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 21, 2013

No Crystal Stair vs. Every Day

This one ended up being more hotly contested than I had originally suspected. Maybe I was just being blind to the idea that entertainment trumped substance, or that maybe I foolishly found substance where others pointed out that there was very little. Here is the conversation between the three of us on these books. Brad has posted his own ideas on the books, and has voted for No Crystal Stair to move on. Despite the issues Tracy and I have with the book, we have voted for Every Day to move forward. We are as divided as possible on this one. I think Every Day moves on easily. Tracy feels neither should be going forward. And Brad is the exact opposite from me, feeling No Crystal Stair should go on.

Andrew: To me, the winner of this round is obvious. It comes down to which book a student would be more likely to read. David Levithan took a very interesting idea in Every Day, the concept of waking up in a different body every day, and made it an interesting read. By no means is this book perfect, in fact, there are several things that irritate me about it, but it is definitely more readable than No Crystal Stair, the more unique of the two. Unique, but dull, looking through the eyes of a student.

Tracy: So here’s the question.  Do we really have to put forward either of the books?  I finished reading Every Day Friday night, and had to resist chucking it against the wall.  Andrew, I know you enjoyed the book, but what was a painful beginning, became an okay middle, to finish up with a ridiculous ending.  Seriously, what is with that Poole character?  The ominous figure looming in the shadows of this strange body snatching  existence.  (Imagine an overly exaggerated dramatic voice while reading this last sentence)  A threat to A and the others like him.  And then what does Levithan do with him?  Nothing.  Why even bother.  I think the author watched too many episodes of Quantum Leap, read the Time Traveler’s Wife,  and then thought, “Have I got a great idea!”  And love the “subtle” shout out to his friends – if you haven’t read Feed, The Book Thief, Destroy all Cars and First Day on Earth, he’s got the plug in for you to do so.

What was probably most disappointing is that there are some very clever ideas wanting to be written about – the idea that our body controls more of our actions and responses than we like to think.  Some of the best chapters were A inhabiting the body of the junkie, who had to lock himself in the bedroom for the day; and Dana, the girl abusing alcohol after a drunk driving accident which killed her brother.  I also thought that Levithan’s exploration of sexuality had great potential – that A felt comfortable as male and female, and the chapters with Vic and Dawn and Zara and Amelia.  And then, you have the magical plot contrivance that almost every body who A inhabits magically can drive, has a car, and can get to Rhiannon with little challenge. 

The other book, No Crystal Stair, was also a no go.  The idea, again had merit. But it was BORING!  I admit to skipping sections of the book because there was little being said about Lewis Michaux.  Here is a man who obviously did something amazing for his community, and the stories from people who were actually there are lost, or compiled into a mash-up character.  His brother the preacher seemed more interesting based on the development of the story.

If I have to choose one, I will pick Every Day, because I think kids will read it.  Sigh.

Brad: Oh, Ms. Tracy.  I couldn't agree with you more!

However, I didn't find No Crystal Stair boring at all.  But you are right--kids would, for sure.  Too many voices, too many temporal shifts, too many anecdotes that might seem like they aren't adding up to something.  But I really think that they are.  Which is why I think it would have to be taught. 

I honestly think there is real potential there!

I’m not denying that Every Day is deeply flawed, but there are issues in there that are done well enough. Tracy mentioned the exploration of sexuality, and I think that he did this in a subtle enough way that it would not deter students who would be scared off by a book that has more in-you-face sexual questions. At the risk of picking more on the book that I want to advance, I also hate that it is one of those books where the narrator sets out a rule that they never break (A claims that he/she never tries to become too involved in the lives of the people he inhabits) and then goes about for the entire novel flagrantly disregarding his rule. That annoyed me, but it wouldn’t be much of a novel if it was followed.

The character of Poole does seem like wasted time. It was touched on, but not really enough depth. In the end, we don’t really know anything about him. I will say, however, that the ending was good for me, because it could have gone down the even more predictable path that would involved Poole. I’m glad Levithan avoided that and gave us something more fresh (I know I’m opening myself up to being assaulted on that opinion, but I have thick skin).

I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle with this book!

And seriously, what is wrong with a little Quantum Leap? Isn’t Scott Bakula one of the greatest actors of his generation?

BradThat's not the only rule for body swapping that changes, repeatedly throughout the book.  New rules are introduced as deus ex machinas (how does one make this plural?  Latin peeps?)  throughout.

If the most (only?) interesting part of a book is the premise, and that premise is poorly dealt with throughout the novel, I would suggest that the novel is not just deeply flawed, but craptacular.
BradWait a second.  This dialogue that I'm participating in won't be posted, will it?

I have not been paying attention to grammar.


  1. I thought this was going to be a no holds knockdown. I thought Brad would be weeping and Andrew would have given up his contract to work for Levithan full it sounds like a battle of the meh as Tracy has articulated it. Interesting to see how it moves on against The Year of the Beasts.

  2. Don't crack Andrew! I think you are 100% right. I really liked Every Day.