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nerds heart ya: results! June 23, 2010

Posted by Katie in community.
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So very excited to have this bracket’s result for Nerds Heart YA today. Heather from Book Addiction and I judged these together, emailing back and forth until we both wound up on the same side. (It wasn’t too hard though — we came to a decision pretty quickly!) You can go read Heather’s post and reviews right here.

In the Path of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith.

Two brothers – Jonah and Simon – are on the road trip from hell. Their brother Matthew’s in Vietnam in the army, their mother’s deserted them, and they’ve just hitched a ride with Mitch, Lilly, and a metal statue of Don Quixote. Lilly’s pregnant, and Mitch just isn’t right – he’s quick to anger, and Jonah is worried for all of their safety. But Simon doesn’t see Mitch as a threat. As tensions rise and the brothers continue to butt heads, Jonah is determined to get both Simon and Lilly away from Mitch.

I’m kind of on the fence about this book. Overall, I enjoyed the read and think that it is a deserving title and one I will be adding to my library’s collection for my teen boys to read.

My biggest problem was the pacing of the novel. It was billed as a suspense novel from the descriptions, and I was not in suspense for a majority of the novel. The first half of the novel is a slow build, and I really struggled to continue the book. I kept waiting for Mitch to snap and for the action to start – but with that complaint, let me say, when the action starts, it doesn’t stop. I devoured the last 100 pages or so of the book, and was actually late getting back to work because I needed to finish the book.

Mitch is a fully realized sociopath. Every scene with him had my stomach pitching to see what would happen to the characters around him.

Jonah’s relationships with both of his brothers are what really sold the book for me. As much as this book was about suspense and Mitch, it was really about being brothers. Matthew’s letters home were my absolute favorite part of the novel and I looked forward to them, even as everyone’s situations were getting worse.

Smith’s writing is refreshing, and incredibly layered. This is a gritty read that I know will be a good book to sell to older teens looking for suspense/action.

Four stars.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick.

After being injured in the war, Matt wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq. He’s been awarded the Purple Heart, but Matt’s amnesia prevents him from remembering why he’s being honored as a hero. As Matt struggles to put together the missing pieces from his last time in combat, he’s haunted by an image of a local Iraqi boy, Ali, being shot in front of him. And Matt has a hunch that he was involved in Ali’s death.

I had a personal reaction to this book – my cousin has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the air force. Although my cousin is older than 18-year-old Matt, I couldn’t help but picture my cousin in Matt’s situation.

That being said, I thought that the book was a realistic portrayal of a teen struggling with a mystery. I really felt for Matt when he was trying to figure out what happened to him. I have no idea whether or not the book had an accurate representation of military life in a war zone, but I was definitely impressed by the amount of research that McCormick mentions in the acknowledgments portion at the back of the novel.

While Matt was a strong protagonist, he didn’t have all his memories. I felt a little bit of a disconnect from his character at times because of that. However, the rest of the people in Matt’s squad have such personality and I really loved getting to know those characters, along with Matt.

I don’t want to say much about what really happened during Matt’s injury and Ali’s death, but let me just say that I was surprised when it was finally revealed. I did not see it coming, and let out a small gasp at the end.

McCormick is such a solid writer – I’ve already read “Cut” by her for my Teen Book Club – and this novel shows off both her writing, and her research skills. I eagerly look forward to discussing this one with my teens.

Four and a half stars.

Discussion

So, let’s talk about the decision process. The books were nearly a dead-heat tie. I had minor problems with each of the books, but nothing that would knock either of them out of the competition.

In my opinion, Purple Heart was more relatable and was a book that I could see a majority of teens reading and enjoying. In the Path of Falling Objects also had definite merit to it, but the chilling end scenes would have me recommending the book for teens 16+. But, I think that In the Path of Falling Objects may have a longer shelf-life in YA because of the suspense element. Purple Heart may not last on shelves after the war has past.

For me, personally, it came down to which book I would want to re-read and re-discover. And that book was Purple Heart.

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Comments»

1. First Round Decisions « - June 23, 2010

[...] Addiction and Read What You Know judged ‘Purple Heart’ by Patricia McCormick and ‘In The Path of Falling Objects’ by Andrew [...]

2. Heather - June 23, 2010

Yay!! It was great doing this with you. Enjoy the rest of your week!

3. Pam - June 29, 2010

Can’t wait to see if this book moves on. Great judging. Glad to have you in my bracket!


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