All of which is just a convoluted way of saying: I’m sorry, I know I’ve barely updated this blog. I’m behind on all my book reviews, so I’m going to squish two together into this post in an effort to start catching up.
What’s it about? The second book in a trilogy about Madeleine, who lives in Cambridge, and Elliot, who lives in another world called the Kingdom of Cello. In this one, they try to work out how to move between the worlds so that they can retrieve Cello’s royal family, who have been kidnapped and hidden in “our” world.
Who is it for? Teenagers and fantasy readers, especially those who tend more towards light fantasy or urban fantasy.
Would I recommend it? I don’t think I can give an unbiased answer to this question. I adore Jaclyn Moriarty. I fell in love with her voice when I was fourteen and never outgrew it. As a general rule, I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but I really enjoy the science/magic duality in this series. So yes, I’d recommend it, along with everything else she’s ever written. I will admit that The Cracks in the Kingdom is weaker than the first book in this series, A Corner of White.
Would I teach it? No. For one thing, it’s the middle book in a trilogy, which means there’s too much assumed knowledge and unfinished story to put an entire class through. I also don’t think it’s one of Moriarty’s strongest works. Use it in libraries, wide-reading book boxes or birthday presents, rather than as a formal class text.
If I didn’t already know and love the author, I would never have picked this book up. I tend to browse in general fiction, literature, and sometimes crime. I read YA when I have to, for work, and this year because I’m making a conscious effort to seek out more Australian YA authors (which itself is for work-related reasons). This goes to show two things: 1) Sometimes it’s good to pick something out of your comfort zone. 2) If you can find one book that a teenager will fall in love with, that book might still be taking them to new places a decade later.
I seem to have commented on the Australian-ness of all the books I’ve been reviewing so far and I should point out that in this particular one, Australia is not a key setting at all. Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield collection are set in the Hills district of Sydney, but the Colours trilogy obviously draws on her years spent in England.
What’s it about? Karl (old man), Agatha (old woman) and Millie (small child) elude authorities and start trying to trek across the country to find Millie’s mother. They’re also all mourning losses – Karl’s wife, Agatha’s husband and Millie’s dad.
Who is it for? I’d gather the target audience is anyone who has ever lost anyone. So that’s pretty much everybody. I think it’d appeal more to women than men.
Would I recommend it? Yes, I really enjoyed this book. There are parts of the story that are absurd in a way that still manages to be believable, and the characters are beautifully drawn. My writer’s group once talked about whether we wanted readers to “empathise with, laugh at, or judge” our main characters, and at different times in this book I did all of those things for all three. Even the minor characters, like Derek the train conductor, had distinctive traits and voices. Millie’s story is heartbreaking, especially when it catches up to her at the end.
Would I teach it? I could see it being a good related text for a senior class doing an Area of Study like Belonging or Loss or Grief or something. It could even work for Discovery. I think I’d have a hard time getting year 9 or 10 boys to read it, and anything below that is too young. Generally, though, I think these kinds of books need to be in classrooms more: at the moment, there seems to be a straight jump from books written for teenagers to literary/prize-winning books with the kinds of language and slower pace that students find hard work. Consequently, they’re leaving school without a love of reading. Most popular books are also well-written (I said most). A few more picked off the bestseller list instead of the Booker prize shortlist might be a good thing.
If I’m remembering this right, I’ve reviewed one book set in Sydney, one in rural Victoria, and one in England/a fantasy world. I can now add Western Australia to the list (Lost and Found is mostly set on moving transport – a bus to Kalgoorlie, a train across the Nullabor, a car near the Bight) and it’s a totally different landscape to the others. It’s also one that I am personally unfamiliar with, and until reading Lost and Found I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting. I knew that Australian authors would be as varied and interesting as any other diverse group of people, but I hadn’t really considered how the settings of these books would show such different aspects of the country. It’s been nice. I should map it or something.
Okay, this is a pet peeve, but I really don’t understand what's so bad about quotation marks. Lost and Found is one of many books I’ve read in recent years that use something else to indicate speech, often italics. Italics-to-indicate-speech makes me partly suspicious of what I’m reading, as though I can expect a twist where the character has been having all these conversations in his head, and partly annoyed that someone’s trying to be unique with their punctuation for no apparent reason. Lack of quotation marks is like naming your baby Nevaeh. It doesn’t make your book more literary any more than “heaven backwards” means your kid’ll be better behaved. It’s not unique. It’s just annoying.
And on that petty note, I’m going to bed. Hopefully I’ll be back to catch up on some more book reviews soon, and to share some notes on creating characters.