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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bunker Goes Down, Simon Moves on....

The Bunker Diary vs Simon vs The HomoSapiens Agenda

I never know how much to reveal about the book contents in the first round.  Enough to be informative but not enough to reveal all about the book in case it move on.

Van: Well, this was an easy round for me.  The Bunker Diary was a big bag of yuch.  It was a depressing story with (spoiler alert) a terrible end.  It was a book with no hope and no real redemption which would be fine if the story was written in a way I really felt emotionally attached to the characters.  Alas, not so much. We have no idea why the Bunker people were picked and no clue to the motivation of the Unsub.  It really was yucky. Deb?

Deb: Oh Bunker Diary….what can I say? It started off strong for me. I was intrigued by the main character and initially, I thought it would beat Simon...on substance, alone. Unfortunately, as the story went on and the many questions I had were left unanswered (and then multiplied) I began to lose steam...and patience. This book had me at “I thought he was blind, That’s how he got me.” but unfortunately, lost me well before the 6 blank pages at the end. However, I did find myself thinking about the story the next day, even if it was to curse the author.

Van: Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda was not the best book I’ve read but I did actually feel connected to Simon and his friends and I wanted things to work out for him.  I just wanted more...something.  I don’t know but at times I felt the conflicts were handled quickly and kind of superficially. So my vote is for Simon...I’m not sure he’ll make it to the end but at least no one else will have the read the Bunker Diary (except Brad and Chandra)

Deb: I have to agree with Vanessa. Simon will not be a book that really sticks with me forever, nor will it be one I necessarily recommend to others, but it was good. It was an easy read with predictable situations and characters that were relatable. My vote almost went to The Bunker Diary, but I have to go with our man Simon on this one.

Chandra: Well, I am certainly on the same proverbial page as you two.  Perhaps my feelings about The Bunker Diary were somewhat influenced by the fact that I read it on November 9th… directly following the election of He Who Shall Not Be Named… but I’m fairly confident that even had I not already been chock full of angst and despair, I would have *hated* this book.  

I mean, I didn’t at first!  Brooks definitely incorporates more writerly skill and craft here than in Albertalli does in Simon, and I felt invested Linus’ struggle to escape, to hang on to his humanity, and to come to terms with his back story and complicated relationship with his father. But then THAT ENDING made me throw the book down in disgust, because what was the point?!  This book has no point. It does nothing. It has no purpose. Okay okay, I’m sure you could say that it reveals something something about the ability to stay human and compassionate even in the face of great evil and despair blah blah blah but I don’t think it did a very good job of it. (Again, though, this could be related to my November 9th feelings and my need for hope.)  

Ultimately, too, I think it was lazy.  Sure, it may be more “realistic” than a book where the protagonist and most of those closest to him are miraculously saved at the end, but in ending the way he does, Brooks didn’t need to explain a thing about the kidnapper, his motives, the cameras, where he disappeared to, the families of the missing, Linus’ father, the list goes on. Lazy.

Oh, and I almost forgot the cannibalism.

ANYWAY, so Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens agenda was alright.  To be honest, I read it a week ago, and in writing this today I had to think quite hard for a while to even remember the plot.  So, not memorable. But fine. It was my palette cleanser after The Bunker Diary, and it served that purpose well because it was fun fluff, full of predictable youthful miscommunication and mistaken identities.  It’s not great, but for my vote, it’s at least greater than the Bunker Diary.

Vanessa, Debbie and Chandra (Brad is posting on his own aka let the rant begin!)


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  2. Man, I'm desperately trying to find some time to write down my complex feelings about both books.

    The voting is moot regardless, as I’m outnumbered on The Bunker Diary. I didn’t love it. But it made me feel something. Which is more than Simon did.

    re: The Bunker Diary. re: blank pages and the lack of hope. I would argue this is a book that is entirely WITH hope. Maybe even about hope. That this is how the book operates on a meta level: the entire thing is written to US, the reader, for the love of Pete. “WE” are a character!!!!! Ultimately, the book is about our own agency and our own need to catalyze empathy in the worst of times. Which is why those final blank pages are SO. IMPORTANT. THEMATICALLY. Because it is me as a reader who "writes" those pages. Necessary always, but especially after November 8th.

    Did I mention that I re-read The Bunker Diary in Portland last week, flash bombs and tear gas filling the air? The streets LITERALLY on fire?

    Darn it. I really need to write about this one.

  3. JUST FYI: I removed the first post because the formatting was so wonky. And I had to re-write stuff that I had "bolded" and italicized; evidently, that doesn't work in the comments section. Apologies.

  4. I'm adding a quick comment for Catherine Coyne, who is entering a wee bit late into the Smackdown this year, and isn't quite set up to post. However, she did have a few thoughts to offer:

    "My feelings are similar to others. Simon is my vote, though I wouldn't teach it. It was an enjoyable, unchallenging read with little complexity. I did appreciate that it featured an under-represented challenge that young adults may face. But it was more classroom library material for me than a novel for purposeful study.

    I have no words for Bunker. It's just too much. I had to force myself to read the book, which is never a promising sign. While I appreciated the style of writing, I just found it too much like an episode of Criminal Minds, wanting to shock the audience. No, no, no."