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

Ivan & Eleanor & Park

I believe the result of this round falls into the 'upset' category and unfortunately will ruin many of your brackets. I know the countless hours that I sunk into my prediction bracket* are all for naught as The One and Only Ivan moves off to the zoo that is round 3. Here are our thoughts on both novels:

Eleanor & Park
 We were drawn in by the the quirkiness of the protagonists, found ourselves shuddering with fear at the thought of Eleanor's stepdad, and falling in love with these characters as they developed. Being set in the 80's, Eleanor & Park provided a great window into a lost era but I wonder how much of this helped the atmosphere of the novel and whether or not students would have the same experience. There are little nuances throughout Eleanor and Park's stories that lets the reader see just how much of an effect each was having on the other. The novel is filled with soul-crushing quotations ("We learned how to cry without making a noise"), moments of absolute literary excellence, and a unique narrative style. While Eleanor & Park is a novel that we all thoroughly enjoyed, as a group we felt that perhaps it was limited by its audience-specific approach. We felt that perhaps the ending came too quickly and left a number of questions unanswered. Park, in speaking of Dr. Manhattan from The Watchmen, suggests that "In the end, nothing ends. Nothing ever ends." For Eleanor & Park however, this is the end of the line. 

The One and Only Ivan
The largest criticism for Ivan is that it is at the other end of the spectrum from Eleanor & Park and that it is possibly too elementary for most teens. Having said that, and having no actual basis for the decisions that we make, Ivan advances to the next round being a sweet and touching tale - a modern day Charlotte's Web. Ivan is a quick read and its simplistic sentence structure and short chapters may give it appeal to ESL readers or grade 7 classes. In reading Ivan we found that there is something about the connection with animals which is a timeless and left us with feelings of hope. We felt that you could "teach up" Ivan as there are a number of themes that it touches upon. Strangely, the novel took on additional life when I read authors note at the end of the novel. Knowing that Ivan lived and that Katherine Applegate wanted to give this gorilla a voice in which to share his experiences brought the novel to a deeper appreciation.

Advancing Ivan was not a simple decision. While the consensus was the Eleanor & Park was the more well-written and emotional text, Ivan wins based on being the best novel. The group of Maureen, Donna, Robin, Christine, and I got behind Ivan in its ability to stand out from the crowd and not to be "another love story between two misfits"

Travis, Donna, Maureen, Robin, Christine

* I can only assume in a YA literature review group that everyone has completed their prediction brackets. Right? Guys...?

1 comment:

  1. Well, this particular Smackdowner agrees with this particular upset. I liked
    E&P. But LOVED Ivan. And, to be honest, I want to teach it in 10 IB. I think it is remarkably written.