Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Looks, The Declaration

Looks, by Madeleine George, would be a good book for high school but was overly bleak for middle school. Meghan, the fattest girl in town, tries to be invisible, mainly to avoid comments from the rude boys in school. Aimee is anorexic but trying very hard to make friends with other girls who share her interest in writing. Much attention is given to Aimee's relationship with food. The prose is lyrical and the voices of the characters feel removed and echoey, which suits the book. The despair in the book is palpable, and this may be why it feels to dispirited to give to middle schoolers. While brilliantly done, it's a deeply unhappy book, and a bit mean as well. "He is best friends with the Latin teacher, a tall, stoop-shouldered, stringy haired specter named Ms. Werner." (p. 54) Ms. Werner gets no more mention in order to redeem herself, and many of the characters are painted in a very unflattering way. There is also some of the current trend to give characters ridiculous names; a secretary is named Ms. Champoux, "like the hair soap". This irritates me, since it marginalizes the characters.
Gemma Malley's The Declaration is another dystopian novel with bioethical overtones. There seem to be a lot of these lately. In this one, Surplus Anna is being raised in a state home for "illegal" children-- her parents decided to take drugs to make them live forever, but also had a child, which is against the law. Since people can live forever, children are discouraged. It's possible to "opt out" of taking the drugs in order to have children, and few do it. The plot centers around a new surplus, Peter, who comes to the home and starts to shake things up. Anna, who is trying very hard to be useful, is intrigued by his stories, and starts to wonder if the way the world seems to be working is right after all. There are a few pat plot twists, but students will like this because it shows children without any power who try to take some for their own. Similarities between this and Margaret Peterson Haddix's Shadow Children series are inevitable. This is a good book to have on hand for die-hard fans of that series.

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