This book really amazed me by being a story that is bigger and harder and rougher and rawer than I thought it would be. It’s been named for two year’s best lists, and garnered three starred reviews, so it’s not just me feeling amazed. Althea and Oliver is a debut book that went far darker than I expected, and did so intelligently and memorably. While it’s not a perfect read, the more I think about this one, the more impressed I am. [Read more...]
It’s so hard when a book is completely admirable and worthy of discussion and yet I just can’t like it. Because now I’m torn between wanting lots of discussion on this and also wanting to move on to a book I can like more.
Winter and the Connecticut suburbs, man. It’s all misery.
Last year, we had a lot of great conversation about Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which ended up with a silver medal. This year, we have its companion title, Rose Under Fire. With two starred reviews, will this title go the distance? I’m not so sure; I’ve gone through at least three different stages of thinking about this book. I think I’ve settled on “not likely.”
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy here: The writing is beautiful, and the decision to keep first person diary style benefits this story. It allows for immediate, emotional connection with Rose, and also provides an opportunity to track the changes Rose undergoes through the course of the story. Her change in voice from part one to part two is abrupt and effective; you’re warily drawn in, trying to understand what changes have happened. And the polished writing of the third section gives the book a gorgeous, formal (but still emotional and effective) ending. [Read more...]
The Kingdom of Little Wounds, Susann Cokal
Candlewick Press, October 2013
Reviewed from ARC
I wanted to like this.
I mean, it’s huge, it’s about my favorite general period in history, it uses a fairy tale motif throughout, it’s got a stunning package, and people whose opinions I respect say this is an it book when it comes to literary books this year.
I really really wanted to like this.
So, Dodger is a heartsong book for me. I realize it’s not perfect — certainly not with regard to accuracy, which we’ll get to in a moment — but it is almost perfectly put together, and is certainly enough of an exemplar of voice, style and thematic development that I hope the 2013 RealCommittee will take a serious look (or maybe a second look) at it. In view of all the great titles before us, I would be surprised to see it take the gold, but you’d have to be a real nasty geezer, to borrow a term from Dodger himself, to snipe at any accolades thrown Sir Terry’s way. [Read more...]
At last! I finally get to write about my one true love of the year, the book I will champion against all others as the be all, end all best book of the year.
(Sorry, Railsea, you rock, but you’re still not number one, Pyrite nomination notwithstanding.)
Oh god, now that the moment is here I feel such pressure to make the case. Because this is, for my money, the runaway best written book of the year. And yes, I loved it, but that’s not actually the point at all. The point is that this is a masterwork of writing, full of literary flourishes, tightly plotted, rich in character, well-grounded in reality, haunting in setting, and just hitting it out of the park on so many levels. It deserves the Printz.
(And look, people, the world has been amazing about keeping mum about some of the intricacies of this plot, because there are twists and reveals and they are super. But after nearly a year of keeping mum unless the other party in the conversation had also read it, I’m going to break my discretion, because I can’t discuss CNV with any level of specificity or textual evidence unless I give it all away. So do us all a favor. If you haven’t read CNV yet, please don’t click through. This is a book that is already fettered by the weight of expectation for some readers; do yourself a favor and read it unspoiled. We’ll wait. You’ll be back.)
Grave Mercy and The Wicked and the Just are, in so many ways, polar opposites.
But how often do we see YA books set in the Middle Ages? Not very, which makes it almost impossible not to think of these in a compare and contrast essay. So that’s what you get.
Both feature strong female heroines, well defined settings, and a fascinating story. Oh, and divided nations (France/Brittany and England/Wales), strangely fitting since I’m putting the final edits in to the accompaniment of the election results rolling across the TV. But that’s about where the compare part ends, really, because mostly these are very different books.
National Book Award Finalist. Three stars. Patricia McCormick. Never Fall Down is a critical and popular darling, and there is absolutely no question about the emotional impact of the story. You would need to be a stone to stay dry-eyed reading about the atrocities Arn sees and endures under the Khmer Rouge.
So let’s cut to the chase. There’s really only one conversation anyone is having about Never Fall Down, and it’s all about the voice.