Tag Archives: YA Lit

Ender’s Game: The Booky Mom Finds It At Last

Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet, #1)Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some how in my youth I missed out on reading Ender’s Game. I am wondering how it happened. I liked the sci-fi genre but spent most of my time reading Philip K. Dick. Reading the book is an interesting experience. While the story is told from a child’s point of view, its themes are adult.

The themes and topics of the novel are complicated. I found the us vs them issues to pervade the novel— human vs. bugger, children vs. adults, free world vs. communist. The idea of competition and survival were highly relevant in the Cold War period. But, it is a universal struggle that people and animals face. Card does a nice job dealing with that on many levels to high light his themes for the reader.

I am also reminded of the classic example of “Game Theory”, The Prisoners’ Dilemma. A game that encourages both plays to betray each other rather than co-operate. As in the case of Human-Bugger relations without communication there is no option but destruction.

Card also addresses human manipulation through words and language. He gives power to words and shows that a lack of words has power also. This is a theme seen most clearly with Peter and Violet. But, also comes forward in the Human-Bugger relationship.

SPOILER ALERT!!! Read no further….

Still, with everything going in the novel I was truly caught off guard by the ending. Ender’s roll as the Speaker for the Dead and the power that words and understating that Card highlights through Ender’s transformation were unexpected. Although, I do find it to be the most interesting aspect of the story.

I find the pseudo-religious aspect of pouring out your life to a third person who then tells people who then retells it when you’ve passed intriguing. It seems that Card is telling us communication is vital to understanding others point of view. But, he presents us with a structure where the point of view of the other is not reveled until the other is dead. Does death make it easier for us to accept the other as a whole? Do we reserve judgement for the dead because they cannot speak for themselves? Or is that that they are no longer a threat thanks to their departure from earth? Being magnanimous is now easy for us because the other is no real threat?

I am very interested to follow this book up with Card’s Speaker for the Dead.

Finally, I listened to Ender’s Game on audio book. It was a dramatic narration with multiple actors and was a very agreeable way to follow the book. Included at the end of the recording were a few comments from the author about the book and his writing which I also enjoyed. This is another case where the audio version is worth it!

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The Fault in Our Stars: Review

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you deal with death when you have barely begun to live? That is the question that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars tackles as readers experience a small glimpse into the life a teenage cancer patient. The book is the story of a girl battling terminal cancer and her daily struggles and joys. Readers grow fond of Hazel Grace as she meets her true love (another teenage cancer patient) and attempts to come to terms with death and the lives of those left behind.

While some may narrowly view this work as a Young Adult “cancer kid” book, I believe it offers something for older readers as well. The themes of life (and a life well lived) as well as death (its impact on us as well as our loved ones) are issues that are not unique to “cancer kids”. They are the universal issue of being human. How do we make peace with the universe? How do we define ourselves in our space in the universe? Addressing these issues from the POV of a teenage girl with cancer makes the reader pay more attention and offers a more intense emotion connection (both b/c of the “unfairness” of a short life and the emotional vibrancy of the teenage years and first love). Still, as I read (or rather listened) to The Fault in Our Stars I found myself relating Hazel Grace and caring about where her journey would end.

Hazel Grace’s voice is masterfully written by Green. But he also crafts fully realistic character’s with their own emotional challenges to surround her: Her friend Isaac– who looses his sight but keeps his life: Her mother– who “think” is defined by the cancer and her role as caregiver; and of course, Augustus–the boyfriend who is dealing with his own cancer issues.

Green weaves these characters together around the center, Hazel, without making it all about Hazel. He also uses literature and symbolism and dialog that are very engaging.

I would recommend this to old and young alike.

PS. As a mom, I am not s big fan of teenage sex in books for teens. But, I get it in this case.

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