Book Brawl - Two librarians duke it out over the hottest YA books
Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe RoadTitle: Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Year: 2006
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Abandoned by her drug-addicted mother at the age of eleven, high school student Taylor Markham struggles with her identity and family history at a boarding school in Australia.

What did you think of the characters? Were they relatable or believable?

JW: These characters stuck with me even a week after I finished reading this novel.  I have to admit, while I was reading this book I didn’t love love it.  It felt disjointed to me.  But the characters were so interestingly woven together that when Marchetta had completed the weavings of the past and the present, I had fallen in love with the characters.

ML: Taylor Markham is definitely a believable teenage girl.  She can be moody, angry, stubborn, feisty, and sad at times.  She does not easily trust people and has her reasons.  Taylor is a character that I quickly fell in love with and felt connected to.  I cared about her story and felt for her.  I even cried while reading this book!

What was your favorite scene in the book?
JW: I am not sure if it was my favorite scene, but the one that first came to mind is the moment Taylor is in the attic trying to read Hannah’s novel.  Brigadier shows up and she slams into him to escape.  Taylor was so brave despite her fear – seems like a good showing of her true self.

ML: My favorite scenes were the flashbacks.  They were so well written, intertwined with the present well, but still kept me guessing, adding to the mystery of the story.  The events and characters of the flashbacks also really stood out to me, telling the story of friendship and loss.

Who would you recommend this book to tomorrow?
JW:  
Hmm.  I think I would recommend this to a freshman in college.  Anyone could read this book and fall in love with elements of the book.  But it’s a good starting life kinda book.  It’s hopeful in a way that still shows all the mess of life.

ML:
I agree with JW.  This book would be great for a recent high school grad.  It is a coming-of-age type story that explores the struggles of growing up that a young adult could relate to.  And it’s got a little bit of everything – action, fighting, romance, interesting characters, tragedy, and a mystery – making it hard to put down.  

What are the major themes in this book?
JW:  Hope.  I don’t think Taylor had much hope to start.  I think she needed to know her story and she had been denied that for so long.  Or maybe she just had the wrong story about herself.  But once the pieces fell into place; once she gained a sense of her past, she found a future somehow.  Marchetta doesn’t write some naive piece making rainbows and sunshine for Taylor.  This hope seems to be the real deal.

ML: Friendship and family are two of the major themes that stood out to me in “Jellicoe Road.”  It tells the story of a girl who does not know her father and was abandoned by her mother. On her journey to finding out the truth about her family, she builds significant relationships making friends that quickly become a family.

What have you read that is similar to this book?
JW:  I don’t think I have read anything like this book.

ML:
I can’t really think of a specific title that is similar to this book.  The writing is beautiful, the characters are engaging, and the story continues to keep you guessing, all while making you contemplate life.

Was this book a quick read?
JW:  I didn’t like this book while I was reading it.  I dragged my feet a bit.  I think once I got to the part when the past was starting to make more sense in the present, things picked up for me and I enjoyed it a bit more.

ML:
I read this book so fast!  I got caught up in Taylor’s world and life and was totally absorbed.

Was the story credible?
JW: Yes.  The four main characters were true friends.  They didn’t have much to offer one another but they worked things out in their own ways.

ML: Some parts of the story were maybe a little incredible (boundary wars, seeing Sam, for examples), but because I was so invested in the story and in Taylor, I was able to chalk up some events to coincidence and move on.

Were there any flaws in the book?
JW:  I normally like a double story line or a trading back and forth of narrators, but this felt too disjointed to me.  Maybe I wasn’t reading closely enough, but I didn’t like how long it took to fit the pieces together from the past.  I also felt like Marchetta didn’t trust her readers enough to pick up on the clues from Hannah’s novel.  She spelled too many things out at times.

ML: There were some flaws, but they didn’t stay with me, nagging.  For me it was an overall great read.

What one question would you ask the author?
JW:  Was any of this story based on reality?

ML: Where do you get the ideas or inspirations for your books?

Short reaction/opinion/statement about book.
JW:  This book truly grew on me.  It was one that stuck with me and took up space in my mind for some time after reading the last page.

ML: This book is heartfelt and thoughtful.  In my opinion it is worth a second or even third read!

 

Matched

MatchedTitle: Matched

Author: Ally Condie

Year: 2010

Pages: 369

Genre: Dystopian

All her life, Cassia has never had a choice. The Society dictates everything: when and how to play, where to work, where to live, what to eat and wear, when to die, and most importantly to Cassia as she turns 17, who to marry. When she is Matched with her best friend Xander, things couldn’t be more perfect. But why did her neighbor Ky’s face show up on her match disk as well?  This is the first book in the Matched trilogy.  The highly anticipated third book, “Reached,” was released this week!!!

**Disclaimer – this is a series and I, (ML),did not read the second book, “Crossed.”  Some things I had issues with might be cleared up in “Crossed” but I was not interested enough to look into it, maybe JW will convince me.

What did you think of the characters? Were they relatable or believable?
JW:  Maybe I am too much of a romantic.  I love Cassia’s dreamy-eyed outlook on life.  Cassia can completely handle her own business and seems to do well for herself as a sorter.  Daydreams do get the best of Cassia when it comes to the men in her life.  Xander is the strong silent type, dependable and good, or is he?  While Ky is the mysterious other man that is brought to Cassia’s mind by a glitch in the system.  These three make an interesting combination.

ML: I can sum up my feelings towards Cassia in one word, boring.  And when you read that one word, imagine it being said with a lot of “o”s – boooooring.  Actually, I think that word can be used to describe most of the characters in this book, Xander, Mom, Dad, little brother and even Ky, who is supposed to be this mysterious, nonconformist, stick-it-to-the-man, undercover type is dull.  The dude is dull.  It’s probably pretty clear but I did not relate to the characters or feel a particular connection to any of them.

What was your favorite scene in the book?
JW: I loved the sentimental scene when Cassia dreams about her own mother’s match day.  Similar to the prom or one’s wedding day Cassia is completely swept up in the glamour that match day is supposed to bring to a young girl’s life.  I love how she looks at the material from her mother’s match day dress and cannot help but dream.

ML: Um, hm.  Honestly, nothing is really sticking out to me.

Who would you recommend this book to tomorrow?
JW: This book isn’t for everyone.  It is a bit gushy.  I guess I would suggest this book only to the girliest of girly girls out there.  While there is some adventure in the later books – this series is a whole lot of mush.

ML: I know a lot of people love this book and series – it is popular! Disney even bought the rights to make a movie adaptation of the book! (Although, what will happen in it, I have no idea..) Call me crazy but “Matched” was just not my cup of tea.  Maybe I’ve read too many of these dystopian, love triangle, romance books recently and am worn out.  But I don’t think that’s the problem here.  Compared to other books I have read recently, “Matched” lacks urgency and passion in supposedly urgent and passionate situations, which makes it boring and at times feel contrived.

JW pointed out I didn’t answer the question.  So, okay, I would suggest it to someone looking for an easy, romantic read.

What have you read that is similar to this book?
JW:
I’m with ML on this one.  This novel takes a chapter straight out of Lois Lowry’s book – specifically “The Giver.”

ML: “Matched” is basically the same as “The Giver” by Lois Lowry.  I loved “Divergent” by Veronica Roth which has a similar dystopian world but is way more exciting!  And there is an “I hate you but I love you” love story, which are my favorite kind of love stories!

What one question would you ask the author?
JW: What about the dystopian model interests you?

ML: Did you have a model for the character of Cassia?

One sentence reaction/opinon/statement about book
JW: Loved it!  I really enjoyed this book along with “Crossed” and cannot wait to read “Reached”.

ML: I’m not mad I read it but I probably won’t remember much from it.



 

Monsters of Men

Title: Monsters of Men, Chaos Walking Book Three

Author: Patrick Ness

Year: 2010

Pages: 603

Genre: Dystopian

This is the final book in a trilogy by Patrick Ness – Chaos Walking. As a world-ending war surges to life around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions, questioning all they have ever known as they try to step back from the darkness and find the best way to achieve peace.

What did you think of the characters?

ML:  Throughout the Chaos Walking Series I really liked Viola and Todd.  I found them to be well-developed, interesting and likeable.  Todd, a boy on the verge of “becoming a man,” is very different from the other men of Prentisstown and you can really feel and believe his discomfort in the town and with everyone’s Noise.  Now, in the third book, “Monsters of Men,” he is learning to control his Noise, develop relationships with former enemies, and learn how to lead.  He is still Todd, though, and he struggles and puzzles over the decisions he makes in certain situations.  The deep introspection you get from Todd allows the reader to really gain a sense of Todd as a person and connect with him.  I thought it was awesome how Todd defies the idea of a man put forth by the Mayor but is still strong and determined.

Viola, I loved because she is a strong female character and doesn’t take crap from anyone.  She is passionate and at times stubborn, very stubborn, (helloo, almost dying because she refused Madam Coyle’s help).  She also tries to put others before herself and although it doesn’t always work that way, she does realize the consequences of her actions and learns from them.

The two together, Todd and Viola, form a great friendship and love.  One that is very powerful.

Mayor Prentiss is a very interesting character and really well done by Ness.  I had a hard time figuring out if he was good, bad, totally evil, or just really misunderstood.  Even at the end, it still isn’t clear cut.

Now, the characters I really did not like – the Spackle.  I think they were unnecessary.  I would have liked the third book so much better if it had just continued with the same cast and just wrapped things up.  Or maybe include the Spackle but make it a much shorter book.  The Spackle element felt tedious and seemed to be used just to hit you over the head with the themes of language and communication in the book.  The chapters from the Return were by far my least favorites, I think because this was the first time we were hearing from them.  I’ve known Viola and Todd for two whole books going into Monsters and now all of a sudden another group with a totally different viewpoint is thrown in.

JW:  While I loved Todd and Viola throughout the entire series, I think I loved them most in this book.  They had to endure so many difficulties and see such suffering apart from one another.  They each experienced the influence of powerful people.  And despite every attempt to separate these two characters, they continue to seek one another.  Their relationship in this book was grittier than the preceding two novels because they already had so much love between them but they were being torn apart.

What was your favorite scene in the book?
ML:  The scene that really sticks out in my mind is when Davy is killed in front of Todd.  It is such an emotional scene, actually pretty heartbreaking and shows so much about Todd’s character and Davy’s too.  Wait, dangit that didn’t even happen in this book…

Okay then, other scenes that stick out to me are with Todd and Acorn, his horse.  Todd has so much compassion for other living things and it really shows in their connection with him.  They will do anything for him and he takes that devotion and love very seriously and reciprocates it.

JW:  There is a moment when Viola does something horrible to save Todd.  She begins to wonder what she and Todd wouldn’t do for the other.  Simone and Bradley tell her that she cannot make war personal.  I think this scene sums up so many of Ness’ ideas in this series.  Ness reminds us that power and destruction can never be justified by our personal agendas.


Who would you recommend this book to tomorrow?

ML:  The series as a whole is great and has a little bit of everything, action, adventure, war, romance, and is very well written.

JW:  I had a friend a few years ago that got so lost in the words other people used in attempt to control her that she seemed to have lost her way. I think I would give her this series with a gentle reminder that we can’t believe everything we are told.


What have you read that is similar to this book?

ML:  “Feed” by M.T. Anderson is futuristic and takes place in another world (or on the Moon) and has a lot of the same information and communication themes.  Chaos Walking, in my opinion, is a much more consuming story and easier to get into, but “Feed” is a popular and well-liked book too.

JW: This is a dystopian book with a twist.  I think “The Giver” (Lois Lowry), “Matched” (Allyson Condie), and “Ship Breaker” (Paolo Bacigalupi) are similar, but “Monsters of Men” is very distinctive.


Was the story credible?
ML:  Yes and no.  When I finished the second book, I did wonder what could possible happen in the third book to make it soo long.  And it’s basically because of the Spackle.  I don’t know if I really buy the Spackle uprising and the eventual war.  The thousands of Spackle avoided the humans before the massacre, they never tried to help their kind that were enslaved, so when the Return shows up are they all really going to finally fight back.  This is a minor issue, because Ness does show you that the Spackle have been developing weapons and are not going to back down, etc.  I guess I just really don’t like that the Spackle played such a large role in the plot and conclusion of the book.

JW: Well, this wasn’t realistic fiction.  However, I think the thoughts and feelings and reactions of Todd and Viola were to be expected within the story line.