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review: “a map of the known world” July 27, 2009

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell.
Scholastic // Hardcover // 272 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Starting high school is a nerve-wrecking experience for most, but for Cora it’s downright upsetting. Cora’s brother Nate was killed in a car accident months before and she got through the school year. But now she will be in Nate’s school, with Nate’s friends, and sitting in classes taught by Nate’s teachers. Cora puts all of her energy in her art — her talent is making maps. But when art class is invaded by Nate’s best friend who is the lone survivor of the car accident, Cora’s world changes again.

It’s been weeks since I’ve read this book, but I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about it. I think my problems with the book begin with Cora and her personality. She’s grieving and hurting because of her brother’s death and her family’s subsequent collapse, but I don’t understand a lot of the reasons why she has trouble articulating her feelings. (Whereas, in Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak,” I understand exactly why Melinda can’t say what’s bothering her.)

Parts of this book were very moving and well-written, but overall it was a bit choppy in writing style. I had a hard time getting into the book, and a hard time believing a lot of relationships. (Particularly the relationship between Cora and her mother. Cora’s mother goes from suffocating in one instant to understanding that Cora needs to grow in another.)

Even though this wasn’t my favorite book of the year by far, it’s a good book to have in my library’s collection. There was no swearing, no sexual relations (just mild kissing scenes), and it dealt with some serious issues. A great book to give younger teens who want serious content without worrying about inappropriate material.

SWAN catalog
Lisa Ann Sandell



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