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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Book review: Tinder

Author: Sally Gardner

Illustrator: David Roberts
Release date: November 2013
Genre: Fairy tale retelling/ Gothic
Target audience: YA (sexual references and violence)
Publisher: Indigo (Orion)

Tinder is a fairy tale retelling of Hans Christen Andersen’s The Tinder Box.

Otto Hundebiss is on the battlefields among the many bodies of the dead. He cheats death and is given a set of dice to guide him on his way. It’s not a comforting read...

I’ve wanted to read this for ages but the shortlisting for the Kate Greenaway Medal has propelled it to the top of my reading pile.

I still haven’t quite decided what to make of it. I suppose it is the nature of the fairy tale before Disney gets their hands on it. Fairy tales are dark, full of deception and have a structure that’s so familiar. There were some very detailed descriptions of gore and blood and dark deeds. It’s definitely written with a young adult rather than middle grade audience in mind.

What I did like was the descriptions of the setting and some of the character references - like the lawyer being referred to as a quill. It stood out to me as clever. But sadly, I never really connected what Otto. I never lived his passion or felt his fear. Personally, I think the illustrations were distracting. My mind couldn’t conjure the darkness for itself and that worked against making the story come to life.

The illustrations that I did think were good were of the scenes where Otto goes to retrieve the box and the wolves become men. I thought the brothers were almost godly in stature and that was really evocative of the fairy tale tradition (for me anyway).

Overall, this is certainly different. I’m looking forward to reading what other people thought about Tinder.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Review: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Release date: 30th Jan 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Target audience: YA
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s books

Fangirl is a story of moving on, growing up, finding love and finding yourself. It’s a sweet romance with an enthralling plot. I loved it!

I really did not want this book to end. Reading it was an utter treat. It was sweet but convincing. I loved how it communicated the passion of readers through fan-fiction. The fan-fiction was so cleverly interwoven into the plot that I wanted to keep reading that story as well as the story of Cath.

Cath and Wren are twin sisters. When they go to college, everything changes. Wren wants to go it alone, Cath wants anything but. Propelled into college life, Cath would happily live in her dorm room and never leave. Except that her roommate Reagan is rather intimidating and she has about five different boyfriends. Cath must find her way through this whole new world. She must try to connect with people and make friends. But first she’ll need to leave her room...

There was a great authenticity to Cath’s writing struggle. It is surely easier to write about characters that already have a life and a soul and a whole world to inhabit. The fun is all about taking them on wild adventures. Writing for pleasure is like reading for pleasure. You do it for yourself so you can live in a make believe world. Now constructing a whole new world (that has logical boundaries and characters who are flawed) is much more difficult. But then taking those risks equates to greater rewards. (If this reads like an academic essay, please excuse me. It’s a consequence of being at UCL right now!) Cath’s dilemma resonates with me right now but not because I’m writing fiction. I’ve just conducted my own piece of research and hey, it was not easy, AT ALL! But now I’ve pretty much completed the assignment, I feel like it was a watershed moment. I have constructed something entirely my own. It feels like an achievement.

[Back to Fangirl]

I know some people didn’t enjoy this as much as Eleanor and Park but I totally did. It’s like trying to compare a marshmallow and a sherbet lemon. Both are amazing but completely different. Fangirl stands on its own as a beacon of romantic bliss. There are some very serious teen issues in this book: mental illness, isolation, alcoholism, learning difficulties. But the issues are not the heart of the book. The heart of the book is the most endearing love story. It’s wonderful. I truly didn’t want it to end and yet I gobbled it up.

I am a fangirl of Fangirl! Rainbow Rowell is a super-star of teen fiction writing.