Friday, October 19, 2012

Two Reads: One Great, One Not-So-Great

I'm a detail person. Ask anyone. When my husband needs something followed up on, he asks me. When my sister needs the details ironed out on places we'll visit for our next star trails photo outing, she asks me to investigate and map it all out. So imagine my surprise when I visited the library a few weeks ago to check out Lois Lowry's The Giver and was directed to the juvenile section. The juvenile section! How had this distinction escaped me? The book had popped up on my radar repeatedly over the last few months and I knew it had won an award of some kind (only later did I discover that it was the Newbery Medal, an award given to an author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.) I'm sure my face sported a slightly chagrined expression as I walked into the children's section and hunted for the book. I felt out of place... my children are grown and it's been YEARS since I stepped foot in the brightly lit children's department with cushy seating and walls festooned with construction paper cutouts. After locating the book, I tugged it from its snug spot among all the other kid's books and quickly retreated back upstairs to the adult section.

Even though I was fully informed now, I found the first few chapters were more of a struggle to get through than I wanted. It wasn't that they were difficult in the normal sense, it was that they were too simplistic. And although I was a tad bored, I could hardly place the blame at the author's feet... it was written for children, after all.

It picked up for me around halfway through. I LOVED the concept: a little sci-fi-ish, a little other worldly... right up my alley. I can't say that I loved the ending, though, for a children's book, it was perfect. But, really, it was just getting started. I wanted to see what was going to happen next. It was too much about the struggle of getting away, the journey of leaving and not enough about what made it so interesting in the first place. I'd give it a three out of five stars.

I also read Veronica Roth's Divergent. Also a little sci-fi-ish, a little other worldly, but this was a GREAT read. I loved it. And it was terrific for all the right reasons: complex characters, intricate storyline, engaging prose. This also won an award (although I didn't realize that until after I'd finished the book) -- Goodreads Choice Award: Favorite Book of 2011. Pretty cool bragging rights, I'd say.

My daughter recommended this book something like six months ago and I'm really glad I took her advice. The characters got under my skin and I stayed up long into the night reading. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for my dad! He and I like some of the same authors, and although he doesn't read sci-fi as a rule, this is enough of a hybrid that I'm hoping he'll give it a try and like it as much as I did.

I'd give it five out of five stars. And more good news: I hear there's a sequel out now.