Friday, December 2, 2011

Fiction Friday (5)

It's the end of the week and time to think about recent reads of the past. This week I wanted to share two books that I absolutely loved. Sometimes it's good to simply gush about things. Though I firmly believe in the benefit of critical reviews, I've been feeling there is too much negative energy floating around these days and didn't want to contribute to it by pointing out flaws I've found in other books. Instead, I want to talk about two books that did everything right in my opinion. I read both of these in the last month or so and they truly impressed me for completely different reasons. Enjoy.

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
(Yearling 2002)

Written in a direct, forceful style, Pictures of Hollis Woods is one of those books that seizes the reader from the opening page. Hollis, a twelve year old girl who has spent her life shuttling through foster homes, is portrayed with heartbreaking accuracy. In fact, she will most likely break your heart on the first page with the first of many pictures she draws. She is a girl anxious to be loved, but terrified of getting too close, because whenever she does...things tend to go wrong. The book does an amazing job of keeping the characters grounded in a story that could so easily have become over analytical. It never strays from the raw emotion of a character who doesn't know her own worth. For some the story might be wrapped in too neat a package by the end, but it didn't bother me. Sometimes it's nice to believe that good things can happen to deserving people.

The White Mountains by John Christopher
(MacMillan 1967)

The story of a future inhabited by a mind-controlled population is one I've encountered countless times in various forms with different culprits such as nefarious governments, mass hallucination, or as is the case in The White Mountains, invading aliens. The strength of this book is that it made me forget all those others as I was reading. For the most part this is due to the powerful, subtle voice of the main character, a boy named Will.

In this vision of the future, people have built a safe, seemingly normal life in the ashes of the world we know. The only difference is the roaming tripod machines that lord over them by placing a 'cap' on each person once they reach adolescence. Before meeting a strange wanderer, Will had never imagined a life where he wasn't capped. But after hearing tales of a resistance group living in the Alps, he sets off to find them, and hopefully a life of free will.

This first book in a series chronicles three boys as they venture across France on their way to the mountains. It reads less like science fiction or fantasy and more like any other adventure tale. The relationship between the three is extremely well written. The characters experience the same emotions as any young teens in contemporary fiction, which goes a long way to making the extraordinary elements of the plot feel more grounded. With so many dystopian novels out there these days, this is an old one worth revisiting. It reminded me of The People of Sparks in some ways. A wonderful book and I can't wait to read the others.

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