Monday, December 17, 2012
Bluefish vs. Dead End in Norvelt
The good folks here at Vimy had themselves a fairly easy decision when it came to the first round of this year's Smackdown... a book we both enjoyed (yet left us with many questions), or a book that neither of us were able to finish.
Dead End in Norvelt simply did not grab either of us. It is a Newberry-winning novel about a kid who is grounded for life and essentially forced to write obituaries about the people who founded his idyllic little town. The idea seems interesting enough, and of course leads to a series of humorous adventures uncovering the past of the town. I felt that this book was too young for our focus group of readers, as it came across as a book more designed for upper elementary. Of course, not having finished the novel, both Tracy and I could have missed out on the best novel ever written. That being said, we are aware that a reader needs to be engaged as quickly as possible, and this book did not do it for us.
Our winner for round one is Bluefish, and not only because the title comes from one of my all-time favorite stories as a child. Bluefish tells the story of a loner teen who has recently moved from his ideal home in the country to the city with his alcoholic grandfather. Our protagonist, Travis, wants nothing more than to hide in the crowd, to not be noticed by anyone at his school. Until he develops an awkward friendship with the awfully named Velveeta. Travis has a secret, and of course there are the good people who want to help him out, including the teacher who spends a lot of extra time with him in order to get him to where he needs to be.
Bluefish has many allusions to the fantastic novel, The Book Thief. So many, in fact, that I wonder if the author was not just writing a light version of the novel. Or a beginners version of it. Maybe The Book Thief is too advanced for a lot of readers, so Bluefish is The Book Thief For Dummies? It gets to the point where plot points from the mentioned book play key roles in the "newer" version. Yet, I can't really decide if this was annoying, or a really good idea.
By no means was Bluefish a perfect novel. I felt that the plot in general was kind of lacking. But I liked the characters enough that I think it warrants another read in the competition. And I'm curious to see what other people think about The Book Thief tie-ins.
Also, we didn't have time to work on this post together, but Tracy and I will have a combo post for the next round.
So, Bluefish moves on!