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Flashback May 2005

A flashback to my reviews from May 2005! My second month of book blogging, so be kind.

Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton. My review: “Bethany is unique not in that she lost her arm; Bethany is unique in that she knew from a young age what it was that made her happy, and she has parents who were willing to support her. The message of this book is simple: do not let anything come between you and what you love doing.”

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli. My review: “This is a unique take on the Cinderella story, and not just because of the setting. Xing Xing’s feet may not be bound, but her life is: bound by obligations to ancestors, family members, society. She must find a way to create a life and future for herself. Bound is about choice and acceptance.”

The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson. My review: “What I remember about it, and why I loved it, and why I continue to love the world is ending/ nine tenths of the world is dead what now fiction: the struggle for survival; the violence; the ingenuity; the making do, figuring out, discovering how to do things (make fire, for instance) for the first time. The starting over. So I reread this book, of 10 year old Lisa and baby brother Todd, hoping to revisit the love…. and came away with a sort of sick to the stomach I-used-to-date-him-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking reaction. I’m sure that kids still love it. But as an adult, I couldn’t help but question a lot that I accepted as a child. . . . And Lisa, the strong girl I admired, is a mini control freak a hair away from utter dictatorship.”

Light Years by Tammar Stein. My review: “[Israeli born] Maya is an outsider at university, and it is interesting to see her perspective on America and Americans. Flashbacks reveal Maya’s life in Israel, which is fascinating; the Palestinian-Israel conflict, which is treated in a surprisingly even handed fashion; and Maya’s relationship with [her boyfriend] Dov. At the same time, as Maya dwells on the past, her future keeps happening, and we find out about her life in the United States and the people she meets.”

City Underground by Suzanne Martel. My review: “Luke is the boy living in an underground city; and wow, as a kid reading it, I loved this future city. Pills for food; go into a shower and it would be programmed at the temperature you wanted; it was all so organized and well run and functional. Luke explores and goes outside the city, where me meets Marie. And as the stumper says: Luke’s people have no hair (genetically, its been decided there is no need for hair). Luke and his scientist ancestors had fled nuclear war; Marie and her village are descendants of the people left behind, who survived. Who, of course, have hair. So much time has passed that both groups of people initially believe that the others are only a myth. . . .  What appealed to me as a child — the structure of Luke’s world — was now a turn off. I saw now — but didn’t see then — the problems with Luke’s city. Problems that the author clearly meant to be there: lack of free will, lack of artistic expression, lack of choice. While I didn’t pick up on all the drawbacks of the city underground, I did realize that Luke was right in seeking life outside the city and exploring and finding Marie’s world.”

Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler. My review:this is a great, funny, book about a normal teen. If it seems like every teen book you’ve picked up has murder/ drugs/ death/ cutting etc., this is a refreshing change. A book doesn’t need the drama to be good; or, rather, drama can come from the every day things found in every teens life: friends, school, family.”

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. My review: “Five children (Simon; Jane; Barney; Will; Bran) battle “the Dark.” The sixth person mentioned is Merriman Lyon, great-uncle to Simon, Jane and Barney. Will is an “Old One,” a group of people born to keep the Dark at bay. But, as with Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, the fight is not only for those who are born with special powers and abilities; it is also for those who are human. This is fantasy set in the real world; the fantasy elements come from extensive use and reference to Welsh, Cornish and other Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend. While knowledge of the myth and legend adds to a reading of TDIR, it is not necessary; as a matter of fact, my introduction to elements of both is from this series. So if you like adventure; mythical retelling; danger; history; and friendship, this is a series for you. . . . The risks are real. The dangers are real. This isn’t a phony adventure. And while some are born to the fight, like Will, others — like the Drew children — can join in the fight, also. Choice is important, whether one is or is not mortal, is or is not an Old One. While there is prophecy, there is still choice.”

You may have noticed that back in 2005, I had not yet settled into a review structure. These last two reviews are evolving into the format I use now.

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