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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Beam Me Up Lisa, I Mean Scotty

Scrolling through everyone’s decisions in the Romanov vs. The Living bracket I begin to wonder if those of us at A. Blair McPherson are indeed in a far off dimension. We are not feeling either book is the clear winner here.  We voted sure, but we weren’t feeling that either was deserving to appear in the finals.  This was BY FAR THE MOST BORING lunch time meeting yet.  There was no yelling, no finger pointing, and no name calling.  Your meetings are like this too, right? Maybe we just really get into things over here.  We can pretend to call it “passion”.  Here are our general thoughts:

The Family Romanov: Any junior high student who could read the WHOLE book must be a true historical fiction lover.  I was pretty sure I was crying blood tears at one point because it was just so dry.  As someone on our team said, it was exactly like watching the movie and it did not develop them in any different way (I cannot actually say the same, as the movie was made quite some time before I was born. ZING!).

We also felt like the author did nothing to make these people seem endearing. Yes, we know, it is like watching the Titanic...we all know how it ends.  But it wasn’t until the snow slide scene or when they were in exile  that we felt like they were human beings that we could empathize with. Watching their family fall from its throne offered an almost sad satisfaction.  We couldn’t help but compare it to other non-fiction books we’ve read like Bomb or Nazi Hunters where we felt a personal connection was being developed to the people in the story. This book is not in the same category as those, in our opinion. We are also people of the old social curriculum; we learned about Russia and have the background knowledge.  For a student today in junior high I could see navigating all the terms, groups, and ideologies to be hard work. Some of us admitted to skim reading during the book.  And then, BANG BANG they were dead and the book ended abruptly. BANG BANG I am done talking about this book.

The Living: How much is too much? No, like for real.  Lets run down the checklist:
Youth living in poverty
Gets job to help family
No father
Grandma dies from strange disease
Loves girl he can't have
Weird shady shoeshine guy
Mistreated by pretty blonde girl on cruise ship
Finds out nephew has strange disease
Catastrophic event on the west coast
Ship sinks
People die
Has to survive on a raft
Large diamond ring acquired
Has sucky fishing skills
More people die
Begins to fall in love with pretty blonde girl while stranded on raft
Reunited with girl he loves but cannot have
Love triangle ensues
Germ warfare
Pharmaceutical conspiracy
Even more people die
Strange shoeshine guy saves day...temporarily?!

We were all in agreement that the plot had WAY TOO MUCH GOING ON. I myself couldn’t stop turning the pages once the ship started to sink, but then came the island.  For some of us, the germ warfare was kind of the last straw. Was this book written in mind to be a movie? It sure read like some cheesy Hollywood action movie starring Nicholas Cage.  
Be still my adolescent heart!

It was just too far out there for us.  Yes kids would read it and probably love it, but we were just not buying into it.  Which leads me to an interesting hallway conversation I had with Lisa.  We were talking about the book and I asked her if she has read any other Matt de la Pena books and she had not.  She mentioned that after reading this book she isn’t sure she would search out any other of his titles. I have read both Ball Don’t Lie (it was so good the copy went missing from my classroom library) and Mexican Whiteboy.  I feel like this book is a completely different style for de la Pena, and if this was the first book I read of his I might not be looking to pick up his other titles either.  If you want a true authentic look at his work, I suggest you read any of his other titles. I have mad respect for Matt de la Pena, and he is an author that is able to reach many minorities and groups of young adults that do not feel they have voices.  He gave a great interview with NPR that I HIGHLY recommend you take the time to read:  

To wrap things up, we felt MEH about both books.  Both had its merits, both had its downsides.  We are not just feeling the hype like everyone else.   Sorry, not sorry.  So, with muted enthusiasm we are voting for Family Romanov.

May the Force be With You,
To Infinity and Beyond,
Live Long and Prosper,

Holly (on behalf of ABM)

1 comment:

  1. Oh My Gosh, I could not agree with you more. I could not convince my teammates. But it was all too much for me. Also, I wasn't sure how being lost at sea fed the story. It just seemed they got lost in the story.