Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
Ghost
The Bunker Diary
Echo
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
One
Updraft
All American Boys
»

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Nest is Best

I started with The Crossover because it looked short and I usually don't like teen sports books. They always seem to be composed of the same tired tropes and the protagonist always has lots of Problems but then they score the winning goal and everything is at least temporarily ok and there's a metaphor. I have also really grown to dislike YA novels in poetry form. They seem to lack the depth of language that more skilled poets employ while sacrificing character development and plot in order to make a few cheap, visual puns (Oh! You wrote 'Down' in a downward direction! Look at you, Mr. Clever Author-Poet!) The Crossover was just what I feared it would be. And what's more, it was boring. I hate-read the whole thing.

Nest was the book that I most wanted to read after judging all the covers at book-reveal day. Like most YA reader-types, I had read a lot of Kenneth Oppel books and usually enjoyed them. Nest was beyond creepy. Other, more articulate smackers have already noted how successfully Oppel uses the real and legitimate fears of a child to craft a work that is legitimately unsettling and at times, downright terrifying. It's short and punchy and I could see students from many grades and reading levels enjoying it (unlike The Crossover which, when I pitched it to my classes in my best-fake-enthusiastic way - you know, the kind you reserve for teaching something like persuasive letters about Prosper Town Council's latest mess-up - was met with a universal "wuh-wuh.")

So it's clear for this reader: Nest is Best.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Family Romanov vs. The Living

Really this battle was dead vs. living and the living won  I love historical fiction and I really enjoyed reading the history of the Romanov family.  When I was 14 learning about communism in social 9, I would have fallen over myself for this book.  Unfortunately, the scandalous story of the Romanov's isn't taught in classrooms anymore, which I find sad because their rise and fall is what sparked my obsession with history.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would definitely put this book on my shelf and push for kids to read, but this is Smackdown and it's cutthroat.  Yes, they both had love, disaster and politics.  But "The Living" had sexier love, with ravaging disaster and apocalyptic politics.  The book was basically "The Family Romanov" on steroids and let's be honest steroids always beats out natural unless it's illegal...which even then can get you seven Tour de France wins.  

"The Living" reminded me of "Love is the Drug", which I read in the first round of Smackdown.  Both were set in a world where a deadly disease is pushing its way into the U.S.A.  The protagonists are far from the epicenter of the disease, so you don't worry too much about their safety.  Both stories had the parent(s) of one of characters unleashing a manmade diseases into poor, underprivledged communities.  One was for financial gain the other for political power.  I enjoyed "Love is the Drug", but it got a little out of hand for me, whereas "The Living" gripped me and had me staying up til 1:00 to find out what I already knew.  "The Living" went along at a fast clip: boy meets creepy guy with foreboding message, boy falls for unavailable girl with link to deadly disease, tsunami hits boat separating the potential lovers, boy ironically meets creepy guy's boss' daughter on lifeboat, boy and new girl somehow are saved by another survivor, boy and new girl go to a secret island where old girl has been taken, things get creepier with bloody eyes and lying scientists, people start shooting and fire bombing, boy and old girl sail off into the sunset.  Cliche...in some parts, but it's like Vampire Diaries: so bad that it's too good.   I already looked up the release date of the sequel "The Hunted", which is a sign I loved this book.  Thus, I vote to put The Living forward into Smackdown's next round!

Vernon Barford a.k.a Tristin Pawluk