March 29, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A book about teenagers with cancer...not a very happy premise, but one you will want to read.  Hazel, a sixteen year old terminal cancer patient is forced by her mother to go to a support group meeting. One of the members, nearly blind Isaac, brings a friend, Augustus to a meeting. Hazel and Augustus discover each other, a friendship and romance ensues, and you can imagine the rest. The book doesn't disappoint. It will meet your expectations. But that is NOT why you should (or should not) decide to read this book.
Why should you read this book?  It is quite simply, beautifully written. Read this because John Green takes a plot that anyone can mostly predict, and makes it soar with language.  Read it and appreciate a well told story with rich, witty, and intelligent characters that you will relate to on many levels. Read it because it tackles many of life's questions. Read it because the book is so finely crafted, that even if its nuances are missed, it will be loved.
A good companion novel, is Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork. For mature readers because of mild sex and some strong language.
Reed Reads Score: 5

March 11, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

A nostalgic, semi-fictional account of a summer in Jack Gantos' childhood. Twelve-year-old Jack lives in small town Norvelt, Pennsylvania. During the summer of 1962, his grand plans of playing baseball and a carefree summer are dashed when he gets grounded for the entire summer for plowing down his mother's cornfield. Going stir crazy staying in his room, he jumps at the chance to get out when his mother tells him he has to help their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Volker, investigate deaths in the community and write their obituary. Their relationship grows over the summer, as the relationship becomes a bit symbiotic. Expect some humorous plot twists and events, but for me, the book was a bit of a bore. The pacing of the writing, and richness of the characters, doesn't come close to Gantos' Joey Pigza series. Clearly, others feel different, as this is the recipient of the 2012 Newbery Award. I'm sure some of you will enjoy the warm tone, and the gentle humor, but I can only recommend this to those of you who really enjoy nostalgic historical fiction.
Reed Reads Score: 3