Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Graveyard Book: Location, Location, Location

I've knocked off yet another book in my continuing endeavor to read the Newbery award-winning books. This time around it is Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book (2010). As with the previous Newbery books I've read, I focused on what I can learn in my own writing from this book.

The opening of the book leaves a toddler abandoned thanks to a grisly murder scene. He wanders out of his out, losing his diaper along the way, and ends up at the local graveyard. While the scenario is preposterous, it sets up one of the more interesting settings I've read in the Newbery winners so far. The boy (nicknamed "Bod" for "Nobody") ends up raised by a collection of interesting ghosts and undead creatures. While he appreciates his home, he longs for a life among the living - and he wants to find out what happened to his family.

However, we are left wondering through most of the book why Bod's family was murdered and when the answer comes, it is abrupt and unsatisfying. As for Bod's dream of a life outside the confines of tombstones and crypts, this is also undermined by the author. Gaiman clearly relishes describing the world of the dead and ends up making the world from which Bod wishes to retreat more interesting than the one to which Bod dreams of going.

Thus the lesson I learn about writing is to make setting and location an important part of the book, but not one which overwhelms the story. My latest project, tentatively titled Abigail's Atlantis, will delve into the ocean and the famous lost underworld city. It will become crucial to make sure that while I try to capture the wonder and awe of such a fabled location, I don't do it at the expense of creating a moving and involving story.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games published

First posted 6/25/2020.

The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins

First Publication: September 14, 2008

Category: young adult novel

Sales: 23 million

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

“Every generation projects its fear: runaway science, communism, overpopulation, nuclear wars and, now, reality TV.” PW “This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like Survivor and American Gladiator.” SLJ In the tradition of books like Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, and Brave New World, Suzanne Collins creates a “postapocalyptic world” PW in which “the United States of America has collapsed…to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts.” SLJ Two youth from each district are selected by lottery each year to participate in the Hunger Games “as gladiators in a televised fight to the death.” PW

Katniss Everdeen, 16, volunteers when her younger sister is plucked for the games. As she and Peeta, her male counterpart, are from the poorest district, they “will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives.” SLJ “Although Katniss may be skilled with a bow and arrow and adept at analyzing her opponents’ next moves, she has much to learn about personal sentiments, especially her own.” BL

“This is a superb tale of physical adventure, political suspense, and romance.” BL Collins’s characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing.” SLJ

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