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, December 17, 2012

Paper Covers Rock vs. Never Fall Down


Thoughts on Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

Alex Stromm who is 16 years old and living at private prep school, writes the after math of the accidental drowning of a friend. The only female teacher on staff tries to reach out to him to find our what really happened in the death of his friend.

This book, although right sized for adolescent readers, is too deep in the classical literature for most to follow. The plot runs like a jigsaw puzzle that requires considerable focus and time investment that I don't think most readers will do.  The themes are very mature (although not stated are very heavily implied) that should have some sort of discussion afterward.

Best quote pg 89
"Math is just as important as English. Numbers, like language, provide one with a way to arrange the world's chaos."

Thoughts on Never Fall Down

I really enjoyed this book and found it a good follow-up book to Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins which was a semi- finalist (?) in Smackdown two years ago.  Although the two books are based from different countries and different conflicts, the premise of child soldiers and fighting for an army under threats of punishments is common to both.  Never Fall Down is a compelling story that grabs the reader drawing him or her into the world of the Khmer Rouge.  My biggest concern with this book is the voice and grammar in which the author uses for Arn.  It was not until I read the endnotes as to the reason for this that it made sense.  I would suggest in further publications that this endnote be moved to the beginning of the book.  As well, I believe this book is right sized for adolescence and leaves the reader satisfied at the completion rather than of exhausted as is too common from some of the marathon sized novels published for teens today.


1 comment:

  1. To start, I must confess my biases:

    I was traveling somewhere so opted to read the paperback Paper Covers Rock first.
    I was turned off in the third line when I read that the story was to take place at a prep school. Oh, this is going to be one of those I thought to myself.

    I have been to Cambodia, where Never Fall Down, our second book, was set.

    I have read another book by Patricia McCormick which I felt was well done.

    I also met her at a conference that I attended.
    Now, with everything out in the open, I can begin.

    The title Paper Covers Rock is a powerful one. The paper is that of a journal that the main character writes. It is therapeutic for him to do this after the death of his friend when cliff diving drunk. Was it an accident or suicide? It is up to the reader to decide.

    For some reason, books set at a prep school don't do it for me. Neither do ones that tell of sixteen year old boy's infatuation with his English teacher, although it did vaguely remind me of Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. I found Glenn to be a completely unlikable character when he convinces his peers to go with The Plan to entrap said English teacher to get her fired.

    Still, with 11 pages/one chapter left, I didn't know what would happen. Having said that, it wrapped up far too quickly, unsatisfyingly It just petered out...

    Alex, the main character, was flawed. There is often hope that a main character will find their way but he didn't. I felt there was no hope for him once he, and his so called friends, punished the only person who cared about him.

    On the flip side, having been to Cambodia and know the history of the Killing Fields, I found Never Fall Down to be a book that I could not put down. Yet, I had to put it down because just when I thought things could not get worse, they did. The descriptions are not in graphic detail. Rather, they are stark statements of fact.

    It was also interesting how my reading of the book, basically in two sittings, was divided between the horror and atrocities in the first sitting, and being nursed back to health in the second sitting. This was not done purposefully; instead, the unintentionality emphasized the hope that there was in the second part of the book.

    I kept wondering to myself whether the descriptions in the book of what happened to Arn would be too much for a grade nine student. Would it keep them up at night? Would they wake up having nightmares that what happened to Arn was happening to them? I will find out as I shared my copy with a strong reader, assuring her that if it was too much, she did not have to keep reading it. I don't want her to lose sleep at night as well wondering how events like this can happen in our world.

    For me, Never Fall Down moves on to the next round so Andrew and I are in agreement! Thank goodness...