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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Round 2: Aristotle and Dante vs. Boxers and Saints

Time for the man of Vimy to step up in this years Smackdown and let my deep, soothing, baritone be heard.

Our selections for round two of the Smackdown were Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe and Boxers and Saints. Two very different books aimed at two very different audiences. But an interesting challenge between them.

As is tradition, I won't go much into the plots of the two novels, you can find those in the earlier posts about these two books. I'll just mention a few things that I liked or didn't, and then give my infallible opinion on which one should advance.

Aristotle and Dante:

  • The style reads like an artsy movie with soft lighting and a soundtrack of bands that you aren't cool enough to really know about, that doesn't focus much on plot, but that coming-of-age story that you can't help but like, and it has that actor that you may have seen before but aren't really sure who it is, but he'll probably end up in a superhero movie at some point, and you can be all pretentious and say that you liked him in his earlier, more honest work. If that movie were a book, this is it.
  • Found Ari to be a fairly annoying character. He is angry with life, I get it. Not everything has gone his way. Sometimes I just wanted to yell at him to suck it up and move on.
  • The dialogue isn't very natural, and this goes more towards the writing style than the story itself, but for me, it created a disconnect with the characters, as I found them to be less real. I even found another online reviewer that agrees with me on this one. If it is on the Internet, it must be true. 
  • Does Ari really discover who he is? Or is he told who he is by those around him? Not to spoil the plot, but I had to wonder if it can be considered a coming-of-age story, or journey of self-discovery if you don't really discover who you actually are told by someone else what you are. 
  • It is nice to see a story with gay characters where they aren't forced to suffer, or even die. I can't remember if it was Dia or Vanessa that spoke to this at a book club meeting (it was definitely someone far wiser than me), but so many gay characters in YA books seem to be doomed to a horrible fate. Nice to see that it is now okay to be a gay character in a YA novel and it doesn't mean that you are going to perish at the end. 
  • A strong point is the relationship the boys have with their parents. I found this to be far more complex and interesting than the relationship between Ari and Dante themselves. 
Boxers & Saints

  • I did some true power reading on this graphic novel, as the deadline approached far too quickly (as usual...maybe I need to organize my life better).
  • I liked the stories of two characters focused around one event, to offer different perspectives on something of major significance in the lives of so many.
  • I guess I learned something about Chinese history. Of which I knew very little prior. There was a Boxer Rebellion. So I know that now. 
  • Not sure where the hook is for kids. Sure, it is a graphic novel, but it is significant in size (500 pages or so), and I don't know that kids are lining up to learn more about turn-of-the-century China. Also, there is a definite religious tinge to both volumes, as differing religious views are a significant divide between the characters. I know that there is an audience for this, but I don't know that it is the average junior high school kid. 
  • Sometimes the books felt a little too religious for me. Not my thing. 
  • Due to the pace at which I devoured these books, I am certain to have missed some of the subtlety of the characters and their morality. It was there, I realize, but I don't know how taken in by it I was. 
So overall, two pretty decent reads. Nothing spectacular. Reading back over the Smackdown blogs, it seems that the first rounders to move Boxers & Saints along weren't married to it either. Same goes for Aristotle and Dante. So we at Vimy will move along Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe, in hopes that there is someone along the way that truly falls in love with the book. There is potential for that with it, which is a strong point of the book. I liked it, but didn't love it. But for me, it beats out some historical fiction that never truly grasped my like it could have. 


  1. Meh... I read Dante and didn't love it. How has it made it so far...

  2. I didn't love it either...but it was the better of the two.