Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review - The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum
by Kate Bernheimer
illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Date: 2008
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Once there was a girl who lived in a castle. The castle was inside a museum. When children visited, they’d press against the glass globe in which the castle sat, to glimpse the tiny girl. But when they went home, the girl was lonely. Then one day, she had an idea! What if you hung a picture of yourself inside the castle inside the museum, inside this book? Then you’d able to keep the girl company. Reminiscent of “The Lady of Shalott,” here is an original fairy tale that feels like a dream—haunting, beautiful, and completely unforgettable.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I was just browsing through the local library's collection of e-books and the cover of this one caught my eye.

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.  I barely read the words as I flipped from one gossamer-like painting to the next.  They're beautiful little works of art that I can easily imagine as framed prints on the wall of a little girl's bedroom.

Unfortunately, the story is rather lacking.  I got the feeling that someone really liked a bunch of existing illustrations, and so hired a writer to come up with a bit of text to tie it all together.  There really is no plot.  It's just about a girl who lives in a castle inside the museum and dreams about people coming to visit her.  That's it.  It's too bad, because with a better story, this could have been an amazing picture book.  As it is, it's a collection of beautiful illustrations... but not much more.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.2 out of 5

Review - Every Day

Every Day (Every Day #1)
by David Levithan
Date: 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 324
Format: e-book
Source: library

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: review contains spoilers

I'd had a bad experience with this author's work before, when I tried (and failed) to get through Dash & Lily's Book of Dares.  When I saw what Every Day was about, I thought I'd give the author another try.  And while I was able to get through the book and derive a bit of enjoyment from it, some of the same issues that made me loathe Dash & Lily's Book of Dares reared their ugly heads here, too.  I guess this author's books and I just don't get along.

I read this book in just three sittings (which is rare for me; usually I go at a much more leisurely pace).  But the plot sucked me in.  I was intrigued by the story of A, a genderless entity who wakes up each morning in the body of a different 16-year-old kid.  There's actually way more to the plot than the synopsis lets on, starting with an incident where a boy whose body was "borrowed" by A remembers little bits and pieces of A's day and comes to the conclusion that he must've been possessed by a demon.  This leads to a whole media storm, and some searching questions for A... especially when A learns that he/she might not be the only one of his/her kind out there.  I kept reading eagerly, hoping for some sort of resolution, and getting more and more anxious as the number of pages left to read kept getting smaller.  And then the author blew it with the ending.  It was as if he couldn't figure out how to get poor A out of the mess he'd gotten him/her into, and so did the only thing he could think of: he made A run away.  How's that for a satisfying ending?  When things get tough, run away.  Great message.

My other complaints about the book revolved around 1) internal consistency and 2) the characters.  The rules of A's life didn't seem to be set in the author's head.  A talked about "accessing", which was when he/she could look into a person's memories to get information.  But it wasn't consistent.  At one point, A thought about telling a story involving pierced ears, but decided against it because he/she didn't know if the body he/she was in had pierced ears.  Why couldn't A access that memory (or, failing that, reach up and discreetly scratch the girl's ear to figure it out)?  A also couldn't play sports he/she wasn't personally good at, even if the body was, say, a soccer star or a gymnast.  But A could sign a person's name in their own handwriting... so muscle memory must've counted for something.

And then we get to the characters.  The teenagers in Every Day were plagued by the same problems as those in Dash & Lily's Book of Dares.  For some reason, the author thinks that teenagers have weird outbursts where they yell in public at inappropriate times.  I'm sure some of them do, but nobody in the vicinity ever calls these kids on it, tells them to shush, or even gives them a dirty look.  It's almost as if the author forgets he's put other people in the scene with his main characters.

So, while the premise and the overall idea behind the story was good, it wasn't executed very well (especially at the end), and it introduced me to another group of obnoxious teenagers that I really wish I hadn't met.  Kudos to the author for a great premise... but that's about all the praise I can give.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.29 out of 5