Thursday, May 11, 2006

Good, Better, Best(Warrior Heir!!)

Cinda Williams Chima's Warrior Heir (2006) was fantastic! It came in the box of advance copies that HarperCollins sent me, and I must admit, it sat next to my chair for a long time. I kept picking it up thinking "Oh, great. Mythic swords. Boys who don't know they're wizards. Yawn." I'm not a great fantasy fan most of the time, so I didn't pick it up until I was out of things to read.

But it was set in Ohio. And there were really, really good suspenseful scenes, great fights, and the whole plot seemed plausible, which is a big plus for me in fantasies. I liked the plot twists, loved the traveling to England, thought the character development was good for the main characters; the mother was a bit marginalized, but she needed to be. (Remember the tenets of a great YA book-- character must be a boy, character must save world, character must be orphan or practically so. All check.) Resolution of conflict a bit quick, but I liked that things were wrapped up in the end. There is no law that says that all fantasy books must be part of 45 book series.

Handed this immediately to one of my fantasy fans the next day; saw her later walking to her class while glued to the book. Always a good sign. May order two copies for next year. Looking forward to finding Wizard Heir.

Claudia Mills Dinah in Love (1995) is poorly titled, but a good read, reminding me slightly of A Girl Called Al (1969). While Dinah has her issues with her boyfriend, the main concern of the plot is the fact that she's upset on the first day of school by her science teacher, who informs the class that the sun will run out of energy in 5 million years. What is the point of anything after that? Dinah doesn't get in the school play, isn't elected class president, and everything is getting her down. This is a nice change from school stories that are either really upbeat and funny, or dealing with serious problems. Most of middle school is dealing with random problems like Dinah's, and I think the students will like this whole series. (Dynamite Dinah, Dinah for President, Dinah Forever.)

Mills' Lizzie at Last (2000) didn't hit quite the right note with me. I shop at thrift stores, and I think Lizzie would have a lot of trouble finding white dresses like Emily Dickinson's these days. There were a lot of anachronisms-- Lizzie's parents are hippies? They had her at 50? Still, a lot of students like to read about girls who reinvent themselves. (Conford's Seven Days to a Brand-New Me (1981) has had a big readership lately.)

It was good to have some time to read again. The end of the school year is tough. I also had to treat myself to Rosamund Du Jardin's Double Trouble (1953) last night. Philosophical question of the day: when did it become uncool for ordinary, middle class people to aspire to the country club? Was it ever, or have I read too much John Cheever?

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