Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: Week 15 – novels

Posted on: October 22, 2013

cover image for Being Henry DavidBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead

A teenager wakes up a train station with no memory of who he is or why he’s there, with only $15 in his pocket and a copy of On Walden Pond in his hand. After falling in with some “street kids” and escaping from their unsavory “protector,” the boy with no name heads for the woods, hoping to find some answers at Henry David Thoreau’s cabin.

I’m not entirely certain why authors/publishers keep making books about middle class white kids having meaningful experiences when circumstances force them to slum it, but they do. Again and again. Verdict: skippable, very skippable.

cover image for The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

Jonas’ world is comfortable and orderly.  Like all other children in The Community he got his front-buttoned jacket when he was seven, and his bicycle when he was nine, and now that he’s becoming a twelve, he’ll be assigned an occupation.  But when Jonas isn’t picked to be an Engineer or a Nurturer or any of the other typical occupations, but instead is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memories, his world is turned upside with the truth that his training reveals.

The world-building here is rather sparse, leaving more than a few holes, but it works for the intended audience.  It’s definitely a child’s point of view that we get of this dystopian world, which actually makes a certain amount of the opaqueness not only believable but necessary.  It’s clearly meant to raise questions more than answer them, and does a good job of that.  Lowry does an excellent job here of not only slowing revealing the communities secrets but also pacing out reader’s exposure to customs that will seem strange to them, encouraging children to get to connect to Jonas and his family despite their differences.

What fascinated me the most while reading The Giver was how clearly you can see traces of Lowry’s modern classic in so many of the currently popular young adult dystopias.  It makes me want to spend the next few months just writing about the influences of modern science fiction for middle grades and young adults, and most particularly the extent to which the latter is dictated by readers experiences with the former, as opposed to being shaped by trend in adult genre novels.

cover image for Betsy and Tacy Go DowntownBetsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy, Tacy, and Tib are now twelve, which means they are finally old enough to do things like walk downtown by themselves and go sledding after supper – in the dark!  The whole world seems to be growing up as well, now that the first horseless carriage has come to town.  But are Betsy, Tacy, and Tib quite as ready for all these grown-up adventures as they think they are?

I will always remember this as the book in which the girls go to the Opera House. To see Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Which meant that blackfaced minstrelers provided the entertainment during intermission. (One assumes the actors in the play were in blackface as well.)  Other than that, it’s just as lovely as it’s predecessors. But, well…that’s not precisely a small thing to overlook.

cover image for Keeping the MoonKeeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Colby, North Carolina isn’t where Colie Sparks expected to spend her summer. She was supposed to spend it at home, with her friends. Instead, her mother has shipped Colie off to spend the summer with her aunt, Mira, while Kiki Sparks tours Europe selling her multitude of fitness products. But could Colby be just what Colie needs?

(hint: this is a Dessen novel, so the answer, of course, is yes)

Small town. Quirky characters. Wisecracks followed by heart to heart conversations. Just what you’d expect from a Dessen novel. This isn’t my favorite of hers (it didn’t click for me the way others have, and parts of it rubbed me the wrong way), but it was a light, quick read.

cover image for BarrayarBarrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cordelia Naismith never thought that marrying Aral Vorkosigan would be without its ups and downs, but neither did she expect to end up married to the Regent for Barrayar’s four year old Emperor.  Risking her own life is nothing new for Cordelia, but when her family is threatened as well she decides that she may have had just enough of Barrayan politics.

How much do I love this book? Too much to write a proper review for it.  It’s just excellent. If for some reason who haven’t read this series yet, you need to do so now. Also, I want more books about Cordelia and more heroines like Cordelia.

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