Monday, February 17, 2014

Don't Drink the Tea! (Book Report: Midwinterblood)


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm seeing the phrase, "I don't get it" out there when it comes to this book. It's not that I don't get it, I just don't get why it is YA. (Midwinterblood, as many may know, won the Printz this year for excellence in young adult fiction.)

I hope I am not selling teen readers short, but this book will be "just right" for only the rarest of porridge eaters. When I tried to explain the plot to one of my most avid and adventurous teen readers, she just smiled and nodded at me politely. Now, maybe that's my fault, but the entire time I was reading Midwinterblood, my Teen Librarian brain kept asking, "where's the teen appeal here?" (Also, it is false advertising to throw "vampires" and "vikings" around when talking up this book, because that's not what's really going on here.)

That said, I believe Midwinterblood is a rewarding read for that right reader. The chapters are broken up into pithy, digestible bites that make it a quick read. There are seven interrelated vignettes going back in time sequentially; so, we begin in 2073 and end before recorded time. Starting in 2073 was a good choice for me; Sedgwick's version of the future coupled with the creepy, timeless qualities of Blessed Island really pulled me in. (Also, screaming "just stop drinking the tea!" got me engaged with the first story in a very active way.)

The sections are interrelated by just a few elements, and picking up the threads of how is the real pleasure of this book. I often found myself going back to a previous vignette when I realized a connection. Man, this book is smart! The threads are woven masterfully. For example, not each element appears in each story; rather, they are peppered, and sometimes so different that you don't immediately catch them.

I can't delve too much further because I would give away all the lovely weirdness. I said this book didn't have immediate teen appeal, but I think it would make for an excellent discussion with older teens about the concept of self (Are we more than just this? Are we greater than ourselves? Is there such a thing as destiny? Do we have any control over it?). Deceptively simple, there is a lot to ponder here. Or just leave it be and enjoy this haunting Ouroboros of a novel.

Bonus factor? This book got me to use "Ouroboros" in a sentence.
Second bonus factor? This book was partially inspired by this crazy painting.

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