YA NOVEL, EVERY SOUL A STAR: A Review

Wendy Moss has written a young adult novel that interested me, and I am far from a young adult. She uses an interesting format; every three chapters alternate between the three main characters, Ally, Bree, and Jack.  The entire story is told from three separate points of view. Ally lives at Moon Shadow, a campground where the nearest town is an hour’s drive away. She gives star lectures at this perfect place to view the Great Eclipse as hundreds and thousands of tourists worldwide come to view the solar eclipse. Bree is Ally’s opposite, popular, gorgeous, whose goal is to be on the cover of Seventeen magazine before turning seventeen.  Jack is “overweight and awkward,”raised by a single mom.  He is an artist who daydreams and draws in class and has been given the opportunity to come assist his science teacher camp guide in lieu of going to summer school.

The book is often humorous, very warm, and very engaging. It is about “strangers coming together, unlikely friendships, and finding one’s own place in the universe.” It is not your typical romance, and focuses on friendships instead of sexual attraction.  It is a fast-paced, enjoyable read which kept me up late finishing it.

MONDAY MUSINGS SOPHIE’S WORLD by Jostein Gaarder: A Review

The paperback edition I read was a 20th anniversary edition and was advertised as being about “life, the universe, and everything” which made me think of Douglas Adams.  However, two books could not be more unalike.  Sophie, the fourteen year old protagonist who is about to turn fifteen and is just beginning to be aware of herself, her surroundings, and her life in general, begins to receive strange postcards and letters addressed to another fourteen year old girl halfway around the world named Hilde.  The letters seem to be from Hilde’s father who is making plans to return to her on her fifteenth birthday, but strangely enough they are sent in care of Sophie and addressed correctly to Sophie’s address.

The plot alone is enough to keep the reader interested, but the book turns out to be a study in philosophy from Plato and Socrates to Marx and Sartre. Sophie in Philosophy World takes twists and turns similar to Alice in Wonderland.  The book, as one critic said, is an “easily grasped way of thinking about difficult ideas. If nothing else, the book is highly original.

Published first in 1995, the paperback edition of this YA “classic” is available as of 2015, thus the 20th anniversary of its publication.

At times this is a hard read, but it is good review of the study of philosophers with examples given that are fairly easy to comprehend and apply.  This book will answer many questions, but it will keep you coming up with questions of your own.

ACCEPTABLE TIME by Madeline L’Engle: A Review

Polly, daughter of Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time, and neice of Sandy and Denys Murray of Many Waters, is spending time with her mother’s parents in New England. A neighbor, “Bishop Nase” manages to open a Time Gate which transports individuals back in time.  Both the Star Gazing Stone and the Old Wall act as portals for Polly on several occasions.  Meeting Anaral, a Druid who travels back and forth, and other characters from the time period, Polly and her cowardly friend Zak manage to become stuck 3,000 years before the present.

Back in time, Polly finds herself with The People of the Wind, and later captured by their enemies The People Across the Lake. They are besieged with drought and believe that a blood sacrifice is necessary to bring rain to their land and tribe.

Although the novel is not traditionally religious, it is spiritual and offers something for both believers and non-believers.

 

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: A Review

This debut novel published this year (2017) has a very important message.  John Green, author of the phenomenal The Fault is in Our Stars, describes it as a “stunning, brilliant novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time.” Another author says it is “fearlessly honest and heartbreakingly human.” Yet another calls it ” tragically timeless.” I don’t know if I agree with the “classic” label, maybe so among young adults as Green’s novels have come to be, but the other descriptions are right on the money.

Starr Carter is a seventeen year old African American girl living in the “bad” part of town, but she attends a prestigious college-prep high school on a scholarship. Chris, her white boyfriend may be the only stereotype in the novel; either he  truly loves her as he says he does, or he is “too good to be true.” One night, Starr, leaving a party where shots have been fired with her friend,Khalil, whom she’s known since they were three years old, are pulled over by the police, and unarmed Khalil is shot and dies in Starr’s arms. Starr’s parents who are extremely strict are supporting and generally cool, but are drawn into the chaos that Starr’s life becomes as the media invades her neighborhood and home, first describing her as an unnamed witness, then putting a name to the witness, informing all of her white, rich friends of her involvement and her background neighborhood, something she has been hiding from them. She hears things at school like, “He had it coming,” and “He must have been a drug dealer” before they know she was there when it happened.

The author explores the gulf between black and white, rich and poor, and paints Starr as an “ordinary girl caught up in extraordinary circumstances.” Issues of racism, police violence, gangs, and poverty are explored from the “inside.” If you, like me, were taught in first grade that “The policeman is our friend; if you get lost or separated from your parents, look for one,” then you are probably privileged and white like me.  This is an important book that everyone, young person or adult, should read.

MANY WATERS by Madeline L’Engle: A Review

Published in 1986       Takes place sometime after the Wrinkle in Time Trilogy

Sandy and Dennys Murry, twin brothers of Meg and Calvin Wallace Murry (from A Wrinkle in Time) are the “dull,” “ordinary” ones in the family until they interrupt their physicist dad’s computer experiment.  Then, they are in trouble, not just with their dad, but in cosmos-changing trouble.  Many waters were coming soon to the dessert oasis where they “landed”, and stories their mother told them as small children from the Bible, as well as many mythologies and folktales of a world-wide flood come rushing to their minds.

Unknown to them, their dad was experimenting with time travel, and the Genesis (from the Bible) people’s reaction to them, as well as their reaction to the people of “this other place” is the premise for the story.  Unicorns, mammoths (miniature size ones), seraphims, and nephils all appear in this book. Both boys, young teens, fall for the same girl, Yalith, and for the first time, the twins do not tell each other “everything.” Will they get themselves home in time to avoid the “many waters?”/The Great Flood? Will they get home, period? L’Engle’s philosophy shines through as the boys engage in conflicts both on a personal level and on a universal level.

The writing, plot, and characterization are brilliant. This is one of my favorite authors whether she is writing YA novels, memoirs and philosophy, or anything. I highly recommend this book.

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN: A Review

Published in 2007 by author Sherman Alexie, this YA novel was our Third Tuesday Book Club selection for the month of May.  The group’s discussion is tomorrow night. Other than some pretty rough language (but then that’s the way some teenagers talk), the book was a good read.  It was funny, sad, heartbreaking, uplifting–all at one time. The author is also a cartoonist and a poet, and the story is filled with insightful cartoons and poetic expressions in places.  It is the story of a boy who overcomes poverty, a medical condition from birth, fear, and loneliness as he comes of age.

The story is well told, and characters range from stereotypes to unique individuals. Arnold Spirit (his Reardon School name) aka Junior (his reservation name) is a protagonist who puts his “raw emotion” out there for the reader to experience. Rowdy, his best friend since earliest childhood is his protector and confidant, which makes his refusal to go off the reservation to the “white school” with Junior/Arnold and his hate directed towards him all the worse. Gordy is his new, nerdy friend at the white Reardon high school, and Penelope, the gorgeous white girl becomes Junior/Arnold’s girlfriend.  The clash between the characters is more than troubling to the protagonist. His family, a alcoholic but loving father, a smart mother, and a spiritual, tolerant grandmother round out the cast of characters.

The novel gives insights into Native American folklore and superstition as well as “Reservation Philosophy” and thought. For a boy born with hydro-encephalitis and who has “been to 42 funerals by the time he is fourteen,” there is a lot to overcome. The humor is typically adolescent male humor and raunchy at times, but not to the point of offending.

I do not know if I would recommend this book to a younger teenager, but a young adult with his/her “head on straight” might really enjoy this book. It will be interesting to hear what older adults thought of it tomorrow night.

Conor Kelly and the Four Treasures of Eirean: A fantasy adventure

Ali Issacs’ Tir na Nog trilogy begins with this fast paced, breath-holding adventure.  The cover describes the hero, Conor Kelly as “Descended from gods/Raised by mortals/Friend of the Fae”, but a less likely hero you will never meet. This novel will have special appeal to the YA audience because Conor is a late teen, trapped in an unresponsive body.  He can not move or talk, but he can think, and his crafty thinking skills serve him well.

At the beginning of the story, Conor, alone in his wheelchair in a deserted hospital hallway meets up with Annalee, a Sidhe Princess who kidnaps him, transporting him to the Land of Tir na Nog, a land of Irish legend and myth and the home of the Sidhe, a benevolent fairy folk. Soon Conor has reason to wonder, Can Annalee be trusted? Is she friend or foe? and What does she expect of Conor?  Early on Conor discovers he is related to Lugh, god of lightening and has special powers.  His quest is nothing less than the restoration of the Four Treasures hidden away and also sought by Bres, a powerful and evil king.

The multi-stranded plot, many twists and turns, and cliffhangers at the end of almost every chapter keep the reader invested throughout to its conclusion.  This reader, for one, is looking forward to the second book in the trilogy.