Saturday, July 21, 2007

 

Long Time Passing

I look for sequels (ones I know are coming, that is) I don't find them, time passes and I forget. Then I stumble onto them. Crispin: At the Edge of the World by Avi (Hyperion, 2006) continues the story of Crispin (and his newly-found soul), his companion/guardian Bear and adds to the band Troth, the damaged follower of an old religion who joins them after her own guardian is killed by an angry mob. Rich and good.

In the case of Retribution by Carrie Mac (Puffin, 2007), Book 2 of the Triskelia...series? trilogy? I picked up the sequel before I read the first book. So I waited and went back to The Droughtlanders, first, which was very well imagined and chock full of interesting characters. Not every character was interesting (Lisette is a bore) and there were a few details I scratch my head about (French speakers in this world seem out of place, somehow) but on the whole it was remarkable. The second book, however, feels a tiny bit cobbled-together, its forms (the mysteriously connected triplets who are to save the world) a bit, well, pat. Perhaps this is a function of settling into the actual story, as opposed to setting it up; but perhaps it is a function of lending the manuscript to a readers group and then incorporating their suggestions. Okay, yes, the author won't use anything that doesn't feel right, but (and this is appalling, coming from and editor and sometimes writer of children's lit, I know) I don't have much respect for youthful readers' responses, at least in a group. Maybe it's different with teens, but kids, I have found, generally just like being consulted and read to and so love anything you bring to them, uncritically. What was with that guiding voice in the head thing? First, because it is something suddenly supernatural in a world that is dirtily, gloomily real, it sticks out; and then when the author wimps out and makes it the voice of Eli's conscience it just seems dopey. In the matter of religion, the author's taking from the current world and projecting seems to freeze up: in crisis, religiousity is intensified, if anything--this world should be full of fanatics.

What feels different in this YA is the detailed, almost enjoyed violence. It almost gives me the creeps.

I gave up reading Dust to Dust by Timothy Findley (HarperCollins, 1997). I'm just not a fan of TF.

Lisa Yee's Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time (Scholastic Inc, 2005) was quite good and not at all a sequel to the author's previous book using some common characters. (I say this because I haven't read the previous book, Millicent Min, Girl Genius, and didn't feel like anything was missing.) However, these sixth-grade kids don't look anything like the Grade 6 students of my acquaintance. They stroll around town with their pockets full of money, making dates without consulting their parents and having interactions with their peers that feel more like high school than elementary ("middle school" notwithstanding). It's hard enough comparing one's life to Hollywood; must we also fight literature?

Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech (Scholastic Inc, 1990): good Lord, I'm behind! There are rafts of work by established authors I have no clue about... This was an entertaining story about a girl of a big family (which is not made much of, it just is) who deals with the arrival of a cousin in their midst. Very down-home and country and old-fashioned. So of course I liked it.

On the topic of oeuvre, there is the Andrew Clements title I missed, A Week in the Woods (Simon and Schuster, 2002). Another fine dramatization of child-adult relations, this one about getting off on the wrong foot.

A Is For Angst by Barbara Haworth-Attard (HarperCollins 2007) is another entry in the chicklette-lit arena, and it's a good one, entertaining and humane. Our heroine is sensible and grounded (as far as you can be at 15) and her high school social categories are not Hollywood caricatures (I sense a theme here) but real ones that even I can recognize. Thank goodness! The heroine is funny, but in herself--she's a funny girl, not a girl being tossed into the funny pool so that we can laugh at her dog-paddle.

That concludes the blogging for today. I really must do this more often...so that the pile of books doesn't look so daunting!

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