Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shorter Musings: MG Realistic

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. When these start to pile up, I put them together in one post.

Here are some reviews of MG realistic fiction I've read recently:

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
There are quite a few stylistic elements here that tend to annoy me a great deal, the episodic nature of the plot, how it just sort of ends with no real closure, and the tropes that are often overused in MG realistic fiction. The fact that I liked it as much as I did despite these things says a lot about the quality of the writing and character development in the book. Albie is an excellent every-kid narrator. The whole concept of being an "almost" is one so many can relate to and his voice is absolutely perfect. He tells his story exactly the way a child in his situation would (which is why the episodic plot makes sense even if it's not my favorite thing to read) and his observations are spot on and conveyed exactly like a fifth grader would do it. One of my favorite parts after a classmate calls Albie a "retard" and the principal makes an announcement that the word is "outlawed" at the school:
But Darren Ackleman doesn't call me "retard" anymore.
That's what he called me on Thursday.
Moron. Numbskull. Bozo. Idiot.
Stupid little rat.
Marblehead. Freak. Dum-dum. Hopeless. Lamebrain. Crybaby. F-minus.
That's what he called me on Friday, and every day since.
Darren Aclkleman doesn't cal me "retard" anymore.

But I think maybe it's not words that need to be outlawed.

Absolutely pitch perfect.

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by  Julie T. Lamana
Emotionally moving and informative story of Hurricane Katrina, this is a book that packs a punch. Lamana does an excellent job setting the scene and describing what is going on. There are places where you actually feel you are and she does not shy away from including all of the ugly truths, but includes them in a way that works well for the intended audience. It is never overwhelming and has exactly the right amount of action balanced with emotion to keep readers engaged. That is no small thing to do when dealing with an event of this magnitude.

Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philibrick
Zane and the Hurricane is an interesting look at the events of Hurricane Katrina from a boy not from New Orleans but who was visiting his great grandmother who lived in the Ninth Ward. It covers all the main points that need to be covered: the evacuation notice, the levees breaking, the chaos at the Dome, and the lawlessness. For some reason I felt emotionally detached from it all though. The story did not impact me in the same way Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere , the other Hurricane Katriana MG novel that came out this year, did. This is a great pick for more reluctant readers as it is shorter though. 


  1. I like the sound of Absolutely Almost, although I wish they would outlaw those words too. I think he's right though "...maybe it's not words that need to be outlawed."

    1. That's what I loved about the quote. All those words are unpleasant, but you can "outlaw" all the words you want, and people will find other ones to replace them. (Kind of like all the fake "curse" words there are.) It's silly because the intent behind them that matters. And that can't be changed by decree. Teachers/principals saying "we don't use those words" is a band aid for a much bigger problem and kids are smart enough to know that. That's what I loved so much about this passage. It conveyed that and all of Albie's pain at the same time.

      It's a really great book. I definitely recommend it.

    2. Oh yes, fake curse words are the worst. Your not fooling anyone with an oh snap. Although, once I was in a cab and the driver kept referring to the other drivers as turtles as they cut him off. It was kinda funny but not nearly a curse word.