Nov 11, 2009

Love is the Higher Law

David Leviathan, Love is the Higher Law, 2009, Knopf.


Yeah, I know that September 11th was months ago. The only reason I’m talking about it now is that I picked up David Leviathan’s Love is the Higher Law on an impulse. At first I didn’t think I’d even want to read the book. It’s about teenagers living in New York City when the World Trade Center was destroyed, something which I didn’t need to relive (having been a teen myself at the time albeit in New England not NYC). But curiosity got the better of me.

Leviathan tells the story of three teens living in NYC who all have varying experiences of that day and the days and weeks afterwards. Yet the book is not so much about the events of that day as it is about how the teens are shaped by it, in the way that each generation is shaped by their own significant historical event. It is also feels like a bit of an ode to the brief period of time when we were in transition as a nation and a culture.

The book was a bit of a nostalgia trip for me. At one point a couple of the characters go to a Travis concert and the band is described thus “musically, they may be a blip on the Brit-pop radar—but in September 2001 they are big enough to sell out Radio City Music Hall” (81). It was amusing to me to read that since I remember thinking I was so indie for liking that band in high school. It also lead me to the question I now keep asking myself: whether Leviathan intended this book for those of us in our twenties who had our teenage world view interrupted by 9/11 or for those teens today who were still in elementary school when it occurred? I’m sure my reading of this work feels entirely different than someone who is a currently a teenager.

Has anyone else read this who was also in high school or college in 2001?

Happy Veteran's Day

Have no fear, although I've been silent for the past week or so, I most certainly have been continuing to read. I routinely raid both the YA sections of the library I work at and the library of the town I live in. Therefore this week will be mostly mini-reviews so I can keep track for both my own memory and your own interest.

L.M. Meyer, Rapture of the Deep: A Bloody Jack Adventure, 2009, Harcourt's Childrens Books.

Having left us with quite the cliffhanger at the end of My Bonny Light Horseman, Meyer returns delivering Jacky and her friends from a number of scrapes. Thankfully Jacky returns to the sea where she dives for sunken treasure and Jaimy is stationed on a ship only a stone's throw away. But things never do go smooth for Jacky and though we know she will come out on top in the end, Meyer doesn't fail to keep both his readers and characters on their toes.

A preposterous number of former villians and friends make cameos in this book which leads one to wonder if Meyer is planning on wrapping up the series anytime soon? I love good historical fiction, which this book is, although the author has a knack for placing Jacky in the most historically significant places with some of history's major players. As Jacky's story progresses so does the maturity level of the subject matter, placing this book squarely in the teen category as opposed to tweens.

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire, 2009, Scholastic.

I'm going to tell you straight off the bat, I didn't like The Hunger Games. In fact, I'm known at my library for being one of the few staff members who wasn't raving about what a great book it was. Some of that had to do with the fact that I didn't realize it was the first book in a trilogy (I know, I know) and the main bit had to do with the fact that I felt there was no real climax to the story arc of the first book. Which means by now you're all wondering why I read the sequel if I didn't like the first one.

I read it because I wanted to see how Collins did on the second book. My verdict? SO much better than the first one. I honestly felt like she could have started the story here if it weren't for the fact that the first volume (of the background story) is in fact, fairly central to the plot. Since I imagine most of you have read this I'll spare you a lengthy summary. For those of you who haven't, it deals with the aftermath of the Games including Katniss' relationships with Peeta and Gale and the burgeoning rebellion against the Capitol. Some critics complained that the book was basically Katniss agonizing over which boy to choose. I don't agree. These were secondary to the larger plot of the rebellion and dare I say, symbols of the ongoing struggle in Katniss' mind of whether she should do what the Capitol wants her to do, or help the rebellion for which she has become a symbol.

Gayle Forman, If I Stay, 2009, Dutton Juvenile.

Mia is a high school senior who lives in Oregon with her parents and little brother. While she agonizes over many of the same decisions as other teens (where to go to college, who she is exactly, and what to do about her boyfriend when she graduates) it is only after a car crash takes the lives of her parents and leaves her in a coma that she finds herself having to make the decision between life and death. Mia's body is left in a coma while her spirit wanders the halls of the hospital spying on her loved ones, the nurses, the doctors, and complete strangers who inform her decision. We also see what life was like for Mia before the accident through flashbacks which give insight into her character's decision making process.

God, this book was absolutely heart-wrenching to read. By the end I was teared up if not on the verge of straight out crying. It is a difficult book to read, more so than 13 Reasons Why was a difficult book to read. Possibly because despite the beautiful writing the book is a downer. Yet I would say that this is probably one of the best books published this year. The characters felt true-to-life, even Mia's hipster parents rang true without seeming phony. Just be warned, you shouldn't read this book if you're already feeling low because it definitely isn't the kind of book that although depressing leaves you uplifted at the end.