Saturday, June 06, 2009

Dull Boy

By Sarah Cross.

Avery is a super-powered teen struggling to fit in and avoid the dissection table.

What I liked: The plot is not really the strong point here. The strong points are the characters and humor. This book is hilarious. The interaction between Avery, Darla and Catherine is golden and the other characters are pretty good too.

What I didn't like: I was laughing too hard to care much at the time, but all the parents in this book look stupid or abusive or both. There's definitely a sense of isolation forced on the characters: parents are not sympathetic; Avery has non-super "friends" but they never even make an appearance; almost everyone either has no siblings or is distant from them. It helps to force the characters together as a group but, as with the parents, it doesn't really seem likely that no one "outside" would ever catch on. (There are, admittedly, suggestions that the story could go this way if there's ever a sequel.)

There is also a lot of lying on the part of the protagonists and some strong language.

I'd definitely recommend this for the humor but take the morals with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Reading between the lines

Ambiguity. Some books have it, others don't. There are places where something is omitted but you can easily fill in what happened, and there are others where you can't be as sure. Some examples (these may contain mild spoilers):

"The Lady or the Tiger?" If you haven't read this, go do it now. It ends with a classic cliffhanger. This is the type where you have to decide what happened yourself.

Alphabet of Thorn (Patricia McKillip). Nepenthe*'s real name is important to the plot, but the book never spells out what her name actually is. For that reason this is the first and last McKillip book my sister read; she couldn't stand not having every detail revealed. Almost every book has some loose threads, but not usually something that says so clearly, "I will never tell you."

Laurie King's Mary Russell books**. Aside from plot points, there's a stylistic technique here where one character has a long paragraph of dialogue and you have to fill in other characters' responses from what the single character says. This is usually fine and cuts down on tedium when you know what the responses are, but sometimes it leaves you wondering.

So: what are your favorite examples? When does the art of omission drive you crazy, and when does it make a book (nearly) perfect?

* Nepenthe is related somehow to opium, I believe.

** These are strangely addictive: I'm in the middle of my fifth one and I couldn't tell you why I keep reading them, except that for some reason I really want to find out what happens.