Sharon posted a couple weeks ago about Chains, and I’m just now catching up. I’d actually started the book long ago…and put it down, a couple of times. I did find myself engaged once I committed myself to it, but I still have the lingering feeling that I never quite believed Isabel as a character. Almost–but not quite at the depth that Anderson calls for in her emotionally-charged moments…which stuck out to me as obviously emotionally-charged. Fuse 8 calls it "complex but kid-friendly," and I do agree that these are it’s distinguishing charateristics, and make it a strong contender for the Newbery.
From real-life matters of life and death, I moved right on to The Hunger Games, which oddly enough I had a similar reaction to, despite its obvious surface dissimilarites. A dystopic version of reality TV gone bad…Katniss fights for her life within a plot as contrived and manipulative as the system she’s trying to buck. Contrived and manipulated very well, I should add. This is a great read, a compelling read, and offers a tween audience something chewy and stimluating. But once I start looking at the structure of the writing…it seems very flat. (The first angle people tend to bring up re The Hunger Games and the Newbery is age level. Though the characters are full teen-age, I find the approach to issues of life and death, romance, etc., not very complex, which is just as younger audiences need them. This is a perfect example of a book that falls squarely on the fence.)
These two books couldn’t be more different…and yet the Newbery committee has to compare books this disimilar as they look for which one exemplifies the most distinguished writing of the year.