round 2: YA fictionJune 2, 2009
I think this book truly captures the incredible self-centered nature of many teenagers, while at the same time creating a character that everyone will relate to in some way. In middle school, Greg’s main concerns revolve around hair-brained plots to increase his popularity, playing video games, and avoiding his parents. In other words, it is incredibly easy to understand why this book (and the resulting series) has become so incredibly popular both in elementary schools and the adult section of the library.
Just as Diary captures the mind of a middle school boy, this book perfectly captures the early high school female brain. While all of us may not have had the same experiences or the same insane cat, most women who read this book will identify with the swirling thoughts and zany actions of Georgia Nicolson. Set in Britain and shock full of British slang, another great part of this book is the hilarious glossary in the back. While not heavy in good writing or stunning plot lines, this book is highly readable and as my friends can attest literally laugh out loud funny.
Last night in class my mini-discussion group attempted to summarize this book for the class and failed pretty miserably. It isn’t that the plot was too confusing or that nothing happened, its just that the places you think the book are going tend not to be where it ends up. Essentially this book tells the story of a young boy’s return to the old mining town where all his ancestors used to work. While the mines have closed, the heavy history of them weighs on Kit and his friends. Kit is also one of those children for whom the surreal and supernatural are quite common place and frequently just as real as the more traditional forms of reality. Kit struggles to deal with a dying grandfather, the town bully and stories from times long ago.
This book reminded me a bit of Jellicoe Road, probably because once again its setting is that of a boarding school, where adults and teachers are secondary characters of little impact on the story. For the most part Miles (or Pudge to his friends) finds an intensity to life sorely missing in his previous high school experience. Thanks to his close friends the Colonel and Alaska, Miles experiences a lot (including a fair share of sex, drugs and alcohol) during his first semester of his junior year. However this story is told in a much more chronological order than Jellicoe Road, and is centered around a critical moment in all the friends’ lives. I really liked this book and found the southern Alabama high school the perfect setting for its themes of intelligent rebellion and philosophical pondering.
This book wasn’t actually required for my class, but I got hooked on the idea of reading it when the synopsis stated that it borrowed the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. Some of you may know that one of my all time favorite series is the Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King, which at its core pairs the semi-retired brilliant British detective with an equally brilliant, feminist teenage American woman. Now that may sound awful to you depending on your dedication to Sir Author Conan Doyle, but trust me King’s series made Holmes more real to me than any of Doyle’s stories. But anyways in regards to Final Solution, this time Holmes plays an unnamed older man helping a mute Jewish refuge boy from Nazi Germany find his pet parrot. I won’t go too much into the plot, but I will say I found it a nice twist, without being too dis-jointed. Also I liked Micheal Chabon’s writing style, which bodes well for other books by him on my too-read list (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union)
I am pretty sure I had to read this for school at some point during my junior high / high school career, however I figured it was probably due a re-read because I couldn’t remember the ending. And wow, I have to say this book has aged well (origionally published in 1967). While it doesn’t have quite the same ageless quality that Catcher in the Rye did, Outsiders still manages to connect to some of the universal aspects of youth. What I was even more surprised by was the realization that S. E. Hinton wrote this while she was still in high school! It was published during her freshman year at university, which makes the way she captures her fellow teenage boys all the more impressive.