A likable main character (the orphan Sage, full of integrity and courage) and a suspenseful premise (which orphan will be chosen to impersonate the miA likable main character (the orphan Sage, full of integrity and courage) and a suspenseful premise (which orphan will be chosen to impersonate the missing prince and take control of the kingdom?) keep you turning the pages of Nielsen's political thriller even though the "twist" ending is so heavily foreshadowed that the big reveal of the false prince is not much of a surprise. ...more
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 someOne 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....more
One sentence review: A sense of menace pervades this finely composed and beautifully paced Victorian ghost story from the very first pages, when well-One 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....more
This is the first book in ages for which I've been motivated to write a full review! First of all, I can't believe I didn't read this as a kid -- I woThis is the first book in ages for which I've been motivated to write a full review! First of all, I can't believe I didn't read this as a kid -- I would have been the ideal reader for it, with my love of the Victorian era, orphan/orphanage stories, and vibrant female characters and friendships. I was struck, reading it in this current era of bloated fantasy novels, by Aiken's economy and sense of discipline -- there was not a single wasted word. The beginning world-building was impeccable, and then once Sylvia was on the train to Willoughby Chase, the plot took off like a rocket. Somehow Aiken managed a mix a truly creepy setting, with the threat of wolves always menacing in the background, with a humorous awareness of the over-the-top Gothic-ness of it all, e.g. when Sylvia says: "We had quite a pleasant journey. A wolf jumped into our compartment last night, but Mr. Grimshaw stabbed it to death and we moved into another compartment." What a debt Lemony Snicket and Maryrose Wood, among many many others, owe to this delightful book. I can't wait to read the rest of the Wolves Chronicles! ...more
**spoiler alert** A much more thoughtful, creative, & well-written version of "Twilight" with big ideas on its mind. I loved the beginning (magnif**spoiler alert** A much more thoughtful, creative, & well-written version of "Twilight" with big ideas on its mind. I loved the beginning (magnificent world-building, a great main character named Karou, lovely lyrical writing combined with a propulsive plot) and the end, which resolved the central mysteries beautifully and managed to make me fall in love with a new character, Madrigal, introduced much later in the book -- no mean feat after I had invested myself in Karou. However, the middle felt squishy to me. I didn't particularly like the chapters from romantic lead Akiva's point of view, and found the soulmate stuff overly goopy (too similar to Edward/Bella for my taste). However, at least the goopiness is well-written, and is intermixed with passages that reflect on colonialism and war and the creation of the other (a nitpick: perhaps not very subtle reflections?). DOSAB did make me want to read more of Taylor's work, and I certainly think it's worthy of being a Printz contender. ...more
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 CreekOur 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. ...more
In Jellicoe Road, we have the pleasure of getting to know Taylor Markham, a 17-year-old boarding school student who has just been elected the leader oIn Jellicoe Road, we have the pleasure of getting to know Taylor Markham, a 17-year-old boarding school student who has just been elected the leader of the Jellicoe School’s Underground Community. In her new role, Taylor is in charge of the traditional “territory war” that takes place each September between the students, the Townies, and the Cadets from a military school in Sydney who come to Jellicoe Road for a 6-week outdoor training course each spring. This is a large task to begin with, but it takes on an extra dimension of difficulty for Taylor when she learns that the leader of the Cadets is none other than Jonah Griggs, with whom she ran away four years ago in an ill-fated attempt to find her mother. But, as you can tell from the fact that she doesn’t know where her mother is, Taylor has much more on her mind than winning the territory war and dealing with Jonah Griggs – she is trying to puzzle out the story of her past and understand what brought her to the Jellicoe School in the first place.
As the story begins, Taylor's mentor Hannah has suddenly left the school, leaving only an unfinished manuscript in her house. We read snippets of the manuscript along with Taylor, and get to know five friends who met on the Jellicoe Road 22 years ago under tragic circumstances. Marchetta sets up a dual narrative, shifting between Taylor’s narration of current events at the Jellicoe School, and Hannah’s manuscript. In fact, the very first words of the book come from the manuscript and tell us of a terrible car wreck involving Narnie and Tate and Fizz.
Who are these people? What does this tragic car wreck have to do with Taylor? Why did Hannah leave the Jellicoe School so abruptly? Why did Taylor’s mother abandon her? And what’s the point of the territory wars, anyway? Marchetta skillfully builds up the suspense as Taylor searches for the answers to these questions, struggling to figure out how seemingly unconnected fragments of her past and Hannah’s past actually do connect.
Marchetta puts readers into the same position as Taylor, layering in fragments of narrative whose connection is initially difficult to ascertain. This strategy is a bit disorienting at first – we readers feel as confused as Taylor – and it does require some diligence to push through the first few chapters. However, the payoff is worth every bit of effort as we accompany Taylor on her journey into the past – a journey which, ultimately, helps her to move into her future.
Jellicoe Road deservedly won the 2009 Printz Award, and for that reason alone is worth having in your collection. But regardless of its award status, it deserves a place on our shelves for its wonderful main character, Taylor, whose wry, honest, unflinching voice feels completely authentic, for its sensitive and timely depiction of how to deal with and move past violence and tragedy, and for its skillful blend of genres -- it has elements of both “boy” and “girl” genre fiction, making it widely appealing across the board. Jellicoe Road really defies categorization – it’s an un-put-downable mystery, a romance between two of the least conventionally romantic characters you will ever meet, a boarding school story that turns every stereotype of boarding schools and their students on its head.
I highly recommend that you entrust yourself into Melina Marchetta’s more-than-capable hands and let her take you on a journey down the Jellicoe Road. ...more