Friday, November 16, 2007
I read first time author Robin Stevenson's book, Out of Order, about a month ago but, a trip to Chicago, one to Vancouver, and my role as Canadian Children's Book Week coordinator on Vancouver Island have kept me too busy for reviews. Don't let the slightly old fashioned cover put you off. This is a realy good read.
Once you crack the spine, it isn't hard to related to fifteen year old Sophie, her new friends Zelia, and later Max. Having just moved to Victoria, Sophie is determined to shed her past and the extra pounds that she believes marked her as an easy target for bullying at her last school. The "new improved" Sophie meets a charismatic loner, Zelia and a fast friendship ensues. But, Sophie eventually finds herself more and more uncomfortable with Zelia's fast track to self-destruction. While Sophie remains blind to her own eating disorder, the "new" Sophie starts to show cracks. She turns to Max with whom she shares a love of horse-riding and who appears to be Zelia's opposite. Sophie desperately wants to let down her guard with Max, but is afraid of rejection. Max is hiding her own secrets; afraid of the label that her sexual preference might cost her.
Three girls; three different issues; three different approaches to coping with their world. It almost sounds like melodrama. And I admit that at times the balancing act was just a tad shaky. Somehow though, Stevenson keeps from tipping over the edge. Sophie and Zelia are particularly well drawn, and it's although it's easy although gut wrenching to follow their paths. I did have a little more trouble with Max, whose character is not as fully developed. For the most part though, these are kids that could live next door. As the mother of three daughters, one of whom hung out in the same spots as Sophie, Zelia and Max, I found Stevenson's characters maddeningly arrogant as well as achingly vulnerable. Having seen my fair share of teenage angst, I'd say Stevenson knows of what she writes, and I don't doubt that as her craft develops, she will be a writer we'll be hearing more from.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I say that it took me some time to finish The Book Thief, but I must tell you that it was Zusak's brilliance which put me off. He is far too good a writer, skillfully bringing to life the harsh details of a daily existence that goes from gut-wrenching to heart-breaking and then back again. Blow after blow is dealt to this most resilient of children who loses her brother and then her mother almost immediately after. Once her brother is buried, that interrupted train trip is resumed, and Liesel is given into foster care. She is luckier than some though, since the Hubermanns take her in. Her foster father's gentleness acts as a counter balance to his wife Rosa's bad cooking and worse temper. Hans can't, however, temper the perilous times they live in; times when books are burned, brownshirts are given license to harass Jews, and party politics leaves the Hans Hubermann without work and the means to support his family. It is a time when bombs destroy neighborhoods and snatch all that is dear; Liesel's home, her foster parents and her friend Rudy Steiner.
Although Liesel lives a long life, it is death who has the last word.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
If you happen to be a teen in search of a great read or if you want to connect with and chat about books to other readers your age, visit the BC Library sponsored site TeenSCR . They provide categorized book lists and I'm thrilled that my novel, The Smell of Paint is one of the books suggested in the Weepers category. You can write reviews or just chat, and there are lots of other categories if tear-jerkers aren't your thing. Check them out.