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

Monday, January 9, 2012

OK for Now vs. Prince of Mist

Well, this round was an easy pick for me. One book I absolutely loved, and the other one couldn't have been more lame.

OK FOR NOW - This novel is set in the 1960s and is told from the perspective of Doug, an 8th grader who moves to a small town with his timid mother, abusive father, and cruel older brother. He also has another brother (the oldest) who is away fighting in Vietnam. Each chapter begins with a painting of a bird by an artist called Audubon. The paintings intrigue Doug and are interwoven into the plot as symbolism for him and his experiences with other characters. OK for Now is funny, dramatic, tense, and light-hearted all at the same time. Doug encounters many struggles throughout the book but only grows stronger from each of them, and best of all, affects the other characters he comes into contact with in a positive way. My favorite aspect of the book is the author's ability to convey layers of meaning with few words, always alluding to some larger idea without coming right out and saying it (which was a MAJOR flaw of the other novel I read). The underlying idea of the story reminds me of a quote I heard once, which is, "Be kind to everyone you meet; you never know when someone is fighting a harder battle than you." It might sound sappy, but the book had a great message about overcoming adversity and other peoples' negativity when it comes to achieving one's own dreams and realizing potential. I don't think I've done it justice at all in my description, but this book just made me happy and I would whole-heartedly use it with my grade 7 or 8 students.

PRINCE OF MIST - This story is also set in the past, although this time it's 1943 (I think) and the Carver family is leaving town to escape the ravages of WW2. The father, a watchmaker, moves his family into this old house in a harbor town far away from the troubles of the war. However, the family soon encounters problems much worse in the form of an evil ghost statue/man/clown/fortune teller/fog monster (he changes forms) who has come to settle a bet that was made with him long ago. This book tries way to hard to be scary and comes across as a joke. As I mentioned with my other novel, everything is spelled out exactly how the reader is intended to interpret something, which gets annoying after a while. There are parts of the plot that are completely ignored as the story carries on. For example, the oldest sister, Alicia, is portrayed as a sullen, moody girl who apparently "has left more behind than anyone realizes" when their family has to move. Then, one day, the main character Max (her brother) invites her to go diving with his new friend and all of a sudden she is happy and personable. What happened to all of this baggage she supposedly had? Why was that even mentioned at least 3 times in the first two chapters and then totally forgotten? This book is just too contrived for me to like it. The horror parts weren't scary, the romance parts were awkward, and I couldn't wait for it to be over.

If I had to recommend a reading level, I would say junior high. It's hard to say if a younger audience would find this book scary or interesting. I think I have a pretty low threshold for horror, so if I thought it was cheesy, I'm sure a junior high kid who has more tolerance for the weird and gruesome would not find this much of a thriller either.

That said, OK For Now moves on to the next round!

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