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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
Inside A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy

Diagram v Wonderstruck

School Library Journal Battle of the Books, Round 2, Match 4. Life: An Exploded Diagram v Wonderstruck. Judge: Chris Lynch

What Lynch says about the beginning of Life amused me: “OK, let’s say this: If you wanted to be picky about it, you might say that the story really hits YA stride when our boy, Clem Ackroyd, moves to the council estate and then onto the secondary school. Before that he’s not really the center, and it amounts to a sort of 75 page preamble.” As readers of this blog know, I DNF’ed Life, having read the first 100 odd pages and the last 100 or so, with a chapter or two in the middle. I agree that the start is preamble, but sadly, not enough clicked for me to appreciate it hitting a YA stride.

I think an interesting argument is to be had for whether or not Life is YA, but I don’t think it’s a reason for a judge to not select Life as their bracket winner. Life was published YA; Life was selected for this Battle. From this point on, it should be book versus book, and whether or not it’s “really” YA or not doesn’t matter because it avoids doing what one commits to doing for this Battle: judging the books.

And Lynch does just that — examine the book, not it’s category — and Lynch ends up deciding for Life: “But despite the wonder undeniably struck by Brian Selznick, I have to go with Mal Peet on the strength of yer bleddy brilliant writing.”

You know what I find bleddy interesting? That at each level, Life went up against a book with illustrations, and is about to do so again in the next round.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is