Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly!

Well, it's been awhile since I've written anything.  But I just read something that is worth writing about—Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

I remember getting Jennifer Donnelly's first book, A Northern Light, as a Christmas present from my parents.  I had listed it on my amazon wishlist because it was a Printz honoree and therefore a necessary read, but I was not enthusiastic.  It looked so serious and so historical.  When I finally got around to reading it I saw how wrong I was to be reluctant, but somehow I didn't learn my lesson.  I approached this one exactly the same way.  It's thick.  And it's about the French Revolution instead of zombies.  So obviously my feet were dragging.

But one chapter in and I was hooked, even though at first I wanted to hate the snobby Brooklyn Heights characters, in spite of their genuine troubles.  Back when I was new in Brooklyn, the first time I ever wandered around that  neighborhood, I was horrified to see a stretch limo pull up to a brownstone, let out a small school-uniformed boy and then pull away, leaving him alone on the curb.  To think he got driven home from school like that every day—just ugh.

But it's not his fault, and it's not these kids' faults either.  The book is beautifully written and immediately engrossing and made me buy a bunch of classical music on itunes after the first few chapters.  Then the scene changes to Paris, and rich twenty-first-century kids become entwined with accidental participants in the eighteenth-century Revolution.  Catacombs and guillotines and mostly the mystery of what really happened to young Louis-Charles, the imprisoned child king Louis XVII.  Also: archives!  There are a whole bunch of scenes doing research in serious archives, which I imagine is only something you do as a high school student if you go to fancy BK private schools.  I'm not thrilled that the archivist was a cranky old rule-follower—practically a shusher—but still it is always good to teach young people proper research etiquette, and there just aren't enough YA novels doing that.  Bottom line: read it!  Even if you don't particularly like historical fiction.

p.s. Covers often make me cranky, and this one is no exception.  I get that the cover exists to sell the book.  Ok.  But the modern girl on the cover is pretty and wavy-haired and delicate and whatever, and in the book she is heavily pierced, among other things, and much is made of all her clanking metal and bad attitude and such.  She just looks nothing at all like this cover chick.  The paperback is even worse.  What—punk/emo/alterna teens don't sell books??  Given the vast numbers of extremely popular vampire-y looking books out there with their dark moody covers, I don't believe that for a second.  In fact, I bet this one could find a wider, very appreciative audience if the cover were more honest about the book's real contents.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Patrick Ness wins the Carnegie!

Patrick Ness won this year's Carnegie Medal for Monsters of Men!  Am I wrong to think it's the best book of the stupidly-named "Chaos Walking" trilogy?  I read them far enough apart that I might not be remembering right.  Mainly, I just remember the jaw-dropping ending to the first one that left me staring at the book I had just finished in disbelief.  And Manchee, of course, but I can't even talk about that without bursting into tears...  In any event, the previous two books, The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer were also shortlisted for the prize in 2009 and 2010, making it the first time that all the books in a series were nominated.

And speaking of Patrick Ness, I just read his latest A Monster Calls
which isn't out yet in the US, but can be purchased from amazon UK if you're not lucky enough to get an advance reader copy.  An entirely different sort of book for Ness, and one that started as fellow Carnegie-medalist Siobhan Dowd's idea for a story she didn't have time to write before she died.  I was expecting just a regular book to show up in the mail, but it is really, really beautiful.  Slightly oversized, thick pages, lavish illustrations.  Don't get an e-book of this one!  (I accidentally made that mistake with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, not realizing it was so full of photographs. After I read it I had to go to the bookstore and sit in the aisle with the real thing, flipping through all the pictures to see them properly.)  So, it's a story a story of a boy so lonely and bullied and so self-loathing that, as his mother is being unsuccessfully treated for cancer, he conjures up a monster.  But not the monster he was expecting.  Seriously lovely and heartbreaking and redemptive.