Tag Archives: coming of age

Trickster’s Choice & Trickster’s Queen

trickster's choice trickster's queenTamora Pierce has written many books for young adults over the years, usually with strong, independent female characters.  I have been reading Tamora Pierce since middle school, when a friend recommended I read Alanna: The First Adventure.  It was the start of a love to rival that of Harry Potter!

I decided to write about Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen instead of any of the others because they are the two Tamora Pierce books that I pick up over and over again–my copy of Trickster’s Choice has a few pages that are falling out and my copy of Trickster’s Queen has a ding on the cover where I dropped it on the street on my way home from the bus stop.  These two books and I have been through a lot together!

The Trickster’s series follows Alianne, or Aly, of Pirate’s Swoop as she becomes involved with a country seeped in racism and poverty and the family that could change it all.  After foolishly leaving her home, Aly is kidnapped by pirates and taken to the Copper Isles as a slave, where she begins to work for the Balitang family.  She soon learns that the Balitangs are not a typical Kyprian family, and something about the two Balitang daughters seems to be of vital importance to the downtrodden raka people of the Isles.  A story of intrigue, queens, magic, gods, revenge, and finding a place and a passion, the Trickster’s series could be called the Game of Thrones for teens.

This is Tamora Pierce at her best!  Give Tamora Pierce a try–I hope you love her as much as I do!

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Choice. New York: Random House, 2003.  Cover art by Joyce Tenneson.  Image from BN.com.

Pierce, Tamora. Trickster’s Queen. New York: Random House, 2004.  Cover art by Joyce Tenneson.  Image from BN.com.

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Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Fantasy, Young Adult

The Book Thief

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is one of my very favorite books.  It is the story of a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany who learns to read from stolen books, learns to write by painting words on the wall, and who learns how to tell stories from the Jewish man hiding in her basement.  It is a marvelous story of death and survival and growing up, narrated by Death himself.

The New York Times blurb on the cover says The Book Thief is “Brilliant and hugely ambitious…the kind of book that can be life changing.”  It’s true.  I have never read a book like this one, and only one other book has given me such an appreciation of the power and magic of words (Harry Potter, just in case you were wondering).

I have to admit, I’m having a difficult time writing about this book!  It’s hard to describe the way I feel about this book.  Also, part of the wonder of The Book Thief is discovering it for the first time, so I think I will end by saying: READ THIS BOOK!

P.S. The movie adaptation comes out in the U.S. next weekend (Nov 8).  It looks really good, but please, read the book first, you won’t regret it!  http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi467773465/

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

Jacket photo copyright by Colin Anderson/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images.  Image from BN.com.

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Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Ender’s Game

ender's gameThe first time I read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, I was in sixth or seventh grade and I hated it.  In fact, I hated it so much I couldn’t even finish it.  It has been many years since middle school, and with a film adaptation set to be released in November, I felt that the time was ripe to give the book another shot.

Ender’s Game is part epic war story and part school story.  Andrew Wiggin, who goes by the name Ender, is chosen to go to an elite school to train to fight the inevitable second coming of the alien invaders called “buggers.”  The students at the school are divided into armies and spend most of their time playing mock battles against each other.  Ender quickly rises through the ranks and becomes the best student at the school, despite his young age.  Ender never loses.  Could he be the one who can destroy the buggers once and for all?

The most interesting thing about this story is that the whole world is relying on a group of specially trained children to save them.  Card seems to be interested in the idea that wisdom comes from the mouths of children, so to speak, and that children are not to be underestimated.  On the flip side, he asks questions about whether it’s right to deprive a child of his childhood and to ask him to hurt, kill, and essentially lose his innocence for  the greater good.  For being a book that is commonly read by a young adult audience, Ender’s Game poses a lot of ethical questions and deals with heavy topics.

Although Ender’s Game still isn’t my all-time favorite book, it was definitely worth finishing after all this time.  It’s a classic of the genre, and I encourage everyone to give it a shot!

Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1977.

Cover art by Sam Weber.  Image from Amazon.com.

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Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery

angel de la lunaAngel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery, by M. Evelina Galang, is a beautifully unique young adult novel, set in the Philippines.  After her father dies and her mother moves to the U.S. to pursue the American dream, Angel has to come to grips with her new role as head of the family.  As she settles into this new role, she comes to learn more about herself, her country, and what she believes in.  She finds a place and a purpose, but before long her life is uprooted again when her mother sends for her to come and live in Chicago.  Angel struggles in Chicago, with a new family, a new school, new friends, and even a new language.  She acts out and expresses herself the only way she knows how–by playing the drums like her father taught her.  She has to find who she is in America, and more importantly, she has to learn how to forgive.

Galang is a strong storyteller.  She has created a heroine who is truly original and has given her the sort of life most people can hardly imagine.  Angel is recognizable as an ordinary teen girl who makes mistakes, but is also a great role model; she is smart, responsible, and even involved in politics.  The story is split into two sections (the first set in the Philippines and the second set in Chicago), and this abrupt setting change helps the reader and Angel herself discover her identity and what really matters in life.

Galang is a well known and highly respected Filipina-American, and she has written a contemporary young adult classic.  While I felt that the story started off a little slow, it truly blossomed into the sort of story that makes you think and that sticks with you even after you’ve turned the last page!

Galang, M. Evelina. Angel De La Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2013.

Cover and book design by Linda S. Koutsky.  Cover copyright Niki Escobar.  Image from coffeehousepress.org.

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On Sal Mal Lane

on sal mal laneOn Sal Mal Lane, by Ru Freeman, is a beautiful story of a neighborhood and of neighbors in the years leading up to war in Sri Lanka.  The book begins with the Herath family moving into their new house on Sal Mal Lane, in the capitol city of Colombo.  Before long, the Heraths settle in as residents of Sal Mal Lane, and the four children, Suren, Rashmi, Nihil, and Devi build a childhood full of friends, cricket, school, music, and play.  But all is not well in the country, with unrest surfacing first far away and then too close to home, forcing the residents of Sal Mal Lane to decide where their loyalties lie.

Freeman’s writing style is simply elegant, with an air of pure storytelling.  For lack of a better word, I would describe this book as a “slow” read, but slow like a perfect day when one has the feeling of having all the time in the world, not slow like lagging behind.  While this is a story about happy days full of childhood things, there is a thread of uneasiness under it all that Freeman creates with a few carefully chosen updates about the world outside of Sal Mal Lane which she then leaves here and there for readers to find.  And when this uneasiness culminates at the end, the reader is hit like a ton of bricks by the surprisingly powerful message On Sal Mal Lane has to offer.

On Sal Mal Lane is not a quick read, nor a fast-paced one, but when I finally closed the book on the last page I felt glad for knowing the story, for taking the time to savor each chapter and to let the story build in its own way.  This is a book that is worth reading!

Freeman, Ru. On Sal Mal Lane. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2013.

Cover design by Kimberly Glyder Design.  Cover art by Pallab Seth/Getty Images.  Image from BN.com.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, has been one of my favorite books since a girl named Lauren recommended it to me in eighth grade.  The book is a collection of letters written by a unique boy named Charlie who is getting ready to start high school.  Charlie is somewhat of a loner, and in his first letter he says that he’s writing because “I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even though they could have” (pg. 3).  As the book progresses, Charlie finds a group of people who accept him, namely a girl named Sam and her stepbrother Patrick.  Charlie’s straightforward descriptions of their year together from his position as a “wallflower” provide crystal clear insights into the complicated (yes, complicated) life of the high school student.

I love that Chbosky organized this novel in a series of letters.  Charlie is such a rich, individual character, and his letters really allow the reader to understand him and accept him just the way he is, as so many others have not.  To me, a “wallflower” is a person who notices everything without really being noticed themselves.  While the book definitely highlights some of the “perks” of being a wallflower, Charlie also learns the benefits of having a solid group of friends and being noticed for exactly who he is.

This book is also soon to be a movie.  I for one am really looking forward to seeing how the story is portrayed onscreen, with a cast including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Paul Rudd.  Mostly, I just really want everyone to know what a great and important story The Perks of Being a Wallflower really is!

UPDATE: The movie is awesome–everything I had hoped it would be!  The author of the book should always direct the movie!

Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket, 1999.

Cover design by Stacy Drummond.  Cover photo by Jason Stang.  Image from amazon.com.

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Filed under Bookshelf, Coming of Age, Fiction, Young Adult