Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Catch & Release

by Blythe Woolston

Story summary: Polly gets flesh eating disease and loses her eye. This other victim, a kid aptly named Odd, takes her on a fishing trip to take her mind of things. It turns into a road trip to Portland, with friendship and personal growth and all that.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Deals with difficult life events like the loss of a limb or eye.
  • Has an unusual friendship and complex character relationships.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's strange. The characters are strange, and pretty unhappy.
  • And...I can't really criticize more than this, though not because it's necessarily very good. See after the break for more on this.

Thoughts: Contemporary YA is not my genre. But this was leftover on my TBR list from my days of not knowing my taste as well, so I decided to give it a go. But it just confirmed that this really isn't my kind of book. Perhaps it's because Contemporary YA books are often about being able to relate to the main characters, and I never do. (I'm guessing this is because my upbringing and life circumstances are fairly unusual, and maybe my personality too.) Perhaps it's because there are no new lines of thought or imagination for me to consider in most of them, and that is what appeals to me more.

Whatever the case, I don't feel like I can properly critique it. C. S. Lewis has an excellent essay (which I can't find right now) about this sort of thing--about people who critique fantasy and science fiction for not being their preferred genre (likely literary fiction). Similarly, I can't fault this book for not being interesting to me, and I don't feel like I can really fault it for anything since it's so far outside my reading experience.

But saying that, if I were to critique anything, I would say I thought the characters should be more interesting. Odd was certainly odd, all right. And I felt like his strangeness should have been explained a little more, or made more sympathetic. I never really understood why Polly put up with some of the things he did. Maybe because she was just so fed up with her family and life at home?
Besides that, it had this certain... style ...that doesn't do anything for me, and in fact, kind of annoys me. I'm not sure I can explain it, but it shows up in a lot of Contemporary YA and a fair amount of literary fiction too. A certain poetical-ness, maybe? But less deep and abstract than the poetical works I normally enjoy. ... I don't know, I don't think that makes much sense. I'm going to keep thinking about it and see if I can analyze it properly.

Grade: 2 stars

If You Like This You Might Like:
--The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jacqueline Moriarty: because Moriarty writes the only Contemporary YA I can think of that I really enjoy, and this is my favourite of hers.
--The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner: because it deals with the loss of a limb in an excellent fashion. Plus they are just excellent, excellent books and I want to recommend them to everyone. (KoA especially.) Very different in tone to this book, though.

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