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Book Reviews of Literature for Children and Young Adults
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David Shannon, Author
Author Study - Louis Sachar

Fantasy and Science Fiction
 
Others See Us
The Golden Compass
Blood and Chocolate

Sleator, William.  1993.  Others See Us.  New York:  Dutton Children’s

     Books.  ISBN: 0525451048.

 

     William Sleator writes another suspense filled science fiction story that will keep his reader hanging on to the finish.  “William Sleator is regarded as a particularly original and imaginative author whose works use the genres of fantasy, mystery, and science fiction to explore personal relationships and growth (Contemporary Authors Online, 2001).” This story does that completely.

     On the first night of Jared’s summer vacation he winds up crashing his bike in a toxic waste swamp.  The toxic waste gives him the ability to read people’s minds. Unfortunately he finds that the cousin he adores, Annelise, is an evil and manipulative person who uses people and has caused the death of a local girl as well as Jared’s crash in the swamp.  While he and Annelise are trying to get their journals back, he finds out that he is not the only one with this ability.  His grandmother had gotten it also from the swamp.  His grandmother promises to return the journals if Jared and Annelise will bring her a gallon of the toxic waste. While doing so, Annelise falls in the swamp and gets the power.   There is a showdown to reveal her true nature.

     “Sleator incorporates current scientific theories, suspense, and the supernatural in his books, which challenge readers to take active roles in the stories while allowing them to resonate with the feelings and experiences of his characters (Contemporary Authors Online, 2001).”  Jared is a typical teen but because of his ability to read minds Jared is able to see past the surface qualities of people and grows in his appreciation of another cousin, Lindie. He learns about the depth of people’s characters.  He questions the integrity of his grandmother when she stole people’s ATM numbers.  He doesn’t quite know if he can trust her.  “Through their physical and emotional journeys, the young people in Sleator's stories discover strength and confidence within themselves while developing a greater understanding of life in general (Contemporary Authors Online, 2001).”  The characters in Sleator’s books have flaws.  Lindie, a kind and considerate cousin who is planning to attend Harvard, has cheated to get admitted.  In the beginning Jared, who tells the story, was smitten by the surface beauty of people and did not see people for their inner qualities.  His grandmother turns out to be not as respectable as he thought her.  She did not like her neighbors and used her power to read minds to steal money and blackmail them.  She also does not hold very high opinions of her own children. Annelise the villain of the story has a weakness.  She has to have everyone’s approval and is ruthless in seeking it.  Because of this weakness, she was defeated in the end.  The setting of the story at the family’s compound at the shore for a family reunion brings all these characters together. 

     Hazel Davis for the ALAN Review writes, “Sleator leads the reader and his characters to think about whether or not the end justifies the means, which could lead to interesting classroom discussions. Typical of Sleator, the story is not over on the last page. Young people should enjoy this one.”

 

Source: Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2001.

William (Warner III) Sleator.  Gale Literary Database. Contemporary

     Authors.  Accessed:  1 November 2004

 

Pullman, Philip.  1995.  The Golden Compass.  New York:  Alfred A

     Knopf.  ISBN:  0679893105.

 

     The Golden Compass has won numerous awards for its literary quality.  This story is a trilogy called the His Dark Materials. Readers will be drawn into an eerily familiar world similar to ours but different in this story.

     Lira Belacqua, the main protagonist, is a young girl who has been allowed to run wild under the benevolent but neglectful care of the Jordan scholars at Oxford.  She fights with other groups of children, lies, pulls pranks, and hardly ever bathes but she is loyal and imaginative.  In Lira’s world all humans have daemons, an animal that is like their soul.  In children daemons can change their form but when they reach puberty they take on a fixed form. Lira’s daemon is called Pantalaimon.  Unknown to Lira she has a destiny that she must fulfill without being aware of it. 

     Her life begins to change when she hides in the retiring room and learns about dust.  It continues to change, especially when her best friend Roger is snatched by the Gobblers (General Oblation Board). In her quest that is a convention of fantasy, she escapes from Mrs. Coulter, learns to read a truth device called an alethiometer, and befriends an armored bear, witches, and an aeronaut.  She learns the terrible truth about the purpose the children were stolen and she discovers the truth about her parents. Lira rescues the children and Roger from the General Oblation Board but as it was ordained she ends up betraying Roger.

     In Lira’s world the Catholic Church holds much political power somewhat like the power held by the Church during the sixteenth century. She lives in a world that uses zeppelins for flying and ambaric (electrical) lighting is fairly new.  There is a feeling of the old combined with new technology. In this fantasy story, she is in a battle of good against evil that she must find the truth for herself. Marjorie Allen wrote, “Fantasies often have more to do with reality than any so-called realistic fiction.  Like poetry, fantasy touches on universal truths” (Donelson, 2005).

     Publisher’s Weekly says, “As always, Pullman is a master at combining impeccable characterizations and seamless plotting, maintaining a crackling pace to create scene upon scene of almost unbearable tension. This glittering gem will leave readers of all ages eagerly awaiting the next installment of Lyra's adventures.” This story ends with the Lira heading off into a new world, a parallel world to follow Lord Asrael.

 

Source:  Donelson, Kenneth L. and Alleen Pace Nilsen.  2005.  Literature

     for Today’s Young Adults.  7th ed.  Boston:  Pearsons.  ISBN: 

      0205410359.

 

Klause, Annette Curtis.  1997.  Blood and Chocolate.  New York: 

     Delacorte Press. ISBN:  0385323050.

 

     Klause writes a fantasy romance story about supernatural characters, Loups-garoux, the werewolves.   This story takes place in a commonplace ordinary setting, a Maryland suburb.  The ordinariness of this setting adds to the story’s appeal.  Vivian, a teenage girl, is a werewolf and she belongs to a pack that had to flee West Virginia.  She is dealing with the disorganization of the pack since her father the leader died in a fire. They are in dire need of a leader to rein in the young wolves’ behavior.   Vivian falls in love with a human boy and struggles with her need to be who she really is and her fear that he would not understand and find her repulsive. Going below the surface to judge people is the essence of this genre of literature. When Vivian kisses Aiden, she has to hold back from revealing who really she is. This is a dilemma she and other adolescents fight, how much do you reveal of yourself?  She also has to fight her mother and the pack that disapprove of her dating a “meat-boy.”  She is expected to choose from the pack for her mate. Adolescents can relate to this theme about fighting against parents to make their own decisions.

     Klause reveals that Vivian, the main character, has an inner animal side that contrasts with her outwardly human appearance.  She bares her teeth. She worries if Aiden will be safe “if he came close enough to fill her nostrils with his scent.” During the choosing of the next leader called the Ordeal where the wolves fight each other, Vivian accidentally while saving her mother, makes herself Gabriel’s mate. She realizes, “It was in her too-the thirst for blood, the need to kill.” Klause creates a character that is believable and multifaceted.  The reader sees the danger of Vivian and her pack but likes her anyway.

     Vivian fantasizes that Aiden would love her anyway once he knew she what she is.  Vivian defies pack law in rebellion and reveals her wolf self to Aiden.  He responds with fear and loathing. He no longer wants her.

     There is danger to the humans in this story from the werewolves.  The Five that are Vivian’s age mates had killed a human in West Virginia to hide the murder of a girl by another of the young male werewolves. Klause creates tension that Aiden might not survive his romance with Vivian.  Without knowing, several times he placed himself in danger. The next morning after Vivian had revealed herself to Aiden she wakes with blood all over her. Gabriel, the new pack leader, vows to get the killer who killed for pleasure.

     The suspense builds in the story. Vivian in a jealous rage gets drunk one night and goes to Kelly’s house, a girl she suspects of replacing her in Aiden’s affection, and tears up Kelly’s clothes.  When she wakes the next morning she cannot remember anything but finds a severed hand in her bed. The reader along with Vivian is convinced she is probably the murderess. Vivian tries to kill herself and is stopped just in time to go meet Aiden before the real killers get to him.  Aiden accidentally shoots her with a silver bullet. Vivian recovers but gets stuck in between her wolf form and human form. Gabriel explains about humans, “They can’t change but I do believe they have a beast within.”  Werewolves are able to change to let out the beast in themselves.

     It is easy to see why this book has won so many awards.  School Library Journal says, “The book is well constructed with visual imagery and deft descriptions. Klause's representation of the pack as a microcosm of society reveals the fragile nature of human behavior and emotions. Teens are shown that they can make mistakes and survive as they test the waters of friendship, love, belonging, and trust. The character's growth and development drives the plot, which sustains and creates moods that move readers from excitement to despair to hope. And throughout, they struggle between fascination, empathy, and revulsion with "werewolf culture" This unusual and suspense-filled story will keep the reader engrossed until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

This website created by J. Ketola as a requirement for
LS 5623 Advanced Literature for Young Adults
Texas Woman's University
Denton, Texas
November 1. 2004