Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ally Condie's Crossed

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've been in quite the reading slump. I went through a streak of excellent books, unfortunately I read them back to back and didn't review the books as I should've. Call it bad luck or karma, but I've gone through several books that I was less than impressed with and it made me kinda depressed.  Does that happen to you?

In hopes of finding a captivating story, I put on my "sequel shoes" and went looking for something that I knew would give me my needed book fix.

What I found was Ally Condie's Crossed, which is the second installment of the Matched trilogy.

Cassie Reyes has left her family in search of Ky Markham, the Aberration that she loves and sent to the Outer Provinces in the first novel. She works in the villages, hoping to get closer to Ky. Condie's poetic writing style is captivating, and she's able to capture this young love in such a mature manner. Cassie and Ky are just kids, but they seem so much more mature and observant than most adults I know. In Cassie's journey, she learns of a rebellion against the Society and becomes eager to join.

I predict that this trilogy will follow a similar pattern of The Hunger Games. The only thing Matched has in common with THG is that they are both dystopian and lead to a rebellion.

If you choose to read the Matched trilogy, I recommend that you read the books in close succession.  Most authors take some time in the beginning of a novel to give you some background information, and therefore refresh your memory, but Condie doesn't. I read Matched about two years ago, and I spent a large amount of time trying to remember the plot of the previous book.

Will I read Reached? I suppose I will, but I'm going to save it for when I need to put on my "sequel shoes."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tatiana De Rosnay's Sarah's Key- Not for kids

This novel was at the book fair at my middle school campus, and I don't know why.

De Rosnay tells a story of the French roundup on July 16, 1942 at the Velodrome d'Hiver. The Vel' d'Hiv became known as one of the largest roundups of French Jews during the occupation. What's so horrific about it is that it was ran by French police, under German orders, and the Jews were treated so inhumanely.  The families were forced to stay in a large stadium for days without any food or water.  Then, they were all shipped to a holding camp. The parents were brutally separated from their children, and sent away to Auschwitz to die.  The children remained at Beaune-la-Rolande, until receiving orders to go to Auschwitz.

De Rosnay made it very clear that this novel is not to be interpreted as a historical fiction, but as a way to remember what happened to those thousands of innocent children. The author ties the past and the present together by telling the story from two perspectives: an American journalist living in Paris during 2002, and 10 year old Sarah who lived through the roundup.

The novel is a beautifully written and horrific story. I had difficulty keeping my emotions in control.  The novel stayed with me so much, that I would lie awake at night and think about my daughter and what would/couldn't do to save her.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Maggie O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox- Not for kids


Iris Lockhart has always believed that her grandmother, Kitty, was an only child.  Until Iris gets a call from Cauldstone psychiatric hospital, explaining that a woman named Esme Lennox is to be released. At first, Esme is in disbelief that she has a family member that she doesn't know about.

What I like about the novel is that O'Farrell tells the story from the perspective of three women: Esme, Iris, and Kitty. Iris is a single woman, and has two married men in love with her. Esme has been in an institution for 61 years, and is free for the first time. Kitty has Alzheimer's, and her memories come to her in patches. Through Esme and Kitty's memories, their story unfolds and family secrets are revealed.

What I didn't like about the novel is the way O'Farrell organized the plot line.  The story was not broken down into chapters or sections, it's just a long and continuous story without any stopping points. Also, the way that the author chooses to switch the characters' point of view is strange.  In one paragraph, you are reading a memory from Esme's point of view.  In the next, you are reading one of Kitty's patchy memories.  The only way one can tell the point of view is by the use of the character's names.

Another thing that makes the novel harder to follow is the need to infer all the major points of the story.  The author never comes out and clearly says why Esme was institutionalized, but you can infer that it's because Esme's parents were tired of her antics. Through the telling of the story there are hints at a diagnosis, like schizophrenia or personality disorder, but I don't think there's anything wrong with her. At most, my guess is that she has Asperger's Syndrome. The reason I think so is because of the emotional outbursts, not being able to interpret appropriate social behavior, and the meticulous counting and observations she makes throughout the novel.  By today's standards, that isn't a reason to have someone committed to a psychiatric institution.

Oh, and about Esme? What the heck! All that poor girl needed was someone to love her and appreciate her quirks. Instead, she is left alone in India for days with a nanny and a brother that died of typhoid disease. She was raped in the coat closet at a party, just before being committed. Did anyone even realize that Jamie hurt her? I wonder this because his parents sent him away, but through Kitty's memories you learn that she was jealous and still pining for him after Esme was sent away.

You also have to infer what Kitty took from Esme, and that's the big secret. Plus, I'm a little foggy on how the story ends.  I don't want to reveal too much but if you decide to read the novel, I'd like to know your thoughts.

Overall, I think that the story has a great story line and a ton of potential. I just didn't like how the novel was organized, and unfortunately we can't cater books to meet our needs.