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, November 23, 2015

That was one Crazy Pigeon...

Our novels were Pigeon English by Stephen Kellman and Crazy by Linda Vigen Phillips.  

You would think that a novel about an 11-year-old Ghanaian immigrant caught up in the gang warfare of a south London ghetto would have a strong appeal.  Especially if it a tale that includes gang violence, a family divided, and the women forced into moral compromises in order to overcome the family’s daily struggle.  All of this is the backdrop for a story that includes Harri, the protagonist, and his best friend Dean.  It is in this gritty context that they, armed with camouflaged binoculars and all the detective knowledge one can glean from network television, decide to solve the murder of an older boy who lived in their neighbourhood.  It certainly sounds like a contender.  Unfortunately, you have to read it, and their in lies the problem.  It is a difficult, often slow, and sometimes pretentious narrative that leaves the reader more inclined to put it down than slog their way through it. The story is one worthy of telling, and this novel has a solid, consistent, and an unapologetic voice.  It is just not for the faint of heart, or an inexperienced reader.  

Crazy, has a much stronger hook, but a much weaker voice.  It seems like the tale of a typical teen growing up in the 1960’s.  Laura, the protagonist, negotiates all the classic teen woes; school, friends, romance, and the firm belief that her parents are crazy.  Unfortunately, in Laura’s case, her parents really are crazy.  She is so remarkably talented you want to hate her, but you can’t because your compassion goes out to her as she battles those struggles she so desperately to hide from the world.  Your relationship with the protagonist will run the course of liking her, feeling sorry for her, and wanting to beg her to stop complaining.  

Our vote went to Crazy because it deals with a contemporary, hot topic for young readers. It is also a step toward breaking down the stigma of mental illness and bringing forth an understanding of how mental illness affects not just one person, but the whole family.  It is not a more worthy topic than Pigeon, it just has the added advantage of being readable as well as relevant.

1 comment:

  1. I read Pigeon English last winter; although I haven't read Crazy, I am disappointed that Pigeon did not make it further in Smackdown. I did not find it hard to get into... it was not a 'slog' for me. There is great voice in the story and is so timely to see Harri negotiate immigrant life, to understand his hopes, dreams and his naiveté as he tries to find his place in London slums. I found it refreshing to not be reading yet another YA book about teenage angst, depression, crushes, and eating disorders, and thought it very tmely given the world's refugee crisis.