Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tara's Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

In this post-apocalyptic adventure, Saba must journey across a desolate wasteland to rescue her twin brother, Lugh. The twins and their little sister have grown up in Silverlake and don’t know anything else of the world, but once their Pa is killed and Lugh is kidnapped by a group of mysterious men, Saba must gather every ounce of courage to find him before it’s too late. However, nothing is ever that straightforward in Saba’s world. She finds herself captured and forced to become a cage fighter, having to plot her escape while worrying about the fate of her siblings and dealing with her attraction to a new fighter named Jake. While the story may seem all over the place at first, once the eerie, lawless world is fully established it becomes easier to understand Saba’s motivations and root for her. She discovers unknown reserves of strength and aggression (which she calls “the red hot”), unearths her hidden affection for her annoying little sister, and becomes a figurehead for a much larger revolution that gathers more followers—all fascinating and multilayered characters—as the story progresses. Once the plot gets moving, this book becomes hard to put it down, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Saba and her motley crew as they travel across the desert and join forces to save Lugh and take down a corrupt government. This book is written in Saba’s uneducated dialect, and reminds me of Todd, the narrator of Patrick Ness’ Knife of Never Letting Go; the beauty of many of this book’s sentences also recalls that series. If you loved the Chaos Walking trilogy, are looking for a great novel about strong women, or can appreciate stories set in a bleak future, give this book a shot!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heather's Book Review: Beanball by Gene Fehler

My father plays baseball. This was never really a cause for terror until a gorilla-sized powerhouse of a batter hit one of his pitches with home-run caliber strength. It should have gone over the fence. Instead it went straight into my father’s face, crushing his cheekbone into irreparable shards and rendering him a bruised, swollen-faced version of himself that I was convinced looked like Russell Crowe.

There is a happy end to this story. He now has a metal plate in his face that allows him to sense when tornadoes are nearby. I was also able to use his x-rays to get some extra credit in high school anatomy. And he still plays baseball, even though mom has forbidden him from pitching ‘til death do they part (but he still does it when she’s not looking).

The point of all this is that, when I read the back cover of Beanball, I knew that this novel had a story I could relate to.

Beanball by Gene Fehler is a novel-in-verse, which means that it’s a story made up of poems, which means that you can finish it in one-eighth the time it would take you to read a regular novel because poems do not take up that much page space. Don’t let a sissy word like “poem” keep you from reading it, though. Beanball is not a sissy poetry book. It lets you know because there’s a big ol’ splatter of blood on the front cover.

This blood belongs to Luke “Wizard” Wallace, a superstar player for the Oak Grove High School baseball team. Everyone who has seen him play, fans and opponents alike, realizes that he’s a pro player in the making. Until one fatefully powerful pitch shatters his face.

Beanball is a painful story. It’s the story of a teen on a path to greatness who finds it absolutely derailed. It is more than the story of Luke, however; it is also the story of the community that surrounds him. This book reads less like a book of poetry, more like a poem-play hybrid, as each poem tells the story from a different character’s perspective. Readers hear not only from Luke, but from his best friend, his coach, the coach of the opposing team, the pitcher who threw the tragic pitch, his fellow schoolmates, and even seemingly unconnected spectators in the crowd, such as that old guy who shows up to every high school game not because he has a grandkid playing but because he just loves the sport. You probably know one, or at least know of one. This large and varied cast is one of the things that makes Beanball such a great story. It jerks readers’ emotions around. Our stomachs leap to our throats when Luke is actually hit (Fehler’s descriptions, while not gory, are quite visceral). We cry for him (or at least get a strong sinking feeling) when we learn that he might lose sight in one eye. We want to rail against the classmates who are sympathetic at first, but then lose interest when they simply get bored with his plight. But we also want to cheer, because though Luke’s suffering brings out the worst in some of the characters, it also brings out the best in others—but not in a saccharine, Hallmark-y way. I can see this story happening in real life, exactly as it’s portrayed in the novel.

Another good thing about this novel is that, though it is a novel in poems, you don’t need to know Special Poem Language to be able to make sense of it. Each poem reads like a little nugget of prose simply given a funny format, which renders it quite easy to read.

I’m not an avid reader of sports books. Beanball, however, I enjoyed immensely, and would recommend to anyone interested in sports, drama, or simply a moving, short read.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Introducing Bronwyn!

Bronwyn is the new teen assistant at the Headquarters Library. Learn more about her here, and don't forget to stop by the Teen Room and say hi!

Hometown: Greer, SC

Then what: After high school,  I went to USC Upstate and got my B.A. in English. Next fall, I plan to start working on my MLIS from USC. I have worked at HQ since Winter 2009 as a page and a clerk.

Family: I live with my parents and my 17 year-old sister.

Hobbies: In my free time, I enjoy reading, doing pilates, and doing crafts such as jewelry making, cross stitching, and making things pretty!

Favorite Quote: “There is nothing that makes its way more directly into the soul than beauty” -Joseph Addison

Favorite Teen Books: The Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, anything by Ann Rinaldi.

Favorite Non-Teen books: Pride and Prejudice, The Secret Garden, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Enola Holmes mysteries

Recently read: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark, Victorian Pharmacy