Thursday, April 7, 2011
Round 3: Scrawl vs. The Demon's Lexicon
Yay, look at me, the first poster of Round 3! I'm supposed to be reading these and deciding the winner with the good folks over at Kenilworth (sp?), but they haven't posted yet, so I will put my opinion out there on which of these two novels needs to move forward.
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
As soon as I got this book through truck mail, I was already dreading reading it. Another book about fantastical creatures that don't really exist, but are supposed to kinda be normal teenagers like the ones we see every day? Yup. There is no end to the vampires, werewolves, fairies, demons,
shape-shifters, zombies, gods and goddesses, those who hunt them and those who love them, is there? Aren't there real people out there anymore that are worth writing about?
I used to enjoy this genre and its connections to the dark underworld and the occult. I even took a Vampire Literature course during my University days, where I had the chance to shred Twilight and get in heated arguments with fangirls over the merits of Buffy. At this point in the development of this fad, I think that enough is enough.
The Demon's Lexicon isn't about vampires (thankfully), but it is about magicians and teens marked by demons. If you can get past the absolutely wretched front cover, which seems like it combines the worst of Edward Cullen and an artsy, emo, 20-something, new version of the lone wolf t-shirt, this book is a good read. I won't go into too many plot details, because it has already been outlined by other bloggers, but there is still some originality here; some respectable characters (albeit the same cliched characters seen in many novels of this genre), and a very good OMG moment at the end of the novel that I didn't see coming.
Naturally this will be a series, which I have ranted about in a previous post. When it comes down to it, I think students who have not already become bored by this fantasy genre will enjoy this book, and probably want to read on as the rest of the trilogy is released. But I couldn't help getting the feeling as I read through this novel that we have seen all of this before, and will probably see it again before this sparkly, "Yes, I have the ancient mark of a demon, but I just want to be a normal teen!" trend nears its death rattle.
As negative as this review is, I must reiterate that the book is good. It is entertaining, and once you get past the slow beginning (at least I thought it was slow), you will be rewarded with where the novel leads the reader.
Scrawl by Mark Shulman
Ok, a book about regular people. No super powers here. Nobody is being chased by magicians. Scrawl was an interesting read, because for the first few chapters of the book, I thought it was about a bully being forced to write down all the bad things he had done. To atone for his deplorable behavior in detention under the watchful eye of a caring guidance councilor.
But Scrawl is more than that, and the reader sees this as they get to know the writer/main character, Tod. He may do some reprehensible things. He may be a thief and he may extort money from students in his school. But really, he has no clue who he is, and this comes across in his actions as he steps into various of the high school niches. He hangs out with other bullies. He is a petty criminal. Yet he enters a spelling bee. He makes sure he is never late for his English class. He always shows up to detention and doesn't protest too much when he is required to write every day after school. He interacts with artists, and the AV club, and the drama kids. He knows how to hem a skirt.
What I liked about Tod is that he is a realistic character. He is a teenager. He really has no clue what he is all about yet. The identity he has created for himself is not how others view him. The notebook he is forced to write in helps him see himself in a different light. What he will do with that is up to him, as well up to the mind of the reader (because thankfully this isn't a series!).
This novel is not really plot driven, but it provides an honest high school voice, one that I feel many students could relate to. I felt that this book really did provide some insight into how a teenager perceives themselves compared to what others think about them, and the constant struggle and amount of thought that goes into the creation, manipulation and maintenance of identity.
And my winner is...
It has to be Scrawl. I tried my best to put aside my prejudices against the genre of The Demon's Lexicon when choosing which one to advance. When all is said and done, in my opinion, Scrawl is just a better book. I think it is good for a wide range of ages and reading abilities, and amidst all the teens who sparkle and fight were-monkeys in the night, there is a real character here that teens can understand, and maybe even learn from.