Smackdown Books 2019

Piecing Me Together
We Are Okay
Hello, Universe
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
The Marrow Thieves
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
The Poet X
Children of Blood and Bone
Far from the Tree
Long Way Down
The Goat
Amina's Voice
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess
The First Rule of Punk
24 Hours in Nowhere
The Astonishing Color of After
Obsessed: : A Memoir of My Life with OCD
Train I Ride

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Okay, I must admit that neither of these novels would be ones that I would personally pick up off the shelf, but I'm still glad I had the opportunity to read them. I'm going to vote for A Conspiracy of Kings to continue on into the next round. I'm not sure if that means I have to read it again or if someone else has to read it...but maybe I'll get more out of it the second time if the former is the case. Happy reading, Mighty Smackdowners - isn't that what the holidays are for? Okay, so that and catching up on marking, and housework, and planning, and exercising, and life.....

A Conspiracy of Confusion

I must admit that I spent a lot of this book confused, and not just at the beginning. I thought I was just losing it until I researched the author and found out that A Conspiracy of Kings is actually the 4th (and last) in a series, so I hadn’t missed something along the way while I was reading, the narrator was simply referring to past happenings that I hadn’t had the opportunity to read about. Add to these missing pieces of the puzzle that fact that some of the major characters have three different names (their name, a nickname, their title, and the fact that they can just be called by the name of their country/state – “Hey, Canada, how’s life today?” and therefore prior ruling relatives have the same name). There is a list of “Some Persons of Greater and Lesser Consequence” in the back of the book; however, it would have been helpful to have it in the front of the book so the reader would know it was there to refer to in times of need.
Another problem was that the point of view shifts at times. The novel begins with a 3rd person prologue and then shifts to a first person narration addressing the reader as you (as in “but you already know this...”), but it’s not really the reader, of course, it’s some other person in the novel that we figure out much, much later - if we are on top of things and thinking! I had to reread the place where the switch and identification takes place three times to ensure that I was getting it right...partly because as a reader of the 4th instalment, I was unaware of this couple’s previous relationship.
Another thing that bothered me was the fact that the first person narrator is initially portrayed as this huge family disappointment – he’s all into reading poetry and philosophy and isn’t much into learning battle strategies or fighting skills, flinches at loud noises, and avoids “any situation that might require a physical effort.” However, when he is captured and becomes a slave, he easily falls into the work routine and goes on to save the day in many and various physical and intellectual ways, showing a very mature understanding of military strategy and battlefield psychology which seems, to me, far beyond his years and experience.
I also would have really appreciated a map so that I could keep clear in my head all the different countries and their rulers and the regions which they controlled and fought over continually so that I could trace the movements of the characters throughout the novel (and in the past).
So, what’s my verdict? I’m not in any rush to run out and read the previous three novels, The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia, but I did find that I was reading with some degree of pleasure and curiosity the majority of the time. I don’t really appreciate political manoeuvres or battle scenes, and there were lots of these. On the other hand, the female characters were strong and even got to rule some countries. I think there is a lot here that a competent (probably male) reader would appreciate – espionage, trickery, battles, and male friendship; and the author has certainly created a believable (if convoluted) setting with societal mores, ancient mythologies, and histories. I certainly appreciate the effort and imagination that Megan Whalen Turner has obviously invested in creating this imaginary yet plausible world, and I think that the book is a great escape from real life without all the trappings and suspension of disbelief required of fantasy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Split vs. Stupid Fast

Stupid Fast got stupid fast!!
Stupid Fast tells the story of Felton and his dysfunctional family.  His father committed suicide when Felton was 5, and his hippy mother is just now beginning to fall apart.  Felton is growing fast and becoming athletic, and his sudden likeness to his dead father is the undoing of his mother.
Stupid Fast seems like a book intended to engage junior high boys.  It probably would have succeeded if there had been more humour, more action and more story!!  Some boys might like the book, but it's not one that we would recommend often.
On the other hand Split was immediately engaging.  It's the story of Jace, a 16 year old who escapes from his abusive father and goes to stay with his older brother Chris, who escaped years earlier. Jace and Chris have to come to terms with their new situation, the idea of leaving their mother behind, and Jace's worry that he might be just like his father. The story is suspenseful and has some dark spots, and is able to keep the reader's attention throughout.
Guess which one we chose as the winner??
Believe it or not, we completely agreed that Split is the winner!!
Barb and Mona

Saturday, December 10, 2011

YOU WISH - done

Okay, so I finished YOU WISH. Not bad, I guess, if that’s your thing....pretty predictable: Girl who doesn’t fit in; divorced absent dad, so angst over that; mother who ignores her; friend who is changing to fit in with the “in” girls; secret crush on BFF’s guy. The unpredictable parts come with the wishes of her younger self’s birthdays coming true – which involve My Little Pony, Raggedy Ann, and Ken (as in Ken ‘n Barbie) making an appearance...literally. One must be able to suspend one’s element of disbelief....on the other hand, I WISH was sort of a fun read – as in there were some funny parts, some of the protagonist’s feelings are realistic (who hasn’t wished for bigger boobs at one point in their younger years?), and nothing really depressing happens, so it’s a nice escape. She realizes in the end that her younger self had more fun, felt freer to express herself, and was maybe nicer. But there’s no going back, kiddo. Well, only in your dreams, or with birthday wishes, I suppose. I simply do NOT get the compulsion in Chicklit to endlessly describe every character’s wardrobe change, however. Oh, and the author knocked this off in 3 months...I guess once you have a basic formula... I have a feeling I know which one will be advancing, but I won’t jump the gun.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Guantanamo Boy vs. Jack Tumor

We've read our picks and the vote is in... Guantanamo Boy moves on! Here are the summations:

"Jack Tumor" by Anthony McGowan
"Jack Tumor" is an entertaining read with lots of potty humor and a decidedly British flair. It is a story about a boy named Hector who has an animated tumor in his head that talks to him incessantly. He goes through his adolescent life as a nerd and the tumor just adds to his angst, often contradicting him and pushing him in different directions. Hector is a sympathetic character and we genuinely want things to work out for him.
Though it is a fun read, the story gets lost frequently in the nonsense ramblings and left-field musings of the author (who uses Hector as a vehicle for this). Hector wonders about everything and has to tell us about it all. In many ways, the details are overdone. Every friend of the protagonist has a nickname and we are told the background story of each. We are similed to pieces "as if..." or "like a..." over and over again. And there are a few too many references to buttholes and farts and genitalia even for junior high kids.
In short, humor is good, but it should not interfere with the telling of the story.

"Guantanamo Boy" by Anna Perera
Khalid is an English high school boy who goes on a trip to Karachi, Pakistan with his family to see some relatives. While he is there, his dad goes missing and Khalid tries unsuccessfully to track him down. Things go from bad to worse as Khalid is abducted and thrown into a whirlwind of interrogation and abuse.
"Guantanamo Boy" is a thoughtfully written story with a genuine protagonist and supporting cast. The narration is in present tense, making every turn feel a little more tense and pressing. It begs all kinds of moral questions and points out injustice without lecturing. For mature students, this novel could prove to be an excellent gateway to current events and ethics debates.
Overall, "Guantanamo Boy" takes the Smackdown win over its rival, "Jack Tumor."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

YOU WISH...I wish

Hmm, not sure if I should post here under the book or up above, but this seems to make sense. My first thought upon receiving this book at the meeting was I WISH I didn't have to read this book. I mean, it is all PINK! The cover is PINK, the title font is PINK, there is a PINK wrapperthingy on the cupcake and it has a PINK candle on it. At least the pony on top of the cupcake is brown. I like brown. I like ponies. But in the book the pony IS actually PINK. I have never yet made it through the very few YA Chick Lit selections I have attempted...but I'll force myself through this one. I promise....or I'll be PINK with embarrassment.

Monday, December 5, 2011

As my Aunt would say - We're cooking with gas!

Thanks to whoever helped us get the draw up on the site - go technology! It was great to see everyone at the meeting and hopefully you will all soon be blogging. Arlene has already tried to choke me to get hold of one of our books - The Mostly True Story of Jack. I'm a third of the way in and it is awesome - this one will sell itself after kids read the opening page.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Smackdown Update

Click here to view a larger version of this image.

We will read to the end at which time we will select one winning Smackdown title!

Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out on Wednesday. For those who where not able to make it, your books were put in truck mail and if you don't have them already, you should early this week.

Links to each author website, or interview or publisher page if there was no author website, are all on the bottom left. There is also one post per book, hopefully with a trailer but also to excerpts, interviews or other goodies if there was no trailer. Share email invitations will go out Monday.

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

Interview at My Vamp Fiction

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard

Interview with Mandy Hubbard

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

The Freak Observer By Blythe Woolston

Jack Tumor by Anthony McGowan

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan

Read an excerpt at

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Check out the playlist for Revolution.

Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

Where did DDoHH come from?

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Shine by Lauren Myracle

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Q & A at Publishers Weekly

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hello all, I'm still experimenting. Can anyone tell me which book featured a child with autism? I thought it was Sign Language, but when I read the preview on line, I was wrong. We have an Interactions Program here at Allendale, and we are always looking for books which will help our students understand autism a bit better. Thanks.