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 15, 2014

And...Another Post on I'll Give You the Sun versus Through the Woods

I know that Tracy has posted a brief synopsis for both of the books, so I’ll get right to the discussion.  Thankfully, we were totally in agreement.  And, having just read her post, we share most of the same thoughts about the two books.

I’ll Give You the Sun in three words?  Poetic and moving.

You know those books where your heart is breaking for the characters, and most of what is catalyzing your reading WAY past the time when you should be asleep is the fact that the protagonists have become so indelibly real to you that you have to get to the end of the book to know if they are going to be okay?  Yep.  This is one of those books.  Also:  the room will get dusty.  More than once.  But you will also snort laugh.  Frequently.

I sort of expect this one to go pretty far in the Smackdown this year.

There is so much to like, maybe even love, about this book:  the extremely clever structure, temporally oscillating between Noah and Jude at very different periods in their lives, echoes and resonances and motifs bolstering how very similar they are even when they feel that the gulf between them is insurmountable:  “A painting is both exactly the same and entirely different every single time you look at it.  That’s the way it is between Jude and me now.” The structure opens up more than a few mysteries throughout the novel, ultimately resolved when seemingly insignificant details converge together with John Irving-like precision. Also kind of remarkable?  The authentic clarity of the two voices of the two protagonists, particularly the poetry of Noah’s inside voice:  “hanging out with her is like sitting in an empty church.  That’s why I like her.  She’s quiet and serious and a thousand years old and seems like she can talk to the wind.”  By the midpoint of the book, you will feel like you have known these people for years.

There’s quite a bit of S-E-X talk (and action) in this book, and this is one for the more mature readers in your classroom—unlikely to be a whole-class novel in the near future.  But, OMFCG, the wistful heartbreak of teen longing and individuality and courage is palpable in this one.

Through the Woods in three words?  Disquieting, not scary.

I was really looking forward to this one.  Really a lot.  And it was fine.  But I wish there was more.

It could very well find a place in your classroom, particularly while teaching visual literacy. Carrol does such incredibly interesting things with text and font and borders and gutters and colour and layout—all ABSOLUTELY made for the Junior High/High School classroom.  The illustrations are staggeringly effective, creepy and disquieting.  But the stories themselves?  Not so much.

With the exception of the last story, “The Nesting Place,” the stories are more ambiguously odd and perplexing than scary, which I think would frustrate most of our younger readers.  Very few resolutions, and lots of question marks hanging in the air; I had more than a bit of “huh?-face” myself for a few of the stories.

Anyway, it would behoove you to check out the book.  Or, at the very least, Carrol’s website (, which has a few of the stories collected in Through the Woods and a whole lot more. Teachable.  Occasionally creepy.  Put one up on the SmartBoard.  See what your kids think.  I liked it; I just didn’t love it.

Certainly not enough to knock off the unfettered joy to be found in I’ll Give You the Sun.

1 comment:

  1. You know I read I'll Give You the Sun at the same time I was reading Weight of Blood. So someone asked me about IGYS and I was like, "meh". But then I went back and read it again and realized I had mixed the books up. I really liked I'll Give You the Sun - agree, it's a contender!