Posts Tagged ‘Debut novel’

Book Club Pick: October 2016

missperegrines

Book Details:

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Series: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series, followed by Hollow City (2014), Library of Souls (2015)

Country: United States

Publisher: Quirk Books

First Published: 2011

Pages: 352

Publisher’s Description:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its decaying bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow – impossible though it seems – they may still be alive.

Review:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is told from the point-of-view of sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman.

As a child Jacob’s grandfather Abe, a World War II veteran and Jewish refugee, would tell him stories from his own childhood featuring flesh eating monsters and children with the most peculiar abilities.

Jacob as he grows older becomes sceptical of his grandfather’s childhood tales. Even though Abe shows his grandson a cigar box fill of old photographs as proof Jacob challenges Abe that his stories are fiction. Abe chooses never to mention the stories again.

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After Jacob finds his grandfather dying with chest wounds from a mysterious attack, Abe tells Jacob ‘Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940’. What does this mysterious message mean? Even more did Jacob really just glimpse one of the monsters from his grandfather’s stories in the moonlight?

Following his grandfather’s death Jacob finds a letter postmarked from Cairnholm Island addressed to his grandfather from Ms Alma LeFay Peregrine.

Jacob tries to convince his parents to let him go to Cairnholm Island, off the coast of Wales, for the summer. Jacob’s psychiatrist Dr. Golan approves of the idea, so Jacob and his father set off. While there Jacob explores the island and searches for answers about his grandfather’s past.

Riggs initially envisioned his debut novel as a picture book. He was encouraged by his editor to use the photographs to guide the narrative and it really works. Each picture is perfectly selected and adds to the story.

The vintage black and white photographs are quirky photos the author collected and from the collection of other collectors.

The novel has been followed by two sequels Hollow City (2014) and Library of Souls (2015).

A film version directed by Tim Burton opened last month. It includes a stellar cast including Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Alison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson.

 missperegrinesposter

Links:

Ransom Riggs Official Website

Ransom Riggs on Twitter

Ransom Riggs on Instagram

Ransom Riggs on Tumblr

Ransom Riggs on Facebook

Ransom Riggs on YouTube

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: June 2016

SpeakCover

Book Details:

Title: Speak

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

First Published: 1999

Pages: 198

Publisher’s Description:

From her first moment at Merryweather High, Melinda Sordino knows she’s an outcast. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops – a major infraction in high-school society – so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know glare at her. She retreats into her head, where the lies and hypocrisies of high school stand in stark relief to her own silence, making her all the more mute. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either – there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. Try as she might to avoid it, it won’t go away, until there is a painful confrontation. Once that happens, she can’t be silent – she must speak the truth. In this powerful novel, an utterly believable, bitterly ironic heroine speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while learning that, although it’s hard to speak up for yourself, keeping your mouth shut is worse.

Review:

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‘The First Ten Lies They Will Tell You in High School’, Speak pp. 5-6

The novel opens with Melinda Sordino starting her high school freshman year. She has been ostracised by her friends and fellow students after she called the cops at a summer party. It is clear that something happened. I think most readers will be able to predict what happened at the party but I won’t spoil it.

At school Melinda is befriended by a new girl Heather, only to later be ditched for ‘the Marthas’ a group of popular girls.

Melinda a social outcast

Melinda a social outcast

She becomes more depressed (Melinda is probably suffering from undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder) and begins to skip school and frequently challenges parental and authority figures, who see her silence simply as attention seeking behaviour.

There are also literary parallels with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), which Melinda is studying in English. Hester Prynne, the central character of The Scarlet Letter, like Melinda is a social outcast. Melinda also has a poster of author / poet Maya Angelou in her closet. Angelou was a outsider like Melinda and her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) had been banned by the school.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

The novel is written in first person and almost reads like Melinda’s diary. Anderson uses a non-linear narrative with flashbacks disrupting the present. This fragmented narrative structure illustrates Melinda’s depressed state and the trauma she has suffered.

Also what is interesting is that Melinda works through her depression and PSTD herself without seeking professional help, although she does receive support from her lab partner David Petrakis and her art teacher Mr. Freeman.

This coming-of-age problem novel is about a young woman finding her own voice, and speaking up and allowing the truth to set her free. It is a powerful piece of writing for a debut novel.

In 2004 a film version directed by Jessica Sharzer starring Kristin Stewart screened at the Sundance Film Festival and screened on Showtime and Lifetime the following year.

Speak_film

 

Links:

Laurie Halse Anderson Official Website

Laurie Halse Anderson on Twitter

Laurie Halse Anderson on Instagram

Laurie Halse Anderson on Tumblr

Laurie Halse Anderson on YouTube

 

Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: September 2015

Boy Meets Boy

Book Details:

Title: Boy Meets Boy

Author: David Levithan

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

First Published: 2003

Pages: 192

Publisher’s Description:

He looks up at me. And then, after a beat, he breaks out smiling. “Hey”, he says, “I’ve been looking all over for you.” I don’t know what to say. I am so happy and so scared.

Paul has been gay his whole life and he’s confident about almost everything. He doesn’t have to hide his feelings like best friend Tony. Or even cope with loving the wrong guy like his other best friend Joni.

But heartbreak can happen to anyone. Falling in love changes everything…

 

Review:

The protagonist and narrator for the novel is high school sophomore Paul, who is openly gay and accepted by his family and friends. Paul has known he was gay since he was in kindergarten and ‘became the first openly gay class president in the history of Ms Farquar’s third grade class.’

Tony is Paul’s best friend who lives in the next town over. He is gay but unlike Paul, Tony’s parents are religious and are not accepting of his sexuality. It is great to see a strong friendship between two gay teenage males that is not romantic or sexual.

Joni is Paul’s other friend, when she starts dating Chuck, a classmate Paul does not approve of, it puts strain on their friendship.

The supporting characters are interesting and vivid. There is Infinite Darlene, a drag queen who is the homecoming queen and star quarterback, and Zeke the “Gaystafarian”, who performs gigs at the local bookstore.

It’s boy meets boy, when Paul is instantly attracted to Noah, the new boy at school, after an earlier chance meeting in a bookstore. Similar to boy meets girl stories inevitably boy loses boy when Paul kisses his ex-boyfriend Kyle, who is questioning his sexuality.

Paul has to set out to win Noah back. The school bookie put his odds at 12-1 of Noah taking him back but Paul is determined to gain his trust back. Despite Paul’s mistake he is a likable character.

The novel presents an almost perfect utopian world where all sexualities are celebrated and accepted.  For example, there are the Joy Scouts instead of the Boy Scouts (after the “Boy Scouts decided gays had no place in their ranks, our Scouts decided the organization had no place in our town”) and the high school has a thriving gay-straight alliance. Levithan is deliberately showing readers a world one would hope will exist in the future where there is no judgment, prejudice or discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Boy Meets Boy is dedicated ‘for Tony (even if he only exists in a song)’. ‘Tony’ is the title of Patty Griffin’s song about a young gay classmate who committed suicide. Levithan has said ‘every time I hear that song, it breaks my heart; you could say I wrote a whole novel to change one song’s ending.’

The writing is very witty, wry and quirky. Although the pace is a little slow moving at times. Ultimately it is a quirky story about love and the obstacles to love.

Links:

David Levithan Official Website

David Levithan on Facebook

David Levithan on Twitter

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

 

Book Club Pick: March 2015

The Outsiders

Book Details:

Title: The Outsiders

Author: S.E. Hinton

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Penguin

First Published: 1967

Pages: 180

Publisher Description:

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count of his brother, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends – true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the Socs – a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends – he knows he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down . . .

 

Review:

This coming-of-age novel is written by a teenager for teenagers. Susan Eloise Hinton was 15 when she started writing The Outsiders and 17 when it was published in 1967. The Outsiders is often credited as beginning the realistic young adult novel.

The story is about of a group of boys, ‘greasers’, living on the east side of Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid 1960s.

The youngest member of the greasers gang is the novel’s narrator, fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Curtis, who lives with his two older brothers Darry (20) and Sodapop (16).

Darry works hard to care and support his two brothers after their parents were killed in a car accident – not an easy task for one just out of his teens himself. Sodapop has dropped out of school to work at the gas station, so Ponyboy feels the pressure to be a success at school. He is sure that Darry resents him and lives with the fear that he will be taken away and put in a boy’s home.

Sodapop and Darry aren’t Ponyboy’s only family – fellow Greasers, Dally, Two-bit Matthews, Steve Randle, and his best friend Johnny Cade are like his brothers.

The Greasers are constantly at war with the rival rich west side kids, the ‘socs’ (socials). This feud turns fatal one night when a group of Socs corner and attack Ponyboy and Johnny in a park.

Francis Ford Coppola adapted the novel into a film of the same name, released in 1983 starring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, and Diane Lane. Hinton makes a cameo in the film as a nurse.

Cast of 'The Outsiders' (1983, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

Cast of ‘The Outsiders’ (1983, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

The Outsiders is a frequently challenged book and has been banned in many schools and libraries due to its portrayal of gang violence and underage smoking and drinking. Although today it is often a studied text in many high schools, which is fantastic because while the lingo may have changed it’s still as relevant today as it was in 1967.

“Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold”

 

Links:

S. E. Hinton Official Website

S.E. Hinton on Twitter

Note: My copy is the Speak Platinum Edition which includes a new foreword by S.E. Hinton, interview with S.E. Hinton and a discussion guide for students.

 

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: November 2014

TheRecruit

Book Details:

Title: The Recruit

Author: Robert Muchamore

Series: CHERUB (Book one)

Country: Britain

Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books

First Published: 2004

Pages: 342

Publisher Description:

A terrorist doesn’t let strangers in her flat because they might be undercover police or intelligence agents, but her children bring their mates home and they run all over the place.

The terrorist doesn’t know that a kid had bugged every room in her house, made copies of all her computer files and stolen her address book. The Kid works for CHERUB.

CHERUB is not James Bond. There are no master criminals or high-tech gadgets. CHERUB kids live in the real world. They slip under adult radar and get information that sends criminals and terrorists to jail. For official purposes, these children do no exist.

Review:

The novel opens with eleven (soon to be twelve) year-old James Choke at school. Teacher’s pet Samantha Jennings relentlessly teases James about his obese, stolen goods dealing mother Gwen. James retaliates pushing Samantha against the wall. She cuts her face on a protruding nail. Panicked James flees the classroom knocking his teacher down in the process. James’ day only gets worse when Samantha’s older brother Greg corners him, shreds his clothes with a knife and delivers a mighty punch to his stomach.

Before James can tell his mother about what happened at school Gwen tragically passes away after drinking alcohol while on prescription medication. James and his nine-year-old tomboy half-sister Lauren are taken to Nebraska Home, a care home. The next morning Lauren is told she is going to live with father Ron – but he does not want James.

James is befriended by thirteen-year-old Kyle Blueman, whom he shares a room with at Nebraska Home. Despite warnings from Kyle, James falls in with the wrong crowd and after he offends teen gang ring leader Rob Vaughn, the boys set him up to get caught in a liquor store robbery.

The next morning following his arrest James wakes up naked at an unknown facility where he finds everyone is wearing different coloured t-shits and no one will give him a straight answer. James finally meets Dr. Terrance ‘Mac’ McAfferty, who explains that he is at the training campus for CHERUB, a top secret intelligence branch of MI5, where youth aged ten to seventeen undergo extensive training to become spies.

Mac puts James through three entrance tests. If he passes them – he can then choose if he wishes to train to become a secret agent. After passing the recruitment test James returns to Nebraska House where he learns that roommate Kyle and the home’s counsellor work for CHERUB and arranged for James to be recruited.

Three weeks after his arrival James is partnered with Kerry Chang and enters 100 day gruelling training programme under the sadistic Norman Large. Will he pass basic training, earn his grey t-shirt and become a CHERUB agent?

The narrative is written is first person and is easy to read with short chapters. There is plenty of action and adventure to keep readers turning the pages.

The book does feature some moderate language and violence. The central protagonist is a flawed character – he has anger issues, smokes, drinks alcohol, steals, vandalises property. But ultimately James’ redeemable feature is that he cares for his sister Lauren and he begins to develop a moral compass and come to terms with the idea that the good guys have do bad things and the bad guys aren’t necessarily all bad.

The novel tackles some tough topics that would be relevant to young adults such as bullying, peer pressure, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, the loss of a parent and grief.

I would recommend this book for audiences aged 11+. It is probably going to appeal most to younger teen boys.

Links:

Robert Muchamore Official Website

Robert Muchamore on Twitter

Robert Muchamore on Facebook

Robert Muchamore on YouTube

Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.