Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cybils Mini-Reviews

The following are some of the YA Fiction nominees for the Cybils awards:

by Swati Avashti
Knopf Books for Young Readers
978-0375863400
When Jace finally stands up to his abusive father, he winds up with a rearranged face, on the doorstep of the brother he hasn't seen in years. His brother takes him in, but both have many demons to deal with resulting from the years of abuse - and a mother who is still trapped at home.

Powerful, realistic, exhausting, important. There isn't much more we could say without this becoming an inarticulate mess. Buy it. Read it. Not for the younger reader - several descriptions of horrifically violent scenes. We give it a

5 out of 5.

by April Lurie
Delacorte Press
978-0385736756

Noah seems to be making a small career out of rebelling against the image of his father, The Bible Answer Guy, becoming a minor juvenile delinquent. He befriends a homeless teen who happens to be gay, right at the time when someone is killing homeless gay teens and leaving Bible verses near their bodies.

The author has an obvious agenda, which isn't necessarily bad in and of itself, but she is a bit heavy-handed in delivering it. Noah's father is the only one who doesn't give some sort of sermon, and everyone except the bad guy comes to the same conclusion about homosexuality by the end. As a result, none of the characters comes fully to life as an individual person. If she did more showing than telling, she would be a bit more effective.

That being said, the mystery aspect was extremely well-done. We constantly found ourselves positive we had it all worked out, then changing our minds completely. At one point we decided the murderer was Noah's 9-year-old sister, simply because she was the only person we hadn't suspected (it wasn't her, btw). Definitely worth reading if you like thrillers, we give it a

3 out of 5.

by Varian Johnson
Delacorte Press
978-0385-738040
Main characters quetioning their religious beliefs seems to be big this year. In Saving Maddie, Joshua is the opposite of The Less-Dead's Noah, faithfully trying to live up to the expectations ofeveryone has for the preacher's son. When Maddie, a childhood friend, moves back into town, he is dismayed by how much she has changed. He initially sets out to "save" her, but discovers things aren't necessarily as black and white as he has always believed them to be, and Maddie may not want or need to be "saved" - at least, not in the way he thinks.

We liked this one more than we thought we would. The characters manage to shy away from stereotypes for the most part, and religion itself is not portrayed as all good or all bad. Maddie urges Joshua to decide for himself why he believes the things he does, but that doesn't translate into him suddenly changing his mind about everything he believes. Overall, just as the characters are allowed to make up (and change) their own minds about things, so is the reader. Oh, and did anyone pick up on the little stab at the old damaged rose illustration? Nicely done! We give it a

4 out of 5.

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