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 16, 2013

Ask the Passengers vs. Maggot Moon


While on the surface these two novels may appear to exist completely independent of one another - a boy living in a 1950's totalitarian state vs a girl of small town America trying to figure out her sexuality - there are actually similarities between the two novels that make for an interesting discussion. Both novels have great moments but neither novel is without problems. 

Maggot Moon was an interesting and relatively easy read, with the very short chapters, and kid-friendly perspective.  The main character being "different" will appeal to kids who are always feeling out of place.  Particularly as the story centers on him finding a purpose to his life, and showing that his differences were not as significant or debilitating as first thought.  The totalitarian state that the story is set in makes for a very different society, one that is post-WWII England where the Germans won, rather than the allies.  There was enough intrigue to make me want to keep reading to find out what was happening, but there were some events that just didn't seem to make sense.  I would recommend this to some of my students, but I wonder how much they would understand of the background of WWII and such.  

Overall Ask the Passengers was by far the better book (sorry if you were hoping for some drawn out conclusion). Astrid Jones is a 17 year old New York City transplant who finds herself in the whisper-filled town of Unity Valley. Through the novel, she questions whether or not she is gay and the difficulty with identifying as such. The family dynamic in Ask the Passengers is perhaps the strongest literary element and has the reader wanting more pages dedicated to the workaholic mom, stoner dad, and trying-to-fit-in sister. The novel concludes all too conveniently but the earlier moments of the story overshadow the 'Okay for Now' effect. 

Both novels provide great analogy for classroom discussions: Maggot Moon contains several ties to David vs. Goliath. In Ask the Passengers, Frank Socrates is the one person that Astrid turns to when there is no one else. Throughout the narrative there is constant discussion of Greek Philosophy and the Allegory of the Cave. Even in the use of analogy, Passengers is the better novel. 

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