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 27, 2014

Ari & Dante vs. Boxers & Saints

I loved the graphic novels Boxers & Saints.  They were a little more graphic than I would have liked, but that would likely engage some YA readers.  It is unusual to find a novel (or two) that is a balanced history lesson, displaying an account that makes both sides seem sympathetic.  It is also unusual to have a historical piece that is also an engaging page-turner.  I found the novels topic to be heavy but the author's style made the reading light.  It was a relatively quick read given its size. 
I felt that the sheer amount of reading would be daunting for most YA readers, and the story line may have been difficult for weaker readers to follow.  While these could easily be covered with teacher guidance, I didn't feel that YA readers would self-select this novel and read it. 
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Mysteries of the Universe was an easy to read, completely relatable story, that I felt had many interesting dimensions. The characters were rich and relatable, though not always sympathetic, but that is kind of the way people are in real life.  I enjoyed the coming-of-age, coming-to-awareness aspect of the book.  While it is primarily a story about Aristotle (Ari) and Dante's relationship, it also explores the ideas of love and loss, relationships that hurt vs. relationships that help, endings and beginnings, and how we define or redefine ourselves.  I thought it was wonderfully written, and wonderfully paced. 
The one thing I did not enjoy was the conversation between Ari and his parents where they told him who he was and how he felt.  That was the only piece that did not come across as authentic.  We do not have someone, even as trusted as our parents, tell us something that monumental and just absorb it. "Oh, I didn't realize that contrary to all other evidence, that was the case."  I would have liked to see a more connected internal struggle for Ari.  Not that Ari should struggle, but if he needed a push in the right direction, then as he explores his thoughts, feelings and ideas with the audience, some evidence of such a monumental shift should have been present long before the final discussion with his parents. 
Ultimately, I have to go with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Mysteries of the Universe for this round. I enjoyed both stories quite a lot and found this round quite enjoyable, but ultimately I found Ari and Dante's story edged out Boxers & Saints for quality of story and impact for the audience. 

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