by Rune Michaels
This book is about a boy whose mother tells him his father was a Nobel Prize winner. She was artificially inseminated at the Nobel Prize bank because she wanted her child to be a genius. The boy and his mom wait for his genius to manifest, but it never does, because of course the Nobel bank doesn’t exist and the whole thing is clearly a story his mom made up. When the boy describes his mother’s obsession with his genius, you start to see that his mom is very disturbed and possibly has bi-polar disorder. The doctors aren’t sure, so they keep prescribing her pills, which the boy counts and monitors regularly to make sure his mother won’t swallow a whole bunch of them like she has in the past.
It was a pretty dull read at first; too much emotional stuff, not enough action for me. Then it takes a weird magic realism turn and gets pretty grotesque. If you thought Canadian adult fiction was dark, Icelandic teen fiction is basically the empty black space that existed in the universe before stars came into being. As with a lot of fiction that ends with an emotionally loaded twist, I would rather have read a book that started where this one ends, because it is an interesting conundrum for a teen to deal with.
Not really sure who would enjoy reading this. Someone whose trigger doesn’t involve incest, for sure. I guess anyone who likes really emotionally dark stuff.
by Robert B. Parker
I read this book hoping to find a “clean” read with a boy protagonist for a work assignment. It’s a book about Parker’s character, Spenser, as a teen. The book is told by adult Spenser, in chapters that alternate between stories of his teen life and a scene where he is telling all of this to his love interest, Susan. He recalls his encounter with a bear drunk on fermented berries, as well as some of his more heroic deeds. He was brought up by his father and his mother’s brothers, who taught him all about being a man. When he was 14, he saw his friend Jeannie being abducted by her abusive father, so he set out after them, following even when the chase came to a river he had to navigate with no paddle! He’s a pretty smooth hero, and has to take on other challenges once more people come to him for help.
A pretty horrible read, but one of the only “clean” realistic fiction books I could find with a boy protagonist. He mentions that his father talked to him about sex, and lets him taste whiskey after a hunting trip, but that is it in the non-“clean” department. There is no swearing, and the only violence is for self-defense. The font size looks like it’s at least 12, if not 14, and the book is really thin.
A good one for teens who aren’t into long books or character development. Definitely a good standby for boys who don’t typically read for fun but have to choose a book to read for school.
by Eric Walters
It’s January of 2010. Joshua is 15, and has just had a falling out with God. His relationship with his dad isn’t great either, mostly because his dad moved him and his younger sister across Toronto to a new neighbourhood, school, and church right after their mom died. Worse still, his dad is a preacher, and there seems to be no end to the prayers and the Christian truisms he spouts, even though God clearly isn’t listening—if he was, Josh’s mom would still be alive. Now, on top of all that, Josh has to go with his dad and his sister on a mission to Haiti to help build an orphanage. He doesn’t want to make friends on this trip, but he has no choice but to band together with Philippe, a Haitian orphan, and a fellow missionary named Naomi after the earthquake hits and they have to journey to Port au Prince to find insulin for Naomi, who is diabetic. His father and sister were supposed to return with the insulin earlier, but a quarter of a million people perished in the quake, and they may be among them.
Walters tends to write in a genre I like to call “disaster capitalism”, exploiting the world’s tragedies for a story teachers will assign to high school students. Most irritatingly, the heroes and everyone they love always survive, and they learn an important first world lesson, which I think misrepresents how horrible it actually is for people in the real world who are affected by these things.
However, this book is a decent read. It has a pretty wide appeal, since it deals with a lot of Josh’s personal baggage—his relationship with his dad and his God—while focusing on disaster and heroic feats. It’s topical, but it isn’t so topical that it won’t be a good read years from now. It’s also Canadian, with references to Timmy’s, mediocre French education, and other little details.
A recommended resource for teachers who want to address current events, although the religious aspect may make it inappropriate in public schools.