Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mock Printz: Eon, Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

Title:Eon, Dragoneye Reborn
Author:Alison Goodman
Starred Review: PW,9/29/08
Eon was the weakest candidate to be chosen as a dragoneye, mostly because of her lameness. However, the gambling rings who set the odds at 1000:1 would have given her far worse odds especially had they known she was a girl, not a boy. But chosen she is, in a twist of fate, by the Mirror Dragon, absent from the competition for 500 years. This dramatic and unexpected outcome shifts the entire power structure of their world. So begins the intricate and clever fantasy dealing with gender identity, sexuality, in addition to palace intrigue, magical dragons and adventures galore. This is a long book that I wished would never end and I am impatiently waiting for the sequel. Sharyn November said that Penguin intends to publish it with a big splash. This book needs little help. It was one of my favorites and I think it will be a big hit.

Susan Rappaport, Rutherford Public Library

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mock Printz: Paper Towns by John Green

Paper towns by John Green
ISBN: 9780525478188

Plot: The book opens as nine year old Quentin and Margo Roth Spiegelman (one of those names you say all in one breath) find a dead body in the park. Then jumps to senior year of high school, where Quentin, now called Q, is still enthralled by Margo Roth Spiegelman, who has become one of the 'in' crowd. She dates the right guy, hangs out with the right people, and doesn't speak to Q, though he suspects that she's the one who keeps the bullies from leaning too hard on him and his band geek friends. Then one night about a month before graduation Margo show up outside Q's window and leads him on a night full of pranks before disappearing and leaving only a few mysterious clues, an upset best friend, and angry parents who seem just as happy she's gone.
Q with the help of his two best friends and Margo's best friend follow the clues a bit farther than Margo expected and skip graduation for a wild road trip from central FL to central NY state in just a little over a day.

Thoughts: I wasn't a huge fan of Green's before reading this. I admired what he did in Katherine's and in Looking for Alaska, but they were by no means favorites of mine. I've read reviews and comments where readers (both professional and teen) ask why Green keeps writing books about the 'ideal' girl who teaches the boy something and if all the books aren't just rifts on the same story. I don't get how they can say that after reading _Paper towns_ though. I would argue that Margo doesn't teach Q a thing. Oh, yeah she takes him out and gets him to loosen up on their night of pranks and he feel drawn to the clues she left, but he learns so much more once she's gone. He learns it from the journey, from looking into the clue, from the process of learning that the Margo he saw wasn't real. Ultimately, he learns about himself from himself and his friends NOT Margo. And Margo, as little as you see her, learns from Quentin. The reader doesn't find this out until the end of the novel, but Margo learns that the person she thought of as weak and cowardly, was probably the bravest and most daring person she never knew.
This novel is at turns serious and thoughtful and at others it's hilariously funny. In the end, these two teenagers learn that the people who were the corner stone of their lives and definitions of themselves are real people and had very little in common with who they thought they were.

Review by Latricia Markle

Mock Printz: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3931-0
Candlewick Press

Todd Hewitt is the last boy is Prentisstown. All the men in Prentisstown can hear the thoughts of other men and animals. These thoughts are called Noise. As Todd nears his 13th birthday, he learns that even when you can hear other men's thoughts that there can be secrets. His adopted fathers send him running for his life from power-hungry Prentiss and his men. Once he's on the run, Todd finds the first girl he's ever seen, Viola. Viola crashed in a nearby swamp and join Todd on the run from the men of Prentisstown. On their travels Todd learns that everything he knew was a lie and now he and Viola are racing to warn the new settlers of the dangers that lurk on New World.

If your looking for a fantasy where the main character speaks with intelligent animals and good always wins, don't look here! Ness begins the book by slapping the reader in the face with the reality of hearing a dog talk and that's about the nicest reality check you get. That's not to say there are not good people or good moments in this book, but it is stark cold reality with no punches held back. The reality is not ours obviously, but it sucks the reader in and doesn't let go.
When Viola enters the story, she is the first silence that Todd has ever known. To extend that to the readers, she doesn't speak and so she remains as silent a blank to the read as she does to Todd. As Todd slowly gets used to reading her face and body language, she slowly begins to speak more opening herself as slowly to the reader as she does to Todd. Ness, also, strategically keeps ideas and images which Todd doesn't want to believe from the reader so that even in a first person narrative there are secrets as there were secrets even though everyone could read other's Noise. At times this drove me nuts, because I wanted him to give up the good and let the 'sad history' of Prentisstown out into the light, but overall that's a minor quibble with a very well written opening to what I'm guessing will be a trilogy and an excellent coming of age story.

Review by Latricia Markle

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mock Printz: The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Title: The Boy Who Dared
Author: Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 978-0-439-68013-4
Starred review in: PW, nominated to BBYA

From my blog:

Helmuth Guddat Huebneris eight years old when Hitler comes to power, but even at eight Helmuth can see that not everything Hitler does is really in the best interests of Germany. Hitler may talk about protecting Germans, but Helmuth knows he is losing freedoms and being told what to think about non-Germans. He fights with his mother's boyfriend, a Nazi who believes that Hitler is in the right. He also defies his teachers, who want him to write pro-Nazi school papers. Because of his views on humanity and equality, Helmuth is encouraged to stay silent. But as we know, quiet people don't have books written about their lives. Using information he hears from the BBC on a black-market radio, Helmuth begins distributing flyers that speak against the Nazi party and its propaganda. He is eventually caught by the Nazis and put on trial. Even with the knowledge that he is facing imprisonment, maybe execution, Helmuth refuses to stay silent or allow others to take his punishment.

The book is... a fast yet thought-provoking read, and I am always supportive of books that show young readers why defiance in an oppressive time (WWII or not) is never as easy as it looks. Bartoletti keeps the focus on Helmuth tight and shows the reader German history really well without going off into history data-dumping tangents. We see the struggle Helmuth must fight between speaking for what he believes is right and the knowledge that doing so could get him sent to prison, or worse. Bartoletti makes us understand why even those who did not believe in the Nazi ideals joined the party and fought in the war.

With all this, do I think it's a Printz book? As much as I liked it, I'm leaning toward no. I would definitely buy it for my library, booktalk it, and perhaps even use it in a book discussion group. It's nominated to BBYA and is quite deserving of a spot on that list. I just don't think that it terms of "literary" it's in the same field as some of my other favorites.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mock Printz: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Title: Pretty Monsters
Author: Kelly Link
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 9780670010905
Starred review in: Kirkus, Booklist, PW

I'm not big into speculative fiction but I do love short stories and this book and Kelly Link herself are getting tons of buzz, deservedly so. This is Link's first all-YA collection. Each of the stories focus on a teenager in an offbeat situation. The opening story, "The Wrong Grave," is about a boy who wants to dig up his girlfriend because he buried some of his poetry with her and he wants it back. Being in fandom, I also enjoyed "Magic for Beginners," where a group of teens form a bond around a TV show. These stories are definitely a step off reality, but that's what makes them stand out. The language in the stories is simple yet elegant. Many of the stories are in first-person but feel as though they're in third, a technique I find fascinating because it makes me question my belief that all first-person narrators are inherently unreliable.

I definitely feel that this book is high on the "literary quality" scale, and it's one I'd fight for at the Mock Printz.