Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tons and Tons of New Books: Part Four

There were just some new books I had to read. I just finished The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork.

This is Stork's second young adult novel. The first, as I hope you know, was Marcelo in the Real World. It's one of my all-time favorites (the audio is great, too), so if you haven't read it, start reading now! The Last Summer of the Death Warriors doesn't disappoint--it is amazing. Stork drew from Don Quixote for this novel, but don't expect any actual, real-life windmill tilting to be going on. Instead, Stork unites Pancho, an angry young man reeling from the nearly back-to-back deaths of both his father (in a construction accident) and his sister (who he believes was murdered) with D.Q., who is dying of brain cancer.

Together, the two attempt to live life to the fullest while each tries to tackle their very different goals. D.Q. struggles to survive, while Pancho hunts for his sister's killer.

Go forth and read it! I command thee!

Fine. I don't command. I encourage gently.

And I read Rosie and Skate by Beth Ann Bauman.

This book, narrated by both Rosie and her older sister Skate, shows the sisters differing reactions to the troubles in their lives.

Rosie is dedicated to her alcoholic father. Despite his past behavior, she believes with all her heart that he will eventually come through for her. Now that he's in prison, Rosie visits him every week, writes him, and encourages her sister to do the same. Meanwhile, she attends a support group for children of alcoholics.

Skate is...the opposite. She calls her father "Old Crow" after the whiskey he prefers. She won't visit him, hates the support group, and can't sit still for two minutes in a row. She doesn't even live with her sister, choosing instead to stay with the mother of her boyfriend while he is in college.

Both narrators have distinctive voices, and thought I sometimes wanted to shake them--to get them to realize that what they were doing was Not Good--they have realistic reactions to the troubles they're going through.

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of this novel is that Bauman doesn't get stuck on trying for an after-school-special feel, there is no happy moment where each family member gathers together for hugs and swelling music. The sisters will still struggle. Their father will always be an alcoholic, regardless of how much he drinks. But the reader is left with the knowledge that the two girls have each other and that's enough. A beautiful novel.

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