Libri Dilectio: August 2010

31 August 2010

Book Review: Wicked Girls

Wicked Girls, Stephanie Hemphill
(Gr 7+)
Balzer & Bray June 2010. Reviewed from library book.

In 1692, in the town of Salem Massachusetts, a group of young girls became “afflicted” by witchcraft. The girls complained of being tormented by the women and men of their town, naming many innocent people as witches. Of those accused, 20 are put to death. This verse novel tells the story of the girls who accused their friends and neighbors. From the perspectives of three of the “afflicted girls” readers are taken on a journey of deception, manipulation, and desire for power that will have them seeing parallels in the modern world. 

I haven’t read that many verse novels, but I’ve noticed that they seem to pull me into the narrative faster than standard prose. I’m not sure if it’s because it reads like the way people actually think or if it’s just the beauty of the language that makes these books so compulsively readable. Wicked Girls is definitely this type of book.

Stephanie Hemphill chooses to focus on the group dynamics of the afflicted girls. This is not a supernatural book, it is a book about groupthink and how one strong minded person can effect the actions of many. It would be a great book to read with junior high or high school girls. While the novel is obviously historical fiction, I think some interesting parallels can be drawn to modern social groups.

The author does take a few liberties with characterization to make a better narrative, but I certainly can’t fault her for that. If you do some research into the afflicted girls, there’s very little information about them as people. All the information is about them as a group and mostly about the time when they saw witches. Several of them disappear from history after that. Hopefully this novel will inspire teens to further historical exploration!

Getting inside the girls’ heads was an interesting experience. Hemphill has really shown how different they all were – from their ages to their social statuses. They were brought together through a series of coincidences and a shared desire to be more than they were. I really felt for each girl in turn while also wanting to shake them and make them see what they were doing to their friends and neighbors.

This is a wonderfully descriptive, evocative novel that will capture the imaginations of teenage girls. I will be passing it along to several historical fiction and verse novel fans at my library. I highly recommend you make space in your TBR pile for this one, it will get under your skin!

17 August 2010

Itty Bitty Book Review: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama, Laura Amy Schlitz
(Gr 6-8)
Candlewick-September 2006. Reviewed from library book.

Maud Flynn is an orphan. Her life in the orphanage has not been a particularly happy one, but Maud isn’t one to mope about. She’s feisty and vivacious, a little too much for anyone to handle. When three elderly sisters come to adopt a child, everyone is surprised that they choose Maud, but the Misses Hawthorne see something special in her – something they can put to good use. The women need Maud to help them stage seances for grieving families. At first Maud is excited to be part of something, part of a family, but soon she starts to feel something is wrong about the Hawthorne sisters. Now she has to decide between the family she longs for and the reality of what she has become.

Review in 75 words or less:

Maud’s story is incredibly unique and the kind that will appeal to a broad range of readers. Kids will need to know what will happen next and whether or not Maud will take matters into her own hands. The secondary characters are just as intriguing as the primary characters. I was never sure how I felt about the sisters. Did they care about Maud at all or was she just a means to an end? (75)

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05 August 2010

Book Review: The Iron King

The Iron King, Julie Kagawa
(Gr 9+)
Harlequin Teen Feb 2010. Reviewed from library book.

Meghan Chase has always been inconsequential: people forget her moments after seeing her, if they notice her at all. Her own step-father seems to be hardly aware of her. She is hoping that things will start to change for her on her sixteenth birthday, the most romantic, important birthday a girl can have. Meghan’s is going to be about more than boys and driving cars though. On her birthday she finds out that her four year old brother has been kidnapped and switched for a faerie changeling. Just when it seems that she won’t be able to do anything to save him, her best friend Robbie tells her that he is actually the immortal fey, Robin Goodfellow/Puck. He offers to bring Meghan into the land of the fey to save her brother, but the adventure will be more dangerous and eye opening than she can imagine. 

First things first, this cover is gorgeous, Julie Kagawa hit the jackpot with this one. This is the type of cover that makes teens stop and pick up the book without knowing anything about it, well teens and grown up librarians! After seeing it on so many other blogs, I had to pick up a copy. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

This story really sucks the reader in. I found myself completely transported to the Nevernever with Kagawa’s lush descriptions. The Nevernever is really a character all to itself and, like all good protagonists, it’s equal parts good and evil, with lots of gray areas mixed in. I loved it.

I’ve read some criticisms of Meghan as a character, that she just follows along too much while the two male leads do all the work, but I have to say I disagree. I mean yes, she is a little bit of a reactionary character, but that made her more real for me. Meghan reads like a real, 100% normal girl who finds herself thrown into an adventure that she never wanted. I could relate to her because her reactions to things felt like how I’d react. With wide eyed, full blown terror and a little bit of wonder. Meghan’s character also develops a lot as she spends more time in the Nevernever, until she becomes just as strong as the male leads.

As soon as I finished this book, I had to run out and get the sequel, The Iron Daughter, which was just as good, if not better than this one! And with another super hot cover to boot. If you haven’t already checked out this series, do yourself a favor, turn off the computer and  GO GET IT! You won’t be sorry!

03 August 2010

Book Review: Dark Song

Dark Song, Gail Giles
(Gr 9+)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – September 2010. Review copy provided by publisher.

Ames has everything she’s ever wanted; private school, huge mansion, perfect, loving family. Until the day her father betrays her. He loses everything that matters and takes the family far away from their safe, comfortable home in Boulder, Colorado.

Now this once privileged family lives in a slum in Texas. Ames hates all of them for what they’ve done to her. All she wants is Marc. Marc, who just wants to protect her. Who tells her she’s beautiful, who is dark, violent, and dangerous.

This is the type of book that sucks a reader in from the first pages. Giles prose is tightly woven, no wasted words here. Ames is introduced to the reader as a sweet, innocent fifteen year old girl who loves her family with all her heart. She’s kind and gentle, but prone to fits of self destruction, that even she isn’t aware of. She views herself as just an innocent girl, completely ignoring the deeper darkness within herself. Readers will pick up on clues that Ames is not quite what she seems from the first chapters of the novel.

I was never certain what I felt for Ames’s parents. They seems so wonderful, but it turns out to be all on the surface. Once they’re put under strain, the cracks start to show and their perfect world shatters. The two people in her family who I loved were her grandmother and younger sister. These two characters serve as the voices of reason for Ames and, frequently, her parents. Her grandmother’s voice is full of wisdom and life experience, while her sister’s is the pure, innocent voice of a child.

This is a dark and twisty story that will pull readers in and leave them breathless. I found myself uncertain where Ames would end up and never knowing what she’d choose to do next. Even in the last pages of the book, I was still wondering what would happen. This is a book for those who want something to think about and will generate a lot of discussion among readers.

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