Houghton Mifflin should hire Brandon Sanderson to write their next geometry book. Or perhaps they can just buy rights to repurpose The Rithmatist sincHoughton Mifflin should hire Brandon Sanderson to write their next geometry book. Or perhaps they can just buy rights to repurpose The Rithmatist since he's going to be busy for the next fifty years trying to keep up with all the series he's writing.
The Rithmatist plot is fairly standard YA fantasy fare - it's set at a school where the magical and non-magical mingle but don't really play nice, there are two professors who fill the roles of Evil Adult and Paternal Adult, and our hero Joel has a quirky sidekick who provides the necessary comic relief. Nothing remarkable there, really.
But what the plot lacks in wow-factor, Sanderson more than makes up for with his setting and geometric magic system. The story takes place in an alternate world - the United States are islands with familiar-sounding names (Nebrask, Floridia, East Carolina, and Maineford) and are connected by spring rail systems. The states aren't integral to the story, but Sanderson includes just enough detail to get you curious about what the rest of this alternate world is like. He also touches on things like religion, politics, the monetary system, bullying and gender equality (women are now being allowed at the battlefront!). Overall he paints a very vibrant and imaginative setting.
And then there's the magic system - a series of lines and circles that Rithmatists draw to defend themselves and attack their enemies. The various stances described in the book are also provided as sketches so the reader can better understand what everything looks like. As someone who had to retake geometry in summer school, I appreciated the visual aids.
I do wish the characters had, had the same amount of depth as the magic system, but that might've over-complicated things. There's just enough background and insight into the personalities that younger readers will relate to the characters and what they're going through without detracting from the overall story.
This is actually the first Sanderson novel I've read, but if this is how he does YA, I can't wait to catch up on the Wheel of Time series. ...more
The best thing an author can be is honest, and I was in awe of Harris' candor while tackling such a range of themes - there's alcoholism, bullies, divThe best thing an author can be is honest, and I was in awe of Harris' candor while tackling such a range of themes - there's alcoholism, bullies, diva moments, body image issues, incredible teachers, friendship, romance, the roller coaster of adoption, 9/11, attempted suicide and coming out. Harris is candid about himself, his family, his idols, the situations he's been in, and the situations he's created for himself in a way that's incredibly refreshing.
Two stories really stood out to me. First, "As Good As It Gets," the story about Harris' summer of freedom at Opryland and the isolation he encountered after returning home. "There is nothing wrong with you," might seem like a simple, undramatic thing to say to a teenager, but if his teacher Mr. McDowell hadn't taken an interest, where would Harris be today? What happens to those who aren't lucky enough to have a Mr. McDowell in there lives? His statement that bigotry is driven by "Ignorance. Fear. Also, some people are assholes," is spot on and not said enough.
Second, "The Zoo Story" really hit close to home. I don't have an incredible voice or celebrity friends, but like Sam, I had to convince my husband to give parenthood a chance. Although he was over the moon when our daughter was born, my husband wasn't quite sure what to do with the little crying bundle. As much as he loved her, she mostly made him nervous and panicky.
That first, mostly non-verbal year, I was in my mommy element - I'd read all the books, magazines and blogs; I had ample clothes, diapers and Butt Paste; our schedule was well researched and planned. My husband grew more comfortable as our daughter became more mobile and vocal, and now he's come into his own as "the fun one" while I've been relegated mostly to rule-setting, logistics, and photography.
We didn't have to jump through any hoops to become the happy trio we are today, nor did we have to abide the intolerant opinions of family, and reading about part of that maniac journey in "Better" gives me a whole new appreciation for my relatively easy road. But even when he was young, Harris had a sense that the show must go on, and his ability to embrace life and get on despite its hurdles is a real inspiration....more