Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book review catch-up part II

Anything But Typical  is told from the perspective of an introverted, shy, 12-year-old boy who is autistic and going to school and generally living and trying to get by in a world full of nuerotypical (or NT as he calls them) people.  He aspires to be a writer and puts some of his work up at a fiction site online, where he ends up meeting a girl his own age.  As most with most 12-year-olds this makes him excited and nervous and he worries over every sentence he writes her as he strives to seem 'typical' although of course is he, as the title states, anything but.  What I really liked about this book is how easy it was to identify with the lead in many little ways and how it stuck pretty close to reality.  There were no easy answers or miracle cure, just a 12 year old boy struggling with the trials of growing up.  It can be hard to find fiction dealing with issues such as autism for age groups this young, and I think this novel pulls it off very well in a way that is definitely readable and had me turning the pages. 
Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

This novel reminded me strongly of Nation, but for younger ages.  The story revolves around a shipwrecked girl from colonial-era Britain and an island native of the same age.  About 9 months before the narrative starts all the native men are inexplicably turned into statues.  Lucy's mother is about to give birth to the last baby on the island unless a cure is found and much to her dismay it is a boy, fated to turn to stone as well.  Lucy is tasked with bringing her new brother to the patch of stones with the rest, but somehow she is able to postpone his fate and she runs away with him, determined to save him.  At around the same time the spoiled mayor's daughter, snowcap, runs away to save herself and the fate of both their communities ends up on their shoulders.  I enjoyed reading about their adventures and seeing them both change over the course of the narrative--a definite bildungsroman. 
The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy and Snowcap by H. M. Bouwman

Every year in a small town where nothing much else happens an inordinate amount of attention is giving to the local elementary school spelling bee.  This year the hall monitor Chrissie uncovers the seedy underbelly of the whole affair and compiles her evidence through transcripts of interviews with the participants and intercepted memos to present to the school board.  I enjoy the portrayal of some of the students, for example the over-stressed Jennifer, the home-schooled Mutual, and the surprisingly good-natured goths and pranksters.  However, it fell into the classic children's literature trap of writing adults who are entirely good for nothing and incapable of making any sort of a good or rational decision.  This always vaguely concerns me--do we really want our children to be taught that adults are stupid and unreliable and it's best not to go to them with your problems?  I mean I value independence, but it's important for children to feel comfortable and confident in asking adults for advice as well.  The book in general was a bit overly simplistic and silly for my tastes, but I also tend to over-analyze things.  It'd be fine for a quick-read for a young lover of comedy and mystery and it does earn extra points for being epistolary.
I Put a Spell on You by Adam Selzer

I read this on the plane ride to Scotland (maybe I'll do a summary post of the trip if I can be bothered before school and work starts) and I really enjoyed it.  It was pretty wonderful as a plane book because the stories kept changing tone and style so I didn't get bored from reading the same thing for a long time and I was kept pretty well entertained.  I did manage to finish it entirely on the long, long, flight except for the Jodi Picoult story. I tried to be unbiased and give her a chance but then I read the first sentence about how the loudest sound is a child's silence and found that I really couldn't be bothered with her tear-jerker melodrama--especially considering the decidedly un-silent child that was sitting right in front of me at the moment.  That notwithstanding there were only a couple stories I didn't like and several I really loved.  It was a great way to get a taste of a lot of current authors to see if I want to read more of their stuff, and I'm definitely behind the collection's supposed purpose of supporting literature that is less confined by genre.  If the hype is to believed and this collection ends up blazing the trail for the new direction of short stories and literature then that's at least one aspect of the future that I don't have to worry about!
Stories Edited By Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

While I am a fan of this series, I was not a fan of this book in particular.  Her more recent books have been shorter and coming out with more frequency and I can feel them suffer for the rush.  So much has happened in the series so far and so little actually happens in this book that I felt that almost as much time was spent giving quick summaries of events from past books to contextualize current events as actually describing those current events.  The story arc didn't fare as well on its own and I feel like the previous book in this series and this one should have just been combined-saving us quite a bit of summarizing of the previous book.  There was more that could have been cut as well--for goodness sake it's called the night runner series but they did no night running in the book at all and there was very little political intrigue or even fighting it was mostly just traveling about with a weird baby and tense couple spats.  The set up for the next book seems promising--bringing them back to Rhiminee and their night running.  I hope it's better for it.  I'd still recommend the series, but definitely don't start with this book.
The White Road  by Lynn Flewelling

Fool  is the story of King Lear as told by, oddly enough, his fool.  I loved Moore's wonderful irreverence and the way he turned a classic tragedy into a bawdy farce.  I think old Willy definitely would have approved as an avid stealer of stories and lech himself.  However, the story was mostly one note and eventually that got on my nerves.  There are some great moments in it and I loved the way the story was changed to suit the fool's telling but it felt more like a comedic monologue than a solid narrative.   Still, the pleasure I got from the book outweighs anything else I felt while reading it.  If I was directing Lear I'd make this required reading for the cast. 
Fool by Christopher Moore
The Chaos Walking series takes place in a future where the colonization of space has begun.  On one of these alien planets all the men and animals have been infected with some sort of virus that makes all of their thoughts audible to everyone else around.  For some reason female humans are not affected by this virus so their thoughts are not audible, although they can still hear those of the animals and the men.  This causes the kind of complications you'd expect.  Eventually the series sees the female humans, male humans, and natives of the planet forming separate armies in a fight for dominance.  But this book isn't really about aliens or space travel--it's about lies and truth and all the variations of both, it's about trust and prejudice, the power of love and of hate, it's about growing up in difficult times and doing whatever you can to survive them.  I love so much about this series--its commentary on information overload and its resistance to clear cut lines of good versus evil, the presence of adults who at least try to care for the young protagonists in addition to the adults who really can't be trusted, the complex relationships that develop among the characters and the complexity and layers to the characters themselves, and what really made the book stand out to me--the way it deals with death and killing.  I'm sick of reading books where the young protagonists who are raised with similar values to youth of today are always able to kill when it comes down to it and without much more than a little bit of obligatory guilt afterward that's conveniently forgotten after a chapter or two.  I don't know about you, but I seriously doubt that I (or most of my friends for that matter) would be able to kill someone even if my life did depend on it.  This book is wonderful, although I was left with the nagging feeling at the end that it could have been absolutely spectacular with little extra effort.  There were many points in the series where difficult decisions arise and the characters dither so long that the choices are effectively taken from them so they don't have to make those hard decisions.  While that is in a way a choice it's passive not active and I feel that the series would have been that much more interesting and valuable if the characters engaged in those decisions more actively and then had to deal more directly with the responsibility for their outcomes.  It's funny because in many ways these books are very bold and dark (fair warning: do not get too attached to animal characters--I wish I'd been warned because I am a total sap about that!) but I felt that at a lot of crucial turning points the author wussed out a bit.  Still, this series was wonderful and I recommend it highly for young adults, especially those who like Hunger Games, and if my school is any indicator that's a lot.
The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Well that's all the books that I read up until I got back from Scotland with the exception of one book that I'm waiting to talk about along with is sequel.  I'll try to keep up with doing single book reviews from here on out.  Wish me luck.

No comments:

Post a Comment