Posts Tagged ‘2011 Debut’

Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece

Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a’Fresh New Start’. Five years ago his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn’t cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory.
Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago.
When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.

Five years ago Rose died. One moment that tore Jamie’s family apart. Now his Mum has left them, his Dad is an alcoholic and the only person there for him is his sister Jas, who was Rose’s twin. But nobody understands why he doesn’t cry for Rose, why he doesn’t miss her, because they remember her and he doesn’t, he was too young when she died. Now they have moved to the Lake District for a new start, to make things better, only it doesn’t seem to be working. Jamie still has deal with school bullies and his mother’s indifference. And just how does he explain to his father that his only friend is a Muslim, especially after Islamic terrorists killed his sister.

People have been telling me that I should read this book for months, that it is a heartbreaking, moving story that just deserves to be read. Yet I’d been putting it off because I hated the cover. Yep that’s right, me, a school librarian that tells kids daily that they shouldn’t judge a book by a cover was put off by a cover. I was so relieved when the Carnegie books were delivered and I found that they had changed the cover for the paperback. One I could get excited about reading it now and two the cover actually matches the story that I’d been told about.

And the story. I’m beginning to wonder if the Carnegie judges have shares in Kleenex this year as this is yet another shortlisted book that can’t help but move you to tears. I keep wondering if all the Year 7’s shadowing the Awards will give up due to the bleakness of some of the books but they are just so well written that they keep coming back for more. This is no exception. The book is written from Jamie’s point of view and by the end you feel as though you know him inside out. However this doesn’t stop you from getting to know other characters in the book just as well. Jamie is an incredibly perceptive character so you get to know characters close to him really well too. This book is about how death can tear a family apart and using a younger brother who barely even knew his dead older sister is a very effective way of adding enough distance to see the subtleties in characters behaviour yet keeping close enough to show the devastation that an event like this can cause.

Without going into details I loved the ending to this book. It had such an element of hope to it yet at the same time nothing was perfect, it wasn’t a happy ever after, as after all life isn’t like that. I may have been reluctant to read this book but I’m glad I did, it may have made me cry but it left me feeling that life may not be perfect, but it really isn’t all that bad.

Verdict: At time a laugh out loud story, a times a total tearjerker, a book that deals with the devastation of loss, but reminds you of all you have to live for.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Family, Relationships
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British Book
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Fire and Thorns

Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do.

This gorgeous coming of age tale transports you completely to a world of sumptuous palaces, humid jungles, lush oases and stunning, yet unforgiving, deserts. A land of beauty and of danger, this superb world building is not at the expense of the story’s pacing. There is never a dull moment and like our protagonist Elisa; we are thrown from one experience to another. However the action never feels forced or gratuitous as each experience moves the story forward and informs Elisa’s character development. The main problem you have as a reader is deciding where to leave your book mark as you reluctantly turn in for the night!

Although this is an action filled fantasy adventure with a few crush worth males thrown in for good measure, this is very much a character driven story and it is the character arc which I LOVE most about this book. We watch a girl with cripplingly low self esteem blossom in to a determined, capable and confident young woman.

Elisa’s voice is intelligent and brutally honest, to the point of causing the reader discomfort. When we first meet her Elisa is, in her own opinion, a lazy underachiever who is so fat that she is unable to walk for more than a few minutes before tiring and becoming physically uncomfortable.

Taking the childhood teasing of her glamorous, capable older sister to heart Elisa has spent years believing that the disappointment of her birth caused her mother’s death. These feeling of worthlessness have prevailed despite the honour of being the bearer of the Godstone and destined to do great things in the service of her god.

Filled with conflicting emotions and confusing self beliefs, on the one hand Elisa feels suffocated by the expectation of predetermined greatness. On the other, she is increasingly concerned that her biggest fear, (that she will not fulfil her destiny) will be realised. Simultaneously, she seems to be wilfully sabotaging herself with her extreme eating. It is, after all, one thing to fail at something if you haven’t tried, soul destroying to fail because you were somehow lacking, and Elisa believes she is lacking. A lifetime of being talked over, of others making life changing decisions without consulting her, with her destiny predetermined, her food intake is the one thing she can control.

I have read other reviews which have looked negatively at our protagonist’s eventual weight loss, viewing it as a bad example to impressionable young girls. I could understand their point if the weight loss was the cause of Elisa’s character development and increased confidence. But this isn’t a fluffy make over story. While she does eventually revel in the aesthetic element of her weight loss it is the changed to her health, to her physical capability that she notices first and values most. Elisa’s development begins long before the period of extreme physical demand which happens to result in her weight loss. I believe that it is in fact the changes in her character from an increased sense of control, of self awareness and a sense of purpose that enable the permanent changes in her behaviour, resulting in sustained weight loss and improved self confidence.

While the story of Fire and Thorns concludes in the absence of infuriating cliff hangers I am left with a strong desire to return to Elisa’s story. Lucky for me Fire and Thorn is the first of a planned trilogy.

Verdict: Believable world building: Check, Fantastic plot and pacing: Check, Crush worthy male characters: Check, Character development: Check. This fantastic debut has it all. I am eagerly anticipating the continuation of Elisa’s story.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Hardback
Pages: 425
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: N/A
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