Thursday, July 23, 2009

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

I went back and forth with this novel. There were things I liked, and yet things I felt were too contrived. I loved the premise of the book, and think that the controversies within are very import to explore. I think there is a strong faction of ultra conservatives/religious fundamentalists in our society that do have these strong opinions and do try to impact things such as gay rights and the teaching of evolution in our schools. However, I thought that the characters in this novel were bit heavy handed, almost too stereotypical. For example I thought the pastor was portrayed as very small-minded and nasty, and Mena's parents were not fleshed out all- they were very one-dimensional and not believable to me. I also thought Mena's old friends were especially nasty for Christians. The characters in Casey's family were much more developed - compared to Mena's parents, and I liked them. They were quirky and fun. I also liked the science teacher. But again, were these characters also too stereotypical?

However, what I did like about the book was Mena's character. I thought the author did a great job drawing out Mena's conflict between her religious beliefs and science. I like how the author shows that God and science can co-exist, that faith does not preclude scientific fact, that there is room for God in science. I also loved the relationship between Mena and Casey...though wondered if it would be too chaste for some of our readers?

I also like the way the author unfolds the slowly, throughout the novel, we learn what happened to the boy in Mena's old school and how it came to be that her old friends are now ostracizing her.

Overall, I felt this book did an excellent job addressing the issue of evolution vs creationism. And I think it did a great job of showing the reader that a few, powerful people can have a strong influence on society! And that it not always easy to make the right decisions in the face of peer pressure. Anxious to see what you all thought.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is the first book in a planned trilogy. Book two is due out in Sept. 2009. And I've heard rumors of a movie! I really liked this book, I had a hard time putting it down! It reminded me of others in the genre- Unwind, House of the Scorpion and The Giver. The United States in a post-apocalyptic time, a very scary time- a great cautionary tale.

I thought the book was very well drawn out, I was at times anxious to read to see what would happen next, but then again nervous about what would happen next. It was tense and filled with constant suspense. Under all the action and adventure there was still the age old plot of the love triangle...almost hidden between trying to avoid being killed by the other contestants and surviving in the wilds.

I came to like the character of Katniss- again I am drawn to the strong females in a novel. She saves her family, provides for them and takes her sister's place in the games. And, as one reviewer said, what teenage girls wouldn't love a story whereas the heroine gets to choose between two hunky guys- Peeta and Gale??!! Hmmm! I have to say, towards the end I couldn't believe she didn't realize that Peeta really cared for her! Did she really think the kid was faking it? I felt terrible that she didn't feel the same. Come on, he gave her that loaf of bread!!!

One of the things that bother me about the novel were the devices the author used to help move the plot along- they were unrealistic, as if she was taking an easy way out- for example, when Katniss needs burn cream or medicine for Peeta, and the stuff floats down from the sky on silver parachutes. I also thought the scene at the end with the berries and the aftermath of that situation was a bit contrived.

I really think that our students, who have been raised in the reality TV/Survivor era will love this book. I think it speaks right to them. It has adventure, action survival, competition, a love story, strong characters...a sure fire hit with the YA crowd. It would be a great book to pair with other dystopian novels- 1984 etc...

Looking forward to seeing what you all thought.