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

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Million Shades of Gray vs. The Ghost and the Goth

When I first saw my books I have to admit I was looking forward to reading one much more than the other. A book set during the Vietnam War with a child elephant trainer seemed much more up my alley then one about ghosts and goths reviewed by writers of vampire books -- as shocking as it may be, I have not even read the Twilight books because I do not like vampires or that genre of writing.

A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata

The story begins with a young boy, Y’Tin, watching his mentor work with elephants. He wants to become a trainer one day, and takes every opportunity to be with the animals. Y’Tin soon becomes one of the best trainers in the village and much to his mother’s dismay, would rather be with the animals than in school. As the story progresses, we learn that Y’Tin’s father had been helping the American troops during the Vietnam war assuming they would provide protection for the village. As the war continues, the American troops pull out, and Y’Tin’s village is soon under attack. They are forced into the jungle, although Y’Tin and some others are captured before they can escape.

The story continues with the devastation and destruction that Y’Tin sees in his village and he must complete some terrible tasks before he eventually escapes and is reunited with his villagers and the elephants. Y’Tin continues to work with Lady, his special elephant, and must make some difficult decisions regarding her future. Throughout his ordeal, as a captive during the war and trying to survive in the jungle, he is forced to think about who his real friends are, and what is important to him.
Although I felt the book had a lot of potential with the story line, the plot was underdeveloped and quite dull. It took a long time to get into the book and I kept waiting for something exciting to happen. If I was a junior high student, I probably would have stopped reading it long before the end. The book could allow for some interesting discussion with students, but there are others that are much more interesting and engaging that provide the same thoughts.

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

I was pleasantly surprised by this book and thoroughly enjoyed The Ghost and the Goth.

As the story begins we learn that Alona Dare, the queen bee of the school, has died in a tragic accident and is learning that she is now a ghost. As her so called “friends” move on from her death with very little disruption to their lives, she quickly begins to realize that her life was extremely shallow and she did not accomplish anything worthwhile. Ghost Alona begins to fade and disappear and soon realizes that she must do something meaningful before she disappears for ever.

Enter Will Killan, a senior in high school who is known as the freak and nicknamed “Will Kill.” Will detests school and just wants to make it a few more weeks so he can graduate and leave forever. We soon learn that Will is able to communicate with the dead and is able to see and talk to Alona as well as many other ghosts with interesting personalities found throughout the school. This inherited ability from his father (who committed suicide because of it) is a curse to Will because everyone around him thinks he is crazy and should be committed to an institution. Will and Alona soon realize that they are able to help each other do things they never would have been able to on their own.

This book is a smart and engaging read as it is told from first person point of view alternating from Alona then Will’s perspective. It touches on many of the stereotypes found in schools between the “cool kids” and the “uncool kids” and we realize that no ones lives are truly as they seem. With attacking ghosts, realistic views of high school, a lot of humor, and a touch of romance, this book would appeal to both girls and guys and has something in it that everyone would be able to relate to and enjoy. There is a sequel to be released later this year and I look forward to reading it.

The Ghost and the Goth is definitely the winner to advance to the next round.

1 comment:

  1. From Jennifer:

    The Ghost and the the Goth was awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic storytelling. I had a grade 8 girl read it as well and she couldn’t put it down. She had it finished in less that 24 hours.. Her only comment was that the book was cool, and she liked the title and the book cover art. It got me to thinking that is something we forget about with novels. The initial connection is made through a title or cover before the reading can even begin. This books scores well on both accounts.

    The other book, “Shades of Grey”, did not live up to its potential. Unfortunately it plodded along like the elephant on the cover. I had a hard slog reading it, I’m sure a younger reader would just give up and move on to something else. Too bad….the idea of a teen in South Vietnam during the war years intrigued me, but the story did not deliver.