Just a reminder that there’s just over a week left to enter to win Ripley’s Seeing is Believing. Read about the book, the rules for entering, and enter to win right here.
Todd Hewitt, a boy on the cusp of manhood, lives in Prentisstown on New World, where his people settled in order to live a simpler life closer to God. Only problem is, the natives of New World weren’t the friendliest, and during the war that ensued, they released a germ that killed off all of the women (including Todd’s mother), half of the men (including Todd’s father), and caused all men’s thoughts to be broadcast. (Incidentally, all the animals can speak too. Who doesn’t love a talking dog?) This Noise is not something that can be turned off or ignored – it is always there, and it is the concept from which Patrick Ness draws the title for his trilogy, Chaos Walking. As Todd tells us, “Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just Chaos Walking.”
In The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first in the trilogy, Todd is mentally preparing himself for becoming a man in a few short days when he stumbles upon a strange silence in the Noise, something he knows cannot exist. But there it is – silence, in a way even louder than the Noise itself. Todd’s discovery changes his life completely, setting him off on a mad chase as he is pursued by several men who may or may not be crazy, are probably lying about everything, and most certainly want to kill him. This is an oversimplified synopsis, but much of the joy of reading a great dystopia is its newness. The less you know, the more enjoyable it is. You’ll have to take my word for it that this is a great one.
The idea of being able to read minds (willingly or unwillingly) is not new, but Ness writes about it in such a way that it feels fresh. He makes several stylistic choices that contribute to the unique feel of the book. The most obvious is the way he (or his editor) chose to represent Noise – in a radically different, messy, large font. At a couple of points in the book, Noise covers a whole spread of pages, and the effect is powerful. Reading those pages feels both fascinating and claustrophobic. While I love audiobooks, I can’t imagine listening to this one. It really should be read with the eyes.
Several of Ness’ other stylistic choices also paid off. The story is told in first person present tense, and the feeling is that Todd is telling it to you as it happens. This technique works great for an action-centered book such as this, whereas I find it a bit wearing in other books. Todd is illiterate and grew up in a pretty primitive settlement, so he tells his story in dialect. Far from being annoying, it makes Todd an endearing, frustrating, and real person. I could hear Todd speaking to me; it felt as if I were reading his own Noise. At points when Todd is stressed or proud or angry, he’ll give the reader a parenthetical aside – (shut up!) – bringing us even further into his mind. Ness also makes liberal use of run-on sentences when Todd’s thoughts are moving too swiftly for proper punctuation. Some of the action sequences are written with short, fragmentary, one-sentence paragraphs, a technique I found less successful but didn’t detract too much. The end result of these style choices is that the reader is left with a book that really feels like a creative work. Ness isn’t just telling us a story – he has created something, and it is different and artful and challenging.
A lot of well-plotted young adult fiction suffers from a lack of depth or meaning. I can immediately think of a dozen young adult books that start with a great premise but just aren’t very good books. The Knife of Never Letting Go is not one of these. Like The Hunger Games, which I was reminded a lot of while reading Ness’ book, The Knife of Never Letting Go is essentially one long action sequence, but I feel that Todd’s world and its characters were better fleshed out. It is for this reason that I anticipate reading The Ask and the Answer, the second book in the trilogy, even more than I anticipate reading Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games (and I did really like The Hunger Games).
Truly great literature always includes three essential things: an interesting plot, eloquent writing, and layers of meaning. This one’s got them all, particularly that last one (it won the Tiptree award, but the way the book explores what it means to be a man is not its only takeaway). Sure, it’s not a perfect book. The short lines irritated me, and at points I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. But the book’s strengths overwhelmingly outweigh its weaknesses. How do you think your own community would react if everyone’s thoughts were suddenly broadcast to you, without any way to stop it from happening? Would your community’s reaction make you proud or afraid?
The Ask and the Answer will be released in the US one week from today. That is plenty of time for you all to go out and read The Knife of Never Letting Go. And then you can send me a message and we can commiserate over how much we hate Patrick Ness for [this phrase has been removed due to spoilage]. And how even though we truly do hate him, we’re still going to read his next book.
While you wait for the second or third book, check out this short story prequel that Ness has written. Even though it’s a prequel, it’s heavy on spoilers, so don’t read it unless you’ve read Knife.
Tricks is Ellen Hopkins’s new book that delves into the under ground world of teenage prostitution. Like her other books, this one is gritty, unflinching, and utterly remarkable for how it portrays a topic that isn’t well documented in mainstream media but one that may truly resonate with many (* more on that in a second).
Hopkins’s books are all written in verse and she makes many patterns within the verse layout that add layers and depth at the page level, as opposed to the textual level. Her writing is flawless and her development of five unique characters — all of whom grow up in very different circumstances but all come together in the world of teenage prostitution in Las Vegas — is so well done. I’m not a huge fan of epistolary novels or novels in verse because of what a huge task it is to accurately develop multiple voices and characters well. Fortunately, Hopkins is a master at this.
I’m not a grit lit appreciater. I’ll be honest in writing that this wasn’t one of my favorite books. However, I really loved the writing style and found myself compelled to finish the story. I wanted to see how well the characters were weaved and how the verse really draws you to the conclusions of five characters for whom you have sympathy because of crummy circumstances. This is a book I would undoubtedly recommend to those who love gritty books or appreciate interesting writing approaches. It’s not for the weak of heart or people who aren’t comfortable reading about drugs, drinking, dysfunction, sex, or any other similar topic. There are no good parents and there are few happily ever afters, but Hopkins wrote Tricks with other goals in mind.
As I alluded to, there is a greater reason for Hopkins writing this book. She includes a short author’s note at the end about how teenage prostitution is a largely unseen but significant problems in America (yes, America and not just the “third world”). Tricks is meant to give voice to those who don’t have one and it’s meant to explore what could lead teenagers into this dangerous world. I’m really glad this note came at the end of the book, rather than as a preface, because it made me reflect on the story and “get it.” There’s a story here and there’s a greater purpose; this is something that I appreciate and could see being a really important book for teens to read. Hopkins is not only talented, but she is committed to making an impact on the lives of teenagers, and I think she’s going to hit a home run with this one.
Here’s a double take that is of the same exact stock photo but with different color effects.
The Girl with the Mermaid Hair by Delia Ephron will be published by HarperTeen in early January 2010. This is the image from the ARC, so there’s a chance it may not be the final cover choice.
The Mark by Jen Nadol will actually be released in late January 2010 — a couple weeks after Girl with the Mermaid Hair. It’s being published by Bloomsbury USA. Again, this is from the advanced copy, so it’s not necessarily the final cover.
So which do you like better?
Personally, I dig the second one better. It’s more haunting and memorable. The top looks a little too washed out for my taste, though I think that the image and cover are more fitting for the title than the one for The Mark. It’ll be interesting to see if these are final covers in January, too.
The new Ripley’s annual for 2010 is out, and guess who has a copy to give away to one lucky reader? As if giving a copy of this awesome book is not enough, I’m throwing in a coupon good for buy one get one admission at any of the Ripley museums that is good through December 31, 2010.
So something has happened with these Ripley books, and that something is fantastic. When I was young, I remember Ripley’s books being very similar to the thick volumes of Guinness World Records books: information, interesting stories, and a few black and white photos.
But this bad boy is jam packed with awesome full-color and full-page pictures.
This volume of Ripley’s has some great feature sections. It’s divided into 12 sections that highlight feats of the human body, food, science, earth, and more.
The book begins with a history of Ripley himself which gives a nice overview of the hows and whys of his entire story and legacy. I loved the nice feature on Houdini within the “Incredible Feats” section but was perhaps most impressed with the fold out feature on P. T. Barnum in the “Body Oddity” section. There’s been a lot out about him recently, but with the research and name of Ripley’s, this one’s expertly done (and not to mention incredibly interesting with the layout and use of photos).
Did you know someone paid $3,154 to buy a half-eaten piece of toast … of Justin Timberlake? What about the fact scientists in the UK studied the brain waves of locusts while they watched Star Wars? Oh, and the urban legend of mentos and diet coke? Well, you can look at the photo for yourself. And be careful if you are trying to have children and live in Nebraska or New Jersey: you’re much more likely to have triplets than anywhere else in the country.
This is a book that boys and girls will enjoy. The photos are so interesting, the colors and lay outs of the pages are evocative and engaging without being overwhelming, and the snippets of human and non-human feats are attention-grabbing. What I love about these sorts of books is how they can be picked up and read at one’s leisure any time. They also never get old — you can read it again and again. Ripley’s is good for all ages, though those who are squeamish may want to skip some parts of the book. It’s a tried and true favorite and, well, SO MUCH BETTER than when I was a kid!
If you want to learn more about Ripley’s annuals, check out their website here. If you want to buy the book, you can check out a good deal on their facebook page. But as I said before, I have a copy to give away along with a buy one get one pass.
Please follow ALL of the rules to be entered!
1. You can earn an entry through these means:
+ 1 if you comment with your email address
+ 1 if you comment with a Ripley’s believe it or not type fact (and if it’s something you pull from their website, even better!). If you can link to your source, you’ll win our librarian hearts.
+ 2 if you subscribe to our feed or are already a subscriber
+ 2 if you tweet the giveaway or you blog it — leave your twitter name/blog name in the comment. You can get 2 entries for tweeting and 2 entries for blogging for a total of 4.
2. You leave a separate comment for EACH point you earn (to be clear: comment on this post once if you just leave your email address. Add a second comment if you are also commenting with a “believe it or not” fact. Add two more comments if you subscribe or are a subscriber. Add two more if you tweet or blog it. So, the most comments you’d be leaving on the blog is 8 — you tweet, blog, subscribe, tell a believe it or not, and leave an email). Please don’t leave one comment with all your points; we’ll never sort through them!
3. Contest runs from now until September 11.
To sweeten the deal a bit, the winner will also receive an ARC of choice from my bag. It’ll be a surprise! If we get 75 comments or more, there will be a second winner of an ARC of my choosing (of course, with a bit of input from said winner).
Good luck. I’m so excited that the wonderful folks with Ripley’s sent this title along. It’s a beautiful book that will be well-loved by the lucky winner.