Something to mull over...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Memory Thief by Bryce Moore

I was provided a review copy by Adaptive Studios through Edelweiss, and since my pre-teens and I enjoy reading MG fiction together, I gladly agreed to share my thoughts.

First of all, this book does not shy away from describing the brutal impact of divorce on young children.  The arguments and yelling that the main character clearly overhears from his parents are shared as an everyday occurrence in their household, including the parents’ discussion on divorce proceedings.  The main character (Ben) and his twin sister also reference other divorces that they have known about from their classmates.  So, while the offer of the “memory artist” would have been an excellent springboard for a fantastical MG adventure, Ben chooses instead to request that his parents’ memories be altered with the hope of preventing a divorce.

Wow, that alone squeezed my heart and elevated my respect for middle grade kids.  They are more emotionally mature than we give them credit for.  I know that teens in general are egocentric by nature, but so are we as adults, especially if we refuse to work things out within a difficult marriage.

Of course things go downhill pretty fast.  That’s what happens when we mask the truth, or when we build upon a lie.  Stealing memories is basically laying a foundation of untruth.  But this is what made the story crazy entertaining and stressful at the same time.  Things got really sticky and complicated, and it took a lot of storytelling talent and maturity for the author to keep everything tied together and sensible.  The story ends with a satisfying ending.

Honestly, I previously thought that nothing can beat the concept of a pensieve (Dumbledore’s version of a basin to store random thoughts and memories).  However, the prospect of trading, bartering, loaning, or exchanging memories among various people kind of trumps the pensieve.  The storage place doesn’t have to be an object, it can be other people’s minds!  Of course, a disaster will ensue, but the concept is fascinating and intriguing.

This was a great read that can be enjoyed as a family.  It provided for a meaningful discussion afterwards.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Shooter by Caroline Pignat

Teens being their usual narcissistic selves

The author did a great job at assembling a diverse cast of high school students who couldn’t be more different from each other.  Despite their social and personality differences, the cast was forced to interact with each other in a confined space due to a shooting threat-related lockdown enforced on the entire school.  Through their constipated conversations, the teens end up realizing, in each of their own ways, how they have all been too insecure, selfish, and preoccupied with themselves and along the way, denied the formation of authentic friendships which crossed boundaries set by cliques.  As you may have guessed, this shared traumatic experience allowed them to reveal more of themselves to each other — something that wouldn’t have been possible under normal circumstances.  Amongst this small circle of students lay the key to deflecting the plot of the school shooter.  The story revolves around their discovery of each other, and how, together, they were able to change the destiny of their school, their classmates and their teachers.

I enjoyed this story.  Great beginning, slow middle (around the 30-60% mark), with an action-packed and positively charged ending.  I received a review copy from NetGalley.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Meeting of the Mustangs by Cathy Kennedy

This is a beautifully written story – in a classic, traditional storytelling style.  The story focuses on a certain black colt and his fellow horses.  They are the main characters in this story, and they are portrayed to have the same thoughts, emotions and senses that we have.  The descriptions of the various settings are vivid and colorful, and they allow the reader to literally feel the ambiance and stand alongside the colt.

The author wrote this while still in grade school and her imagination really shines through.  This is the kind of book that I would highly recommend be included as part of required reading – for both homeschooled and regular-schooled kids.  I would love to have short story writing to be brought back as part of Language Arts.  Meeting of the Mustangs would be a stellar example of one excellently written fictional story.

My primary and middle school kids definitely felt the obvious difference between this book and the current fantasy books that proliferate our local bookstore.  They said this reminds them of the classics they read in the past – Lassie, Moby Dick, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion and even the Little House books.

Since this is more of a “life” story of the colt, there isn’t exactly a traditional plot, nor the usual climax and resolution of an adventure book.  In that regard, this may also not be to everybody’s taste.  

I received a review copy of this book.