The cover and the title didn't attract me to this book at all, but I figured I'd give it a try because it was there to check out and I had read something else by the author that was reasonably good.
Anyway, I was quite impressed. It's a really good story. However, it's the characterization that impressed me most. Gail Carson Levine does an excellent job writing from a boy's perspective—much better than I could have expected, especially since she's known for other kinds of books from other points of view (and more particularly because she's never been a boy, and, correct me if I'm wrong, but she also seems to be really good at writing from a girl's perspective). I've read a lot of other books by female authors writing from a male perspective, but Gail Carson Levine seems to be one of the best in juvenile fiction I've found, insofar as this book is an example—not to say the other authors are bad, but there are things I notice here and there that seem a little strange, at least to me (even if I sometimes notice the same things from male authors—but I guess all boy's aren't the same after all; I don't mean to be too critical of the female authors, as the things they write are certainly possible, even if they're not always true to how I think and feel, personally; I'm certainly not an example of what most
guys are like in other areas, so I suppose it's likely that I'm probably not here, either; I just mean to say that I could relate to the main character more easily, especially with his instinctive apathy, or lack of drama, to seemingly horrible things, and how he still seemed to enjoy himself with the subtle not-quite-jaded slant of his thoughts).
The book is historical fiction, but modern readers can definitely relate to it without a dictionary. It's not fantasy at all, either, and it doesn't at all show that the author has primarily written fantasy.
I really liked the Jewish cultural elements. The relations with the girl he meets were well-done, too.
I liked how the author talked about how this book related to her father's life after it ended.
The narration was good, although I admit I listened to the book sped up so that he had a high-pitched voice. So, I mean to say, I can't vouch for whether he's as good with his regular voice, heh, heh. Anyway, it was a faster listen that way, but it worked out well. I think it's easier to follow the author's train of thought when the readers read faster (that way my short term memory doesn't have as much time to forget what the narration is talking about).
Off-topic: Oh, I got my new MP3 player that I ordered Thursday night, today. That's mostly why I finished this book, today. It's a Sansa Fuze (8GB, apparently with newer firmware already installed). I highly recommend them—they're inexpensive and they work well (much better than the e200 series, and although I can, I don't feel compelled to put RockBox on it, since it already supports most of the same features, aside from the ability to listen to video game music formats), My only qualm is that it sorts numbers alphabetically so that you 10 comes right after 1 (so I have to make sure it says 01 instead of 1). It works well with the OGG Vorbis files I use for audiobooks. I haven't figured out how to get it's MTP to work on Linux for the DRM audio books out there, but I'm sure I can find a way if I spend some time on it. See the following link for how I usually rip CDs for audiobooks (although I've since made the script name the aforementioned numbers, too):