Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Mid School/YA Reviews

Here are a couple of Middle School/YA reads. One is a hauntingly beautiful story. I'm hoping I can come up with the words to do it justice. The other is a time travel with some romance.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay

Cried like a freaking baby.

I knew I would love this book when it opens with the yew tree outside 13 year old Conor's bedroom turning into a monster that drags him out of his room, but he is nonplussed because this monster is not the scariest thing he has to deal with. Conor's mother has been fighting cancer, and everyone around him is waiting for the end, while she is trying everything she can to fight. Conor is haunted by nightmares that make giant clawed trees tame. He feels isolated, because no one around him knows how to talk to him. Except for a Monster.

Beautifully written and illustrated, it's also heartbreakingly real and true. I've been Conor and this story just resonated deep within. Also, the illustrations are not "beautiful" in the sense of full color glossy portraits, but that they fit so perfectly in the story and enhance it.

This book illustrates what happens when you learn that life is not fair, that the truth hurts, that sometimes we need lies to deal with the truth, and that healing has different meanings.

The obvious person in need of healing (in this case a dying parent) is not the only one. 

This is not an easy read, but it is one that I believe should be read.

Ruby Red (Edelstein Trilogie 1) by Kerstin Gier, translated by Anthea Bell

I'm kind of happy that the last two time travel books I read did not give me visions of unspeakable paradoxes, nor did they make my head hurt. Gives me hope for finding more time travel stories.

As far as Ruby Red, the pacing was fairly quick, although it still seemed to take a long time to get anywhere. For the most part I liked the side characters, especially Lucy and Paul, and I hope they get fleshed out more. I thought that the main character, Gwyneth, was pretty realistic (almost annoyingly so), but her reactions felt natural. It was an easy book to get into and finish.

However, I felt like it ended just as it was starting to get good. I realize it's a trilogy, but I think I wanted a bit more oomph in the action or the conspiracies. The romance angle felt off to me, to the point where I almost hope in the next book we find out it was a lie. Gwyneth did annoy me a bit in places, but I think that is more the adult in me talking, so younger readers will likely not have the same issue. I also thought the male lead was too 1-dimensional. I hope he gets rounded out a lot more in the next book.

And when I get down to it, yes, I will read the next one. Although I'm really hoping that Lucy and Paul play a bigger role in the next one.

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