Middle years fiction review – Between Heaven and earth By: Eric Walters

betweenBetween Heaven and earth is part of the seven series of books published by Orca.  The series can be read in any order, and each book is written by a different Canadian author.  The premise of the series is that a grandfather has seven grandsons. In his will he has left each grandson with a different task to complete, each book tells the story of a different grandson.

Eric Walters has published over 70 novels for grade 5-8 students, and I’ve read many of them.  I tend to recommend them heartily to students who like adventure novels.  Some of his books (like most authors) are better than others.  I had a hard time with this book.  I find that he often has main characters who are far too full of themselves and as the book progresses they learn more about the world around them, and that they still have a lot to learn.  Nothing wrong with that, although it gets a little painful when it takes 3/4 of the book for the character to really start to become more worldly and less annoying.

DJ is the main character of this book, he’s the oldest grandson, and takes himself to be the leader of the family, as though it’s his job to make sure everybody is doing what they should be, at least according to his standards.  I think this trait was supposed to be endearing, but I just found him so obnoxious, and such a know it all that I had a hard time getting past his traits to even start liking him or the book.

The task DJ has been given is to fly to Tanzania and hike to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro  and distribute his ashes at the top of the mountain. DJ assumes this will be a simple task, who can’t climb a mountain in 2 days?  Who needs to listen to the local guides? Why wouldn’t  you speak  to customs officials in another country as though you know so much more than them?  DJ is 17 and knows better than anyone how things should be done, at least according to DJ.  He does eventually grow as a character, but not as much as I’d hoped.

There were also several events that happened in the book that were flat out dangerous, and got solved far too easily and quickly, it made the book feel a bit false to me.  I’m hoping to read the 6 other books in the series, and since they’re written by different authors it will be interesting to see if I have a very different take on the writing style of each story.

grade 6+

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Teen review – The New Normal By: Ashley Little

newnormal

I hate when a book doesn’t get to the point.  You read the blurb on the back and it sounds so exciting, so great, and then it takes half the book to get to that aha! moment that drew you into reading the book in the first place.  The new normal is the opposite.  The opening sentence grabs you immediately, “I am losing my hair, I don’t know why.  I’m only sixteen”  Tamar Robinson’s back story is filled in for you in the first two pages.  She’s losing her hair and her twin sisters are dead “They died from riding in cars with boys. Stupid, drunken boys.”

Tamar’s parents are a complete mess, her dad sits at home in a fog while her mother hides from her grief by doing yoga 24/7, which leaves Tamar more alone than she ever thought possible, and wondering how you grieve the loss of sisters that weren’t all that likable to begin with?

Many parts of this book reminded me of The reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, 
especially with it set in the suburbs of Calgary and the family dealing with the grief of losing a sibling, how do you define yourself as a family after something like this?

Tamar is incredibly likable, and laugh out loud funny. Trying to get through grade 11 in one piece.  There were a few loose ends that fell into place a little to nicely and abruptly at the end of the book in order to finish it up in the allotted pages, but for the most part this is a really great read from a new Canadian author.

age 14+