Tag Archives: ages 15-18

We Are the Ants, and We’ll Keep Marching On

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

 

we-are-the-ant

We are the ants.

“It began as a haunted- house story, then became a murder mystery, then somehow morphed into a sci-fi story set on a space station before finally revealing its true self to me.” (excerpt from afterward by author)

His boyfriend (Jesse) has committed suicide. Now he’s in an abusive relationship with a popular boy (Marcus). His grandma is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. His dad has left the family. His mom is working as a waitress and smoking nonstop. His brother got his girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of college. The new guy at school has great potential, but has a secret past. And can he love again without betraying Jesse’s memory? Plus, he’s been abducted by aliens (sluggers) who have given him the choice of ending the world: press the button, the world exists; don’t press the button, the world ends.

Henry is a great character, but his teenage years…suck! Jesse, his former boyfriend, and first love, has killed himself, and Henry was blindsided. When he was with Jesse everything was great. He thought. Was Jesse’s death his fault?

His family is miserable. His mother wanted to be a chef, but tough circumstances forced her hand, so instead she’s a waitress, and a chain smoker. His grandma is lovable and wonderful, but she’s losing all her memories, and is wreaking havoc on the house. His brother Charlie has a pregnant girlfriend and dropped out of school.

Things are no better at school. Henry’s bullied to a dangerous degree. Called Space Boy by the popular crowd, he’s in a secret, abusive relationship with one of the wealthiest, most influential boys in the group. The Space Boy moniker began when Henry’s brother Charlie told people at school that Henry thought aliens were abducting him.

Based on all the bad, Henry has no intention of pressing the button that would save the world. Why would he? People are miserable.

But then, a new boy (Diego) moves in, and things start to change. Henry likes Diego as a friend, at first. Henry still loves Jesse and hasn’t had the right kind of closure since his death. Besides, Diego has a secret, which Henry is tired of, because Jesse kept his depression a secret from him…

Time moves on, Marcus (abusive, popular guy) continues to plague Henry. Henry regains friends he’d lost after Jesse’s death. And Diego becomes more than a friend.

Things aren’t perfect, but were they ever meant to be?

We ARE the ants, after all…

Rescue the Entire World

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

disclaimer: I read this during and after election night, and I think this review could’ve been better, but my level of concentration while reading  was negligible. I regret it, because this was a really good book! I left the review, because it was an adequate recall of what the book’s about.

“Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.”

-Talmud

As I started to read this book I told a few third grade students at school that they might enjoy it. I told them about the Holy Dog, and the three kids who could do magic… But as I continued reading I started to wonder if my recommendation was premature. I don’t mean that this was a bad book; it was the subject matter that had me worried. I wasn’t sure if third graders could handle it, but then I reasoned they read Harry Potter, so what’s the difference between that and this? And then the election happened… Talk about throwing a big old existential crisis in my face…

Yes, this book deals with some hard truths (it was the inquisition): burning people alive, torture, religious persecution, parents dying, animals dying, and martyrdom. Hard truths from the Middle Ages, but could they be relevant today? The answer to that is a resounding: YES! Not so much the tactics, but religious intolerance, hate, murder… We can’t protect our kids from hard truths anymore (see: Sandy Hook). They need to understand this world. They cannot be brought up to believe that a man who haphazardly grabs women’s genital regions, mocks people with disabilities, and calls a group of people rapists is acting decently. Our country just sacrificed decency and morals to a pussy-grabbing demagogue, so this young and vulnerable generation is going to have to learn the hard truths now. No pussy (pun intended)- footing around. They need to know! They need to develop strong morals and empathy for the downtrodden. We need to foster in them a love for all things on this planet, and maybe then, if our generation doesn’t really fuck it up, we might have a glimmer of hope.

So yeah, I recommend this book to young children. They will like it, but make sure you read it with them and answer their questions.

Now what’s this book all about?

It’s about three different kids, their dog, and their journey.

It takes place in the Middle Ages (not to be called the Dark Ages!). The inquisition is happening. So it’s not a great time….

Jeanne is a peasant girl who has seizure- like fits that reveal the future to her.

It’s a miracle.

The Holy Dog is Jeanne’s. Gwenforte is a grey hound that Jeanne’s parents owned when she was a baby. The dog saved little Jeanne from an asp, but was killed by her parents due to a misunderstanding. Later, the parents find out that Gwenforte was actually a hero, and they make her grave a shrine.

Needless to say, many years later, Gwenforte rises from the dead (like Lazarus), and joins the children on their adventure. It’s a miracle.

William is next. He is a monk. He is a giant. He is the son of a French father and a Saracen(medieval term for Muslim) mother. In the monastery William is some-what protected from prejudice, but William is strong- willed, and speaks out against an older monk, which gets him expelled from the monastery.

William is as strong as an ox. It’s a miracle.

Jacob is young, small, and a Jew. Jewish people (imagine this…) are not treated very well in the Middle Ages. One night, young boys burn his village, and his mom and dad sacrifice themselves so Jacob can escape.

Jacob can heal anything with plants and herbs. It’s a miracle.

But miracles mean saints, and to be a saint you must be martyred, and martyrdom sucks! Especially when you’re ten.

There are consequences for performing miracles, and people fear the unknown. (see our current state of affairs)

Like the Bible, The Inquisitor’s Tale is told through witnesses (people the child- saints meet along their journey), and completed by a nun who happens to know things she shouldn’t.

There’s a farting dragon, book burning, daring deeds, a forest of human-like-monster “things”, a devilish monk, quicksand, an evil queen, and a ton of other preposterous stuff that makes this book a really great read.

My one caveat: the author, Adam Gidwitz, wrote a very quick story; he didn’t spare a word. We zip right along, and I will never complain about this kind of writing, but it was so “neat” that I felt like everything wrapped up way too nicely. Bad, bad things happened, and the ending was so sudden that I was left with a BUT on the tip of my tongue.

Also, for anyone who’s ever read Christopher Moore’s Lamb, you might find yourself seeing a few parallels!

Other reasons this book is worth it:

 

“Jeanne is thinking about something. AT last, she shares it. “William, you said that it takes a lifetime to make a book.”

“That’s right.”

“One book? A whole lifetime?”

“William nods. “A scribe might copy out a single book for years. An illuminator would then take it and work on it for longer still. Not to mention the tanner who made the parchment, and the bookbinder who stitched the book together, and the librarian who worked to get the book for the library and keep it safe from mold and thieves and clumsy monks with ink pots and dirty hands. And some books have authors, too, like Saint Augustine or Rabbi Yehuda. When you think about it, each book is a lot of lives. Dozens of dozens of them.”

“Dozens and dozens of lives,” Jeanne says. “And each life a whole world.”

“We saved five books,” says Jacob. “How many worlds is that?”

William smiles. “I don’t know. A lot. A whole lot.”

 

“Life is a song, composed and sung by God. We are but characters in His song.”

 

“Distinguishing the voice of God and the voices of those around us is no easy task. What makes you special, children, beyond your miracles, is that you hear God’s voice clearly, and when you hear it, you act upon it.”

 

The Passion of Dolssa

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

The night after finishing this book I had a weird conglomeration of dreams that consisted of events that had occurred early in the day, and the Spanish Inquisition.

It was startling.

This book is catalogued as young adult, but I would not pigeon- hole it as such; the characters just happen to be young adults.

This book was magnificent.

Dolssa is eighteen, beautiful, and possessed by a deep love for God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit (you know… the whole shebang). She begins to perform miracles, and speak publicly about her special relationship with Jesus. This quickly catches the attention of a very sensitive Catholic Church, who decides Dolsaa is guilty of heresy, and her and her followers will be burned at the stake. Dolssa and her mother are captured, and Dolssa is forced to watch as her mother is burned.

As her mother burns, someone comes up behind Dolssa, and sets her free. She runs, and is pursued by an obsessed priest and a knight.

Meanwhile, in a small fishing village…

Botille (seventeen and making a living as a matchmaker) and her sisters are living quiet lives, until one fateful journey…

Botille is sent on a journey to retrieve the nephews of one of her neighbors. On the way back she finds a dying Dolssa by a river. She instantly feels responsible for the girl’s well- being and conceals her in the back of one of their wagons, understanding that Dolssa has been declared a heretic. They protect Dolssa from the priest, and bring her back to the village.

They are able to conceal Dolssa for a while, but soon, after a smattering of miracles performed around the village, her name becomes known, and the Priest arrives.

Murder by fire ensues, but Dolssa is kept hidden.

Other priests, deacons, and the whole church hierarchy (minus the Pope) descend on the village and begin condemning people to burn. Villagers turn against one another, until Botille, her family, and the people closest to her are the only ones declared heretics.

That’s where I’ll stop. Read it to find out more.

This book was shockingly good. It was a fast read, absorbing, and about a history that I had not read much about.

I’ll leave you with Monty Python, because ” NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!”