Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The 2017 Carnegie Shortlist

There have been several contributing factors to my having read all but one of the shortlisted novels for the Carnegie Medal already this year.  Firstly, I have been on a couple of trips away for several nights without WiFi, which has led to me rapidly using up an entire month's supply of roaming data. This led to my realisation that without WiFi, my motivation to read is greatly increased, and that, actually, I really love reading.  I think the reason that the phone gets picked up rather than the Kindle or book, is that it just seems like so much more effort to read something more complex that Mumsnet, but I'd forgotten how utterly worth it it is.  This is good news for my intellect and my ability to discuss the latest releases in literature, quite possibly bad news for my bank balance.

Secondly, I read an article a while ago about how sitting down is the new smoking.  I decided that I would do a dual-pronged attack on my love of checking Facebook on my phone, and of sitting on my bottom, by only looking at my phone when standing up.  This has further dramatically reduced my inane phone use, it's a bit less tempting when I have to stand to use it.

So, all but one of the books read, and since I'm not reading the last one, I'm done for the year.  I've chosen not to read Beck by Mal Peet, because A is shadowing the award with school, and I've told her she can't read it, and, since she can't read it, I've promised I won't either.  It's not appropriate for her age group and, although I am very far from her age group, I understand her annoyance that she won't be able to "complete" the reading list, and I want to show her that I understand by giving myself the same problem.

This leaves us with seven.  I've already written on this blog about The Smell of Other People's Houses and The Bone Sparrow. I would be happy enough if the first of these won, but The Bone Sparrow was definitely among my least favourites of this year's offerings so I hope it doesn't.  Neither A nor C could get past the first couple of chapters, which is hardly a shining recommendation from the youth vote either (yes, I know, sample size of two, but both are avid readers and both found it utterly dull, as did I).

My favourite this year was Railhead by Philip Reeve.  I've not read anything by him before, but I certainly will after this offering, which I thought was great.  Dystopian steampunk with lovable but flawed characters and a really interesting setting. I'm hoping that Raven will remind C enough of Skullduggery Pleasant that he'll make it through the initial couple of relatively pedestrian chapters to the good stuff. Would recommend for boys and girls, 10 ish plus.

I also expected to and did love Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, who I felt should have won for Between Shades of Grey a few years ago.  In fact, I wonder if the only reason she didn't was that I, and everybody else I knew who read it, kept calling it 50 Shades of Grey by mistake.  Anyway, I didn't love this quite as much.  I felt the Nazi character was so odiously awful that he was more of a caricature (obviously I am aware that Nazis on the whole were odiously awful, but he seemed such a puppet compared to the other characters that it jarred horribly with the other narrators, whose stories all harmonised in a very pleasing way.)  Good for lovers of war fiction, and those who like different viewpoints about the same events.

I also loved Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce.  C was disappointed with it, as he loves Cosmic and Millions, and this was aimed at younger readers (8+), and he is not yet of an age where he can let this go.  Anything aimed at lower juniors is a no go area when you're a eminent Year 6. I thought it was rather beautiful though.  Like all his books, it doesn't shy away from the darker side of life, but the reader is left with a wonderful sense of hope.  It's about a boy in care and, rather confusingly I read it at the same time as My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal, which also features a boy in care, and is also great, but does not feature an alien that everyone else sees as a dog.  I found myself weaving threads of the two plots together in a rather confusing manner, so I'd recommend them both, but perhaps not at the same time.

I finished Wolf Hollow today.  It started VERY slowly, and if it had not been on the shortlist, and I'd got it out the library, so had no financial investment in it, it would have been returned from whence it came forthwith.  However, it was an excellent novel in the end, there are a lot of people who end up dead at the end, but it's quite gentle still.  It's set in rural Second World War America, which was interesting, if a touch Steinbeck-for-kids in places.

I didn't particularly like The Stars At Oktober Bend.  The narrative voice was trying to be interesting, but I'm not sure it had the effect that the author was looking for, because it didn't seem to ring true and just ended up being an irritant.  The love story was absurdly unlikely, making The Smell of Other People's Houses seem humdrum and down-to-earth. The characters were either unbelievable or two-dimensional, and I found I didn't really care whether any or all of them died when the denouement came.  In fact, I only read it a fortnight ago, and I can't remember.  Needless to say, I hope this one doesn't win!

So, good luck to all, apart from the one I can't read, and the two I wish I hadn't!


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