Thursday, March 27, 2014

the beauty of narration

I just read Half Bad by Sally Green. It is the first book in a three book series.

It's a book that a lot of young adult readers will love. Here's the jacket summary:
In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

It was an exciting story, filled with action. But the part I found most fascinating was the narration. Part One of the story is told in second person narration (You), and Part Two of the story is told in first person. From there it alternates. Part One, in second person narration, was a great way to grab the reader. Very clever!

The story leads us down the path of fear and prejudice, showing us that violence does not always have a point. That even though the White witches believe themselves to be good, they are still capable of horrible acts.

Young adults will love the coming-of-age story of Nathan, a boy who must grow up as an outsider and learn to survive the best way he can. And despite what Nathan has been told his whole life, there is never anything as simple as "good" and "evil".

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


On a long flight over spring break I read 
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

It's an amazing book on so many levels. On the one level, it starts off like most teen novels: there's adolescent angst and coming of age drama, bullying, and sexual confusion. But then, on another level, there's this whole end of the world, science fiction, metaphor that will knock you over part.

And, I loved it!

The story is creepy and violent and hilarious and sexual and rude and dramatic and heartbreaking and so completely clever.

It's the story of sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba and how he and his best friend, Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in Ealing, Iowa.

Here's the beginning from Part One: Ealing
I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.
We believe it will prevent us from doing stupid things in the future.
But even though we dutifully archived elaborate records of everything we've ever done, we also manage to keep on doing dumber and dumber shit.
This is my history.
There are things in here: babies with two heads, insects as big as refrigerators, God, the devil, limbless warriors, rocket ships, sex, diving bells, theft, wars, monsters, internal combustion engines, love, cigarettes, joy, bomb shelters, pizza, and cruelty.
Just like it's always been.  

Grasshopper Jungle is one of those books that is amazingly clever in how it tells a story.

History is my compulsion.
I see the connections.
And that was our day. You know what I mean. 

You should probably be about fifteen or sixteen to read this book due to the swearing and the sex and the violence… but, you could probably be fourteen… because good books are always about everything.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the way things look, and the way things are, are very different

The movie trailer for The Giver is out...

If you've been to middle school, odds are you read The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Not yet? Be sure to read it before the movie comes out on August 15th. The movie trailer appears to be more Sci Fi in style than I remember the 1993 novel… but, awesome! (Although what happened to everything being in black-and-white? Perhaps I'm being too picky)

The story belongs to Jonah (who in the book was 12 and now played by 24-year-old, Brenton Thwaites), who's exposed to a world beyond his clean (colorless?) utopia when he's selected to receive the memories of The Giver (Jeff Bridges), the only citizen who still knows the pain that used to exist in society.

"When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong."  What do you think? Would you choose to live in a world where all the sharp edges have been softened or would you take drastic measures to have a world that included disorder, and color, and suffering, and joy?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

a magical place to call home

This week I read A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.

It's the debut novel by Natalie Lloyd, a lover of books and bluegrass music and words. Her favorite words are starlight, firefly, violet, and love

Again, like I say a lot, Natalie and I should meet and become friends.

A Snicker of Magic is, well, magical… and lyrical and pure and sweet. To quote our heroine, Felicity Juniper Pickle, it's "factofabulous".

I knew from page one that this was one of those books that comes along and is such a privilege to read. Here's how it begins…
"They say all the magic is gone up out of this place," said Mama.
She looked straight ahead as she drove, past the white beam of our headlights, deep into the night, like she could see exactly what was up ahead of us. I couldn't see anything though: not a house, not a store, not even an old barking dog. A big fat moon, pale white and lonesome-looking, was our only street light. I watched the way the moonlight painted her profile: the dark shadows under her cheekbones, the tight pull of her mouth. I didn't need to see her eyes to know how they'd look: sky blue and beautiful. Full of all the sadness in the world.

If you know a lover of wonderful middle grade fiction, you need to tell them about this book. Read it along with them. Get a blue notebook and become word catchers. Go to and buy yourselves bird tattoos. You'll be glad you did. 

Like Flea says:
Because I'm convinced Midnight Gulch can't be the only magical town in the world. I bet there's a snicker of magic on every street, in every old building, every broken heart, every word of a story. Maybe it's hidden away and you need to look harder for it. Or maybe the magic is right there, right in front of you, and all you have to do is believe.