Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, 4 out of 5 stars

The newberry award winning book for 2008, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is more creepy take on the themes of the Jungle Book. Instead of an orphan raised by wolves in a jungle, an orphan is raised by ghosts in a graveyard.

The book starts off with a chilling hook, a triple murder that sets up why Nobody Owens must live in secret in a graveyard, though the rest of the book, while dark, has more of a sad charm and humor about it. Several characters are obvious nods to Jungle book characters, but by the end of the book they've all become their own characters. I particularly liked Gaiman' werewolf character (who's indeed a mirror for one of Rudyard Kipling's character, but I won't spoil which), my regret is that it wasn't used more.

Gaiman's writing pattern is to take old stories and twist them. Sometimes, I think he does so to the point of detriment to the original, but here, the characters are their own and I think avoid that problem. I still recommend the 'original' over this, and Gaiman's sad, wistful view of death that pervades the book may make it difficult for the especially young.

Still, this is a very well crafted book. I also must point out that the mist like illustrations that accompany it complement the book nicely. In fact, It makes me wish more books (aside from graphic novels) used illustrations as effectively.

No Teen Programming this Week

Attention! There is no Teen Programming this Thursday! Also, the library is closed Jan 1-2

Next Tuesday at 6 will be our Teen Writers' Group, followed by Board Game Night on Thursday, then Anime Club on Saturday, January 8th at 1 pm.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

4 out of 5 stars

A quick read that will appeal to reluctant readers, historical buffs, fans of war and suspense novels, and fans of Gary Paulsen's other books.

The year is 1776, in west Pennsylvania, Samuel is 13, but already providing for his family through his hunting skills. British troops attack his town, and kidnap his parents, and Samuel is determined to fin them. Paulsen gives us short historical asides between chapters which help flesh out the context for the reader. It's a harsh war book, more about a family caught in middle of a conflict than about the high ideals of the revolution.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In order to spice up this blog, I thought I'd paste some of my good reads page reviews here. Keep in mind, these opinions are mine alone!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Went back and forth on whether to go 3 or 4 stars with this, finally changed my mind back to three.  It's a pretty horrifying book, with some interesting questions...but I think it went a bit in the wrong direction from the start.  
In short: Trying to attach it to abortion hurt the book.  It was unnecessary.  My opinion, but let me explain:

So a war between anti-abortion and pro-abortion forces breaks out, and the resolution is that a child is protected until they are 13.  From 13-18, parents have the option to "Unwind" their child. The child is still "alive," just distributed amongst those in need of organs and body parts. This is largely accepted and on top of it, all major religious organizations have apparently bought into it wholeheartedly, endorsing church members to "tithe" excess children.  As a side plot: Mothers with unwanted children can "stork" unwanted babies in rather 'quaint' fashion: leave a child at a family's door step. If you don't get caught, it's legally theirs.  Our story focuses on three children who are set up to be unwound for different reasons, and their attempt to escape.

Creepy premise, and I don't find the idea of parents donating their teens organs as implausible as some.  History is loaded with human and child sacrifice after all.  And teens in our country frankly exist in a rather ambiguous legal limbo at times.  And the fact that many children are "storked" on other parents adds to the tendency for parents to think "It's not my kid anyway."

The problem is that as a resolution to an abortion war it doesn't make much sense. Almost all those against abortion believe in a human soul, and aren't going to find the pseudo-zen, materialistic logic that defines life as simply organic material, so dividing the child means you don't have to 'die.'  And on the pro abortion side, well, having to raise the child until 13 kindof defeats the purpose of abortion in the first place I suspect.  I understand it's not meant to be a 'good' compromise, and is meant to be a desperate attempt to end a war, but it bugs me a lot.  

Plus it leads me to ask uncomfortable questions about the book.  The author actually tries to be neutral in the debate, but I'll just ask this: At one point, when debating the war, a kid, as a kind of "last word in the argument" (where characters go back and forth for awhile, until one character says some profound one sentence phrase which seems to be the best, last word), states that if more people had been willing to say "I don't know"; in the abortion debate, the war might not have happened.  Interesting point...but would the kids about to be unwound say the same thing about the unwinding debate?  The practice of unwinding is just as accepted in their day as abortion is in our society.  

Alright, all that said, once the background of the war starts to fade in the latter half of the book, I found this nagging complaint to fade a bit and actually got drawn into the book.  There's good characterization here, I like the picture of a kid finding out behind his parents back that they've signed him up to be unwound, then getting revenge by being excessively nice to them.  The book grabs onto a fear of alienation teens have from the adult world, as if all the dirty looks they get for hanging out at the mall hide a secret wish that they could just go away.  And the implications of a society where organs are so easily available to be taken and shared is delved into.  So I'm not saying this a bad story.  And it is certainly very, very creepy, cringe worthy at times, especially if the idea of having your body taken apart pushes your buttons.

I'll add that some scenes will almost certainly be too intense for younger or just plain sensitive readers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Upcoming Teen Events

Upcoming @ the Teen Scene:

12/9 Movie: Prince Caspian (PG) 5-8 pm
12/11 Teen Anime Club 1-3 pm
12/16 Teen Game Night 6-8
12/23 Make Christmas Cookies 6-8
12/24-26 Library Closed.