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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Challenge Readings: Contemporary/Realistic fiction

I read two books that fall into the contemporary/realistic fiction book for the young adult reading challenge.

Actually, I should say that I read two books that self-classify themselves as juvenile fiction. The first, The Pale Surface of Things, might more rightly be categorized as an adult fiction book that is appropriate for young people. In fact, it would make an excellent nominee for a Christopher Award.

It was an enchanting book in a setting that was, to me at least, unique. I'd never before read a book set in modern Crete. It tells the story of several people who are forced to make choices between their own self-interest and what is best for the community. It begins with a runaway groom, fleeing from a grasping, materialistic bride into a world of unexpected kindness and violence.

The author is an excellent storyteller with a great command of mood and language. My one complaint is that the book wraps up a little too neatly and has a few too many coincidences in it. However, he also created characters who really have to question what moral courage means and the situations are compelling and filled with suspense.

I'll plan to get a review posted of it before too much longer.

The second book was Emmy's Question. I approached this book with a healthy amount of skepticism. It's the sort of topic you expect to be addressed on after-school specials. When done well, it can be a memorable classic, when not done well, it can be turgid and heavy-handed. I was pleased that this book firmly fell into the first category. From the very first paragraph, I was hooked and couldn't stop reading until I'd finished the book.

Emmy is a young girl with an alcoholic mother. The entire story is told from her perspective as she struggles to understand something far beyond her experience. She takes the reader with her as she learns more about her mother's disease and how not to take responsibility for it.

Both books were highly satisfying reads.

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