived." So like I said, the author obviously had a passion for certain things in the book, and there are things to like about it.
But lady, get some better critics to read your early drafts.(less)
Pretty typical Card fiction. Slightly on the funnier side. Well thought out as usual, but slightly more predictable than it might have been, esp. rega...morePretty typical Card fiction. Slightly on the funnier side. Well thought out as usual, but slightly more predictable than it might have been, esp. regarding the ... well I don't want to spoil it for anyone. (less)