Room has been a challenge for me, both writing the review and presenting the booktalk. First, let me be clear, I loved the book. Like many other folks, I was hesitant to read it knowing the subject matter, but Jack won me over. It was all I could do not to peek ahead in the story, and I NEVER do that.
This is an example of a book that is all about suspense and all about the character narrating the book, a five-year-old named Jack.
How to describe the circumstances without giving too much away?
How to give an example of the language Jack uses, yet not confuse the reader or listener into thinking he is developmentally disabled (which he most certainly is not)?
I booktalked this title twice last week. The first time I left the circumstances a mystery, thinking it would make the listener want to read the book to find out what is going on. No one checked out the book.
The next day, I tried again. I gave the same booktalk, but added one sentence, clarifying exactly what was going on (but not giving away whether Jack and his mother escape their captor). I was mobbed at the end of class, and had to put multiple holds on my copies of the book.
Guess I learned something.
Liz B did a terrific write-up about Room on her SLJ blog next door, A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy . She ended by saying she hoped this book would win an Alex Award. I second that sentiment!
Adult/High School-–Room opens on Jack’s fifth birthday. He is very excited, wondering what his treat will be. Jack and Ma live in Room. Jack is a smart, happy little boy who asks tons of questions, and Ma finds a way to explain everything. He loves to read, sing, and tell stories. He loves to measure things and talk to his friend Dora the Explorer on TV. He hates green beans. Ma takes good care of Jack, teaching him to wash his hands often, to stay away from Stove. Her entire focus is on keeping him safe and unaware of their circumstances. Jack is always tucked away in Wardrobe before 9pm every night, before Old Nick arrives for his visits. Slowly readers learn that Ma was abducted years before, and has since had a baby, Jack. She found ways to cope, to make life as normal as possible for Jack. But her captor is becoming unpredictable, and the painkillers she takes for a sore tooth are no longer enough to keep the fever down. Ma starts to talk with Jack about leaving Room, escaping to Outside. Dark as it may sound, this is an uplifting story of love and courage. Through Jack’s eyes, the things we take for granted are extraordinary, the things we worry about ridiculous. But there are also hurts that are too painful. Can Ma and Jack survive on the Outside? Teens will fall for the compelling premise and stay for the heartfelt execution and thrilling writing that give this book natural appeal.—Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City