Tag Archives: YA fiction

The Breadwinner (Novel) Review

Full disclosure: yes, I did see the movie and then the book because it was nominated for Best Animated Feature (alongside Boss Baby of all things.) Call me a filthy casual shill, but this is one of many ways I discover new books and will discover them in the future.

Anyway, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis is about Parvana, a young Afghan girl whose father was taken by the Taliban one day. With the only male in the family being a toddler, Parvana decides to cut her hair to pass as a boy and make money so her family can survive.

There really isn’t much that can be said. It’s a decent enough book with some fine scenes. The problem is that we’ve seen a ton of these books that this won’t really stand out that much. There are some memorable scenes but they’re few and far between. The one that does stand out is when Parvana and her friend Shauzia try selling cigarettes in what they think is a soccer game but turns out to be a public execution.

That’s not to say it’s a bad book. Parvana is strongly written and is interesting. In fact, she’s probably the only interesting character in the book.

As far as how similar the book and movie are, there’s a LOT of differences. These include Parvana and her mom actually do get to the prison her dad is and get beaten instead of getting stopped halfway through. The Talib that Parvana and her dad meet in the market who’s a major character is not in the book, the story about the young man going on a quest to save his village is missing and the climax is different and a LOT lower key.

Now, I can see why both versions are held in high regard. The movie has wonderful animation and the book shows what life is like inside Afghanistan from a young girl’s perspective. Some people do really enjoy the book and movie, but for me, both were OK at best and only worth watching once to say I saw it. If you want to read/watch the movie, that’s fine. If you enjoyed both, that’s fine. Hell, read the sequels if you really want.

I may sound like some heartless person, but I’m also saying it’s not a bad book or movie, it’s just something that has a great concept, but in reality, it never goes above decent.

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The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Novel) Review

Anyone remember an anime called The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? Yeah, it’s one of those that you either loved it or hated it. I was one of those people who was underwhelmed by it. Of course, once I find out there’s a book based on an anime I have to read it. This one was written by Yasutaka Tsutsui in 1967. Yup, it’s one of those anime where the original story takes place in a different decade.

While cleaning the school science lab with her friends, Kazuko gets a strong scent of lavender which causes her to faint. The next day when she gets run over by a truck she finds out that she can leap through time. Now she and her friends are trying to find the cause of this new power.

Do you remember all the times that Kazuko leaped through time in the anime? Yeah, here she only does it a handful of times just to go back to the science lab incident. In fact, the anime has a lot more happen in it than the book. For those wondering, the book is only 100 pages long.

Is it any good? In a way, it’s fine. The writing is strong, the story is interesting and the ending is OK. It’s a perfectly harmless story where if you want to read it, go ahead. Just remember that it’s the kind of story where the conflict is introduced, the find out what to do and fix it in short time. There’s nothing wrong with short stories, in fact, some of the best stories ever are short stories. Just remember that the anime has the same basic plot, but a lot more happens in it because if they did make a direct adaptation the movie would only be about 30 minutes.

Of course, I prefer the movie of Kazuko over the book version. The book version she really doesn’t have much of a personality except generic Japanese school girl. In the movie, she is breaking rules, going back in time to do things a teenage girl would want to do and she even shows a lot more emotion than her book counterpart.

In all, watch the movie or read the book. It’s your decision because both versions don’t go above OK.

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The Pigman’s Legacy Review

This is the first time in a long while that I have thrown a book in disgust. The last book I did this to was The Fault in Our Stars but for a different reason. This time the book is The Pigman’s Legacy, the sequel to one of my new favorite books The Pigman. While The Pigman is a heartwarming story about two teenagers who felt sorry for tricking an old man and befriended him, this one is an insult to that book.

Four months after the first book, John and Lorraine are feeling guilty about the death of the Pigman.  While passing by his house they notice that somebody is in there. They discover another old man living in the Pigman’s house and they take it as the Pigman coming back to them.

This sequel reads like a fan fiction sequel and not written by Zindel himself. This new old man, who we don’t find out his name until halfway through the book (Gus) is a cranky old man who is mean and acts like he belongs in a home. Not to mention the circumstances of what happens later are a bore. However, one scene truly makes the book seem like it wasn’t written by Zindel: John gambling all the money Gus won in Atlantic City. This does not seem like John. Granted, he is basically a delinquent, but the John from the first book would never do anything like this. Not to mention the old Lorraine would have dragged John out of there.

The writing has taken a huge hit here. Once again, the book is written in the first person with John and Lorraine tag teaming the chapters. What they have to say here isn’t as interesting as in the first book. While, yes, it was funny seeing Gus run out of the hospital with a hospital gown and John driving out of there like a bandit.

Now, you may be asking, “why did you through this book in disgust if it’s just dull?” It’s the ending. They do this whole cliche of John and Lorrain stopping on the floor where the nursery is in a “life ends and begins” bullshit and then this line, “our legacy was love.” Add to the fact that throughout the book there were “secret” paragraphs of each character admitting they love each other in the most gag-worthy way and this book found itself in the air.

This book should not have been written. It’s obvious this was written to cash in on the popularity of The Pigman and Zindel juts phoned it in.  Just pretend this book doesn’t exist and read the first book. You’ll thank me later.

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The Marvels Review

I first found out about Brian Selznick from, like a lot of people, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. That was one of the most creative books I’ve ever read in that it has pencil images that tell a story combined with traditional novel writing. It was also an excellent story. He followed it up with Wonderstruck that was not as good as Hugo but was still interesting. His most recent book in that style is The Marvels and it doesn’t live up to the previous two books.

Joseph Jervis has run away from his boarding school to stay with his uncle Albert Nightingale in London during Christmas. It’s here that Joseph discovers The Marvels, a family of stage actors who started in 1766 but it all ended in the early 1900s. Now Joseph thinks these were his ancestors and is trying to find out the truth from his uncle.

The thing that made the previous two books great was that Selznick knew what the perfect balance of drawings and writing was. Here, we get almost four hundred pages of drawing and then nothing but text for two hundred pages and then fifty pages of drawings. Yes, I admit that this was done deliberately as explained by the ending, but it kills the pacing of the book.

Not to mention that Joseph isn’t really that interesting of a character, nor is his story. Hugo had a kid trying to not get arrested and Wonderstruck had a kid finding his dad my going to the Museum of Natural History. This is just boring.

The Marvels themselves are an interesting family as is their story, Joseph’s just doesn’t cut it. In fact, all the characters here aren’t that interesting. It’s a shame since Selznick does have talent.

The drawings are still amazing, so that’s something. Selznick has the talent to use drawings to tell a compelling story that doesn’t need words to describe what’s going on. I may go so far as to say that Selznick is a better story teller using art than with words.

I’d still read any further Selznick books. I do enjoy his imagination and artwork. It’s just that this book was a letdown when compared to Hugo and Wonderstruck.

 

 

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