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Monday, August 22, 2011

YA Book Battle Contenders- StarCrossed and Out of My Mind!

The YA Book Battle is still raging over at The Shady Glade and I was selected to serve as a judge, along with Amber, my fellow judge for this bracket!  I'm withholding my overall grades for these books until the winner of our bracket is revealed, hopefully the suspense isn't too intense for anyone! We had two really great contenders on our plates, so let's get down to it:

IN THIS CORNER...StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce!
StarCrossedPage Count: 400 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre: YA, fantasy, first in a series
Copy for review compliments of the public library

Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so.

Accepted as a lady's maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold--as well as plenty of jewels for the taking.

But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren't as apolitical as she thought... that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

StarCrossed was a lot of fun to read.  There's plenty here to sink your teeth into, and the author spends a lot of time developing a really intricate fantasy world that has a very deep and complicated history as well as tendrils of unrest that are starting to wind their way through all facets of society.  Digger, our heroine, is a tough cookie, whose life has been difficult since the start and only gets more so as the book progresses.  Digger doesn't really know who she can trust, as her life experience tells her than anyone can turn on you at a moment's notice.  Consequently, she has to navigate a really treacherous environment pretty much on her own; failure means she's exposed as a thief, with consequences too ghastly to think about.

The theme of forbidden magic is strong in this book, and will only get stronger as the series moves forward.  Digger finds out that just about everything she knows is wrong; the downside of being a spy is that she fully understands how slippery people can be and how the truth can be changed or shattered depending on the circumstances.

While the pace of the story takes its time, and there are many details that need to be attended to, this is a book that is worth devoting an afternoon to.  The next installment, Liar's Moon, comes out in November of this year, and I've totally got it on my list.

AND IN THIS CORNER...Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper!
Out of My MindPage Count: 295 pages
Publisher: Atheneum
Genre: middle grade/YA, contemporary fiction
Copy for review was purchased by me

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.

Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

Out of My Mind is an important book. I can't honestly think of any other book that's quite like it, which is something that I think is both telling and sad. Told from the perspective of a girl who has cerebral palsy but is intellectually leaps and bounds ahead of her peers (and most people, to be perfectly honest) it's an eye-opening story that was resonant for me. I wouldn't classify this as an uplifting story or a happy story, but it was definitely a memorable one.

Melody is an incredibly smart girl, although she tends to get brushed off by the people around her because of her physical impairments and the barriers to communication that she has to overcome. There are a lot of different angles from which to approach this book, and frankly, I think the most obvious one, about the poor way that people with disabilities are treated, is probably the least complex; there are so many other layers in this book that that's almost like stating the obvious.

I was reading on the author's Amazon page that she didn't intend for Melody to be a representative of people with disabilities, and I think that's important to note with a book like this. I think everyone can think of an exception to the situations presented in the story or cite an example of a factoid or an attitude or a word choice that wasn't spot on, but that's not really the point. The point, for me, was to consider how my own actions impact other people, and to consider, for a moment, a life and a perspective that I encounter all the time (I'm a special education teacher) but don't think of in that way.

So what book won our bout in the battle? Stay tuned...
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