Sunday, June 14, 2009

TSS: Catching Up on Young Adult

Title: Remembrance
Author: Theresa Breslin
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pages: 296
Published: 2002
Date Finished: 3 May 2009
My Rating: 3 Stars
Challenges: 100+ RYOB, Young Adult, New Author

This novel explores the lives of 5 young people living in Scotland during WWI and the course their lives take due to the war.
I had a difficult time getting into this book and feeling really engaged with the characters. Not only were the characters often a little one sided and stereotypical but the author would develop story lines for some characters and then abandon them pretty much altogether to tell another character's story with out every really giving us more about the old characters. I wanted more!
John Malcom is the eager and excited young man who can't wait to sign up and go fight in the war. Francis is the ardent pacifist and Alex is the younger brother hopelessly wishing that he were older so he could enlist.
Charlotte is the rich girl who proves she is tougher and more thick skinned than everyone thought and Maggie is the shop girl with an agenda for women's rights and equality.
Although the set up of the characters seemed false and too stereotypical at times, I did find myself getting more drawn into the story. I just ended the book wishing that there had been more character development and that some of the story lines would have been explored more.
If you enjoy YA and or historical fiction set in WWI there is a good chance you will enjoy this novel.

Title: The Rain Catchers
Author: Jean Thesman
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 182
Published: 1991
Date Finished: 10 May 2009
My Rating: 3 Stars
Challenges: 100+, RYOB, Young Adult

I don't remember exactly when I first read a novel by Jean Thesman. I know I was probably a late tween or early teen. It was around the time when I had started wondering from the kids section of the library into the YA. This will probably sound funny but I used to look for books by authors who had the same last name as I did. It was not a very common name and I always thought it would be cool to find an author with the same last name as me. It was kind of a compulsive habit that I had for awhile every time I went to a bookstore or library. So there I was browsing the Ts in the YA section when I found Jean Thesman. Not my last name, but her books looked good and as it turned out, they were. I quickly read through all of her books that my library had.
I loved Jean Thesman's books and wanted to write stories like hers with heroines like Grayling from The Rain Catchers or Molly from Molly Donnelly. I just couldn't get enough of her characters or her stories.
So, now after that walk down memory lane, I guess I should tell you a little about this book.
Grayling lives in a house of storytellers. Every day at tea time the women of the house gather together to tell their stories, each one with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Sometimes they tell Grayling's story, except her story does not have an end. "I am like a book that was lost before the reader could finish it." (10) Grayling does not know what happened to her mother the night she showed up at home muddy, with her car missing. She does not know why her mother left her in Seattle with her Grandmother and moved to San Francisco to start a new life for herself. Grayling wants her story to have an ending.
Throw in the cute boy who is painting the house and the family drama of her best friend Colleen and you get yourself a pretty good novel.
A simply told coming of age story that tackles some controversial social issues. To be completely honest, if this was the first time I'd read this book or a book by Jean Thesman, I don't think I would have been as wrapped up in as I was when I was younger but it was nice to re-visit this old favorite.

Title: A Drowned Maiden's Hair
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Genre: Juvenile
Pages: 389
Published: 2006
Date Finished: 31 May 2009
My Rating: 5 Stars

Challenges: Library, Seconds, 100+, What's in a Name?

Orphan stories have been done a lot, right? Especially orphan stories about girls. We've all read some of them and many of them are considered classics. So what could Laura Amy Schlitz hope to add to the scores of books about orphan girls by writing one herself?
Well, I think I can pretty much guarantee that you've never read an orphan story quite like A Drowned Maiden's Hair.
Maud Flynn knows she is not the most well behaved, prettiest or smartest girl at the Barbary Asylum so even she is surprised when Hyacinth Hawthorne decides to adopt her. Maud is swept away from the orphanage by Hyacinth and her sister to start a brand new life where she will be pampered and cherished. Or so she thinks. Instead Maud is relegated to a third story room and not permitted to leave the house because for some reason no one is to know she is there. In time Maud begins to learn about the secret role she is to play in the sisters family business. Maud remains eager to please and goes along with her secret role in hopes that her dream of being pampered and cherished will come true.
I am just going to come right out and say that I think this is the best children's book I have read in a long time. A Drowned Maiden's Hair is a highly original, intelligent, and character driven story that does not leave the plot behind (my favorite kind of book.)
The characters and character development in this book were just perfect. Schlitz did not tell us about the characters so much as she had the characters tell us about themselves through their actions and words. The story is told through Maud's point of view but even when she can't or won't see the treachery and villainy of those around her, you as the reader are coming to some chilling realizations.
The pacing was perfect for a book that is almost 400 pages long. The story unfolded smoothly and steadily and never once slowed down or made me impatient in my reading.
Wonderful writing, complex characters, treachery and mystery. I highly recommend this book.

Whew! Now that I have written about those three books I've only got 4 more in my queue to write about. It feels nice to be getting caught up!


infiniteshelf said...

I had never heard of " A Drowned Maiden's Hair" before, but it sounds good! Just reading your review made me curious about Maud and her situation! I also love when the characters are complex - a great story can be ruined by characters who are two dimensionals.

Laura H said...

Man, I think I'm the only one the didnt like Drowned Maiden. I must have not been in the mood because I finally gave up and stopped the book. I know I'm in the minority on this one.