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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon

For Joshua Dread, middle school is proving to be, well, awkward. Not only do bullies pick on him, but do you see those supervillains over there trying to flood the world? The ones that everyone, including his best friend Milton, are rooting for Captain Justice to take down? They're the Dread Duo, and they just happen to be his parents. As if trying to hide his identity wasn't hard enough, Joshua has started leaving a trail of exploding pencils and scorched handprints in his wake, and only Sophie, the new girl in town with a mysterious past, seems unsurprised. When a violent attack at the Vile Fair makes it clear someone is abducting supervillains, and that his parents may very well be next, Joshua must enlist both Sophie and Milton's help to save them. Well-written, fast-paced, and remarkably funny, Joshua Dread is the first in a series that will appeal far beyond its target audience. 

Joshua Dread just can't catch a break... he's not exactly popular at school and to top it off his home life is top secret. After all, his parents are supervillains and are hardly loved by the public. If kids at school knew his parents were the Dread Duo, he'd be even more unpopular. Even his best friend Milton is in the dark about who Joshua really is, but of that starts to change when a new student, Sophie, moves to town.

I love that Joshua Dread has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. Though it has been marketed as middle grade, and is sure to appeal to boys who love superheros and comics and girls who love adventure, its laugh-0ut-loud humor and clever details are sure to appeal to teens and adults as well. 

Though the actual plot of Joshua Dread may not always be entirely unique or surprising, the details give the novel a fresh feel. I especially loved Joshua's mother's experiments. Readers won't soon forget her tofu-eating zombies and mutant ficus, Micus. 

Overall, Joshua Dread was a fun start to a new series that is sure to gain a quick following. 

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, September 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780375990274, 272 pages.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . . 
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell. 
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter. 
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart. 
From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up. 

I wanted Jodi Lynn Anderson's Tiger Lily to be different than it was, especially given Peter Pan is one of my favorite classics... I think I wanted something simple and romantic, but, instead, I got something that was almost uncomfortably real. Still, I found some aspects of this novel difficult to relate to and others remarkably apt.

My biggest issue with Tiger Lily was that it was narrated by Tinker Bell. Not only have always found Tinker Bell extremely annoying, I found Anderson's Tinker Bell difficult to relate to and rather stalker-like. I will admit though, while I primarily found her annoying, I did find her loyalty to Tiger Lily, despite the fact that she too was in love with Peter, redeeming. I can't help but feel some warmth towards a character, or, in this case, narrator, who is able to see that the object of their devotion does in fact have flaws and that he or she should not always be primary in one's mind, especially if he or she doesn't realize you exist. For me, Tinker Bell represented all the girls (or guys) out there who may be head over heels for someone who obviously does not feel the same way and handle it in a (relatively) productive way.

My thoughts on Tiger Lily are divided. On one hand, she was fiercely independent, which I liked. Other times, she was completely driven by her interest in Peter, which was disappointing. I think my main complaint stemmed from the awareness that Tiger Lily deserved better. She didn't deserve to be forced into an unhappy marriage and she didn't deserve a selfish and fickle man-child either. In addition, I've found myself acting the same way as Tiger Lily and I wanted to save her from the bitterness, anger, and betrayal she would eventually - and inevitably - feel.

I will say, even though it was nothing like how I generally picture him, I loved Anderson's characterization of Peter. Proud, arrogant, charming, fickle, passionate, wise, silly, lost... Peter is so many things and is, at the same time, lacking. It's so easy, even as a reader, fall for Peter - and the real life boys that are all too much like him - and Tiger Lily's story is sadly not unique. In fact, the Peter Pan of Anderson's imagination felt very similar to Shakespeare's Romeo, who so easily shifted his affections from Rosaline to her cousin Juliet.

Oddly, I wasn't sure how much I liked Tiger Lily as I read it, but, upon reflection, I think I took more from it than I initially realized. It's definitely worth a read.

Harper Collins Children's Books, July 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062114617, 292 pages.