March-May Reads

25 05 2015

Books I read from March to May 2015:

Graphic novels2015-03-05 16.53.46

March Book Two ( by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell): more behind the scenes of the Civil Rights Movement with Congressman John Lewis. A must read for everyone. Huge hit with my students too. (****)

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (by Ben Hatke): the kid and I read a couple of pages of this every night. We love Strong Strong and One J We are currently on the last Zita book… (****)

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki: beautiful artwork, very evocative. The whole work oozes nostalgia. I loved this one, but I think it might be more of a critics’ favorite than a kids’ favorite. (****)

Non-fiction

IMG_20150509_153050[1]Rethinking Normal: a Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill and Some Assembly Required: The not so secret life of a transgender teen by Arin Andrews are the memoirs of two transgender teens who were also in a relationship for a while. It reads pretty much like a teen would write it, which definitely adds to the authenticity. But obviously these two memoirs are pivotal in understanding what transgender teens go through. Both books were featured in my Awareness Week display at school and checked out in no time. (both ***)

No choirboy: murder, violence, and teenagers on death row by Susan Kuklin. This book is raw and sad. How could it not? No sensationalizing, just harsh truth. (****)

Books in a series

Half Bad by Sally Green: first in a series of books about ‘witches’… not at all like Harry Potter, though. It has been a while since I have liked a “fantasy” thing, but it is basically adventure with witches but done well. A bit of a slump about 2/3 in, but still very worthwhile. Definitely a series to continue. (*** ½ )

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson: 3rd in the Shades of London series. This one is better that The Madness Underneath, but still not as good as the stellar first book The Name of the Star. I do hope there will be a rocking conclusion of this series in book 4, though. (*** ½ )

Isla and the Happily Ever After: I have a soft spot for Stephanie Perkins since I saw her at Politics and Prose in Washington. Bonus is that she does contemporary romance really really well. Give me a Perkins and a Dessen and I’m a happy camper J. Isla and the Happily Ever After has the added bonus of giving us more glimpses of the characters of the other books. (***)

Standalones

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos: there are not enough music-related YA books. So if you pick this one up, make sure to pick up Yvonne Prinz’s The Vinyl Princess! These books make a great pairing. (***)

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin: Besides the fact that I could not stand the character (or the way she was being presented by all of the players in the story ) of Addison Stone – at all – this book is really well done: a faux-memoir, complete with photos and artwork and disclaimers etc. I really did look up if there was an ‘Addison Stone’ after a chapter or so 😉 (*** ½ )IMG_20150525_110557[1]

When I was the greatest and The boy in the black suit, both by Jason Reynolds. I am not a fan of the writing. In When I was the greatest, the narration was a bit too one-dimensional for my liking. And The Boy in the Black Suit just confirmed that Reynolds’ style isn’t my style. Both books were well-liked by kids in my class, though. (both **)

And we stay by Jenny Hubbard: A character’s poetry just always distracts me in a book (that’s a me-thing), even if there’s an Emily Dickinson theme throughout the story. The story of grief, recovery and friendship is great though. Hubbard’s style is very recognizable. I always like it when I can pick out a writer’s words from just a few lines. (*** ½ )

Invincible by Amy Reed. Amy Reed’s books are a hit with my teen girls. Beautiful and Crazy have a very high circulation and I am sure that it’ll be the same for Invincible. As for me, certain things are ‘believable’ – like how quickly Evie gets addicted and the behavior she displayed after the “miraculous” recovery – but other things were just too rushed. I don’t really think the Marcus character was necessary either. I would have liked to have seen more of the parents, sister and Kasey tIMG_20150525_110925[1]oo. This reads like a train, though, but I wasn’t wholly convinced. I do have to say that I was a bit disappointed to hear that this is not a standalone… (**)

Press Play by Eric Devine: this made me think of Joshua Cohen’s Leverage a lot. They’re both set a sports context, there are some brutal things going on ‘behind the scenes’ (here’s it’s the hazing and lacrosse, in Cohen’s books is bullying – and much worse – and football) and there really are no compromises in this book. It’s extremely honest and raw, and there’s a good voice, but the book is too long for me. (***)

How it went down by Kekla Magoon: This is such a pertinent story at this moment in time. Sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white. No one seems to know exactly what was going on and everything has the need to share what they thing went down (there are more than 15 different ‘voices’ in the book). As I said, this book is every so important right now, but as a book, I felt it could have been ‘tighter’: some voices are indistinguishable, which (again) drags out the story a little bit. (***)

Top picks

The next two – although also standalones – deserve their own category:2015-04-01 16.00.31

We all looked up by Tommy Wallach: It’s not often I read a blurb and then read the book and I feel the blurb is *exactly* what the book is like, but in this case it is: “This Generation’s The Stand… at once troubling, uplifting, scary and heart-wrenching.”
Also, The Stand was one of my favorite books when I was the age of the characters in this book and often when a books is likened to The Stand, it ends up being a disappointment afterwards, or worse the book is dragged out over 2 or 3 or more books. But We All Looked Up definitely wasn’t a disappointment: a good story, great characters, drive, action, feelings, totally unpretentious writing… a “real book”, you know… Loved it! (*****)

I’ll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson made me miss my metro stop. That’s always a good thing… The writing is gorgeous, there was a great interplay between the words and the artwork (I read the UK edition). This definitely deserved all the accolades it got. It also got a (quick) translation to Dutch, but it doesn’t have any artwork, which is a pity. (*****)

On the surface We all looked up and I’ll give you the sun have nothing whatsoever in common, but they both made me fall in love with reading all over again. Both of these books have the capacity of making you forget about time and the world around you. The reading pleasure was high for me in these two books. And isn’t that why we read: to feel?

 

 





Read in November 2014

3 12 2014

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked to in November. I also don’t have the time right now for more than sketchy impressions of the books I read, rather than the full reviews they rightfully deserve. So here goes nothing…

Power books by power women, or also: books that will kick your ass as they rightly should:

GloryOBrien

 1) Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (by A.S. King aka the most missed author at NCTE/ALAN 2014)

I really hope to write a longer review of this, because this book and this author so deserves all the praise! This is a veritable horror story too. And can I be shallow and say how much I love my signed copy? Look at it!! But seriously. Read this!ASKingNCTE2014

4 stars (but really, it already has 6 starred reviews!)

2) The Truth about Alice (by Jennifer Mathieu)

There’s definitely an overarching theme in my November reads and that is cruelty. In this particular case, it’s cruelty in the guise of ‘slut shaming’. The Truth about Alice is Jennifer Mathieu’s debut YA novel and I was completely and shamelessly sucked in by it.

I “loved” every bit of this book: the multiple perspectives, the ruthless investigation of stereotyping people (and characters in a book), the way it unflinchingly shows how boys and girls are seen and judged in a completely different light. I also “hated” everything about this book: the way the boys and girls are shown and how stereotypes are reinforced. How some people have (too) loud voices and others don’t have a voice at all.

This is such an important book. For boys and for girls. And not in the least: for the adults raising those boys and those girls.

4 stars

3) Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (by Meg Medina)

This is a book from the heart. It’s not a ‘nice’ story, though. On the contrary, Meg Medina wrote a harsh psychologically layered story about bullying and female relationships. It’s edgy – and I’m not even talking about that title (which, by the way kicks so much ass 😉 – and I’m sure not just girls will identify with Piddy Sanchez or possibly even the mysterious Yaqui Delgado. If there’s one thing that’s abudantly clear after reading this provocative little book then it’s that everyone has a story: the victim, but also the bully, even if we don’t know what that story is, as is the case with Yaqui Delgado. And more than being ‘just another bullying book’, what really stands out is Medina’s great rendering of female relationships.

3.5 stars

Power books by power men

1) Knockout Games (by G.Neri)

Based on true events, comes G. Neri’s Knockout Games. I read this one right before Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and what the two definitely have in common is the violence. This one is a ruthless book. Set in St. Louis it’s all about a knockout club, a group of middle and high school kids who basically get into random violence (knocking out random people on the street for the fun and thrill of it). When Erica is uprooted to St. Louis after her parents’ divorce, she gets mixed up with the game (she’s good with a camera) and its leader, K (Kalvin), the Knockout King.

The narrative and the language are very straightforward. There’s no needless fancy talk, which wouldn’t really fit with the book’s topic anyway. Also like Yaqui Delgado, I see this being liked by a younger audience (Yes, yes, I know: there’s violence. And sex. Bite me). There’s also the same trope of the outsider trying to fit in, which that age group really seems to appreciate a lot. In this case, the protagonist is the white Erica who moves to a predominantly African American neighborhood and who’s trying to keep her head above water after her parents’ divorce.

3 stars

nctereads1

2) He Said, She Said (by Kwame Alexander)

This is described as a ‘hip hop’ novel and the language use of esp. the male protagonist Omar or T-Diddy (I did the same eye-rolling as the female protagonist!) in the book also reflects this. However, I can’t really say I was into it all that much. I also don’t like hip hop, so maybe it’s that. The story is too stereotypical for my taste: a good looking star football player (a real “player” too, of course) and a studious and responsible girl. Of course they’re destined to meet. Mixed in with this tale of destined yet too good to be true romance is a fight for social justice at the local high school.

I don’t know, it’s all very much in your face. I just couldn’t see past the shallowness of it all (maybe that’s the point?) and I just like my stories more nuanced and my characters with a lot more depth.

2.5 stars

Graphic novels:

1)  The Silence of our Friends (by Mark Long)

This graphic novel – also drawn by Nate Powell – is another (historical) graphic novel/memoir in the same vein as March Book One. It’s not quite as powerful as March Book One, but I can see this being liked a lot by my reluctant readers who’re really into history and the Civil Rights Movement.

3 stars

2) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (by Stephen Collins)

GET THIS BOOK NOW. GET IT! NOW! Absolutely brilliant graphic novel. What can I say? There’s the neat and orderly island of Here. The threat of a chaotic There. And there’s a *gigantic beard*. I repeat: there’s a gigantic beard. What more do you need? Brilliant artwork? It’s all there.

Gigantic Beard 1

Gigantic Beard 2

It’s the ultimate surrealist and eerily honest truth metaphor about the state of man in our current society (unfortunately it’s probably also the ultimate hipster book). This book is  awesome. Did I mention there’s a gigantic beard? That is evil?

5 stars

 

Up next: photo impression of NCTE/ALAN 2014





March: Book One (by John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

21 03 2014

March Book One is a gorgeous piece of art and tells the incredibly inspiring story of Congressman John Lewis, one of the pioneers in the Civil Rights Movement.  The first installment of this graphic memoir focuses on the nonviolent actions of the younger John Lewis, especially hightlighting the desegregation of lunch counters. This is obviously a really important and inspiring story, which is already reason enough to buy this book, but phew… Nate Powell, man… he did such an awesome job: enormously evocative.

Too bad this was published as “Book One”, because I’d much rather have seen a big bulky memoir rather than (3?) separate little books. In any case, this is a book that deserves to be bought, read, told and shared. Get it now!

 

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My Friend Dahmer / The Darkest Minds

28 01 2014

Work, work and more work getting in the way of the most important stuff…

… reading. So: impressions of books, rather than actual reviews of books.

 

My friend Dahmer (by Derf Backderf)

my friend dahmerI was too young to experience the whole Dahmer-thing consciously. Obviously during my own ‘fascinated by serial killers’ phase (doesn’t everyone have one?), the name Dahmer was a chiller. Derf Backderf went to the same high school as Jeffrey Dahmer and after Dahmer got arrested, Backderf – a talented graphic artist – started to put his memories of his “Friend Dahmer” to paper in the form of his own artwork (in all seriousness, Dahmer really wasn’t “a friend” at all, that much is clear from this book).

Actually, Backderf already started to draw Dahmer when he was in highschool… Dahmer was a weird kid, who seemed to just exist and was a total social outcast at first, but then became an almost raving lunatic impersonating his mother’s interior decorator, and who ended up as the school drunk (which Backderf sees as a severe coping mechanism, especially after Dahmer discovers his sexual preferences) whom people tried to avoid at all cost.

Yes, people (adults) should have seen that something was off with Dahmer, but aren’t there tons of weird kids in a high school? How many of them end up as serial killers? It’s a telling fact that when Backderf was notified of the fact that one of his high school classmates was arrested for murdering all these people, his first guess *wasn’t* Dahmer, but another one of his classmates…

Anyone reading this book expecting a sensationalist account of Dahmer’s crimes, look elsewhere. My Friend Dahmer is all about Dahmer’s disturbing home life, Dahmer in high school and how he was perceived by classmates but also how he was used by his classmates. Backderf doesn’t just rely on his own memory, though, he also did a ton of research into Dahmer’s family and teenage life. Backderf is also quite insistent that his novel is not about ‘making excuses’ for Dahmer’s crimes. Yes, you can feel pity for Dahmer up until his first murder, but that’s where empathy and pity stop for Backderf. What Backderf is trying to do is finding reasons, or at least, contributing reasons for what Dahmer did.

My main ‘objection’ to this graphic novel / memoir has nothing to do with the artwork (which is really in line with the topic: quite expressionistic and slightly grotesque). It is with the amount of meta-text. OK, this is partly a memoir and partly a journalistic effort, but I didn’t actually need all the “explanations” to piece together what was going on in this novel. If what is written as meta-text is there to make the reader think about e.g. nature vs. nurture, well, even then, I didn’t need it. As I said, the drawings are quite expressionistic and tell a tale. Dialogue can convey a lot, and then meta-text is just too much. In other words, I think that Backderf is a much better graphic artist and illustrator than he is a writer… but, hey, that’s just me, right? James Ellroy seemed to dig this book a lot, so choose who you want to believe 😉

3.5 stars

 

The Darkest Minds (by Alexandra Bracken)

darkestmindsThis book combines a number of tropes that have been popular in the last couple of years: dystopian and/or apocalyptic madness, psychic or otherwise supergifted kids (sometimes even locked up), a romance that might be (or not) and a whole lot of running around that may or may not amount to anything. Rather than being wholly unoriginal, however, Bracken has enough talent to pull things together somewhat… But, despite the fact that it’s clocking in a hefty 488 pages, there are on the one hand elements at the heart of this book that clearly needed to be explored more (the weird disease IAAN that affects kids but not adults and why ‘governments’ don’t try to find the cause etc. etc.). At the same time, though, this book also could have used a big comb to weed out some of its needless inconsistencies and superfluous ‘running around scenes’… No, running around does not speed up the action but slows things down and it definitely did not increase the tension (messy comes to mind). This book – and this writer – shows a lot of promise but needs just that final push to get me on the edge of my seat…

3 stars

 





In Darkness (by Nick Lake)

25 02 2013

indarknessIn 2010 Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world, fell victim to a catastrophic natural disaster that affected an inestimable amount of people. With a death toll ranging anywhere between 92,000 and 316,000 people, the Haiti earthquake got the doubtful honor of being the 2nd deadliest earthquake ever. It is in the aftermath of this devastating tragedy that Nick Lake’s In Darkness – the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award Winner – is set.

In the days after the earthquake, 15-year-old everyboy Shorty – his real name is never mentioned – is trapped in darkness in the rubble of a hospital room where he was recovering from a bullet wound. At 15 Shorty’s life could indeed have been any slum boy’s life. Shorty is growing up in what is often called the most dangerous place on earth – the slums of Site Solèy. This is the type of place where you see your father brutally murdered in front of your eyes and where your twin sister is kidnapped by gang members when you’re 8, where you kill your first man at the age of 12 and where babies are left behind in the trash.

Slowly dying of hunger and thirst Shorty, without any prospect of being rescued, is recollecting the events that led him to the hospital room. Like so many other children in the shanty towns of Port-au-Prince, Shorty’s childhood was one of violence with (almost) no chance of escaping a life of drugs, gang wars and (political) corruption. After his father gets killed and his twin sister Marguerite is taken away Shorty even wants to be initiated into the gang of the pro-Aristide chimères of Route 9 and the notorious Dread Wilmè to get his sister back. Trapped in the darkness of the quake rubble he also starts dreaming of (or getting visions about…) the legendary Toussaint de l’Ouverture, who will provide the other voice in this dual narrative.

While Shorty’s story is a story of a boy losing his innocence in Haiti’s present, and a descent into the darkness of violence, brutality and even murder, Toussaint de l’Ouverture’s story (set more than 200 years earlier) is that of a man who wants to achieve a free Haiti, a Haiti free of the darkness that is slavery, in this in the least bloody way possible. Shorty and de l’Ouverture are linked in a spiritual way, be it through dreams or visions, or by vodou. It’s a device in which Nick Lake uses his poetic license to the full, and it is at the same time a clever incorporation of Haitian culture and religion (which takes the novice some getting used to). Through de l’Ouverture Shorty experiences what it means to set a country on track to hope and the light. De l’Ouverture, on the other hand, gets visions of a future of his country – one in which freedom from slavery does not equal happiness and riches, but violence, poverty, rivalry, corruption and in essence just another type of darkness.

In Darkness draws heavily on the Haitian vodou culture – Shorty and Marguerite are marassa,  the metaphor of the zombi is used throughout the two narratives – and Nick Lake uses Krèyol phrases and expressions all through the book (which are often but not always translated). This obviously serves to immerse the reader completely into this other world, but it might have been a good idea to add a glossary with some of the most commonly used Krèyol words and expressions. The cat found herself interrupting her reading to look up certain things, consequently losing some of the reading flow…

However, notwithstanding this minor squabble, the strength of Nick Lake’s novel is obvious. Lake doesn’t deal in pleasantries and states the ugly brutal truth of a country that longs to be free but has as of yet not found the right way to make itself truly free: politics invariable turns to corrupt governing, international aid does not reach its intended goal with aid workers often adding to the corruption, violent gangs recruit the illiterate and most vulnerable… The result is poverty leading to violence leading to more poverty leading to more violence. It’s a terrifying idea, and it’s hard to believe that any form of hope for recovery and true emancipation is still possible in places like this. Considering how desolate the circumstances still are in Haiti – 2 years after the earthquake – the cat is not as convinced as Nick Lake himself seems to be that redemption is still possible. Maybe with a couple more stories of people like Shorty and we’ll start to see a few glimmers of hope here and there… maybe…

In Darkness was the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award winner… an unexpected winner for sure, and it would not have landed on the cat’s desk if it hadn’t won the Printz. Many had bet on Code Name Verity or The Fault in Our Stars for a variety of reasons. To be honest, I don’t think that In Darkness has more or less literary merit than either of those two novels. The Printz committee does, however, seem to like “atypical” narration. But these three books are so completely different that any form or comparison is sort of mute. It all boils down to personal preference in the end of course, and if historical and cultural awareness rocks your boat on top of that “unusual” narration, then obviously In Darkness or Code Name Verity will be your top picks. The cat, however, wants to add an additional dollop of awesome to the mix… 😉





Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith (by Deborah Heiligman)

14 11 2012

2009 marked the 150-year anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s momentous work On the Origin of Species as well as the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth .  In that year a slew of works were published not just to commemorate the theory and the man himself, but also to show how controversial Darwin’s theory of evolution still is today in a lot of (religious) midst. Indeed, religious groups often get into all sorts of knots to dismiss the man’s work as that of a heretic, and despite an almost absolute scientific consensus about Darwin’s evolutionary theory, the idea that life wasn’t created by a divine being was/is a step too far for many a religious person.  Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith, Deborah Heiligman’s YA-publication about the great scientist, shows that it’s just too easy to dismiss Darwin’s work as a that of a vehement non-believer.

Deborah Heiligman was the first to talk about Darwin’s theory in relation to the most important person in his life, that of his cousin and wife Emma Wedgwood. Contrary to Charles Darwin – who did not, by the way, describe himself as an atheist, but rather an agnostic towards the end of his life – she firmly believed that leading a good Christian life would be rewarded by a place in heaven. Throughout the book Darwin is consciously aware of the impact his theories will have on not just the scientific but also the religious Victorian community. That is one of the reasons why he worked on it for over 20 years. He wanted to have as much evidence-based proof as possible, he didn’t want there to be any loopholes – e.g. the evolution of the eye, for instance, into this complicated structure – which is why he also had all of his work read by his most careful and most critical reader, Emma, which she then edited “for clarity and diction”, even for his “atrocious use of commas”. Even though Darwin never compromised on the essence of his theory because of her, it seems obvious from the research, the many letters etc. that part of the reason why it took Darwin so long to publish On the Origin of Species was due to the thoroughness he wanted his work to have – a thoroughness almost imposed on him by living with Emma. It’s clear that both didn’t just love each other very much, but respected each other’s views of the world greatly.

Heiligman doesn’t want to show us the Giant of Science that Darwin came to be. She wants to show us Darwin as the man with doubts of his own. It starts off with the now almost famous list Darwin made “to marry or not to marry”… Once the decision “to marry” is made, Darwin is one of the most devoted (Victorian) fathers and husbands imaginable. In that way, Heiligman’s book is clearly a good alternative to the many other biographies about Darwin out there. She also repeatedly mentions Darwin’s doubts and fears, but maybe she doesn’t really let Emma speak often enough. The 3rd person narrative voice still favors seeing things through the Charles Darwin-lens, rather than the Emma Wedgwood-lens, hence still making this into a “Charles Darwin” book, rather than a “Charles and Emma” book.

The book is chronological and very anecdotal, following the “biography”-format fairly standard. But by focusing on a lesser known aspect of Charles Darwin’s life, it will still provide many (doubting) high school students with a good literary counterpart to Darwin’s scientific theories.





Blood Red Snow White (by Marcus Sedgwick)

22 06 2012

By his own admission, “a sense of place” is what often inspires Marcus Sedgwick’s storytelling. Combined with Sedgwick’s almost gothic flair and often Unheimlich and atmospheric way of writing, this has resulted in a couple of gems. In Revolver, for instance, that setting is the Arctic, suitably evoked in an almost claustrophobic way. The 2007 novel,  Blood Red Snow White, is quintessential Sedgwick too: a unique setting (Russia during the Russian Revolution) and a mesmerizing  style (especially in parts 1 and 2 of the book) contribute to draw in the reader like a magnet.

Blood Red Snow White is a fictionalized biography of the writer Arthur Ransome during his extended stay in Russia. However, it is not like any other biography you are likely to read: part fairytale, part spy story, part romance we do not only follow Arthur Ransome, writer, journalist and potential spy but also the fate of the Russian bear in its rebellion against the regime of the Tsar.

This story is told in three distinct but clearly connected parts. Part one tells the story of how Ransome – disillusioned by a loveless marriage – sets off for Russia, leaving behind a daughter, Tabitha, who he loves very much. At the same time, Sedgwick introduces us in the most allegorical of ways, almost mimicking traditional Russian folklore, to the key players of the Russian Revolution who manage to send the great Russian bear out of the forest and into Tsarist territory: “One was a Russian, the other a Jew, and they were firm friends, though they spent much of their time arguing. They would argue about all sorts of things, but each would listen politely to what the other had to say. First, the Jew, whose name was Lev, would argue that the people of Russia should be its true masters, and while he did, the Russian, whose name was Vladimir, would stroke his small and excellent beard. Then they would swap, and Vladimir would argue that while what Lev had to say was true, they should not forget that people needed guidance from enlightened minds. And Lev would stroke his own small and excellent beard.”

If part one reads like a classic Russian folktale, then Sedgwick switches voices in part two to introduce us to Ransome as a potential spy, recruited by his friend Lockhart, when it becomes obvious that Ransome clearly has questions about some of the actions of the Russian revolutionaries. This part almost reads like a spy thriller, with each chapter also suitably time-stamped. When Ransome decides against helping out Lockhart, because he feels the future of Russia is nobody’s business but the Russians, we get to part three in which the romance between Ransome and Evgenia, who also happened to be Trotsky’s secretary, is the main focus. Ransome returns to England, but because of his previous sympathies for the Russian Bolshevists he finds himself out of a job and fearing for Evgenia’s safety.

Parts one and two are stylistically clearly the strongest parts of this sophisticated and captivating read. This is mainly because the language is so fittingly haunting. Part one is dark and sparsely told, as any good fairy tale should be. Part two bears all the typical spy story elements:  it’s tense and threatening with an acute sense of betrayal to keep you at the edge of your seat. That is why it is a bit of pity that a novel that is so good loses much of its tension in the last third as we return with Ransome to England and then follow him into Sweden so he can go and get Evgenia.

That being said, Blood Red, Snow White is still one of the best historical novels slash biographies you will encounter. Sedgwick is one of those authors who effortlessly crosses the artificial boundaries between children’s, young adult and adult literature.  This should come as no surprise because anyone who can write this compellingly, and has such a distinctive voice deserves the largest audience possible. About Revolver, Sedgwick said: “[…] that’s what makes writing teenage fiction so exciting: you can do almost anything, unconstrained by the obsessions with style and genre that plague adult fiction.” Restrictions of any kind, though, are obviously in the eye of the literary critic (in most cases), and luckily for this reader, Sedgwick is not one to be bound by them.








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