Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m NOT Reading #1: 47 July 11, 2010

I don’t give up on books easily.  For me to cast a book aside takes a lot.  I’m always trying to find something redeeming in what I read.

I picked this up in the clearance section of Half Price Books.  That should have been my first clue.

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47 by Walter Mosley

Little, Brown and Company, 2005

b

Pretty standard cover fare. Not gripping, but it WAS on clearance.

b

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10–The intense, personal slave narrative of 14-year-old Forty-seven becomes allegorical when a mysterious runaway slave shows up at the Corinthian Plantation. Tall John, who believes there are no masters and no slaves, and who carries a yellow carpet bag of magical healing potions and futuristic devices, is both an inspiration and an enigma. He claims he has crossed galaxies and centuries and arrived by Sun Ship on Earth in 1832 to find the one chosen to continue the fight against the evil Calash. The brutal white overseer and the cruel slave owner are disguised Calash who must be defeated. Tall John inserts himself into Forty-seven’s daily life and gradually cedes to him immortality and the power, confidence, and courage to confront the Calash to break the chains of slavery. With confidence, determination, and craft, Tall John becomes Forty-seven’s alter ego, challenging him and inspiring him to see beyond slavery and fight for freedom. Time travel, shape-shifting, and intergalactic conflict add unusual, provocative elements to this story. And yet, well-drawn characters; lively dialogue filled with gritty, regional dialect; vivid descriptions; and poignant reflections ground it in harsh reality. Older readers will find the blend of realism, escapism, and science fiction intriguing.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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I just couldn’t do it.  I did try.  But I’d sit down to read, chew through a bunch of pages, and then realize I’d only read about 8 pages.

I couldn’t buy into this book.  Sorry, School Library Journal.  I just don’t agree.  I DON’T “find the blend of realism, escapism, and science fiction intriguing.”  And I am a fan of speculative fiction.  This was just too out there, too far-fetched.  I made it to the half-way point before I gave up; it didn’t show signs of improving.

Further, it felt like Mosley was just trying too hard to deliver his message about freedom.  I do not like feeling like I’m being preached at.  The way I see it, you can send your message, or you can smash it and grind the broken pieces into my hand.  I’m going to enjoy one method a lot more than the other.

Sometimes you just have to walk away.

 

What I’m Reading #23: Burned April 5, 2010

I couldn’t sleep tonight.  So, as I often do, I turned on the bedside light and grabbed the book I’d been reading.

I remembered my thinking when I was reading Jen Bryant’s books The Trial and 1928: Views from the Scopes Trial, that I still didn’t GET the whole verse novel thing.

I get it now.

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Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Simon Pulse, 2006

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From Booklist

Gr. 9-12. Full of anger at her father, an alcoholic who abuses her mother, Pattyn begins to question her Mormon religion and her preordained, subservient role within it. She is confused by her mother’s acceptance of the brutal abuse, and although she is furious at and terrified of her father, she still longs for his love and approval. As the consequences of her anger become more dramatic, her parents send her to spend the summer with her aunt on a Nevada ranch. There she finds the love and acceptance she craves, both from her aunt and from a college-age neighbor, Ethan. Told in elegant free verse, Burned envelopes the reader in Pattyn’s highs and lows, her gradual opening to love, and her bouts of rage, confusion, and doubt. It exposes the mind of the abused, but regrettably offers no viable plan to deal with the abuser, a reality perhaps, but a plot element that may raise eyebrows in the adult community. Still, this will easily find rapid-fire circulation among its YA audience. A troubling but beautifully written novel. Frances Bradburn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Strengths: Simply:  One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.  Rivals the quality of Zusak’s The Book Thief, my top 5-star read.  Hopkins’ free verse is effortless and eloquent and makes strategic use of structure in subtle and artful ways.  Pattyn (a beautiful and hauntingly appropriate name derived by her violent father) is shatteringly real; Hopkins is a genius at building and developing her character.  I came to love Pattyn in all of her confusion and pain and daring to hope for something less hopeless than what she’s known all her life, and her fear that she will find it.  I was sucked irretrievably into her life, swallowed by the anguish that drove her existence.  Only once or twice have I read a book that made my heart break, and left me aching at the end.   Hopkins has elevated the verse novel to its highest, most breathtaking form.

Potential Flaws: In my eyes?  Absolutely none.

My Rating:

Beautiful.  Painful.  Moving.  And at the risk of sounding trite…a masterpiece.