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Round 2, Match 4: The Lie Tree vs The Sun Is Also A Star
JUDGE – SARA FARIZAN
|The Lie Tree
by Frances Hardinge
|The Sun is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon
I was hesitant to take on this task because I’m a bit uncomfortable about pitting books against each other. Sure, it’s all in good fun, but the only winner here really is me for having read two really tremendous books by two very talented authors. I look forward to reading their other works and would recommend both of these books to YA lovers and YA haters who haven’t read much YA before. Readers who get to experience both books (which I hope they will because these are really solid picks) will feel like winners after taking in both of these stories. That being said, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!
I first began with Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star and met Natasha and Daniel who will both, as individuals, stay with me for a very long time. I think of them as real, living, breathing young people who continue beyond the novel and aren’t actually fictional at all, but two NYC kids who I’d want to hang out with. Except they’d probably politely tell me (because they’re good kids) that I was too old and no, I couldn’t come with them to sing karaoke because they were going to have a life changing romantic moment in the norebang.
I wouldn’t be able to take the hint, follow them around, and they’d spend the whole book trying to ditch me so they could have their magical day together. I’d interrupt their moments of confronting family members, dealing with the demons between their siblings and parents. I’d be an interloper when they were trying to make adult decisions about what their respective futures should be like. But I would like to think we’d have great conversations about having immigrant parents and the similarities and differences between the three of us in having parents who came from different countries. In any case, while they are indeed fictional characters, I was happy to bear witness to a beautiful love story. Was the love a bit fast? Probably, but when you meet your soul mate I’ve heard love is fast and hits you with a wallop found in 60’s Batman episodes. BAM! POW! THWACK! I wouldn’t know about all that because I’m romantically dead inside, but it was wonderful to be reminded of how fate, humor, and courage can bring two people together. My favorite parts were actually the chapters that dealt with the minor characters who Daniel and Natasha met on their day and how small interactions can change the course of someone’s life. My favorite minor character was Irene who I worried about throughout the book even though she was not a central part of the story. Read it and you’ll see what I mean. I believed every word and every sentiment in this book and was very sad to see the story end.
Then I moved on to The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, which I found to be a pleasant surprise! It’s a genre-bending thriller that had me guessing why her father was killed and who was responsible. The novel was historical fiction with a fantastical element following a heroine who was fiercely curious and seeking justice not only for her father but for her own personhood.
While I did want to know who had Faith’s father killed and why, I was more interested in the scenes that had Faith dealing with sexism in a patriarchal Victorian era. I cheered at moments when Faith started to believe in herself and trust her intellect in a society where women were not taken seriously in the field of science (I would hope we’re doing better today, but sexism is a pervasive, enduring sickness). I was also a little disheartened that much of what Faith went through in terms of proving herself as a great scientific mind and having men laugh in her face could be paralleled to today’s time period. I don’t want to give too much away, but I was pleased by who the “villain” was and was kind of okay with her father dying. Now, I don’t condone violence in any way, but her dad was cold, manipulative and definitely didn’t deserve Faith’s devotion. Another great draw for me to this book was that the main character was not concerned with a romance, but solely focused on her father’s discoveries and clues to solve the mystery. Faith is a heroine tasked with saving her family in a stifling and repressive time and I was rooting for her all the way. The exchanges with her younger brother also added flourishes of warmth in a book that was set in a bleak time and place.
So which to choose when both of these books are thumbs up picks? Both books were very well written, made me think, they were both entertaining page-turners, so why choose? Why make me do such a thing? WHY I ASK YOU? IT’S MADNESS!
Fine, fine. If you are making me pick one book, I thought about which book I would want to read again six months from now. While I preferred the message of The Lie Tree, the characters in The Sun Is Also a Star endeared me more to them. So for this round, even though both books were very good and I would highly recommend to lovers of YA, I am selecting The Sun is Also a Star for the next round.
— Sara Farizan
Hmmm…first off, another excellent Round 2 decision, with great insight and critique. I agree with Ms. Farizan that the love in The Sun Is Also a Star was too fast. I also preferred the chapters with the minor characters and those that delved into history – like why Korean-Americans ended up running black hair stores, for instance. But, like NS below, I disagree with her ultimate decision: the message of The Lie Tree was less trite, although The Sun Is Also a Star’s melding of romance, identity, and politics was expertly done. And Faith was quite likable. I think, however, that The Lie Tree demands more from its readers – particularly YA readers who might be less interested in history. (Speaking of agreement, I also disagreed with yesterday’s decision, as When the Sea Turned to Silver was my favorite overall, although Some Writer! may well be my second favorite.)
So, moving on to Round 3: how will Freedom in Congo Square fare against March: Book Three? It seems like a tossup to me, frankly, as both books deal with history and are beautifully drawn despite their dramatically different tones. Match 2, meanwhile, pits a celebration of childhood wonder against a celebration of love, and Some Writer! seems like a long-shot against the romance. And then what of the Undead Poll…the fan favorite might be The Sun Is Also A Star or Ghost…who knows what’ll happen?
– Kid Commentator RGN
No! But… The Lie Tree… My precious… I know I’m a minority here, but I definitely didn’t enjoy The Sun Is Also a Star as much as, well, everyone else did. As someone who has read several of Sara Farizan’s books (omigosh don’t even get me started I’m fangirling so much), I can understand why the romance might appeal to her (and again, everyone else). But I honestly didn’t enjoy the book because of the romance, which is what I feel like I was “supposed” to like it for. I guess that’s what makes these decisions so strange for me––objectively, Sun should have won this round. When a book has the power to bring people to tears, to almost across the board be adored, it makes a lot of sense for it to win. But I’m selfish. I wanted The Lie Tree to advance, and I don’t really care if Sun gets eliminated. But regardless! Sun won fair and square, so I guess I have to deal.
– Kid Commentator NS
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR
WILL MOVE ON TO ROUND 3
About Battle Commander
The Battle Commander is the nom de guerre for children’s literature enthusiasts Monica Edinger and Roxanne Hsu Feldman, fourth grade teacher and middle school librarian at the Dalton School in New York City and Jonathan Hunt, the County Schools Librarian at the San Diego County Office of Education. All three have served on the Newbery Committee as well as other book selection and award committees. They are also published authors of books, articles, and reviews in publications such as the New York Times, School Library Journal, and the Horn Book Magazine. You can find Monica at educating alice and on twitter as @medinger. Roxanne is at Fairrosa Cyber Library and on twitter as @fairrosa. Jonathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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