Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Review: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

When Jeremy goes out of town, I go into survival mode with the kids. I make a big pot of soup and we eat it for lunch and dinner every day he's gone, until it's gone. Sometimes I supplement with frozen waffles. I make sure there's plenty of ice cream in the freezer, in flavors that I like. And I allow a few things that perhaps I otherwise wouldn't, like me reading a book on the couch while the girls go crazy in the living room. It helps if it's a really good book, so the time passes faster.

Well, Jeremy was in Chicago from Thursday to Sunday, and I managed to snag Graceling from the library (without even placing a hold!) to have at home while he was gone. Here's a quick review of the book that gave me a reason to wake up in the morning and face the world while going solo with my two kids for four days. If only I could have made the reading of it last the whole four days, right?

What I liked:
Fantastic, self-contained story, a strong female character, writing that really draws you in, and a compelling mythology. It's a very readable fantasy book, and I liked how it chose realism over dreaminess. Sometimes people in this book were ugly, or dirty, or had messy hair, or snot frozen on their faces. The plot was full of interesting twists that I rarely saw coming, or if I did, it was in the context of, "ooh, it would be so neat if something like [such-and-such] happened next!"

What I didn't like: Sometimes I felt like people were getting upset at the drop of a hat. Like, someone would go storming off the scene and I'd have to flip back the page to see what huge event I missed, only to see that it was really nothing. A certain major scene between the two main characters was confusing to me, but maybe that was my fault.

Also, the strong female character I mentioned above? She doesn't care for marriage. Call me old-fashioned, but MARRIAGE ISN'T THAT BAD. I promise.

What I didn't expect to see in this book (or any YA fiction book, for that matter), but did: herbal birth control tips.

What I did expect to see in this book, but didn't: pages of descriptions on how beautiful and toned and marble-like Edward's Po's chest was.

Unresolved discussion question that I may or may not want to know the answer to: Is Raffin gay?

Certain bits of the plot reminded me of: City of Bones, Twilight, any Shannon Hale book, The Thief/Queen/King of Attolia, Jane Eyre, and - get this - Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken.

So yes, this book gets about 4/5 stars from me. If I did decide to give it five stars, it would be with the reservation I alluded to above: why does a strong female character necessarily have to disdain the institution of marriage? I know it's just a book, but still. Give us a feminist character who is not afraid to have a husband and kids, and still kick butt in her discretionary time.

Also, I continue to be confused about what constitutes YA lit these days. The cover art and story description of Graceling are very 10-year-old and up, but parts of the plot are definitely not. It's nothing an older teenager couldn't handle, but I have to wonder if the book's target audience couldn't be expanded and better served by leaving some of that stuff out. It's still a mystery to me.

Has anyone else read this book, and what did you think?


Susanne said...

I've not read this, but I enjoyed your review. LOL @ your thoughts about marriage not being so bad. :)

So what flavors of ice cream DO you like? :-D

Fromagette said...

"Give us a feminist character who is not afraid to have a husband and kids, and still kick butt in her discretionary time."


Suzanne Bubnash said...

I agree w/Fromagette who agrees w/ you . . . it's trendy to put down marriage as a sign of weakness (or something) which is completely absurd. It's a worn out assumption and sad to see in a book written for youth.

Briahna said...

I completely agree with your assessment of the book. May I add that I felt that the sex scene was overly graphic? I wouldn't really want my child to read this book purely for that reason. I also thought that it was amusing that the picture of the author makes her look like a total geek. Sometimes those are the ones that have the dirtiest minds I guess.

The marriage thing was my one major hang up that stopped my loving this book. Making your own choices and being happy with them is far more empowering than being afraid any day.

Brittany Cornett said...

I finally read your chasing fire review. I totally agree. The only thing that I really disliked is how little of the story was accomplished in a book it made me think that series will be five books long. This looks like a good book... Wild Hearts Cant be Broken brings me back.

Natchel said...

I'm almost done with it and I agree with almost all of your questions and comments. It isn't as good as Hunger Games in my opinion but I'm trying to give it a fair trial.

Bridget said...

Susanne, my favorites come and go, but anything chocolate-based WITH peanut butter cups is always good. My current favorite is Edy's Hot Cocoa. So good.

Briahna, you are so right. I was reading it and I thought, "did she just-? did that just-? what the-?!?" That's what I mean when I say I'm confused about YA lit these days.

Mikael said...

I went out to lunch today and your mom was there. I saw anna and nalea too. Your mom was SUPER Nice to stand at my loner table (with my 3 kids) and help me out while I waited for anna and nalea. it made me MISS YOU!!! Nothing can replace the krusty creek club! she said you are liking it out there. and I can see that! (oh, and she also told me that ADORABLE story of where miriam organized all the shoes in first position, soooooo cute)


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