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 30, 2016

Ember in the Ashes vs. The Gospel Truth

Ember in the Ashes:  Sabaa Tahir
As a group, we found this book dark, and in places illogical. Every chapter there was death, violence and rape... oppressive... depressing. Where there is the theme of romance, a note of hope in this dreary novel, the plot is thin at best.  Ends up there is a love triangle, and then another love triangle.  Boy finds out his best friend is in love with him, and then he meets another girl, and they instantly fall in love, and eyes lock in deep passion (without words or substance, just instant retinal magnetism), and now nothing else matters, and blah blah blah…. You get the picture.  Aside from the weak grammar of my previous sentence, the obligatory romance was tedious!  Here are a couple of lines:

“I shot at her now because I’m so angry at her for loving me.”  Pardon?????
“If she had controlled her emotions, we would never have fought.”  Double pardon???
And then Elias (a remarkably stupid main character) has other love interests.  Hmmmmm.  Perhaps a love square instead of a love triangle.   And then Elias and Helene have to fight each other to the death… well, I guess that is one way to end the romance.  But… he does not kill his best friend, and gets Laia as the prize.  Yeachhh.  
Even as I am writing, I am getting irritated with this book and the low hanging fruit of young adult interest; violence and romance.  Sigh.
On the other hand…   The Gospel Truth by Caroline Pignat is unpredictable, tense, historically based, and engaging.  The book talks about the life of a slave from different perspectives, that of different slaves, the master and slave owner of a plantation and his daughter Tess.  The book reads like poetry and is easy to complete at one sitting.   Each character has their own distinct voice, but each voice is immensely readable. Each character reveals a different truth about the life of slavery.  The main character, Phoebe, accepts her lot in life, as the bird in the cage metaphor suggests.  She sees the world outside the plantation fences as more dangerous than the one inside. Her best friend, a boy named Shad, believes that if he does everything right the master’s rewards will make up for his lack of freedom. Shad’s brother Will, is obsessed with escaping the plantation even if that means his death.  This book is immensely readable, avoids the predictable and formulaic plots of most YA literature, and leaves the reader with questions.   What a gift!


  1. I couldn't disagree more about An Ember in the Ashes and encourage others to read it. We read it in a teacher YA book club I am a part of and everyone (rare) was a fan! I like fantasy as a genre and I thought the character of the mother in this book is a villain along the lines of Game of Thrones. I haven't read Gospel Truth yet...but Ember might be my zombie pick.

  2. Might I suggest Jefferson's Sons as a next read after The Gospel Truth. After reading your post, although I haven't read The Gospel Truth, I feel that you might enjoy Jefferson's Sons. It's the story of the family Thomas Jefferson had with one of his slaves. I believe my suggestion is appropriate for grade 7 readers. The conclusion is a heartbreaker...