Preus gives the classic orphan-in-dire-straits tale a folkloric spin in mid-1800s Norway, as abandoned siblings Astri and Greta try to make their wayPreus gives the classic orphan-in-dire-straits tale a folkloric spin in mid-1800s Norway, as abandoned siblings Astri and Greta try to make their way to America to meet up with their father. Astri's love of fairy tales helps them to see each adventure they encounter through a magical lens, and the reader is swept along on the knife edge of fantasy and reality, always hoping that the well-drawn sisters will find their own happy ending....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
**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
Wow. The most ambitious children's book I have read in a while, and the most successful at meeting those ambitions. Hardinge skillfully blends a senseWow. The most ambitious children's book I have read in a while, and the most successful at meeting those ambitions. Hardinge skillfully blends a sense of creeping supernatural menace with astute psychological realism that makes the fantastical elements more grounded and thereby more plausible and frightening. The scariest part of the book is seeing the effect on Josh of his new supernatural abilities; when combined with an underlying resentment at being neglected by his adoptive parents, his growing powers exacerbate the worst aspects of his personality. Hardinge never talks down to her audience, setting up circumstances that allow Ryan to realize some profound truths about the sources of human discontent and the danger of hero worship without any hint of didacticism. The plotting is superb; I was impressed by the way that disparate strands came together fluidly, with the pace never flagging. I had a few nitpicks with the speed at which the flooding became dangerous at the end, and the final scene with the well witch moved too quickly for me to buy her transformation, but overall, the connections between the wishers felt satisfying rather than overly coincidental. (I did wonder about Josh's aunts in Merrybells -- I thought that they would end up playing a role a la Miss Gossamer, and was confused by their presence in the book and their effect on Josh without some kind of connection to the well witch.) An author who deals beautifully with character, plot, and theme is rare enough, but Hardinge is also just a gorgeous writer. Hardinge's characters may be thinking things you have thought before, but she states those thoughts with such grace, power, and clarity that you envy their insight and perspective. And even minor descriptions are worthy of great sentences and metaphors. For example, I loved this description of Chelle's mom: "She had big, vague eyes, and a big, vague smile, and was always very busy in the way that a moth crashing about in a lampshade is busy" (29). Other sentences that are jumping out at me as I page through: "Josh gave a grin as hard as glass" (384), "The bus's engine gave a long, exasperated sigh and shrugged its weight forward, as if hulking its shoulders against the rain" (1), "She had an air of kitten-tottering helplessness, and the pallor of her hair and skin made her look as if she had been through the wash too many times, losing her color and courage in the rinse" (6). You can tell I like metaphors! Looking back now, the metaphor of a wish as a conker shell is made right in the first chapter; that image returns later on when Ryan realizes how wishes have outer shells and inner nuts of truth. Yes another reason for me to admire Hadinge's writing and the thoughtful construction of the novel as a whole. It's always exciting to find an author into whose oeuvre you cannot wait to dive!...more