Book Review: The Resisters by Eric Nylund

January 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

In the spirit of full disclosure, I went into The Resisters really wanting to like it. In high school I read and enjoyed Eric Nylund’s Halo novels and I wasn’t the only one. After writing those books, he received a steady stream of letters, emails, etc. from readers (mostly boys who hadn’t done much reading) asking where they could find other books like them. He pointed them to Ender’s Game and Robert Heinlein, but in the end decided that there just wasn’t enough good fiction for boys. So he set about writing The Resisters in an attempt to appeal to a generation of boys more likely to be playing video games and watching movies than reading books. In my opinion, The Resisters landed right on the mark.

Twelve-year-old Ethan Blackwood has always known exactly what he wanted—to win the state soccer championship, get into the best high school, and become an astronaut. Then he meets Madison and Felix, who tell him something . . . insane. They claim that 50 years ago, aliens took over the earth, and everyone past puberty is under their mind control. Ethan doesn’t believe it. But then he sees for himself the aliens’ monster bug robots and the incredible way that Madison and Felix have learned to fight them. So Ethan Blackwood has a choice: he can go back to his normal, suburban, protected lie of a life—or he can become a Resister.

I talked about it a little in my post on lessons I learned from what I read in 2011, but « Read the rest of this entry »

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Book Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

November 17, 2011 § 3 Comments

Percy Jackson is something of a problem child.  He’s a good kid, but with ADHD, dyslexia, and a penchant for attracting trouble, he’s been kicked out of boarding school after boarding school. On top of that, Percy seems to have angered some people (and things) he thought only existed in Greek mythology. As it turns out, Percy is a demi-god, half god and half human, and suspected of stealing Zeus’ master lightning bolt. Along with a pair of new friends he has to set off on a quest to learn who was really behind the theft before the gods of Olympus go to war over it.

My favorite thing about The Lightning Thief (which is the first of a five book series) is Percy Jackson.  He’s got a unique and entertaining voice (it reminded me on occasion of Holden Caulfield, especially at the beginning when he was getting kicked out of school and returning to New York City), and I love that the book takes as its hero a boy who struggles in school. Riordan doesn’t elevate Percy’s poor grades as admirable, but I love that his protagonist isn’t the idyllic orphan who just needed to be given a chance.  He frames Percy’s ADHD as a hyper-response mechanism to help him in battle and explains the dyslexia by saying his mind was hardwired to read Greek, not English. I think it’s such a great way to engage readers who don’t fit into the perfect student mold. The other thing I loved about The Lightning Thief was the funny spin it took in modernizing Greek mythology and imagining what it would look like in light of the modern world.  I don’t want to ruin anything, but there are some entertaining cameos by Greek gods, monsters, and locations.

My biggest complaint about The Lightning Thief (and I talked about this in a post on originality last week) is that it follows the Harry Potter formula almost to the letter, substituting Greek mythology for magic. Instead of going to a school for magic, the characters go to a summer camp for demigods, and the main character is accompanied by a brainy girl and a self-conscious boy. There’s a direct substitute for Slytherine, Malfoy, and Quidditch. There’s even an invisibility hat to fill in for the invisibility cloak.

On the whole, the book is a fun read, great for either boys or girls, and I think especially the non-traditional reader.  The similarity to Harry Potter is my main reservation to giving this a wholehearted endorsement, but I’ve heard a lot of love about this book from both parents and young readers.

Book Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Graveyard Book was an interesting read for me because when I was in the Middle Grade age range (about 8-12 years old) I wouldn’t have liked it at all (because it would’ve scared the pants off me).  I probably wouldn’t have made it past the first chapter, but that would’ve been a shame.  The book begins with the murder of two-year-old Bod’s family.  He was supposed to be killed too, but by a stroke of luck he wandered out of the house and up the road to a nearby graveyard.  He is taken in and raised by the ghosts that live there as well as a solitary guardian who is neither alive or dead.

The Graveyard Book is a ghost story turned on its head where the ghosts are the benevolent, slightly ridiculous characters in the novel and the little “haunting” that goes on is well-deserved by misbehaving children.  The first half of the book covers ten years of Bods life, telling highlights of his strange upbringing in the graveyard.  The second half of the book increases the pace and tension (I won’t tell you how) and Gaiman does a brilliant job tying in all the episodes from the first half.

A great read that I would recommend for all but the faint of heart, and a Newbury Award winner to boot.

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