Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hothouse vs. The Perfect Shot

Hothouse by Chris Lynch

"First they needed heroes, then they needed blood."

I was pretty interested in this book from the get-go, as I had heard some good things about the author before reading any of his work. Plus, the jacket description was intriguing. I can be a sucker for a good blurb.

Hothouse tells the story of Russ, a teenage boy whose father has recently passed away, along with the father of his oldest friend that lives across the street. The men were firefighters, and they died trying to save a woman in a blaze. Firefighting was in their blood, and this was passed down to Russ. All he had ever wanted was to fight fires like his father. To make his dad proud. To save lives. To be a hero, like his father.

After the tragic deaths, the kids of the firemen are treated like celebrities around their small town. Their money is no longer good anywhere, they are told several times a day that their old
men were great people, and heroes the town would never forget. Russ was not sure how to deal with his "fame" while dealing with the loss of his father. Complications and facts regarding the actual rescue start to come to light when the investigation by the FD is complete, and Russ must step back and look at his father to see who he really was.

Without providing any spoilers, the book raises questions about the nature of heroism, as well as the idea of raising heroes only to destroy them. I think the ideas of this book are great, but it was hard to buy into the story itself. I don't believe that the characters were developed as well as they could have been. Russ comes across as excessively naive, refusing to open his eyes to the truth, which makes it hard to sympathize with the character. Without sympathy in a novel centered around a tragic loss, it was difficult for me to become engrossed in the narrative.

The Perfect Shot by Elaine Marie Alphin

It is difficult to briefly encapsulate what The Perfect Shot is about. It is about basketball, friendship, racism, stereotypes, murder, justice, truth, loss, love, teamwork and determination.

Brian's girlfriend was murdered, and her father became the main suspect. Coping with this loss, Brian must move forward with life as a leader on his tight-knit basketball team. A school project forces him to examine the flaws of the justice system and uncover the truth about his own judgments of those around him, while raising new issues in his girlfriend's murder case. When his best friend is arrested for being the wrong colour in the wrong part of town, Brian sees the injustice in the world, and in the system, and knows that he is responsible for doing what is right.

The Perfect Shot is a very strong novel. It is deeply layered with no shortage of action, suspense, strong characters or sports. Basketball is pretty much the only sport that I am not a fan of, but the scenes written during the game flowed well and provided some tense moments. The deeper themes to the novel, however, are what make this book so good. The collision of an old case of an innocent man being convicted with the possibility of another innocent man being convicted for the death of his first love works extremely well. Brian learns from everything around him, and strives to do what is right. To get justice for his girlfriend. To get justice for her father. To do what is right for his family, his friends, his team, and to find his own inner peace with the events of his life to that point.

I found this novel to be engrossing and satisfying. I was more leery about it than Hothouse, but I think the complexity of it is what made it so much more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend The Perfect Shot as a novel for my students to read. I would say it would be perfect for Grade 9-12 students. Hothouse is aimed at a similar age group, but I just think the novel missed its mark in not being able to fully develop the strong ideas it starts out with.

Winner: The Perfect Shot


  1. I can't wait to read Perfect Shot! A Lynch book you've got to read is Inexcusable. That might be the one that hits all the high notes!

  2. I will definitely give Lynch another shot. Hothouse wasn't terrible by any stretch, I just didn't buy into the main kid at all. I'll put Inexcusable on my reading to-do list!

  3. Hi Andrew! I haven't read The Perfect Shot yet but I have it on hold from the library. However, what I did like about Hothouse was the use of a different font for the stories about Russ' Dad. I thought those stories also did a great job of revealing character, what did you think? I'm anxious to read The Perfect Shot now!

  4. Hey Annabel! I did think that the author was able to reveal things about the was the son that I felt was underdeveloped.