Today I have two books to write about. But, I admit now one will upstage the other...
The Selection by Kiera Cass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I liked this book. Liked. I didn't love it. It presents the context of dystopia, but in a better way than some of the other YA novels I've read. I will probably finish the series, but I have a hunch on how it will turn out already. It reminded me a little bit of the Matched series by Ally Condie, but like The Selection a bit better.
In a world where caste systems reign supreme, but the royalty still wants to appear "salt of the earth" girls are chosen when Prince Maxon comes of age for a betrothal selection. America Singer, whose family isn't destitute, but slightly below middle class, is in fact, a singer hoping to move up in the system on sheer talent and pluck. She is of age for the selection process, and while reluctant, agrees to apply for the sake of her family (and to heal her broken heart). Surprise - she is picked. Upon meeting the Prince, she's entirely sure she'll hate him, but what good would that story be? In the end, America captures his attention and that's where Cass leaves us - America is an Elite.
The characters are solid in the novel and I appreciated the way Cass developed Prince Maxon - there was some true authenticity to him. A solid read.
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AND NOW FOR THE SUPER STAR!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My son read this book for his Battle of the Books list. After reading it, he said, "Mom, you have to read this book." And so I did.
I don't know how to begin talking about a book that moved me so deeply. R.J. Palacio has written a true testament to the kindness of humanity in her debut middle grades novel. The character of August is not one I will ever forget.
August is a young boy born with an extreme facial deformity. There are a lot of medical terms I could share, but the words would be futile. He's been homeschooled most of his life, not just because of the oddity of his looks, but because of the amount of medical attention needed to help him - a lot of surgery...a lot. Yet, he still looks deformed. In the book he is described as a zombie, Gollum, an Orc and so forth - chilling depictions of how a little boy should look.
In fifth grade, his parents decide he should try going to school. This is a big step for August and for them. We all know kids can be cruel, and they are. This is not a "feel-good" story for the ages. The torment and shame Auggie endures broke my heart. Of course, I read this a parent knowing full well the pain of not being able to save your child from the hurt of the world - and my son is normal (by most accounts!). However, Palacio writes his journey as a bridge between what often is and what could be. I saw, in the world created at Beecher Prep, glimpses of myself throughout my life - ways my personality has changed and grown. Auggie's story is one that a reader at any age can connect with - a true bilodungrosman (coming of age story) of a novel. I laughed. I cried. I cried some more. I put down the book for Kleenex. I laughed again.
The development of the story and characters felt absolutely real. Palacio writes without a melodramatic overtone that would make you feel sorry for the misshapen little boy; she writes with grit and passion about a child growing up a universe that has not been kind to him. She writes full of love and determination as the reader watches a young man struggle to accept what he cannot change, and fights with brave courage to impact what he can. She creates friendships that are flawed perfection, and because the book travels through multiple points of view, the reader can see how the world affects not only Auggie, but those on this journey with him.
I've not read a lot of middle grades novels, but I'm sure glad I read this one. This book is a MUST READ no matter your age.
From the Goodreads synopsis:
You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.
My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page
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