Friday, February 6, 2009

Suspend Disbelief and You'll Love Middle School Fiction

My job requirements these days allow me to immerse myself in books. The drawback sometimes is that they are children/YA books that require too much suspension of disbelief. It's not they are bad books for the market intended, but certainly leave a little to be desired for an aging librarian. Here are just a few titles that may be of interest to some of the younger set.

First, is a book called H.I.V.E., which stands for Higher Institute of Villanous Education, by Mark Walden. This is a story about an orphan boy named Otto, a genius who was making the best of his time in St. Sebastian's orphanage. When the government threatens to close the orphanage, Otto takes matters into his genius hands and concocts an elaborate scheme to make sure the orphanage stays open. But, the way he does it attracts the attention of H.I.V.E, and he is kidnapped and taken to the school. The training in the school, as you can imagine, is different than any other school. Some of the courses include Villany Studies, Tactical Education, Practical Technology, and Stealth and Evasion. Otto and his friend Wing do well in their studies, but their only thought is escape. Can they do it? And at what price? The story is exciting until we get to the man-eating plant part. Too much suspension of belief for me, but middle schoolers love it.

Next book is East by Edith Pattou. Young readers today really love fantasy, and this book meets that need very well. East is the story of a young girl, Rose, who lives in a time when it was believed that people inherit the qualities of the direction in which they are born. Rose is a North-born baby, but her mother claims she is East born because she doesn't want Rose to have the qualities of a North born child. North born children are by nature wild and destined to break their mother's hearts because they are wanderers. Based on the folktale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," the story has a white bear appear that takes Rose away. Of course the bear is magical. There are echos of Beauty and the Beast as the story unfolds. I really enjoyed this story, however. The magic seems to fit in with the elaborate description of the icy medieval northlands, the setting for the story. I was told by a friend that they cannot keep this book on the shelf in her school. The students absolutely love it. Again, there was a necessity to suspend disbelief, but I enjoyed this book a little more.

Last one for today is a book called Eagle Strike, by Anthony Horowitz. My students from last year and many of the boys this year really love the Alex Rider Series. I felt it my duty to read one just to see what they find enjoyable. I had a really difficult time in the beginning of this book. Talk about suspend disbelief. Alex Rider, the 14 year old hero in the book is on holiday with his girlfriend Sabrina and her family. While there, he unexpectedly sees his enemy, a paid Russian assassin. It isn't long after he sees the Russian that there is an explosion at his girlfriend Sabrina's house. He is sure he is the intended target. Of course, it is up to Alex to bring the whole incident to justice. As he begins his pursuit he finds that a famous rock star, Damian Cray is involved. The story takes on a modern movie spy thriller quality as Alex goes from one exciting event to another trying to figure out how the Russian killer, Damian Cray and Sabrina's father are connected. The problem is suspending disbelief enough to not laugh at loud at the improbability of it all, but then I am not a middle school student. Maybe it is not so hard when at 12-14 you know everything there is to know, and you are invincible.

1 comment:

  1. no problem for me ususally. I'm thinking the last one might stretch my limits though.