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, February 23, 2015

A Race and a Chase: 

Ultra vs The Nazi Hunters

It's quite fitting that I started reading Ultra while working out on an elliptical, considering it's about a running race. I'm definitely not as athletic as Quinn is in the novel (you probably wouldn't catch me running...unless it was away from a bear..), but David Carroll really made me feel like I was jogging alongside his protagonist. At first, I wondered what kind of story I was in for - what interesting things could possibly happen to someone while running a race? What on earth would Carroll have to write about?

Well, for a start, we get Quinn's humorous interactions with other runners, friends and family (I loved his texts with his little brother, especially the "lame" jokes); his remembrances of his father (I predicted what had happened to his dad, early on, but that didn't stop me from tearing up at the end); and then the hallucinations...oh, the hallucinations! I wasn't expecting the novel to take a turn for the fantastic, but I thought these moments really reflected our main character's exhaustion and tied nicely with the memories of his dad. This novel (specifically, the inventive plot and the hallucinations) reminded me of  the film 127 Hours. If you've never seen it, check it out and let me know if you feel the same way.

I really did love this book, and I think it would work well as a novel study for a Division 2 classroom, or even for a Grade 7 one, depending on the reading level of your students. Carroll made me care about Quinn and his journey, and that's why I'd recommend this novel. The only complaint I have is minor, and it's a rather geeky one. In the novel, Carroll writes that the Hulk's catchphrase is: "It's clobbering time." Sorry, Mr. Carroll, but that's The Thing from The Fantastic Four. Whew! That was really bugging me...

So, I really don't enjoy non-fiction. I never have. If there's not a gripping plot, I struggle to finish the book. That being said, The Nazi Hunters was a somewhat interesting read and I did learn more about WWII. However, while I found the first chapter fascinating and moving, the major part of the novel (the search for Eichmann) was tedious and I kept forgetting who was who - even with the photographs. Some of my students (I teach Division 3), who enjoy learning about history, might enjoy this book, but I think most of them would put it down after the first couple chapters. The blurb inside the front cover promised me spies and intrigue, but I felt let down. I thought there would be much more chasing, hidden identities and gadgets. I think my knowledge of spies has been fueled by James Bond films. Bond, alas, is fictional. Sigh...

My vote: Ultra should race on and the chase is over for The Nazi Hunters.

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