Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

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

What I’m Reading #27: Green Angel April 15, 2010

This is the third Alice Hoffman book I’ve read and reviewed, along with Incantation and The Foretelling.  This happened to be in my car today when I went to get my hair done, and I read it while waiting.

I’m getting to be a huge fan of her lean, lovely prose.

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Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

Scholastic, 2003

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From Booklist

Gr. 6-12. Hoffman’s latest fable for teens begins with an apocalyptic scene that mirrors the events of 9/11: a girl watches as her city across the river explodes into smoke and fire, and people leap from buildings. Green, named for her uncanny gardening talent, is 15 years old, and, in the tragedy, she loses her beloved family. Faced with grief and an anarchic world, Green finds solace in the brittle numbness of daily tasks and in the pain of the tattoos that she begins to draw on herself. Slowly, she connects with survivors, especially a mysterious boy, who helps her replant her garden and feel joy again. Hoffman’s lush prose and moody, magic realism will easily draw readers into the harsh, ash-covered world that follows the explosion, as well as the sunny world that precedes it, when “bees would drink the sweat from . . . skin, and never once sting.” Green’s brave competence and the hope she finds in romance will appeal to many teens, particularly those with gothic tastes. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Strengths: I really thought this was a beautiful book.  The idea of a post-apocalyptic fable is not new, but Hoffman makes it fresh and hauntingly lovely.  The narrative resonates with a message of hope, even in the dark terror of Green’s new world.  It’s a touching story about the power of the soul to survive even the harshest of realities.  I love its edginess that makes the softer moments even more sweet.  A fast read in Hoffman’s incredible style, it looks simple but speaks volumes.

Potential Flaws: Hoffman’s sparse style may be too bare for readers who crave lush narratives.  And the question of exactly WHAT happened to destroy the city is never truly answered (and in fact, is relatively unimportant), but some readers may be bothered by the lack of explanation.  I certainly wasn’t.

My Rating:

Classic Hoffman: Deceptively simple with a rich complexity that speaks hauntingly to the soul.

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What I’m Reading #8: Genesis February 3, 2010

As promised, I took a break from my historical fiction streak.  I decided to turn to science fiction, a genre I’m usually not too excited by.  Not sure why, but it’s never been my preference.  Something got me interested in Bernard Beckett’s book Genesis, though–I couldn’t say exactly what.

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Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From Publishers Weekly

Anax, the dedicated student historian at the center of Beckett’s brutal dystopian novel, lives far in the future—the distant past events of the 21st century are taught in classrooms. The world of that era, we learn, was ravaged by plague and decay, the legacy of the Last War. Only the island Republic, situated near the bottom of the globe, remained stable and ordered, but at the cost of personal freedom. Anax, hoping her scholarly achievements will gain her entrance to the Academy, which rules her society, has extensively studied Adam Forde, a brilliant and rebellious citizen of the Republic who fought for human dignity in the midst of a regimented, sterile society. To join the Academy’s ranks, Anax undergoes a test before three examiners, and as the examination progresses, it becomes clear that her interpretations of Adam’s life defy conventional thought and there may be more to Adam—and the Academy—than she had imagined. Though the trappings of Beckett’s dystopian society feel perhaps too Brave New World, the rigorous narrative and crushing final twist bring a welcome freshness to a familiar setup. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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The best word I can think of to describe Beckett’s book is “cerebral.”  For a short book, it certainly made me think.

Strengths: Beckett puts a lot into 150 pages, but it’s well-paced.  I will admit that for a large portion of the book, I found the philosophical discussions bordering on tedious–but when I read the ending, it knocked me sideways.  The book had an ending I absolutely did not see coming, which is a rare treat.  This strikes me as a book that will benefit from a second read.

Potential Flaws: As I mentioned above, I found myself bogged down in the cycle of philosophical conversation that took place.  Not all readers will have the fortitude to press through to the ending, which is worth the effort.

My Rating:

Beckett’s masterful ending earned it an additional star at the end.