Thursday, February 23, 2012

Holy Moly- No Wonder It Won Two Top Awards! Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Despite the fact that the picture of the author looks like he could have been my student a few years ago...this was an incredible read. I need to go back and reread it immediately. I knew it would be all over our Book Awards talk next year, so I had to read the novel that won BOTH the Printz and the Morris Award this year.

The layers, oh the layers! I love layers in a novel. First, we have the religious aspect, which I found fascinating. The Gabriels and the Lazaruses (Lazari???:), and the Book of Enoch- which I'd never even heard of before? Not to sound like a religious scholar, but I guess I'm not up on my Gnostic Gospels and other sundry books left out of the Christian bible. I loved the threads of redemption, resurrection (of things and people) and obsession where Cabot and Benton were concerned.

I'm having difficulty doing this in a linear fashion because I want to talk about the layers. The other layer I loved was all of the different forms of love in the novel: friendship love, family love, brotherly love, romantic love and neighborly love. The ties between Cullen, Gabriel and Lucas really tugged at my heartstrings, hoping beyond hope that Gabriel would be found/rescued before the end of the novel.

Additionally, the whole idea of "things coming back" both physically and spiritually really hit home with me. So many of the characters tried so desperately to get out of Lily, Arkansas, only to be brought back by a variety of circumstances, like an endless boomerang being flung from the town's limits. But, I guess I am still wondering at the end if Gabriel really made it back or it was part of Cullen's 3rd person narration at work in his own mind. The book's website made me think it was a real return, but that kind of spoils the discussion I would want to have with students. There is evidence for both sides.

So much more here, but I will keep it at that. This will fly off of the shelves. Can't wait to book talk it on Monday.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I am certain I can't tell you why it took me so long to get this done. Aside from the daily busyness of life, I think I just wanted to savor this book. And, the reading of it did just that. Like a long and meandering river, Bitterblue took me on a winding journey that wasn't full of swashbuckling action and wars, but rather a slow and deliberate look at a young queen trying to make sense of her past and, thus, her present.

This novel is actually referred to as the sequel to Graceling and Fire as the companion novel. It starts six years after Graceling ends, when Bitterblue (Leck and Ashen's daughter, who Katsa rescued in the first novel) is now 18 and ruling the kingdom of Monsea. She is still surrounded by advisors who "tended" to Leck and is trying to make sense of why her kingdom is so illiterate. Her innocent attempt at an answer leads her into an entire novel's worth of intrigue, culminating in a wonderful climax of trust and betrayal.

As always, Cashore creates a beautifully drawn, strong female character who learns about herself and the cruel hard truth of the world around her. The change, however, in Bitterblue as compared to Katsa is almost incomparable, for Bitterblue starts with much more innocence than Katsa ever did. Therefore, with each discovery of truth about her evil father and her kingdom, Bitterblue transforms even more into the gracious and powerful queen we know she can become. Without spoiling anything, the way Cashore has woven the characters from her past novels into this one is uplifting beyond belief.

And, now, I will throw this ARC to the wolves. That soon as students saw me reading this ARC, they started their own instantaneous list of who would receive it next based on how much they loved Graceling. I shall "grace" my shelves with many copies of this hardcover. No pun intended.