The Rundown- June ’15

downloadThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak (new read)

Intense.

Powerful.

Intriguing.

Unique.

Before the YA Book Challenge came around, I’ve kept a “To Read” list for years, and The Book Thief has been on it for some time. I was so excited for an opportunity to dive into it, and was not disappointed.

For those counting, this is already book #2 I’ve read for this challenge dealing with World War II. It tells the story of Liesel, a young German girl who is taken away from her mother and sent to live with a set of foster parents on the outskirts of Munich. We see her journey over the span of about five years, and how important literacy is to her life and survival.

One of the things that makes this story so interesting is its perspective. “Death” is the narrator. Yes, you read that correctly. It lends the tale an omniscient feel, and allows the author to give us much more insight and background than we might normally get.

I loved the author’s style–the way he chose to structure the chapters and parts of the book, the intensity he was able to build, and the unconventional text features he wove into certain places.

This is definitely a book I would recommend to others, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy read, this isn’t it. As I said, it’s intense and doesn’t shy away from the horrors that it contains. I think I let out an audible sigh when I was finished, from all the tension that had been built up as I was reading!

VERDICT: I’m having a hard time about whether or not this should be included on the list. My problem is not that it’s not a good book (it’s awesome!), but if it is considered “young adult.” I actually feel this is quite an adult book, regardless of the age of the protagonist. However, if I’m voting based solely on merit, this is the best book I’ve read for the challenge so far!

**This was recently turned into a movie, and it might be the worst page to screen adaptation I’ve ever seen. I watched it the day after finishing the book, and was shocked by what I saw. It took away all of the intensity from the book. Everything was glossed over, large, important subplots were changed, or left out completely. As a stand-alone movie, it was okay, but I do not, recommend it. If you’ve read and watched, I would love to hear your thoughts and comparison!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (new read) The_Absolutely_True_Diary_of_a_Part-Time_Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is about a fourteen year old boy named Arnold Spirit Jr. He lives on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington. Everyone calls him “Junior” and his best friend is “Rowdy.” He’s a smart kid, but has some brain issues and is prone to seizures. He has always gone to school on the reservation, but decides he wants to go to the local public school when he reaches ninth grade.

I came into this book really wanting to like it. Since finding it on the list, I had read good things, and it started with a foreword by the author of The Book Thief. Also, it’s one of the few picks with diverse characters, so it has that going for it.

The author has a really strong voice, which made sense once I found out the book was semi-autobiographical. A lot of the book is quite humorous and bolstered by frequent comic type drawings done by Junior. That is certainly a rare feature of a young adult novel. It was also very touching at times, as the book contained the deaths of several characters.

However, there is also some very gross humor that I could certainly have done without. That knocked down the story a few pegs in my book and makes me think twice about recommending the book. That’s a shame since it is one of the few modern portraits of Native Americans currently out there.

In the back of the book, there is a Q&A session with the author. One of the questions asked was if he regretted anything he wrote. He said no, and his justification was that everyone is inappropriate, just some do it in public, and some in private. This was also his first young adult novel, after writing many adult ones. It is currently on the list of most challenged books in schools.

VERDICT: With reservation (pun unintended), I agree with the inclusion of this book on the list. However, I don’t agree with the teaching of this book in its entirety in school. Certain passages would be excellent, but as I previously mentioned, there are definitely some inappropriate things I take issue with. Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?

Westing-Game-CoverThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (reread)

Love it. Love it. Love it!

The Westing Game was one of my favorite books when I was younger, and one I read several times. I was hoping it was as good as I remembered, and it certainly was! It’s a mystery, and that is really one of my favorite genres- Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, Heather Wells- I love them all. I had to force myself to take my time and not devour it in one sitting… I only managed to stretch it out to three days.

Samuel W. Westing has died and sixteen heirs gather for the reading of the will. They soon discover that there is much more work to be done if they want an inheritance. Westing has also been known as one who likes to play games, and these heirs must play one last game to discover the answer and win.

The story makes me think of the board game “Clue,” with all of its eccentric characters, and a murder mansion mystery. The clues fit together like a puzzle and it’s great fun to play along as each of the heirs makes their own discoveries. The book is really well written, and funny at times. It’s the perfect young adult mystery- easy to follow, but sophisticated enough for the reader not to feel like he’s being talked down to.

VERDICT: There is no doubt this book has earned its place on the list. As a Newbery Medal winner, and one of the few mysteries represented, it’s a perfect addition and definitely a book you should read!

**As I was searching for the book cover, I found out there’s a movie version of this. I must find it!

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