Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two Books, Wildly Different

This past weekend at BookLovers' Cafe, I talked about two books. (You can read all of our collective recommendations from my notes, now posted at the Rockport Public Library's website.)You've probably already heard about the above title, as it is being splashed about all over the place. And you know what, in keeping with my WWII theme of late, I liked it. In fact, it was just what I was in the mood for after The Book Thief. Yes, kinder and gentler, but I don't want that to seem pat. I loved the quirky characters and happy ending, the epistolary format, the window into a new place in a certain time. Sometimes I am just in the mood for a good story that keeps me interested but doesn't give me a "reading hangover" (when you stay up to late because you can't stop reading, then feel not-your-best the next morning).

But here's another title I booktalked on Saturday:
Totally different, edgy, interesting, empowering, and really close to home. And you probably have not heard of it. It's a YA book (young adult) and it made me pretty excited that this type of book is being written for teens. It's about some young savvy hackers, smart and basically good kids. Their city experiences a terrorist attack and they are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security and held and questioned for five days---only, the teens aren't told who has them imprisoned. Totally creepy. But it gets worse, once the DHS comes into their city with more surveillance measures and pretty much turns the city into a police state. So the question of personal privacy and liberty versus "measures that keep us safe from terrorists" is applied very neatly by Doctorow here. (Doctorow, by the way, is a super-techy Internet Freedom Fighter who has worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I guess I am a little in awe of the cool stuff they do there.)

I was a little personally offended for all librarians when the main character's dad (a librarian) caves into the pressure to conform to the demands of the DHS. Librarians are way more into protecting personal privacy than this! But this was minor compared to my other complaint, which is that there is a gratuitous (but not graphic) sex scene. This bummed me out because I would have happily been recommending this to many more 'tweens and younger teens who may have missed the depth of some of the more technologically-oriented material (lots of computer history packed in here), but could have appreciated many other elements of the story. But the sex scene would be icky for them. Oh well. (I did recommend it to my father-in-law, who loved it, and sent me an email with "Department of Bushland Security" in the subject line and filled the email with plenty of hot words to catch the eye of those machines who are busy reading our emails.)

So I like to mix things up on my nightstand. Ready to read anything that's good, anytime, all the time.


  1. Oh, I'm tickled to have your recommendations from BookLovers' Cafe to add to my favorites. I'm always happy to know of a good read! I'm excited now about reading The Guernsey Literary...but have to get through a rather lengthy The Maias. I must hurry!

    I know well what you mean about gratuitous sex or other popular hot buttons of our day. It makes me angry and then frustrated because what a vehicle to educate and "we," those who assume the responsibility to write, totally blow it for reasons that appear to be booksales or merely sensationalism (one book stands in mind). Disappointing. Thankfully, we've many good reads and excellent authors. And we'll know them!

  2. I liked Little Brother, although I'm not very computer-savvy, so all those lengthy technology bits were a little difficult for me to get through. Doctorow gives a lot of thanks to Scott Westerfield in his acknowledgements, so that made me curious to read some of Westerfield's work.

  3. Charley,
    I would recommend Westerfeld's So Yesterday, as a start. I loved it in the same savvy and clever way that I liked LB.