Surely movie previews are one of the most heinous inventions ever. Book reviews in a newspaper, magazine, or online are better because they appear in...moreSurely movie previews are one of the most heinous inventions ever. Book reviews in a newspaper, magazine, or online are better because they appear in print; and one has control over print. I can read the first bit and the last bit to get a sense of what the reviewer thinks about it. But I like to experience the film or book as it was constructed by the maker, not have bits presented that someone else selects for me.
I mention (p)reviews because I just finished reading Martha Brooks’ Queen of Hearts and had completed reading R. J. Palacio’s Wonder as my immediately previous children’s/YA literature novel. Of course, you have to be brain-dead/reclusive not to know beforehand what topic you’re in for with Wonder, but I had no clue prior to Marie-Claire’s being hospitalized in Queen of Hearts that this would be another kid-with-megaproblem book, so imagine my surprise as I realized I was reading two such books back-to-back. And the more I read of QoH, the more I was struck by the differences in which the two approached their characters’ situations.
When I finished Wonder, I was asked what I thought of it. Okay; pretty good; topic was certainly interesting/can’t find it anywhere else in children’s literature. Now how many Goodreads stars should I give it? Settled on 3. I was informed (since I was unaware) that it was getting rave reviews all over the place. Hmm. Maybe I missed something. Even got a Goodreads comment asking, “You didn’t find it successful? Do tell!”
Now that I have finished QoH—and have talked to the brain trust in the family who really knows children’s literature and just finished Wonder herself—I think I understand more clearly why Wonder didn’t much grab me. Too much messaging that ended up making it come across as too didactic for my taste. I had a very different experience with QoH. A protagonist who is more conflicted—and doesn’t always do the right thing, and isn’t always kind or thinking of others. A not-neatly-tied-up ending (which someone on Goodreads suggested is an excuse for a sequel—but I think not [and hope not!]). That’s not to say that QoH is a great novel. But in the end I found it more satisfying than Wonder and had to ponder why, given the praise for Wonder. Guess I better reconsider the latter as 3 stars. (less)