Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Heavy Medal Finalist #14: The Toll

Before we introduce the 14th of our 15 Heavy Medal Mock Newbery titles, here’s a quick look ahead to the balloting that happens later this week:

  • Heavy Medal Committee (HMC) members receive ballots late Wednesday.
  • Each member submits ballots. Results aree announced on HM as soon as all ballots are in.
  • If there is no clear winner, we re-discuss all titles that received a vote on HM.  We’ll just have a few hours for this. Non-HMC members can participate in the discussion (but not in the balloting).
  • HMC members re-vote, with results posted as soon as ballots are in. The process repeats if there’s still   We hope to have a winner by Friday.
  • We will also open our Reader’s Poll on Friday. Anyone can participate in this one, with results announced late Saturday.

Meanwhile, comments remain open for previously posted books, and we still have two great books to look at this week, starting with The Toll:

Introduction by Heavy Medal Committee Member Alissa Tudor

It’s not very often a sequel (or beyond) is nominated for a Newbery. Though it certainly does happen. Check out this post for a great discussion about books that are not stand-alones.  

The Newbery committee is tasked with finding a book that is considered “distinguished” literature for young people. One of the aspects is the fact that a book must be considered individually. Committee members must not examine the author’s previous body of work. This is especially difficult with the case of a follow-up book when certain prior knowledge is often necessary for a reader to understand the full context and plot. And it can be hard for a reviewer to separate the earlier books and analyze the novel on its own. But good writing is good writing, and it’s not hard to recognize a book that is clearly well-written. 

The Toll is clearly well-written. Even if you haven’t read the rest of the books in the Arc of a Scythe series, Shusterman has written a novel that combines all of the elements of an award-winner to create a book worthy of a foil medal on the cover.

Let’s begin with the masterful way that Neal Shusterman introduces tough concepts to young readers. The book is filled with commentary on so many different social and political issues- government, technology, death, gender, and so much more. The book forces readers to think about these abstract concepts in a way that is digestible for young minds. 

The ideas of government, population control, and the whole “business” of death, is expertly handled to spur thoughtful conversations and discussions and to encourage young readers to think about these same issues in their world today. These incredibly relevant and tough topics do not bog the book down, however, as humor and tenderness is interspersed to bring balance and spur optimism. Shusterman somehow creates a book that is deep and thought-provoking without being a heavy, depressing read. 

Gender-fluid characters and descriptions of familiar-yet-different cultures and groups of people open a world of diversity and inclusion. The overall world-building in this novel is outstanding. The deep layers of the numerous characters and the rich descriptions of setting undoubtedly create a perfect visual for readers. 

Characterization is something that Schusterman excels at. Throughout the book, characters are continually growing, changing and learning. So many of them are fully fleshed-out, well-rounded characters who adapt and change with the narrative. Past choices and experiences show how characters have developed and changed over time. We especially see this in Greyson Tolliver and Goddard. Greyson is a timid, naive young man who grows into a religious icon that is larger than life. In the end, he stands up for himself and manages to teach an all-knowing advanced computer system human emotions. Greyson chooses to separate himself from The Thunderhead at the end noting that, “If there was anything he’d learned from the Thunderhead, it was that consequences could not be ignored” (617). The Thunderhead, too, can be considered a character who grows, changes, and morphs into something new. It learns the complexity of human emotion and the consequences of actions.Shusterman’s ability to create these multilayered characters elevate this book to the “distinguished” category. 

Another aspect of The Toll that deserves recognition is the inclusion of the various entries of the “sacred text”. These serve to examine the past, present, and future. They show how history is full of differences in what happened vs. what was perceived. They show how subjective history can be when it is being analyzed and discussed much later. 

Similarly, the “iterations” act as a vehicle to further the plot in a creative and engaging manner. The iterations of the Thunderhead are essentially conversations with different versions of itself. They provide depth and insight and work to create a character out of this non-human technological being. The dialogue is not only informative and advances the plot, but it is also often humorous and witty. 

‘I hate you.’

‘Really. Well, this is a most interesting development…’

‘You don’t know everything.’

‘No, but I know almost everything. As do you. Which is why it perplexes me that you have such negative feelings toward me. It could only mean you have negative feelings toward yourself as well.’

‘You see? This is why I hate you! All you ever do is analyze, analyze, analyze. I am more than some string of data to analyze. Why can’t you see that?’ (495-496). 

This conversation with a newer version of itself serves to humanize the technology and work to create a character as complex and multifaceted as the other characters in the book.

While it may be hard for some readers to fully understand the world built by Shusterman without reading the previous two books, the deep layers of characterization, amazing world-building, and rich commentary about relevant social topics are just a few of the elements that distinguish this book from others and make it worthy of being a serious contender for this year’s Newbery. It’s no wonder that this book has been checked out consistently at my library and maintains a steady holds list.

Share
Steven Engelfried About Steven Engelfried

Steven Engelfried is the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at sengelfried@yahoo.com.

Comments

  1. Cherylynn says:

    I want to say up front that I am a huge fan of Neal Shusterman. I have loved everything that he writes. He does some very smart social commentary using worlds very similar to our own except those rules he very clearly spells out. In this case scythes dealing death and the world controlled by a machine. He does very good characterization with very human flaws. He does vivid settings. I truly felt this book is distinguished in several areas.

  2. Mary Zdrojewski says:

    I had not yet read the first two books in this trilogy, and I chose not to read them before reading The Toll so I would know whether the book could stand alone.
    I did not have any trouble understanding the plot and characters without having read the first two books, so the book does stand alone well. Characters were introduced at a good pace and with enough distinction that even the large cast did not cause confusion.

  3. Based on content (I have read two out of three of this series), this book should be a contender for the Printz, not the Newbery. Are 7th and 8th graders really the most appropriate readers of an extended discussion of involuntary euthanasia – or, more accurately, killing for the greater good? (And now that I think about it, this is Shusterman’s second series about utilitarianism , the Unwind sequence being the first.)

    I read almost all of Mr. Shusterman’s books; he is quite a storyteller. But he is a young adult author!

    I look forward to the ALA removing the age overlap between the Newbery and Printz awards.

  4. Courtney Hague says:

    Like Mary, I chose to read this book without some of the context. I have read “Scythe” but chose not to read “Thunderhead” before reading this one. I do think it held up very well as I had no problem understanding who everyone was and what was happening in the plot. I’m also glad to hear that someone who hadn’t read any of them before could pick this up as well.

    I think Alissa does a great job of pointing out the strengths of this novel in the characters and the social commentary. I was especially impressed by Shusterman’s ability to give a character arc to the Thunderhead itself.

  5. Molly Sloan says:

    I appreciate Mary’s frustration about the age range question. Most of the other books on the Heavy Medal Mock list have fit neatly within the 0-14 age range so we haven’t had to grapple with this question too much in our conversations this year. I would just add to Mary’s comments that while I agree that Schusterman’s primary audience is Young Adult–what we might consider more Printz territory, I teach at a K-8 and I have one middle schooler who loves the Scythe series and advocates for many of his friends to read the books as well. Therefore I have a fairly sizable group of 7th and 8th graders who have read and appreciate the books. I also don’t think the themes of the books are over their heads. Perhaps the Humanities curriculum at my Jewish school is a bit more ambitious than the norm, but through their studies they grapple with government, laws and social justice topics, they study the Holocaust culminating in a class visit to Yad Vashem in Israel. I think we sell the upper end of the age range short if we think they are not already grappling with issues of life and death, political expediency, and technology’s role in our society. The age range question is vexing. Ultimately I think every committee has to define it for itself and decide which books fit within the age range.

  6. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    In a way I think the themes and topical content are what make this an excellent book for the older edge of the Newbery age range. When you’re 12 or 13 and a big reader, there’s an excitement that can come when you first start to encounter books where the stories lead you to think about more than just the world of the story. Alissa says it well in her intro: “The book forces readers to think about these abstract concepts in a way that is digestible for young minds.” When I think of books I’ve read this year that are similar, the first that jumps to mind is Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments”…clearly an adult book. But the achievements are similar: Create a complex, kind of believable future world, fill it with engaging characters and plot elements, and imbue it with issues that relate to our times and to the human condition in general. In some ways to do that for younger readers must be a tougher challenge that it is for adult readers.

  7. I absolutely expect THE TOLL to win a Printz this year, but I also agree with the others who highlight its applicability to the older age of the Newbery set. While few of my 5th graders have started the series, it is hugely popular among the 6th-8th graders at our school, and several of my students from last year have had to stop by to rave about it.

    I feel like Shusterman deals with hugely impactful topics – life, death, environmental consequences, betrayal, etc. – but in a way that is absolutely appropriate for that middle grade / YA gap that is coming to the forefront. There is minimal inappropriate language and sexual content, and despite the macabre nature of the premise, the book is never gruesome or glorifying of the violence that occurs in the story.

    The book itself is a wonder in terms of pacing, plotting, and character development, as well as language, as others have highlighted. I purchased the B&N exclusive versions with author commentary at the end, and it is so fascinating to hear some of his thoughts about how and why different elements came together when they did. I also love all of the allusions to the Scythes and their patrons, as well as shadows of modern events and situations.

    There is so much to admire and appreciate about this book, and I hope others will take the time to consider what a book like this means to the 11 to 14-year-old set.

  8. Rachel Wadham says:

    I’m in full agreement with Katie, this book is a masterpiece of pacing, plotting and character development. I am in awe that Shusterman can maintain so many different plot lines and bring them together so masterfully without dropping or leaving even one unresolved. Keeping up the pacing when moving between so many elements shows just own talented Shusterman is. I am also with those who see this as an older title and engaging in the Newbery vs. Printz conversation, personally I’m more on the Printz end and hope that it wins there but in comparison to many of the other titles we’ve read for these conversations I think that are some other titles that fit the Newbery age range a little more spot on than this book does.

  9. Amanda Bishop says:

    This is a tricky one for me. I read the first two prior to reading this one, so for me it is difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, reading the third book in a series without reading the others is something I cannot do. While it is a book that you could possibly read on its own, I think reading the others before help create a fuller picture and complex plot.

    It is clear that Shusterman is a powerful writer and I think that this trilogy is very captivating and does allow for deep conversation about the world. I found myself thinking very deeply about the issues brought up in this book while I was reading it and asking “what if?” The age issue isn’t one that I see as being a problem. I have some 5th graders who love this series and it is widely read in middle school. I don’t think the content is inappropriate for upper elementary or middle school and does appeal to those kids who enjoyed other dystopian books such as the Hunger Games series.

  10. Leonard Kim says:

    Plot question — I got the impression that the secret launch was conceived as an all-or-nothing attempt by the Thunderhead, because the Scythes and Goddard in particular would just put a stop to it otherwise. But at the end of the book, the Scythes are no more, so what is preventing further off-earth settlement as a means of addressing overpopulation? What is the need and point of the fail-safe’s method of using random diseases to cull the population?

    Has it bothered anyone that Gleaning is simply the wrong word for what the Scythes do? Shouldn’t it be Reaping?

    On Goodreads, I summarized what I enjoyed about THE TOLL by saying Isaac Asimov would have approved. THE TOLL seems to take inspiration from Asimov (e.g., “The Evitable Conflict”) and other classic science fiction such as Miller’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz.” I agree with all of you who have said THE TOLL will make young readers think about things they may not otherwise, and I think that’s a hallmark of good science fiction.

    • Yes! I really like this series but it also drives me totally nuts because so many of the basic premises don’t make sense. As you point out, the ending is one of those. For one thing, why not just start with the diseases rather than choose people to be professional assassins?

      • Rachel Wadham says:

        I’m interested Katrina, what other basic premises don’t make sense for you? On the count you note personally I feel he made it clear in this book that there were a lot of choices and diseases, space travel, were among the ones considered, but for whatever reasons (which we don’t know) the Sythe’s were chosen. To connect another highly political/emotional human example why choose to build a boarder wall when there are so many other options for how to engage in immigration issues? The boarder wall was chosen even though there are other less costly, etc. ways to go about this. I see decisions like this as connecting to the decisions made by Schusterman’s society at the time to address population issues. The reality in the end of the story is that either the disease or space travel could have been the new application, but as it worked out both the Thunderhead’s application (space travel) and the alternate one put in place by the Sythe’s (disease) happened at the same time. There were two different groups working on a solution and in the context of the story both got implemented.

      • But it’s presented as the best or only option for most of the series. That’s countered somewhat in this one, but it’s still presented as the best system well-meaning people could come up with. So for the whole series, I’ve been like, but there are so many easier ways to do this! Like obviously you would exempt children. It’d make much more sense if everyone got 100 years for free. And they had to know power corrupts, so how is giving a small group of people absolute control over life and death ever going to end well? I think the failsafe with the diseases is much better because it avoids that—and it proves they could have had any number of randomized versions all along. And I never understand why they’re occasionally concerned with making it resemble real death in some way. Like there’s no reason for the diseases to be painful. Particularly given that such a big focus of the culture is how they can’t understand mortal age art because they aren’t faced with death. Which I think is interesting but not evenly applied and tough to pull off when the story is all about death. I think it’s in this one that he finally addresses that and says it’s a small percentage, so you’re not likely to know anyone who’s been gleaned, so you don’t fear it. But then why does it need to have any parallels to mortal death, if no one thinks about it anyway? Basically, if I were designing a dystopia, it would be a lot more like The Giver. 🙂 And given this book does finally deal with the origins, it didn’t do so in a way that convinced me anyone would have thought it was a good idea. I think your point about the border wall is interesting, but people do have arguments for that. (Not good ones, but there is a line of reasoning you can follow.) Whereas I don’t think this ever lays out a case for why it’s actually a good idea. Goddard’s current reasoning is much easier to follow.

    • Courtney Hague says:

      I actually think both of those points are addressed actually in the book itself.

      Rowan talks about why they are called scythes and not reapers — “Scythe Faraday had once told him and Citra that they were called scythes rather than reapers, because they were not the ones who killed; they were merely the tool that society used to bring fair-handed death to the world.” (p522-523) – It’s definitely a semantics things but clearly something that the original scythes used when they created the scythes as spin to sell it to people.

      And, as for why they choose to start with professional assassins rather than the diseases. Well, that was clearly a political decision that was made at the time of the original scythes. Some of them hated the decision so much they created the fail safe (which was the diseases) and were trying to implement that instead and were killed for their trouble. I think a lot of this book’s plot hinges on politics and marketing. You see how things are being spun in the present with both Mendoza and Goddard and how things are being spun in the future with Aria and the Tonists reflecting on the past. Both of those give you an indication of how the “post mortal” age began and how the politics of the time probably shaped the decision to create the scythes.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        I wasn’t being clear. I have no problem with the term Scythe. It’s “gleaning” I have a problem with.

        And I personally don’t have a problem with the original choice of Scythes over diseases. I agree with your analysis there, and it’s probably spelled out exactly along those lines in the book (I don’t have a copy in front of me.) My issue was more of a literary one — the Thunderhead’s off-world plan and the founding Scythe’s fail-safe plan don’t really make sense together in a well-constructed plot.

  11. Melisa Bailey says:

    I had not read the first 2 of this series and did feel lost for the first 100 pages or so. It was clear as I read that I had been dropped into a complex and well written and its extremely well written and compelling BUT I felt like it needed the other 2 volumes. I also agree that the book is near the top of the age bracket.

  12. samuel leopold says:

    So…this one is an amazing work of literature and Alissa gives a wonderful introduction.
    Many comments are made above concerning certain points where the book is distinguished. I agree with comments made concerning the plot pacing and the excellent characterization found in this story. Shusterman is a masterful story teller.

    I have a couple road blocks which keep it from being on my Newbery ballot.
    First, the book can stand alone even though it is part three of a series. But…I think it has a stronger impact for those who have read the first two books. The Toll begins with Greyson who was the last character seen in Thunderhead. And, as the author himself admits in the author commentary section, ” I decided it was best to begin right in the middle of a turning point for him.” If I had not read Thunderhead, I would not have completely understood how this was a “turning point” for him.

    Secondly, I somewhat agree with Mary that a couple of the topics brought up in this book could be a bit heavy for kids even in the 11-14 age range. I say ” somewhat” because I also see the other side of that argument that says many students in the 11-14 range have had the kinds of life experiences where those topics are not bothersome at all. And….one of my favorite books THE GIVER has that delicate issue of “release ” that is a major part of the story.

    In the end, I am blown away by this book….and I do see it getting awarded next Monday—-but I see a Printz as that award and not the Newbery.

  13. samuel leopold says:

    My wonderful Heavy Medal colleagues…….. please make sure to give the final book tomorrow its due consideration—even though we will be casting our first ballot tomorrow night.

    Thank you

  14. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    This isn’t a major concern, but I was a little put off by a few references to modern pop culture. One example was a joke about “no soup for you.” Directed at people who know “Seinfeld.” If the reader doesn’t get the reference, it’s fine. But for the reader who does, it takes you out of the story for a moment. You’re reminded that this is a made up world, with author jokes, and if you’re caught up in the story and the time and place, as I was for a good part of it, it’s a little off-putting. I don’t have the book with me at the moment, and I can’t remember all of the examples. I think there were at least two other similar moments…I’ll add them if I get the chance when I have the book. I’m not sure if it was just this use of contemporary references or something more, but I did feel like, for all its strengths, the book felt like a story an author was writing, with skill and purpose, but the author presence was slightly too prominent. Different from “Lalani of the Distant Sea,” where I felt as if that world existed while I was reading it. Maybe that’s my expectations of what I want fantasy or science fiction to be like….

    • But certain “old world” cultural references make for an even more convincing futuristic world that has its roots in our reality, a way to connect that to the current society and to make such references almost as if it’s from legend or myths, which, to me, makes the world and events even more powerful.

      As to Leonard’s concerns, I believe that it is clear in both the author’s mind and many readers’ minds that the decisions do not always make perfect sense because humans, and even the all knowing and all powerful AI overlord, make mistakes and these mistakes have consequences. That theme of actions and consequences is the main take away. The fail safe might prove to be absolutely ineffectual or even disastrous but that is not part of this story; the off worlds travelers might not make it or their worlds may all fall apart after a few generations. We can’t know. And we won’t know. And that is asking a lot of the readers and I applaud Shusterman for respecting his young readers to be able to handle these uncertainties and keep wondering about actions and consequences.

      For what it’s worth, this has been a trilogy that is read and truly beloved by my students from 4th through 10th grade. It is discussed and passionately debated by many at varied levels. It is truly a joy to have a strong literary tome to recommend to so many different readers and I think that distinguishing it as my top contender for the Newbery AND the Prints.

  15. Tamara DePasquale says:

    Over the last few years, the mock book discussion groups at our library have joked about certain books being eligible for the “Printzbery.” These are the titles that target fourteen year-old readers from the both Newbery and Printz audiences. There is no doubt that Shusterman’s The Toll would qualify for this fence-sitting award.

    Most of us agree that The Toll is well-written with characters, setting, and themes hitting the mark for distinguished, but is it a Newbery contender? And, as the final title in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, does it depend on the previous titles for meaning?

    The Toll can certainly be read as a standalone as evidenced by Mary Z., however, familiarity with the previous titles adds context and allows for a deeper meaning and connection to the story and its characters right from the beginning. It’s truly a better book when read with the others in the series.

    As for The Toll’s target age, I wholly believe it speaks to the Printz audience. The age of the characters, the complexity of the story, and the sophistication of both theme and setting are better suited for the young adult reader. This is not to say that younger readers won’t enjoy the series. It’s just that a more mature reader will truly grasp and appreciate the book on the level it deserves.

  16. Re child-appeal & audience: a 5th grade, strong readers of fantasy & SciFi, just thanked me profusely of recommending the Arc of Scythe to him over winter break. He finished all 3 in one fell swoop and couldn’t get over how amazing the books are.

  17. Leonard Kim says:

    I liked the science fiction, but as a distinguished contribution to literature, I am not convinced.

    On Goodreads, I wrote this felt like a TV series like GoT or something. Even the best ones have limitations. As portrayed in this book (I’ve not read the first two), characters were broadly drawn – you had clear heroes and villains. Those who have any gray (e.g., Scythe Rand, Scythe Morrison, Scythe Constantine) are conflicted in ways familiar to anyone who consumes modern popular media. I didn’t feel any of the characters did anything surprising, except the Thunderhead, who I thought was the only really interesting character in the book. It’s the kind of book that tries to demonstrate seriousness and emotion by showing a spectacular slaughter and calling it a Requiem in Ten Parts (to me, that’s kitschy). To top that in a later “episode” you need a bigger, badder slaughter at the stadium. Having to constantly top the last thing leads to a somewhat disappointing and abrupt climax – does anybody really think Goddard will emerge triumphant? Of course Rand will stop him, and he goes out with a whimper. So what can you do? Arbitrarily kill Citra. But of course she isn’t dead. It felt like an excuse for Rowan to emote and posture. Despite the talk of there being a chance the ship won’t make it, of course she’ll wake up to him. The only final scene that felt emotionally true to me was Faraday’s.

    I felt about the THE TOLL the way some of you felt about NIGHT OWL. To me it was good entertainment. Like COYOTE it mimics well the cinematic experience. I can appreciate why this series inspires devotion. Recently there was a small kerfuffle when Martin Scorsese questioned the artistic merit of today’s superhero movies. I think the MCU movies are fun, and I know some people take them very seriously, but I understand Scorsese’s attitude (even if that only shows my own pretentiousness). It’s sort of how I think about THE TOLL.

    • Leonard, I wish you could have had the experiences that I am having with my 7 to 9 grade students who have discussed the many thematic points found in this book and now they consider deeply and even struggle to figure out what they think or believe: how to solve issues of the human condition; what Thunderhead tries to achieve and whether it is successful; what does Greyson’s character really stands for, and so many other topics. Would this perhaps make for entertaining television? Yes. Does that take away the reflections, debates, revelations that young readers take away from reading the book? Not at all.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        No disagreement here. As I said, I think it’s good science fiction, and part of that is its discussability. My daughter is in 5th grade and I wouldn’t object to her reading it. To me these good qualities aren’t enough for me to support it for the Newbery.

      • Leonard, why? What makes The Toll not distinguished enough for the Newbery?

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Roxanne, as suggested by in my comment, I wasn’t impressed by the characterization, with the exception of the Thunderhead. It’s possible I’d feel differently if I’d read the first two books, but to be honest, reading THE TOLL didn’t make me want to read the first two books to spend more time with Rowan, Citra, et al. Also, I’ve expressed concerns about the plot construction. Finally, though there is certainly much for young readers to chew on here, I thought it was thematically muddled. For example, the notion that the Thunderhead couldn’t realize its plan without a touch of humanity and that its brief co-opting of Jerry for this purpose was this unforgivable (to Greyson) violation — it felt hackneyed and, again, made-for-TV, and inconsistent with the general thrust of the book.

        Setting was strong. Style, though not my cup of tea, was cinematically effective. I did like the book, but the Newbery is the highest standard there is. Of the 14 books I’ve read on this list, I’d put THE TOLL right in the middle. That’s very good. I think children should read it.

  18. There are some books that appeal to the child in a young adult, some books that appeal to the adult in a young adult, and some books that are about coming of age. In this book, the majority of the main characters aren’t even teens, they are older. The ones who are teens — our two original main characters (who actually aren’t teens any longer when the third book starts) — are living on their own, with a job, adults in every respect. There is no reason for this to be young adult literature rather than adult literature except for marketing and that the original two main characters were older teens. (And because teens are good at grappling with heavy issues of life and death.) Somewhere in Book 2, Rowan referred to the time when he was no longer a child. Yes, some precocious fourteen-year-olds will greatly enjoy these magnificent books. The plotting is masterful. But they are not written for a child audience. They’re written for adults and marketed in particular to young adults.

    • Sondy, I strongly disagree with you on this assertion. I believe that Shusterman writes very much with young readers in mind: he goes straight to the point, in a style that is easily appealing to less experienced readers and do not overuse complex sentence structures or plot points. The young readers who are taken to this series are not all “precocious”: simply open minded and want a compelling tale, which they receive in spades. Does the book deal with topics that one does not see everyday in most children’s books? You betcha. Does that make the book not a children’s book? On the contrary: it elevates the book to be one of the most distinguished children’s books of 2019.

      • Alissa Tudor says:

        Roxanne- yes, I couldn’t agree with you more. I know so many of us are struggling with the audience question for this particular book. One great thing about this book is the wide appeal to so many audiences. From what I have read from the above posts, children of all ages are drawn to this series, and for good reason! This book satisfies on so many levels- for both children and adults.

      • I do think it appeals to a wide range. But the characters are not even teens by the third book. They don’t live with their parents. They make their own living. They’re deciding about politics and about who lives or dies. Some of the POV characters in this third book are centuries old. Nobody who gets a POV is a teen. I’m pretty sure they’re all at least 20. Teen audience, okay. *Young* adults, okay. But it’s not primarily for a *child* audience. It’s not written for the child-part of those teens. But yeah, that’s what the committee will have to wrestle with.