March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review the Latest from David Klass, Kate Boorman, and More

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Boorman_DarkthawBOORMAN, Kate. Darkthaw. Abrams/Amulet. Oct 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419716638.
Gr 8 Up—
Fear once ruled the settlement, but now that they have broken free, they can finally live without it, right? No. I liked that the cover showed ice splitting, because that symbolized all the ties that Emmeline had to break. However, the girl in the red cloak looks completely different from the girl on the last book cover. Also, I don’t like how the cloak is red. It makes me think that this will be some sort of red riding hood story—which it definitely is not. I like the font of the title. The most compelling aspect of this book was its stark description. Everything was described beautifully and accurately.     I was disappointed in how Emmeline expects Kane to leave his family for her. If she really loved him, than she would realize that family comes first. I was also disappointed in all the death and destruction. Some of it definitely served no purpose in developing the character and plot. Also Emmeline’s way of describing the carnage kind of makes it seem like she has PTSD. I don’t want the author to take this personally. I like her writing style; I just don’t like the book.–Audrey C., 13

becoming darknessBRAMBLES, Lindsay. Becoming Darkness. Switch Pr. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781630790172.
Gr 8 Up—
I did not get far enough to find anything I liked about the book. Right off the bat, after the prologue, there is a conversation between two best friends. The language seemed awkward, unrealistic, and grating to my ears and eyes. And this goes on for 12 pages. This piece of conversation could have been more enticing and interesting for readers, and more important to the story, but instead left me wondering when they would stop talking, and the story would begin. I think the cover was a bit too intense for the book, and the text could have been bigger.–Jessica Y., 14

Klass_LosersKLASS, David. Losers Take All. Farrar. Oct. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374301361.
Gr 7 Up—
Jack Logan has a sports legacy in his family, but he isn’t like the rest of them. When his high school makes playing a sport mandatory, he decides to fight back. I fell in love with the main character at first sight— or is it first description? He was like a mirror image of me: Someone more interested in academic development than sports, and willing to show that he is not like his sports-crazed father. The cover was creatively designed, using a “fan hand” with the finger bent down, showing dedication, but not TOO much dedication. I personally thought that the book was golden. I had read some of David Klass’s work before, and was not disappointed.–Thadeus S., 14

NELSON, Suzanne. Serendipity’s Footsteps. Knopf. Nov 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385392129.
Gr 10 Up—A truly compelling read, Serendipity’s Footsteps captures the story of a pair of shoes made in 1938, Germany, following them through the eyes of multiple, well-developed characters to the present day. Focusing on three main characters, this book will evoke many ideas and memories, and will make you look at shoes in a whole new light after even just the prologue. I liked the cover a lot. I think it captured the contents of the book well, and it drew me in at the first sight.

I really loved the writing style. Nelson really gets into the different characters, writing from how they think and view the world. This really enhanced the reading experience, and made the book more interesting to read. I know having Dalya meet Ray and Pinny in the end was an important part to the story, but it seems a little unrealistic, because she would be in her 90s and probably wouldn’t be working in the shoe shop anymore.

Serendipity’s Footsteps was a truly amazing read. I never wanted to put the book down, and always wanted to find out what happens to Ray, Pinny, and Dalya, and the shoes that are the basis of this story. Even after reading only the prologue, I was hooked, and wanted to know what happens in this beautiful story of friendship, understanding oneself, and shoes, of course.–Zoe D., 12

Nelson_Serendipity_ANOTHER TAKE

I didn’t like the cover at all. It’s very cliche for a historical/intergenerational novel to have images reflecting each main character, and this cover is no exception. There’s also the whole sepia tone thing going on, which only enforces the cliches of the cover. Unfortunately, this reflects the contents pretty accurately, because Serendipity’s Footsteps is nothing if not cliched.

The novel was fairly well written, and the three characters were pretty easy to tell apart. In addition, the author didn’t use gimmicks such as putting one viewpoint in first person, one in third, and one in verse. I must give points for that, because it’s really hard to find YA lit that does that, yet still has varied narration. Finally, the author’s note is really excellent, providing an accessible bibliography, historical notes, and a style that is neither overly didactic, dry, nor condescending. More points for that.

But I was very disappointed with Serendipity’s Footsteps. It’s one of the few books where I didn’t finish it not because I forgot about it in favor of something else, but because it actually made me feel kind of ill to keep reading. I am a huge fan of WWII historical fiction, but not a fan of inspirational fiction. I will put up with inspirational stories in the WWII lit that I read, because many of the best books set in that era that I’ve read have been very inspirational. They’ve also attempted to explore the brutality, terror, tragedy, and horror of the Holocaust quite fully and inspired me to do research and read survivor memoirs. Serendipity’s Footsteps did not. It felt more like inspirational fiction with a shallow Holocaust backdrop, almost as if it was making light of the tragedy and horror of the event to tell an inspirational story about shoes. That just made me feel kind of gross for reading it, and this is why I was unable to finish it.

I was unable to finish this book even though I’m usually obsessive-compulsive about reading start to finish. I disliked it that much. However, I rated it at a two, because given writing quality, it just feels wrong to give it a one rating.–Ella W., 15


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