In Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall is at her best describing the physical and emotional anguish her protagonist, Norah, faces as part of herIn Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall is at her best describing the physical and emotional anguish her protagonist, Norah, faces as part of her daily existence as a teenager living with severe agoraphobia and OCD. These feelings are vividly real and are intimately expressed through the use of a first person narrative. The writing is honest and open, with no shying away from describing the ugly—those moments when impulse is rationalized and takes control over reason. A simple stimulus can easily mushroom into a full blown attack of the senses, jarring reality into a kind of nightmare. Everyday situations people take for granted, like saying hello, become feats that are nearly impossible to complete. As the novel shows, developing a friendship with Norah requires an enormous amount of calm and patience; and the novel provides a fairly realistic portrayal of what could happen when the patience of a teenage boy is stretched to the breaking point. Norah’s story is empathetic and invites the reader to engage in a thoughtful reflection as the novel progresses. In this respect, because of its focus on a specific area of mental health, Gornall’s novel serves as an important addition to young adult literature.
However at times, the novel takes a few liberties in regards to plot in a way that does not seem entirely plausible, given the age and medical condition of our main character. These details are not entirely necessary and might affect some readers’ enjoyment of the novel’s realism, for instance, the long periods of being left home alone and other issues concerning time, specifically the juxtaposition of the amount of time spent on school work vs. the increased amount of time spent on other musings and obsessions, in light of the fact that Norah is an academic and wants to maintain a 4.0 GPA. The time balance here is not effectively met. Additionally, it is somewhat surprising that the shocking denouement that leads to Norah’s moment of catharsis does not develop any additional feelings of introversion or immediate fears associated with the event. The resulting ending is entirely optimistic, which is nice. A more skeptical reader, though, might not view this turn of events in such a positive light.
Despite its faults, Ms. Gornall has penned an insightful thought provoking first novel, and I look forward to reading additional works by her.
A reader might approach this novel thinking it’s simply one of those run of the mill teen contemporary stories that discusses traditional teen issuesA reader might approach this novel thinking it’s simply one of those run of the mill teen contemporary stories that discusses traditional teen issues and offers a sensitive, if not uplifting resolution. But actually, Mills’ novel is a cut above the rest. Even though the novel deals with those traditional topics of family discord, parental death, confidence issues and budding relationships, they are presented in a way that allows readers to forego noting the obvious similarities found in comparable literary works (i.e., “Uh, this book is just like…” or “Oh, this same thing happened in…”), in favor of simply enjoying the various journeys Mills’ characters take over the course of her novel.
As the novel progresses, Mills’ characters face many emotional obstacles, obstacles that are in part overcome by the characters’ budding friendships. Friendship is presented in a very natural way as it evolves across the story, and the novel does not shy away from describing friendship’s inevitable highs and lows. The presentation is enhanced by the novel’s dialogue. Character interaction is wonderful here; the novel is full of witty banter and entertaining one liners that at times help to assuage some of the more tensely emotional scenes that occur.
However, not all of the relationships presented in this novel are actively involved in open forms of communication with each other. Sloane, the novel’s protagonist is lucky in having a supportive father, a confidant akin to a best friend. Vera and Gabe’s relationship with their father, on the other hand, is at an impasse. While the novel offers them a potential understanding of their father’s actions, it’s left to the reader to decide what may happen with their strained relationship. These juxtaposed interactions work well in presenting a truly authentic and natural story that helps ground the novel, assisting the actual adventure the protagonist embarks upon, which at times attempts to stretch the reader’s imagination.
Despite this one flaw, the ending is supportive of the overall realistic tone of the novel. The novel does not attempt to solve all of the problems that are introduced. Instead, even though the adventure ends for us as readers with those final few pages, the adventure is still very much ongoing for the characters. All in all, this is a highly enjoyable novel that should attract many readers.
What initially attracted me to this novel was the fact that it described accounts of urban exploration. From an artistic and architectural point of viWhat initially attracted me to this novel was the fact that it described accounts of urban exploration. From an artistic and architectural point of view, I think urban exploration is a fascinating and intriguing albeit dangerous sport; and I was truly interested in seeing how its highly sensorial elements could be portrayed in written form.
Perhaps due to the fact that the novel was written for a young adult audience, the descriptions of the characters’ urban explorations are minimal. In truth, the characters’ meetings could easily have taken place in a park, an empty lot, or even under a highway underpass. McCarthy’s novel only provides the reader with the barest skeletal description of the abandoned places the characters visit. The author’s descriptions of the art and architecture of the various settings are blank and dull, and can easily dissuade young readers from attempting their own adventures to abandoned urban sites.
McCarthy’s focus is instead on character and relationships. All of the internal and external conflicts that affect the novel’s five main characters stem from a common cause: avoidance. The characters’ decisions to avoid topics of conflict add constant strain and tension that negatively impacts the level of trust that exists amongst them, including their own ability to trust themselves. The conflicts develop important questions concerning loyalty, friendship, self-knowledge and self-worth—qualities that are essential for one’s own sense of identity and for building and maintaining successful relationships with others.
The characters are portrayed in a realistic way, though their respective conflicts don’t make for a comfortable read. At times, the characters can be insufferably oppressive and their attempts at moving on from various ugly revelations aren’t entirely healthy…another form of avoidance. A reader might hope for a feeling of positive change at the novel’s conclusion, but I don’t necessarily feel that all of the characters are emotionally ready for that to happen by the novel’s closing pages. Their relationships are still in a tentative state; and futures are as yet undecided. Ultimately, I think the way McCarthy ends this story is an asset to her attempts at depicting a realistic portrayal of teenage conflict.
What doesn’t work is McCarthy’s use of the split narrative. McCarthy continues the growing trend in young adult literature of writing in different narrative styles, mixing first person and third person narratives with graphic novel scenes and photographs of poetic artwork. Rather than adding a personal element to each of the five characters’ stories, the split narrative creates distance and even arguably ranks the characters’ importance to the story, based upon the frequency and length of their chapter contributions. Given the fact that all of the characters share the same conflicts, each should have had an equal presence in telling their respective stories within the main tale.
Additionally, the use of split narrative does a disservice to the characters’ voices. At times, it can be difficult to distinguish between Natalie and Zach’s chapters, which are written in third person, especially after revisiting the story mid-chapter from a reading break.
Though McCarthy’s novel does provide some important and relevant insights for readers both young and old, it does have elements that might detract some readers from finding the novel a truly satisfying read.
Into the Dim opens with an intriguing mystery that readily captures the reader’s interest. Among the characters the reader’s initially introduced, it’Into the Dim opens with an intriguing mystery that readily captures the reader’s interest. Among the characters the reader’s initially introduced, it’s only the protagonist, Hope, who holds fast to the belief of solving it. A visit to an estranged aunt in Scotland unwittingly places Hope into a position to gain the answers she’s long sought, and even lead her to a few revelations that she little expected or even dreamed were possible.
Time travel and interactions with the past can make for an exciting and intriguing read. However here, the drama and mystery that is introduced quickly falls away into campy cartoonish action. When reading the interactions that take place amongst the adult and teenage characters, it is rather difficult to identify a mature voice—a voice of reason. The dialogue makes the various arguments that arise seem quite naive and even theatrical. This is especially true for the story’s antagonists.
Taylor also tends to overuse the “‘I need to tell you something important!” […] ‘Not now!’” interaction with her characters. Though it is meant to provide comic relief, it cuts the drama in the extreme. Moments where time is of the essence are drawn out with silly, unnecessary conversation and inaction, while instances where there is time to speak and divulge secrets are full of missed opportunities.
Yet though it might seem that this novel solely focuses on levity, the novel also describes situations that might be more appropriate for mature readers, namely attempted rape and descriptions of physical abuse. Into the Dim is a novel best suited for readers seeking comical fantasy entertainment. Those seeking a new twist to a more traditional historical novel with drama and intrigue might find this novel somewhat disappointing.
While a reader might select this story after reading The Night We Said Yes with the expectation of obtaining further insights into Matt’s character, tWhile a reader might select this story after reading The Night We Said Yes with the expectation of obtaining further insights into Matt’s character, the revelations provided are somewhat muted. When reading The Night We Said Yes, Matt seems a rather aloof and distant character. Through his interactions with Ella, it is apparent that he has difficulty in communicating his thoughts and feelings. “Matt’s Story” shows the reader the depth of this awkward aloofness. Again the author plays with the idea of truth or dare. Though it is a game he is willing to play, Matt is unwilling to apply it to his own life circumstances. As a result, Matt is passive throughout and willingly lets circumstances take control. In a way, this allows the reader to question the veracity of his feelings towards others.
Unfortunately, as with The Night We Said Yes, the timeline of this story affects the conflicts that occur. Matt’s external conflicts with his friends, as well as his brother are muted as a result of the various shifts in time. The reader doesn’t get to experience these important relationship developments, though we’re told they’ve occurred. Arguably, this also can negatively impact Matt’s moment of catharsis and internal self-revelation, which should have been such a momentous moment for him and for the reader.
That said, this is a short story. Through this medium, it achieves what it set out to do, namely, provide the reader with further insights into what took place during Matt’s six month disappearance, and what led him to the course of action he takes in The Night We Said Yes. ...more
The Night We Said Yes tells a story about loss and second chances, personal fears and the courage needed to face them. Essentially, the story describeThe Night We Said Yes tells a story about loss and second chances, personal fears and the courage needed to face them. Essentially, the story describes two nights—one past, one present—that are especially salient to the two main characters, Matt and Ella. Two meetings—one that’s full of shyness, hope and happiness, the other wrought with tension and strain, even though there is the potential hope of change. The author plays with the idea of “truth or dare” — a game the main characters play over the course of the novel. When faced with the truth, does one have enough courage to dare try again? In order for this to be successful, trust is needed. The story essentially attempts to chronicle the building and rebuilding of this trust between Matt and Ella.
As the story progresses, the reader can see that both are culpable for the problems that have arisen in their friendship over the year in which these meetings occur. Though it’s apparent Matt and Ella have chemistry, they’re also uncomfortable with each other. Both try to mask it, which only leads to further problems, increasing the lack of trust that exists between them.
Though I enjoyed parts of this story, I don’t feel the choice of timeframe is conducive to the weighty decision-making the characters face. While it does work for the story set in the past, Matt and Ella’s initial meeting, the present day story would have been better told over the course of a few days or weeks. There is too much happening over the course of this one night—too many revelations and emotional changes for any meaningful decision making to occur. The sudden changes in Ella’s reactions to the situations in which she’s placed make her seem somewhat flippant and immature. This feeling is only heightened by various little contradictory comments and internal musings that are made throughout the story, not just about herself, but with her relationship with Matt and her best friend as well. Unfortunately, this can detract from the optimistic feeling the reader should be able to derive from the book’s final pages. Is Ella’s final choice solely based upon a new dare rather than one based upon an understanding of truth and trust? ...more
When I first learned Ms. Fitzpatrick was penning a sequel to My Life Next Door written from the point of view of Tim Mason, I was truly excited. My LiWhen I first learned Ms. Fitzpatrick was penning a sequel to My Life Next Door written from the point of view of Tim Mason, I was truly excited. My Life Next Door ends with many themes that could be further explored: Tim’s sobriety, his relationship with his troubled sister, parental issues, as well as his growing attraction towards Alice.
In The Boy Most Likely To, the reader is introduced to a new source of conflict for Tim, one that unfortunately tests the boundaries of plausibility and even practicality. This new Hester/baby addition should have easily been solved in a matter of days, especially when Tim’s parents became involved, considering all of the expenses lost on lawyer’s fees and the like. This storyline is meant to demonstrate Tim’s willingness to change and adapt, tangible proof of his growing maturity. However, the fact that he does not immediately question the story he is told, and obtain proof of its validity arguably undermines this potential growth.
Also since this storyline is the main focus of the novel, all of those other important themes and conflicts that were previously introduced become lost in the shuffle. Although Fitzpatrick does ultimately address them, their resolutions are seemingly insufficient given the depth of those problems, especially the issues his sister is facing. There are a lot of unfinished questions there, enough for a potential sequel.
Though it pains me to say this, The Boy Most Likely To is not among Huntley Fitzpatrick’s best work....more
Faithful readers of Sarah Dessen will find this novel a marked contrast to her previous works. While Dessen doesn’t shy away from weighty topics, suchFaithful readers of Sarah Dessen will find this novel a marked contrast to her previous works. While Dessen doesn’t shy away from weighty topics, such as physical and verbal abuse and drug use, this book manages to have a darker, graver tone, even though the protagonist isn't the main contributor. The book’s opening scene is a courtroom sentencing. And though the reader isn't immediately informed of the crime, nor the extent of the defendant’s punishment, the reader does experience the sinking fear and even embarrassment felt by the protagonist when watching the outcome of her brother’s crime. The book itself chronicles how Sydney’s family copes with the aftermath…how her father buries himself in his work, how her mother becomes obsessively and oppressively involved in her son’s life in prison, and how Sydney’s brother’s best friend ingratiates himself even more into their lives.
It wouldn’t be a Dessen novel unless there was a potential love interest for the main character. This inclusion is needed to help lighten the mood of the novel’s underlying dark tone. Essentially, Mac and his family provide some form of guidance and respite for Sydney during this time of hardship and personal crisis—support she is not getting at home. Dessen’s clever in not portraying Sydney as someone infallible; and through her, the reader does gain some sense of understanding of how sudden choices and decisions can mushroom into something worse, potentially providing some insight into what drove her brother to make those fateful decisions. There are many conflicts in this book, and I like the fact that the reader is shown active interactions between adults and teens that lead to conclusive resolutions, unlike some of Dessen’s previous books.
As a side note, I wish it was part of Dessen’s style to write from the point of view of a male protagonist. An interesting and compelling story could be made about Sydney’s brother Peyton. As with the character Jason Talbot who briefly appears in several of Dessen’s other novels, there is a lot of potential for character development here. I think both of these characters would make for creative, noteworthy spin-off stories. ...more
After reading the last few pages of this novel, I felt a moment of déjà vu—not in regards to plot, but to the overall reading experience. The Here andAfter reading the last few pages of this novel, I felt a moment of déjà vu—not in regards to plot, but to the overall reading experience. The Here and Now reminded me of my overall reaction to reading Robin McKinley’s novel, Chalice. I loved reading Chalice and found elements of it quite intriguing. However, it felt more like a prelude than a complete work. Though the book had a definite conclusion, it felt more like a beginning, and I couldn’t help but wish for more. The Here and How is just like that. This book could easily be the beginning of a series if the author wished to make one. That said, a series or a companion book is not entirely necessary, since the author adds just enough hints and suggestions that allow the reader to envision a more satisfying conclusion that could happen in the near future—a future that would benefit not only the main protagonists but those associated with them as well.
In regards to the actual story, I liked it for the most part. Both Prenna and Ethan’s characters are interesting and in some respects true to life. They both share the difficulties associated in learning how to balance personal interests with the responsibilities and rules they’re expected to follow. As illustrated in the novel’s pacing, this struggle becomes immediately apparent to the reader, with the characters attempting to fulfill the mission presented to them, while at the same time trying to pursue a normal relationship. The resulting plot mix initially makes for an odd read…the characters seemingly procrastinating, engaged in normal everyday activities that have no real bearing on the problem at hand. However, Prenna and Ethan are just teenagers, who happen to be doing what any normal teenage couple would do to develop their relationship. And once the reader remembers this, the plot choices begin to make sense.
However, the one plot element that I found fault with is one that I’ve found in many young adult dystopian novels, i.e. the shifting roles of adult-teen relationships, placing teens in a position of power over adults, with the adults quietly accepting this role reversal. This is a plot element that is a bit overused, and as a result, has lost its overall effect. As depicted in this novel, this moment feels too simple and easy…a move that directly leads into a tidy and speedy resolution. I would have liked more verbal interaction to develop additional conflict, which would eventually build into the final resolution of the story. I think this addition would have made the book more appealing and distinct from other books in this genre.
Overall, The Here and Now’s mix of time travel, mysterious viruses, action and first love has the makings for a read that could engage many young adult readers. That said, while some elements of this story make for an intriguing read, other aspects of the novel, especially in regards to its conclusion, left me as a reader wanting more....more
The first words that come to mind when reading this novel are quick, engaging and ultimately satisfying. The reader is immediately immersed in Piper aThe first words that come to mind when reading this novel are quick, engaging and ultimately satisfying. The reader is immediately immersed in Piper and Anna’s journey of discovery, and though a perceptive reader might be able to deduce the hidden secrets interspersed throughout the text, knowing them beforehand does not detract from the reader’s enjoyment of the book given the nature of the story. In fact, I thought it rather fun having my suspicions confirmed, and I believe that many young readers would share that same sentiment.
The Mark of the Dragonfly is a book heavily focused on plot, which makes the story progress at a busy, energetic pace that keeps the reader’s interest despite the book’s length. Because of this, even though Johnson’s story is about 400 pages, it could easily be read in one sitting. However, because of the book’s focus on plot, there is not as much background development as one might expect for a fantasy tale. Though the reader gains some basic background knowledge of the kingdoms and their territories, as well as a general understanding of the population and the kinds of human-other species interactions that happen to exist in this fantasy world, I personally would have liked to learn more about these elements. For example, what are the origins of those special gifts? What were some of the gifts described in the fairytales that were briefly mentioned…did these gifts focus solely on natural elements or could they have also represented other potential talent abilities? Do interspecies relationships exist and are they really possible, given the story’s discussion about the difficulties of treating some of these cohabitating species using human medicines? When depicting such elements generally, it can be somewhat difficult to really apply them on a personal level in regards to how they relate to the characters. As such, older readers might find these missing elements somewhat of a disappointment in their reading of this book. However, such questions are not typical for the average middle grade reader, and because of this, I don’t think the reader is really meant to think beyond the basic outline of the story. And given how the story’s written, it can be easy to gloss over these elements, allowing the reader to focus on the characters and their progression through the story.
Overall despite its flaws, I found Johnson’s novel an entertaining read. The combined elements of adventure, action and drama, with the added benefits of camaraderie and little romance would easily appeal to many young readers....more