Category: Young Adult
Adults reading kidlit: The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins # 1 in the Hunger Games trilogy
Here's what the Booklist review had to say:
/*Starred Review*/ This is a grand-opening salvo in a new series by the author of the Underland Chronicles. Sixteen-year-old Katniss poaches food for her widowed mother and little sister from the forest outside the legal perimeter of District 12, the poorest of the dozen districts constituting Panem, the North American dystopic state that has replaced the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. Her hunting and tracking skills serve her well when she is then cast into the nation's annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death where contestants must battle harsh terrain, artificially concocted weather conditions, and two teenaged contestants from each of Panem's districts. District 12's second "tribute" is Peeta, the baker's son, who has been in love with Katniss since he was five.
Each new plot twist ratchets up the tension, moving the story forward and keeping the reader on edge. Although Katniss may be skilled with a bow and arrow and adept at analyzing her opponents' next moves, she has much to learn about personal sentiments, especially her own. Populated by three-dimensional characters, this is a superb tale of physical adventure, political suspense, and romance.
When you finish The Hunger Games, you'll want to read the final two in the trilogy:
Catching Fire # 2
Mockingjay # 3
* * *
Read the related Globe and Mail article here: It's all kidlit now, and that's just fine
Article author Jeet Heer argues the blurring of lines between books for kids and books for grown-ups may have Henry James turning in his grave, but the future of reading may depend on it.
Judge a book by its cover (December 2010)
Even though we're told we never should, I love judging books by their covers, and here's one that caught my immediate attention! When I first saw that antique "English" carriage, all I could think of was Rosemary's Baby. When I read what it was about -- changelings and the dark underworld called "Gentry" I was reminded of the film Labyrinth. Either way, I definitely want to read this!!
The Replacement (2010)
by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs
Numbers (2010) New!
by Rachel Ward
Whenever Jem meets someone new, no matter who, as soon as she looks into their eyes, a number pops into her head. That number is a date: the date they will die.
Burdened with such an awful awareness, Jem avoids relationships. Until she meets Spider, another outsider, and takes a chance. But while they’re waiting to ride the Eye Ferris wheel, Jem notices that all the other tourists in line flash the same number. Today’s number. Today’s date.
What pushed this book from good to great for me, is the dark and gritty subtext going on here between the lines. Jem's and Spider's world is not a kind one -- their story represents all those underprivileged, disenfranchised kids who fall through the cracks to end up working dead-end jobs, addicted to drugs, serving time, or dead. It's not a pretty picture, and while Ward is writing from a clearly British perspective, I feel it's not all that different in Canada either -- born into poverty, drugs, and violence and most likely that's where you stay. The cycle is a vicious one and very hard to break.
But this rip-roaring page-turner is more than just a social critique of the English class system, it's a story of a young girl with a very unusual problem -- once she makes eye contact with you she knows the exact date of your death. That's a great hook and as soon as I heard about this book I just knew I had to read it. It doesn't disappoint. Jem is wonderful -- prickly, antisocial and with a huge chip on her shoulder, but lovable nonetheless. She's been "through the shit" and has every right to be weary and leery. It's only until she meets Spider that all that begins to change for her. And oh how I love the gangly ADHD Spider, who jitters and jives to the music in his head, never able to quite shut up or sit still.
What I love about this book is that it forces us to contemplate our own mortality (terrain most teens eat up and are comfortable with) but grown-ups often run away from. If each of us started our lives knowing exactly when we were going to die, would it change how we live? Would any of us want to know? I'm fairly certain I wouldn't. I know it's going to happen "someday" but it's freeing to not know exactly when. Knowing would somehow suck the life out of the time that's left, rather than make it more precious. I think. And you gotta respect a book that makes you think.
One of the Most Enjoyable Books I've Read this Year
Girl in Translation
By Jean Kwok
When eleven year old Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to America, they speak little English and own nothing but debt. They arrive in New York hopeful for a better life, but find instead a squalid Brooklyn apartment lacking heat and real furniture and a life of backbreaking labor in a Chinatown sweatshop. Unable to accept this as her future, Kim decides to use her “talent for school” to earn a place for herself and her mother in their adopted country. Disguising the most difficult truths of her life—her staggering poverty, the weight of her family’s expectations, and the true depths of her culture confusion—she embarks on a double life: an exceptional student by day, and a sweatshop worker by evening and weekend. In time, Kim learns to translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the two worlds she straddles. (Book Description)
This book moved me. I was totally enthralled with Kim’s struggles for survival and completely awed by her strength, perseverance and single minded determination for something better. The writing was so raw and vivid that I couldn’t help but wonder just how much of the story was based upon the author’s own life experiences immigrating to America from China.
I went through broad rage of emotions while taking my journey with Kim. Many times I was completely indignant and fuming because of the unfairness and the conditions she had to endure. I also felt very sorry for her, having no choice but to navigate the intricacies of being a teenager trying so desperately to fit in with her peers in a new country to boot. She was also forced to take on the role of an adult, filling out tax forms at the age of 13, working inhumane hours at a sweatshop to make ends meet and translating everything for her mother who mainly spoke Chinese. I felt very frustrated for Kim in her dealings with her mother and her retched excuse for an aunt trying to balance between the cultural expectations of her birthplace, and the ideologies of her new home. But whatever I was feeling, one thing remained constant: I couldn’t help but root for our protagonist every step of the way. Kimberly Chang will haunt me for some time to come.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone but especially to those who knows someone who’s immigrated, has undergone immigration themselves or is the child of a parent who has come to North America. And I challenge those of you who believe that this “couldn’t possibly happen in North America” to pick up “Girl in Translation” and read it with an open mind. It may be a book labeled “fiction” but I can guarantee you it’s anything but.
Author of Speak tackles tough topic in new book
Laurie Halse Anderson
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend's death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder.
Anderson is the bestselling author of teen fiction, including multiple award-winner Speak, which became an instant classic, reaching out and resonating with teens in a meaningful way.
Wintergirls isn’t an easy book to read. It’s powerfully sad and unflinching in its look at sufferers of eating disorders and distorted body images. I can’t stress enough how important this story is, not just for the young people who are currently suffering, but those who are in recovery, and for all those who love them.
From Booklist (Starred Review):
Problem-novel fodder becomes a devastating portrait of the extremes of self-deception in this brutal and poetic deconstruction of how one girl stealthily vanishes into the depths of anorexia. Lia has been down this road before: her competitive relationship with her best friend, Cassie, once landed them both in the hospital, but now not even Cassie’s death can eradicate Lia’s disgust of the "fat cows" who scrutinize her body all day long....Struck-through sentences, incessant repetition, and even blank pages make Lia’s inner turmoil tactile, and gruesome details of her decomposition will test sensitive readers. But this is necessary reading for anyone caught in a feedback loop of weight loss as well as any parent unfamiliar with the scripts teens recite so easily to escape from such deadly situations.
A life-affirming story with a big heart
I Am the Messenger
by Markus Zusak
I have fallen in love with Markus Zusak. He is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. First, he brought me to my knees with The Book Thief, and while I Am the Messenger falls a little short of that staggering achievement, it is still a tremendous piece of storytelling, expertly plotted, that made me laugh out loud in parts, and cry in others. Zusak is so good -- and he makes it all look so effortless -- that I am positively green with envy! Michael L. Printz Honor Book.
From Booklist (Starred Review):
Ed is a 19-year-old loser only marginally connected to the world; he's the son that not even his mother loves. But his life begins to change after he acts heroically during a robbery. Perhaps it's the notoriety he receives that leads to his receiving playing cards in the mail. Ed instinctively understands that the scrawled words on the aces are clues to be followed, which lead him to people he will help (including some he'll have to hurt first). But as much as he changes those who come into his life, he changes himself more.
A book to steal (and break) your heart
The Book Thief (2008)
by Markus Zusak
Meet Liesel Meminger, the book thief. At age nine, Liesel goes to live with foster parents -- gentle, accordian-playing Papa and stern, but loving, Mama. She comes of age in Nazi Germany, witness to the best and worst of what humans are capable of. As the war rages on and the bombs fall, Liesel forges unbreakable bonds with the incorrigible neighborhood boy Rudy, with her foster father who teaches her to read, and with the Jewish man her family is hiding in their basement. Liesel's life is marked by love and tragedy ... and book stealing. She discovers the power of words to heal, to comfort... and to destroy.
This book left me gutted and absolutely speechless. Narrating The Book Thief is Death who confesses he is haunted by humans -- our beauty, our savagery, our contradictions. I will remain haunted by Liesel's story for the rest of my life (and little Rudy Steiner who broke my heart). Zusak's prose is staggeringly gorgeous in its simplicity (and in its complexity); his choice of words flawless and inspired. I am truly humbled by such immense talent. The Book Thief is a gift for the ages, a love song to words, books, and what it means to be human.
Find Markus Zusak in the RPL catalogue.