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

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Truth Overshadows The Memory
A Fraction of the Team 3 Members

I actually strongly disliked the protagonists in both of the books this round. I feel like both novels would be vastly improved without a drooling teenage boy either a) falling in love with a complete stranger or b) getting angsty that his lesbian friend just won't be with him. On the other hand, the other characters redeem the novels. In Memory, I love Kyle's uncle and the way Kyle views him as a role model and supports him in his recovery. I also like Porcupine's Aisha and I felt for her when she stood up for herself and reminded Carson that she's not his sidekick. Overall though, while both books have their flaws, I think that Porcupine's story shares a part of LGBTQ history that needs to be told and, for that, my vote goes to The Porcupine of Truth. 

I had some mixed feelings choosing a best from these two. Both are quite readable, yet I found both protagonists weak. I struggled with the free verse in Memory and enjoyed the plot better when I skipped over it. The string that the verse provided to the girls memory was tenuous. For upper elementary, this book was ultimately more readable. Although set against the 9.11 backdrop, I felt it was more about teenage angst and family. 

Porcupine seems more appropriate for students a bit more mature than my grade 6 kids, but I just didn't like Kyle. Even Aisha seems contrived to me. The story has more depth and there are some really big issues to think about, but the characters are too unbelievable.  I just could not buy into a mom who is so laissez faire, Kyle who I learned to not really like nor Aisha who seems too stereotypical. 

I guess I vote for Memory but only weakly.  To redeem myself, both books were certainly quite readable but there are better reads out there!   

Alisha, Deb, Dianne and Renee:

"We're going into the semi-finals with one of these two?" remarked one of our Ottewell reviewers. I guess we must choose! The Porcupine of Truth is moving on.

The Porcupine of Truth
It is fast paced and cleverly done. The set up is not atypical - it's a road trip with a search for some version of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Throw in some realistic life stressors and the resulting outcome sends the message that what you want and how you expect to achieve that want is not always played out in your master plan. However along the way relationships are explored and insight gained. Truth comes in different forms.

In this ordinary context, Porcupine touches on all sorts of topics, making readers aware of multiple controversial subjects. It also identifies that just because you are part of a group it doesn't mean that defines you. Every group is made up of individual variations.
Spirituality is a major theme in this book and although there are lots of conversations about God, faith and religion, it is not preachy. It will definitely lend itself to opening up discussion since it breaks the boundaries of religion as an institution. This book is not for everyone (but what book is).

The Memory of Things
Only one fourth of us preferred The Memory of Things, but that’s probably because half couldn't make it through the book. This story is narrated by Kyle and interrupted occasionally by the free verse point of view of a confused survivor/bird girl. In the opinion of some esteemed reviewers, the feathery stuff (free verse) breaks the flow! Kyle's point of view is realistic and an interesting take on the events of 9-11; however, there was a feeling that the story could have happened during any disaster. Some found it shallow. "Are we ready for 9-11 as fiction? Shouldn't it be the harsh reality?" questioned some. You see we get a glossed over sense of the horrors of the tragedy. Everything turns out pretty well for our characters. Perhaps though, we should try to see the underlying theme: the choice to focus on hope.

The Porcupine of Truth is also about hope, despite topics like homophobia and AIDS, and it's funny and engaging in a way that The Memory of Things didn't pull off.

Our vote is three for Porcupine and one for Memory.

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