Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I recently re-read this amazing fantasy trilogy that consists of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Actually, I listened to them all as audiobooks narrated by the author and with a cast of actors playing all the characters' roles. I have listened to many audiobooks in my years as a school librarian and these are the absolute best (second place are the Harry Potter books which also are a great listening experience). It would be impossible to summarize the plot of this trilogy in a blog entry so I will just explain why I like these books so much. First of all, I love Pullman's invention of daemons, which are the physical embodiment of the soul. In Lyra's world, all humans have a daemon and it is in the form of an animal. You can talk to your daemon and cuddle up to it, but it's highly taboo to touch another person's daemon. Also, it's excruciatingly painful to be very far apart from your daemon. I love the relationships that the characters have with their daemons, and the fact that later in the series we find out that people from our world actually also have daemons. Secondly, I love the complexity of these books. Pullman has strong views about the church and what it has done to humanity that some people find objectionable, but I would argue that he has done a brilliant job of weaving his ideas into a marvelously complex fantasy world. I am in awe of the intellect that was able to create this epic story that entertains, delights, and even enrages some people. Thirdly, the characters Pullman creates are incredibly real. I would know Will Perry or Marissa Coulter or Mary Malone if I saw them on the street. In the end, a book is only as good as its characters and Pullman truly knows how to create living breathing characters, even when they are witches, armored bears, or Texan aeronauts.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
If I Stay when I read it several years ago. I still recommend it to students frequently. This follow-up book from the point of view of Adam, Mia's troubled ex-boyfriend is absolutely beautiful and even better than the first book. Gayle Foreman takes us three years into the future. Adam is a bona fide rock star with a full slate of issues, Mia is a Julliard graduate beginning her solo cello career, and the two haven't spoken in almost three years. How and why did this happen? Who broke up with whom? In a novel rich with dialogue and emotional depth we get to hear Adam and Mia's conversation on the night they see each other again and go on a long tour of New York City by night. The book is practically written in real time which is quite unique. It reminded me of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, two movies that I love that are also consist of dialogue between two likable characters on whom you just want to eavesdrop. As with If I Stay, this is a young adult book and I recommend it to readers in grades 8 and up.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Matched, a book about a dystopian society that controls all aspects of a person's life. Cassia is "matched" with Xander, who happens to be her best friend. But she gets a glimpse of Ky on her microcard and wonders if he is really her true match. This sets off a string of events that ends with Ky and Cassia in love but Ky is banished to the outer provinces. When Matched ends Cassia is determined to go after Ky. When Crossed begins, Ky is being used as a decoy and could be killed at any moment. He runs to take refuge in a canyon and takes along a boy named Eli. Cassia gets herself sent to where Ky is and takes off for the canyon with another girl named Indie. Fortunately we don't have to wait through the entire book for the two to reunite. They find each other again and must struggle to stay alive and figure out where they belong—in the Society, with the "farmers," or as part of the rebellion. Once again poetry plays an important part in the story and there are several surprising revelations about past events that make things more interesting. As in the first book, the romance is an important plot element, and also like the first book, we are left with a cliffhanger ending. Ky and Cassia are parted again and Xander is about to come back into the picture. These are enjoyable books for romance/dystopia fans but I don't find them quite as compelling as The Hunger Games trilogy or the Life as We Knew It books.