One sentence review: A well-crafted mystery with a gut-wrenching twist ending that pulls off the rare feat of being completely surprising and yet some...moreOne sentence review: A well-crafted mystery with a gut-wrenching twist ending that pulls off the rare feat of being completely surprising and yet somehow completely earned by everything that has come before; I sobbed my way through the last 30 pages as all the disparate pieces clicked together to create a tragedy as heartbreaking as its Shakespearean and Brontean forebears -- and then immediately had to go back to the beginning to re-read it and see how Lockhart had pulled it off with such elan.(less)
When seventh grader Rachel's older brother is expelled from boarding school and comes home, Rachel is forced to confront the ways in which her family...moreWhen seventh grader Rachel's older brother is expelled from boarding school and comes home, Rachel is forced to confront the ways in which her family and her life are not as "perfect" as she thought--and though she struggles at first, she eventually starts to realize that unexpected twists and messy imperfections help to make life meaningful and interesting.(less)
One sentence review: A sense of menace pervades this finely composed and beautifully paced Victorian ghost story from the very first pages, when well-...moreOne sentence review: A sense of menace pervades this finely composed and beautifully paced Victorian ghost story from the very first pages, when well-drawn siblings Molly and Kip discover that their new employer's decrepit home lies in the midst of the fear-inducing "sourwoods," through a satisfying denouement in which Auxier raises provocative questions about our deepest human wishes and asserts the power of stories in our lives even as he grants his characters the opportunity to show true courage and to gain hard-earned insights into their own strengths and frailties.(less)
OK, so the descriptions of how combines work and how the wheat is harvested were sometimes a little overdone, but that is a small complaint. I fell in...moreOK, so the descriptions of how combines work and how the wheat is harvested were sometimes a little overdone, but that is a small complaint. I fell in love with these characters, especially Summer and Jiichan, and I am amazed at how lightly Kadohata managed to weave in some very mature themes. At first I wondered why Kadohata focused so much on Summer's thoughts about "A Separate Peace," but when I went back and re-read the first few chapters I was blown away by the parallel Kadohata subtly makes between Gene's relationship with Finny after he nearly kills his friend, and Summer's relationship with mosquitoes after they nearly kill her. Yet, at the same time, you could totally ignore that writerly parallel and just appreciate the insight into Summer's brain that you get as she ponders Gene's actions and what they can teach her about the coexistence of good and evil in all of us and the external circumstances (the "luck") that can cause someone's potential good or evil to manifest itself in an action. Kadohata hit the luck theme pretty hard at the beginning and the end of the book, which made for a nicely wrapped-up and tidy ending, but it got a little lost in the middle so the ending didn't quite feel as earned as it could have been. However, I did thoroughly enjoy immersing myself in this world and I am very happy that Kadohata won the National Book Award. I hope she gets some Newbery love as well!(less)
Our narrator is Miles Halter, who has decided to leave his family and friends in Florida and go to a boarding school for his junior year. Culver Creek...moreOur narrator is Miles Halter, who has decided to leave his family and friends in Florida and go to a boarding school for his junior year. Culver Creek Preparatory School is Miles’ dad’s alma mater, a small school 15 miles south of Birmingham, Alabama. As the story opens, Miles’ parents are throwing him a good-bye party on the eve of his departure.
When the very sensitive, thoughtful Miles sets off on his journey into the "Great Perhaps" of Culver Creek, the first person he meets is his roommate, Chip Martin, a math genius, chain smoker, and planner of elaborate pranks. Chip, in turn, introduces Miles to his partner in crime, Alaska Young, who blows Miles off his feet. She is a magnetic, powerful personality, smart and passionate and sexy and engaged with big questions about the nature of human existence.
As the book continues, Miles, Chip, and Alaska are forced to confront painful events from their pasts. But the past is not the only thing these teenagers have to worry about; it’s clear from the structure Green has chosen that something big is going to happen in the present. The two main sections of the book are “before” and “after.” Instead of chapters, Green labels sections of text as “one hundred thirty-six days before,” “eight days after.”
What is this central event that rocks their world so significantly that everything else becomes before and after? Does it help them to solve the philosophical questions they ponder? The only thing that’s sure is that there are no easy answers to life’s tough questions when you have opened yourself up to the Great Perhaps.
This is a beautifully written book that is well worth adding to our young adult collections. Green is concerned with big ideas, but he handles them with a light touch that doesn’t feel overbearing. He raises thought-provoking questions, but never tells you what to think. It has the potential to raise some people’s hackles: there is definitely sexual content, and a good deal of smoking, and the central event is controversial. However, the well-drawn characters, lovely prose style, and the exploration of large philosophical questions made it an award winner, and make it well worth defending. (less)