Fi50 Reminder and an Inspirational Early Chapter Book

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It’s that time of the month again – Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday!  To participate, just create  a piece of fiction or poetry in fewer than 51 words and then add your link to the comments of my post on Monday.  For more information, just click on that snazzy typewriter at the top of this post.  Our prompt for this month is…

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Hope to see you there!


Ballerina Dreams: A Tale of Hope, Hard Work and Finding Your Groove…

 

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Ballerina Dreams by Michaela & Elaine DePrince.  Published by Allen & Unwin, 24th May 2017.  RRP: $14.99

 

The world of early chapter books seems to have expanded greatly since I was a youngling and nowadays there are a plethora of beautifully presented, exquisitely formatted, engaging and accessible stories out there for newly confident readers.  Ballerina Dreams: A True Story by professional ballet dancer Michaela DePrince and her adoptive mother Elaine is one such story.  We received our copy from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since, and after a spell as a principal dancer in New York, now dances for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.

Beautifully and gently illustrated by Ella Okstad, Ballerina Dreams is the younger-reader edition of Michaela DePrince’s highly moving memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe.

Not being a particular fan of ballet, I was a bit trepidatious going into this book, but I was drawn in by the young, brown-skinned girl on the cover.  I happen to have some familial ties with a fantastic blog called FleshTone, that promotes representation of all skin colours in all areas of everyday life, from underwear to toys and beyond.  FleshTone, driven by its founder, Tayo Ade, has a particular focus on dancewear for darker skinned performers, because bizarrely, despite the fact that there must be thousands upon thousands of non-white people involved in dancing worldwide, production of flesh-coloured dancewear to suit such people is hard to find.  I immediatley wondered, while reading this book, whether Michaela DePrince has trouble finding flesh-coloured dancewear to suit her fleshtone…but I digress.  Back to the book.

Ballerina Dreams is the early reader version of DePrince’s memoir Hope in a Ballet Shoe.  DePrince herself hails from Sierra Leone, where she lived in an orphanage after her parents were killed in the war there.  Adopted by Elaine DePrince, along with her best friend and several others from the orphanage, Michaela moves to the USA with her new family and is able to pursue the dream she has fostered since finding an abadoned magazine with a picture of a dancer on the front: to learn ballet.

The story touches briefly on DePrince’s struggles as a dark-skinned dancer in a world in which such dancers are scarce, before ending on her accomplishments as a professional dancer and her desire to inspire and encourage other young people of colour to pursue their dreams with hard work and patience.

The book is beautifully presented, with large print and colour illustrations throughout, appearing both as full page spreads and wrapped around sections of text.  As such, the story will be accessible for young readers as both a read-alone or a read-aloud with an adult.  It’s wonderful to see that books – and particularly nonfiction books – highlighting individuals from diverse backgrounds are being published for this age group.

I would highly recommend this engaging tale for young fans of dance and those who enjoy true stories told in accessible ways.

I’m submitting this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge in category #32: a book about an interesting woman.  You can check out my progress toward the challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Gabbing about Graphic Novels: Past and Future War

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I’ve been diving into the graphic novels with gusto so far this year and today I have two eye-pleasing tomes that deal with the spectre of past and future conflict.  One is realistic in tone, while the other pits three young mages against a world in which futuristic machines have resulted in the downfall of humanity.  We received both titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley for review.

The Lighthouse by Paco Roca

From Goodreads:

Francisco, a wounded, despairing sixteen-year-old Republican guard in the Spanish Civil War, is trying to flee to freedom by crossing the French border. In his escape, he encounters an old remote lighthouse, far from the warring factions. He is granted shelter by Telmo, the aging operator of the lighthouse. As Francisco recuperates, Telmo’s tales of epic adventurers who sailed the lost seas and discovered worlds unknown reignite the spark of life in the young soldier.

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The underlying dark themes of war and violence are reflected in the monochromatic art in The Lighthouse.  The story opens on the escape attempt of Francisco, a young soldier who is offered sanctuary by elderly but cheerful Telmo, the keeper of a lighthouse.  As Francisco learns more about the lighthouse and its workings, and assists Telmo in building a boat from the flotsam that washes up on the beach, he begins to heal from his experiences and question his commitment to his cause.  When events take an unexpected turn for Francisco later in the story, he is forced to take his fate into his own hands and decide what kind of life he wants to lead.

The Lighthouse deals with the sort of choices that, when made, define a life.  Telmo has made his choices in life and is content to keep the lighthouse in order in anticipation for the day when the government will send a new bulb to restore the lighthouse to full function.  Francisco, who was previously unwavering in his commitment to his ideals, begins to think for himself under Telmo’s fanciful guidance.

This is not an overly long read, but it certainly packs a punch and will generate discussion about loyalties to duty and to self, and the sacrifices that individuals make to attain their goals.  This would be an interesting inclusion in a secondary or university course focusing on ethics.

The Castoffs V.1: Mage Against the Machine by M.K. Reed, Brian Smith & Molly Ostertag

From Goodreads:

It’s Mage against the Machine! Magic vs technology in Roar’s newest graphic novel. When three apprentice mages are sent to help a neighboring guild, they reignite a decades-old war with a robot army that has destroyed the world.

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This opening volume of The Castoffs seems like it will be a welcome addition to the collection of graphic novels being released that feature strong female protagonists and characters from diverse backgrounds.  The story opens on a historical battle between mages and “surrogates” – machines that were created to assist humanity but have caused chaos and carnage.  Our three protagonists, Charris, Ursa and Thrinh, are from a later period in history, when the use of technology has been largely abandoned and mages are free – mostly – to use their skills.  The three young women are chosen to fulfill what seems to be a simple delivery job, but on arriving at their destination it becomes apparent that there is much more afoot than the trivial errand on which they were sent.

Cue the discovery of a resurgence of surrogate use and the difficult decisions that follow: do the girls attempt to put down the uprising alone or return to the Guild for help?  Can the three get along for long enough to obtain a result?  And what skills are some of the girls hiding and why?

After a start that didn’t exactly draw me in, I warmed to the characters and became absorbed in the intrigue unfolding before them.  The bickering between the girls was by turns amusing and irritating, but by the end of the book most of that had been put aside in favour of interesting reveals and kick-ass magic skills.  I think this will greatly appeal to readers of graphic novels aimed at the YA market, as well as those who just love a good story featuring magic versus technology.  The diverse female protagonists will also be a drawcard for those specifically seeking out wide representation in their reads.

Overall, this was a promising, action-packed start to the series and I am interested to see where some of the cliffhanger plot points go from here.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Moth Girls and Crystal Cadets: A Double-Dip Review…

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imageGrab your snack of choice and slather it in a conglomeration of sauces because it’s time for the first double-dip review of 2016!  Today I have a YA, not-your-average-murder-mystery and a manga-style graphic novel for the younger middle grade set.  I received both of today’s titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s get dipping!

First up, we have Moth Girls by Annie Cassidy.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Helplessly drawn like moths to the light, two girls go missing in an evocative and gripping tale . . .

They called them the Moth Girls because they were attracted to the house. They were drawn to it. Or at least that is what is written in the newspapers that Mandy reads on the anniversary of when her two best friends went missing. Five years have passed since Petra and Tina were determined to explore the dilapidated house on Princess Street. But what started off as a dare ended with the two girls vanishing. As Mandy’s memories of the disappearance of her two friends are ignited once again, disturbing details will resurface in her mind.

Dip into it for…moth girls

…an in-depth examination of teen friendships, loyalty and the impact of disappearances on those left behind.  Needless to say, there are some twists in this book and I’m not going to say much about them lest I spoil the reading experience for others.  The story is told in a number of parts, some focused on the present and some on the time of the girls’ disappearance.  As more details are revealed, it is clear that the friendship between Mandy, Petra and Tina was rocky at times and there are other factors at play that contributed to the mystery surrounding the big house.  This is certainly one pitched at the upper end of the YA market for its complex interweaving of different storylines.

Don’t dip if…

you find mopey teens annoying.  Mandy is, admittedly, a bit of a pill and despite being the main character is the least interesting of the three girls.  Thankfully, the other voices and shifting timeframes generally compensate for this.  Also, if you don’t like a circuitous story, this is definitely not for you.  There are plenty of loose ends that are gradually tied up (although some are left hanging!), and the jumping between points of view requires some good memory on the part of the reader.

Overall Dip Factor

This turned out to be a solid, well-realised mystery story that ended with a twist that was simultaneously unexpected and completely logical.  I would definitely recommend this to those looking for a read focusing on younger characters, but featuring some pretty heavy issues, without any sense of “This is YA fiction” about it. 

Next up we have Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole, Katie O’Neill and Paulina Ganucheau.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Tantalizing and lively – Booklist Cadets Go! Join this team of darkness-fighting, world-saving, power-packed teen girls from all over the world on their first adventure! Zoe has always felt out of place; her foster parents are great and all, but she’s long felt like something was missing. That is, of course, until she discovers a mysterious gem left to her by her birth mother and her whole universe gets flipped around! When the crystal grants Zoe mysterious powers of light she becomes the Diamond Cadet, and she’s not the only one; suddenly she’s meeting new friends who shoot flames and glowing green arrows. It’s all fun at first, but when The Darkness possesses Zoe’s foster parents her only choice is to join this wild group of action-hero girls, traveling the globe to defeat The Darkness and find a cure!”

Dip into it for…crystal cadets

…an action-packed tale of girl power that will remind you of lazy hours spent watching Saturday morning cartoons.  The art is manga-style and will appeal, I suspect, to those who do like a cartoonish style and the characters are a diverse bunch of young ladies from various countries, all of whom have been chosen to be guardians of the earth.  The style and simple plot will appeal to the younger end of the middle grade market and the concept of all-powerful, butt-kicking young girls with the ability to summon cute flying mythical mounts in order to save the world is designed to draw in the female demographic.

Don’t Dip if…

…you’re after a graphic novel featuring an in-depth plot, or indeed, any real explanation of the workings behind the girls’ powers.  The storyline is devoid of much information regarding how these girls got their powers (apart from the fact that they have been “passed down” from their mothers) and each girl seems to accept her new powers without question.  There is also a bit of a corny tone to the plot with the “Darkness” feeding off bad behaviour – cheating, lying and bad manners, for example – and at times it felt a little bit too preachy for me.

Overall Dip Factor

I’m really unsure how current readers of graphic novels in the middle-grade age bracket will take this one.  While the action is non-stop from start to finish, the themes of female friendship, teamwork and “being good” feel a bit overdone and didactic.  This might be better engaged as a “gateway” read for non-readers of graphic novels at the lower end of the middle grade age bracket to bolster a positive perception of graphic novels amongst reluctant readers.

There we are then – two very different tomes, but hopefully something that might take you back for a second dip.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

An Unconventional YA Double Dip: Goldfish and Geriatrics..

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Grab a snack and assume a comfortable semi-reclined position and let’s dip into a pair of YA titles…well, actually one is upper middle grade… featuring teen girls and their relationships with their fathers. I received both of today’s titles from the publisher via Netgalley and having looked at some of the early reviews on Goodreads, it appears I enjoyed these quite a bit more than the average punter. Let’s dive in though, shall we, starting with the more conventional of the two of these unusual stories.

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony is the gentle and understated tale of a young girl working through grief. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

In Milwaukee, Isabelle Day had a house. And she had a father. This year,Isabelle Day on Halloween, she has half of a house in Minneapolis, a mother at least as sad as she is, and a loss that’s too hard to think—let alone talk—about.

It’s the Midwest in the early 1960s, and dads just don’t die . . . like that. Hovering over Isabelle’s new world are the duplex’s too-attentive landladies, Miss Flora (“a lovely dried flower”) and her sister Miss Dora (“grim as roadkill”), who dwell in a sea of memories and doilies; the gleefully demonic Sister Mary Mercy, who rules a school awash in cigarette smoke; and classmates steady Margaret and edgy Grace, who hold out some hope of friendship. As Isabelle’s first tentative steps carry her through unfamiliar territory—classroom debacles and misadventures at home and beyond, time trapped in a storm-tossed cemetery and investigating an inhospitable hospital—she begins to discover that, when it comes to pain and loss, she might actually be in good company. In light of the elderly sisters’ lives, Grace and Margaret’s friendship, and her father’s memory, she just might find the heart and humor to save herself.

With characteristic sensitivity and wit, Jane St. Anthony reveals how a girl’s life clouded with grief can also hold a world of promise.

Dip into it for…

… a leisurely pace and an authentic representation of a grieving young person trying to adjust to loss and a new environment. Nothing really bad happens in this story and there aren’t really flashpoints or dramatic upswings in action, but Isabelle certainly experiences some significant growth over the course of the book. This really reminded me of the impactful and gentle stories in Glenda Millard’s exceptional Kingdom of Silk series, that deal with difficult topics in an accessible way, but pitched at slightly older readers.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re looking for an upper middle grade book that features familiar tropes and episodic action. This has neither. In the early reviews I’ve read for this book, a number of reviewers have noted the lack of action as a negative feature, and I agree that there is something that does feel lacking in the sense that there doesn’t seem to be a discernible climax.

Overall Dip Factor:

I suspect that this is going to be a bit of a niche read, appealing to those who prefer relationship-driven tales to those featuring lots of action and the usual YA tropes of cliques, bullying and boys. I was quite impressed with the warmth and hope of the ending and while I wanted there to be more development in Isabelle’s relationship with her elderly neighbours, the ending sort of made up for that. I think the author has done a good job of authentically relaying Isabelle’s feelings of grief and disorientation and as this is at the crux of the story, younger readers who haven’t had these life experiences may find it hard to relate to Isabelle and the importance she places on milestones such as making a new friend.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart and found it to be a solid upper middle grade choice for those young readers who are ready to explore a difficult life experience in narrative.

Next up we have a supremely unconventional YA story that also features some startling conventionality. I immediately related to the main character of Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher, and I’m still dissecting the layers of this book. Like a good trifle. Anyway, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

My name is Tess Turner – at least, that’s what I’ve always been told. I silence is goldfishhave a voice but it isn’t mine. It used to say things so I’d fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn’t. It lied. It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren’t the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.

I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.

Tessie-T has never really felt she fitted in and after what she read that night on her father’s blog she knows for certain that she never will. How she deals with her discovery makes an entirely riveting, heart-breaking story told through Tess’s eyes as she tries to find her place in the world.

Dip into it for…

…a selective mute with an imaginary talking goldfish for an ally, weathering the storm of family drama, cyberbullying and teenaged identity confusion. I related to Tess straight away and reading of her solitary, passive, silent protest made me wish I’d thought of it as a young gargoyle going through various mental health dramas. Pitcher has written Tess as an incredibly authentic 15-year-old: immature, naïve, self-focused, struggling with issues outside her control and desperate for connection. I particularly enjoyed the way in which Tess grew throughout the story, eventually claiming her appearance and existence and using this knowledge to achieve her ends.

Don’t dip if…

…you don’t think you can relate to a rendering of a teen as immature, naïve and self-focused. I suspect that some people will find Tess to be just irritating, particularly if they have never experienced any kind of major mental upset. Also, as Tess becomes a selective mute for much of the book, there is a fair bit of monologue here…or at least, dialogue between Tess and her imaginary fish friend…which some might find tedious after a bit. I’m not the greatest fan of monologuing and I did feel there was a bit of a sag in the middle of this tale.

Overall Dip Factor:

Admittedly, there were a few things that I didn’t love about this book, including the oft-used clique of three popular bitch girls (why is it always three?!) and the quick change in friendship fortunes early on, which seemed unlikely to me. On the other hand, one of the strengths of this book is that Tess is clearly naïve in that she wants her imagining of certain relationships to be real, and it is clear that while she knows that some people may not be working in her best interests, she prefers to rely on what she would like to be true than to accept the signs that are pointing to reality.

One of the interesting things about this book is that it will be obvious to the reader where the wind is blowing, so to speak, with many of the plotlines in the book, but knowing what is likely to happen didn’t dampen the satisfaction I found in going along with Tess toward the inevitable discoveries that were going to be made. It was like reading an interesting case study: because I already knew (or suspected) what the outcome would be, I could better observe Tess’s actions and appreciate her journey through denial to acceptance – of herself and the circumstances.

Clearly, this book isn’t going to be for everyone. But it was for me. I think I shall reserve a special place for Tess (and Mr Goldfish) on the shelf should they ever wish to visit.

That’s it from me for now.  I’m off to find out if they sell Eccles cakes in Australia, so I’ll be prepared for the next double-dip outing.

Until next time,

Bruce

An Indie, MG Maniacal Book Club Review: Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang…

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Today’s pick from the Maniacal Book Club features a Korean main character, some American bullying and some all-out, strange, generational magic. We received a copy of Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang, the first in an indie series for middle grade readers, from the author, Tim Learn, for review.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Chewy Noh has problems. He was born with them. Two weeks after his birth, the family fortune-teller saw bad things in his future…and she was right. The school bully hates him and will stop at nothing to get rid of him. His mother suddenly can’t get out of bed, complaining of horrible headaches. And worst of all, the secret his grandmother is hiding may be at the root of it all. But why should he worry? He’s a superhero with a power no one’s ever seen before!

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Let’s hear what the Book Club have to say, shall we?

Guru Davemaniacal book club guru dave

While many have sought my wise counsel over my many years of existence, I have never been fortunate enough to wield powers like those of the Mu-dang. In this tale, Chewy takes on the power of an ancient spirit and finds the power within himself to change the course of his existence. But is a young boy worthy of such knowledge, such advantage? I would urge caution and prudence should you ever come into a magically-rendered gift of your own, thoughtful reader.

maniacal book club toothlessToothless

No dragons in this book. There’s some pretty cool witchy stuff though and a whole bunch of people who aren’t really what they seem. I didn’t like the bullies – I wouldn’t mind if they got eaten by a dragon. And the girls were a bit weird too. But Chewy and Clint were pretty cool. Ordinary, but cool. It would have been better if there were dragons. To eat the bullies.

 

Mad Marthamaniacal book club martha

When selecting a secret new power

Be prepared for your gift to turn sour

For with greatest intentions

Magic interventions,

Your best laid of plans, can devour

maniacal book club bruce Bruce

Chewy Noh and the Fall of the Mu-Dang is going to greatly appeal to those young readers looking for something a little different. For a start, Chewy himself is Korean, an ethnicity we don’t often see in middle-grade books and the author has included a host of interesting mythology and magic narrative from that part of the world. Secondly, this isn’t the expected sort of superhero book, where the main character suddenly sprouts an obvious and visible power and has to decide how to wield it.

Chewy is a laid-back every-man sort of a kid and his power is just as understated as he is. Because of this, the story follows the common, new-kid-being-picked-on plot line, with some superpowered antics thrown in. Having said that, the book does have a few features that make it stand out from the norm. There are the references to the Mu-Dang and the storyline related to Chewy’s family and secrets that have been kept that could change who Chewy is and how he thinks about his family. There’s also the fact that Chewy and Clint, although experiencing bullying, are more curious than vengeful toward their bullies’ behaviour.

I did have a few problems with the story. While I enjoyed the supernatural bits, the other parts – in which Chewy and Clint form a friendship and deal with the bullies – was pretty run-of-the-mill. I would have loved to have seen more focus on the magical side of the story. A plotline involving two girls in Chewy’s class also muddied the waters as it just seemed to range all over the place. I couldn’t follow why the girls were behaving as they were or what their motivations might have been and the whole plot line seemed tacked on and superfluous.

Also interrupting my enjoyment of the story was the bugbear of many an indie publication – a lack of hard-core editing. I found that the overall narration lacked a clear voice and that there was far too much unnecessary dialogue and description of mundane things as a result. I had that uncanny feeling that I’ve had before while reading indie works, that I was actually reading a translation, because the words don’t flow as well as one would expect.

Overall, this would be a good pick for middle-graders looking for some diversity in the characters that they are reading about and for those who want an unexpected twist on the superhero genre.

The Maniacal Book Club gives this book:

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Three Thumbs Up!

Until next time,

Bruce (and the gang)

 

 

A YA Read-it-if Review (AND GIVEAWAY!) for Lovers of School Stories, Parallel Worlds and Lunacy: Belzhar…

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Welcome one and all to today’s Read-It-If; a nicely layered story that hit all the right notes in the correct order for me and at a comfortable volume for a memorable reading experience.  I received a copy of Belzhar  by Meg Wolitzer from Simon and Schuster Australia after lusting after its intriguing title and arresting cover for quite a little while.  I am also in possession of a sweet little paperback copy of Belzhar courtesy of Simon and Schuster that needs a new, loving home.  Australians who wish to apply for the privelege can enter using the rafflecopter link in this post.  Hurrah!

Now, let’s explore the strange and alluring experience that is Belzhar, shall we?
After the sudden loss of her first love Reeve, Jamaica (Jam) falls apart emotionally and is sent to spend a term at therapeutic boarding school, The Wooden Barn.  On being unexpectedly enrolled in the coveted Special Topics in English class, Jam meets four other teens – Sierra, Casy, Marc and Griffin – who are also dealing with traumatic life events that feature loss or grief.  The Special Topics class are furnished with a red leather journal and a copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and are required to complete both as their task for the semester.  When Jam and the others write in their journals however, they are transported in their minds to a seemingly perfect place in which the traumatic events of their past never occured.  They name this place Belzhar, but as the end of their journals draws closer, the group begin to worry about what will happen once their journals are filled.  Will they choose to move on and leave Belzhar behind, or find a way to keep their perfect worlds open forever?

 

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Read it if:

* you like your contemporary school/romance/teen-angst reads to feature a mildly fantastical twist

* you like your fantastical twists to feature an even more intriguing twist of realism

* you are prepared to put up with an awful lot of pining and reminiscence on the part of the main character

* you’ve ever bought a note book with a beautiful cover because you are convinced that writing in it will induce some sort of magical power (I know I’m guilty of this one)

The first thing you’re going to notice when dipping into Belzhar is that Jam, the 15 year old main character, REALLY misses her boyfriend, English exchange student, Reeve.  Some people are going to find Jam’s ongoing desolation at his loss quite tedious in a very short period of time.  I was nearly one of those people – until I remembered that Wolitzer was writing a 15 year old character, and as anyone past their teenage years will know, 15 year olds have been known through the ages as liable to get hung up on certain issues, particularly when those issues involve a first love.  So while I did find Jam’s despair fairly annoying in parts, I felt that it was appropriate to the character’s age and situation, so I went with it.  Consider yourself duly warned.

To me, Belzhar was like the Narnia of the teen grief-and-loss set.  I appreciated the way that Wolitzer used familiar tropes such as the inspiring and enigmatic teacher and the teens’ passage into another world through an ordinary object in order to set (most of) the characters on the path from ignorance to insight.  While the ending of the story (in terms of the characters’ states of mind) is fairly predictable, there are a few twists before that ending that throw the fate of certain people into doubt and provide fresh insight for the reader into the earlier parts of the story.

The references to Sylvia Plath and her work will no doubt be a drawcard for some – not me, incidentally, as I found that story to be not so much depressing as woefully tedious – but Plath’s work is only really discussed in a perfunctory manner as something that the Special Topics class could relate to.  Although admittedly, as I’m not an expert on Plath I could well be missing some major nuance here.  If so, please excuse my ignorance and feel free to enlighten me!

While this wasn’t a groundbreaking novel in my opinion, there is plenty here that will pique the interest of those who are looking for a contemporary novel containing a slight flight of fancy and featuring teens working through a range of difficult life experiences.  Themes of friendship and emotional risk are highlighted and readers can make up their own minds about whether or not living in a perfect idyll created by one’s own psyche is a necessity or a hinderance when working through episodes of loss.

I would recommended Belzhar particularly for those at the younger end of the YA age bracket, with the caveat that older readers may be put off by the teen-ness of the main character.

Belzhar will be released in Australia on October 9th, but Australian readers can have a bash at winning a free copy using the rafflecopter link below.  Good luck!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Until next time,

Bruce

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