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

Flashback November 2010

I’m flashing back to reviews from years past. Here is what I was reviewing in November 2010.

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler. 2010. Little Brown. From my review: “Fixing Delilah is not “oh noes, this thing happened eight years ago, here it is eight years later, sorry, all better now.” Oh, the book begins eight years later and yes, something happened, and yes, the three women work towards reconciliation. The family argument splintered the family, with Delilah’s mother and aunt barely speaking, but it splintered a family that already was broken. As we find out from Delilah, she, her mother, and her aunt are not unscarred or untouched by the eight years and what came before. Delilah and her mother have issues that link back to before the fight. The fight is not “the event”; it’s one event in family dynamics and dysfunction.”

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. Delacorte, an imprint of Random House. 2010. From my review: “Andi Alpers, a senior, doesn’t belong anywhere and doesn’t care. After her brother’s death two years ago, her world fell apart. Her father, a Nobel winning scientist, always a worhaholic, moved out. Her mother’s grief registers itself in painting portraits of her dead son over and over. Andi’s about to be expelled from her expensive, prestigious private school but she doesn’t care. All Andi cares about her guitar and losing herself in her music with the occasional help of prescription drugs and a warm body.  Her father comes back into her life in “take charge, I can fix this” mode, as if Andi and her mother were another thing on his “to do” list. Her mother gets sent to a hospital and Andi is brought to Paris for her winter break, where her father can supervise her work on her ignored senior thesis. In Paris, Andi discovers the late eighteenth century diary of a teenage girl, Alexandrine Paradis, who was caught up in the French Revolution. Andi is captivated by the words of a girl her age. Twin stories unfold: Andi’s in the present day, Alex’s in the past, until the stories come together in a powerful ending that offers grace in a dark world. . . .  Just because “the wretched world goes on, as stupid and brutal tomorrow as it was today,” do we have to be stupid and brutal? Or can we be brave and kind, no matter what the world brings?”

The Iron Duke (A Novel of the High Seas) by Meljean Brook. Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin. 2010. From my review: “The Iron Duke is alternate history, set in a Victorianish world where the Horde (the descendants of Genghis Khan) successfully invaded Europe and England. Those of you wanting all the specific details can check out the author’s website for the exact details. There are airships, and steam powered vehicles, and nanoagents. Why, what is a nanoagent? Small bugs that were introduced to the English, hidden in sugar and tea. Once activated by the Horde, the Horde could use radio waves to control the nanoagents and thus control the people — their actions, their emotions, their bodies. Strong emotions, that may lead to rebellion? Done away with. What would make a miner or seamstress better? Why, having their tools be part of their bodies! The nanoagents help incorporate the metal into bodies, but also helps people heal, go faster, be stronger — be better workers for the Horde. And if the Horde thinks not enough babies are being born to create new workers, they order a Frenzy. A Frenzy is… well. I told you this was for grownups.”

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. Harlequin Teen. 2010. First in the Iron Fey series. From my review: “Let’s just get down to it, shall we? It’s Team Puck versus Team Ash. On the one side, Puck. Minuses: he was sent by her father to keep an eye on her. Has been half-lying to her about her identity for years. And those jokes can sometimes get on one’s nerves. Pluses: he’s her best friend. The person she can absolutely trust. He knows his way away Faeryland and he’ll help her, no matter what. He’s a fighter, he’s loyal, and he’s cute. On the other, we have Ash. Minuses: the Winter Court and Summer Court are long-time enemies, so he’s her built in enemy. He’s sworn to kill Puck, in a “cannot take it back” way. Dark, moody, edgy, not very communicative. Not to be trusted. Pluses: He’s Mr. Hotty from Hottyville who just sets her heart a-racing. Me? I say date Ash, marry Puck.”

Hush by Eishes Chayil. Walker, a division of Bloomsbury. 2010. From my review: “Hush is a fascinating and brutally honest examination of what happens to a family and community that believes that if they think child sexual abuse doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t happen, and anything — or anyone — that says otherwise should be quieted, excluded, shunned, hushed. Best to act as if nothing ever happened. I could not read this book in one sitting. I had to put it down, take deep breaths, literally walk away. . . . Gittel is a woman who values her world and wants to be a part of it — Gittel marries, has a child, has no desire to leave – while realizing that there is something wrong with the community that needs to be fixed. What is wrong is how the community handles the sexual abuse of children by its own members. . . . The treatment of child sexual abuse victims by the community is even more horrible, in light of how much children are valued. Gittel eventually realizes what so many do not: pretending something doesn’t exist, not giving it words, does not prevent it from existing. When walls are built as a protection to keep danger out, they can turn into a prison. . . . Gittel knows she saw Shmuli crawl into his sister’s bed, but she does not know what it is until, years later, a police officer calls it “rape.” When Gittel uses that word to explain to her new husband what happened to Devory, he is as innocent as she is. “What does ‘rape’ mean?” Not knowing what “rape” meant does not stop Shmuli from raping his younger sister. It does not prevent her mother from labeling Devory, not Shmuli, as the troublemaker. It does not stop Devory from hanging herself using a jump-rope because her family won’t keep her brother away from her. Ignorance is not innocence; and ignorance does not protect the innocent.”

The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M. T. Anderson. Scholastic. 2010. From my review: “Brian and Gregory, having survived The Game of Sunken Places, are preparing for the next Game. Brian, as winner, gets to plan it and is constructing it around old detective novels. Gregory, his best friend, is helping. The Game is part of a highly structured battle between two elfin groups, the Thussers and the Norumbegans. There are many rounds, and the ultimate winner claims the kingdom of Norumbega. The Game has been going on for ages. Until now. Turns out, the Thussers are getting impatient. Brian and Gregory return to the mountains of Vermont to discover people are missing, the world is changing, and much more is at stake than one kingdom. . . . Everything changes in this book. The Thussers have decided not to play the Game. They have not told the Norumbegans, of course. While Brian and Gregory were in Boston, playing by the rules, the Thussers have slowly begun to invade. Oh, yes, this is horror — this is scary — but it’s funny and amusing. The Thussers invade by building a suburb, a SUBURB, to attract suburbanites and then use them and that place as their point of entry to our world. They plan on taking over the planet, one suburb at a time. This is biting satire.”

Room by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown. 2010. From my review: “When I first heard about Room, I knew one thing. I didn’t want to read it. A woman kidnapped, raped, kept in a shed. A child born of that rape, raised in isolation. It was just too horrible to hear about, to think about. Why spend over 300 pages with the heartbreak of a woman who loses over seven years to a monster? When I read adult fiction, it tends to be mysteries or romance or historical fiction. The crime fiction I read tends to be told from the safe perspective of the police officer, the detective, the federal agent, not the victims. Even though I knew from reviews that halfway through Jack and Ma escape, I just didn’t think I could bring myself to read a story about broken people. . . . WOW. I loved, loved, loved Room. Jack, five years old, is the perfect narrator. Donoghue manages to convey not only Jack’s world view and a perspective limited by age and experience but also to give enough information for the adult reader to know more than Jack knows. We know the squeaks and gasps of Old Nick’s nightly visits is the nightly rape of Ma. We know that Jack’s self-centered desire to hold onto the familiarity of Room and his belongings from that time inflicts unbelievable pain on Ma who wants full freedom from Old Nick and Room. Having gained physical escape, Ma wants that time left in her past but to Jack, Room was never a prison. It was only a place that was safe and home — “safe” and “home” because of Ma’s strength.”

Dark Water by Laura McNeal. Knopf Books, an imprint of Random House. 2010. From my review: “Fire is a threat, the threat of destruction and forcing people out of their homes. Pearl has lived through that threat already. Not just the fires of previous years, with threats of evacuation, watching forests and homes burn. It is the fire of divorce, of parental abandonment, of having to reduce belongings and clothes and furniture and photographs so that instead of a four bedroom house it all fits into a one bedroom cottage. Pearl has already evacuated once. What more does she have to lose? It turns out… a lot.”

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers. Amistad, an imprint of Harper Collins. 2010. From my review: “Reese tells his own story. He owns his past and doesn’t make any excuses. He stole prescription pads from a doctor’s office, sold them to a local drug dealer, and when that drug dealer was arrested, so was Reese. Reese is incredibly real; his voice echoes in your head long after his story ends.  After almost two years in Progress, Reese has a fatalistic approach to life: “What was happening was just happening. That’s the way life was. Shit just came together, and if it rolled in your direction you got messed up.” Right now a lot is rolling in Reese’s direction. Back home, his brother Willis may be getting into the same trouble as Reese while his mother may be using drugs again. Younger sister Icy has big dreams, but she’s without adults who will help make them real. At the facility for senior citizens Reese is working at, crotchety old Pieter Hooft is giving Reese a hard time, making racist statements and accusing Reese of stealing. Most challenging of all is life within Progress. Reese wants to get out, but he can’t help getting in fights. Toon, only twelve and in Progress for being truant, is being targeted by older boys. Helping Toon means putting his own freedom and life at risk.”

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. Little Brown. 2010. From my review: “In Beautiful Creatures, Lena and Ethan were kept apart because of the fear of her sixteenth birthday and because she was a Caster and he a mortal. It was “electrifying,” and not in a good way, when things got too hot and heavy between them. In Beautiful Darkness, Lena’s grief over Uncle Macon’s death, and the events that led up to it, succeed in doing what her mother and cousin could not do: it forces Lena to look inside at the darkness within. Beautiful Darkness shows that we all have that darkness within us; the question becomes, how do we handle it?”

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Reader Group. 2010. From my review:Caitlin needs help in both connecting with her own loss and realizing what her emotions mean and in having empathy for others. When she tries to help other children, it doesn’t end well because she does for them what she would want done for herself. This gets misinterpreted as being mean at its best and being weird at its worst. Part of Mockingbird is Caitlin working, really working, at achieving empathy. Yes, it is more difficult for her because of Asperger’s, but isn’t it difficult for others? The children in her class who think she is being mean and a weirdo — aren’t they also lacking empathy? Josh, a class bully, at one point is truly bewildered that people don’t like him. He thinks people hate him because his cousin was one of the school shooters. He doesn’t connect his own behaviour (being mean, pulling kids off monkey bars) to how he is treated. It isn’t just Caitlin with her Asperger’s who needs to work on emotions, and empathy.”

Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson. HarperCollins. 2010. From my review: “1938. Sophie Hunter, sixteen, has fled Scotland for Denmark. Had she stayed in Scotland, she would have been forcibly brainwashed to become a perfect secretary for the “good of the country.” Denmark appears to be a safe harbor. She lives with her friend Mikael and his mother, assistant to Neils Bohr. Sophie waits to hear from the mysterious Alfred Nobel, who says he knows things about Sophie’s long dead parents. War is on the horizon, but the world Sophie finds herself in is not one of politics but that of science and the weapons that scientists make. In case the “Alfred Nobel is alive in 1938” doesn’t give it away, (well, that and Scotland using brainwashed secretaries) this is an alternate world.”

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin. 2010. From my review: “Despite the number of details shared in the first chapter — Mackie’s appearance (“pale, creepy“, “how dark my eyes were,” “sometimes, people got uneasy just looking at me“) and fear of being different, of being seen, of being noticed, the death of a classmate’s younger sister and the seemingly cavalier view of the tragedy by his classmates (“so, are your parents freaked out about the latest drama“) – the confirmation that something is wrong in Gentry, that Mackie is a changeling exchanged with a human child, that dark entities live beneath his town, doesn’t come for several more chapters. Rather than plunging into the action, Yovanoff takes her time to establish setting and characters. Setting — Gentry. A town where a small child’s death is “the latest drama.” At first, I thought this was a brilliant line to show how Alice, the pretty girl Mackie was crushing on, was shallow. It was that, yes, but as the reader learns more about the relationship between town and the underworld, including the spilling of a taken child’s blood every seven years, the reader realizes it wasn’t an immature teen speaking. Gentry is the town where people see things out of the corner of the eye and ignore what is right in front of them. Alice isn’t being shallow, Alice is just born and raised in a town where a child’s death is the “latest drama” to be seen sideways and dismissed.”

  

  

 

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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 lizzy.burns@gmail.com.

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