A Mass of Mini Reviews 4

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

This examination of the history of Seabiscuit, a race horse that defied all odds, by Laura Hillenbrand was interesting and entertaining; reading more like fiction than history normally does. Even though I know absolutely nothing about horse racing, Ms. Hillenbrand combined fantastically exciting descriptions of races with more than a little human (and horsey) drama and heartache to create a compelling page-turner. I really enjoyed it and liked gaining the insight into the world of racing. It is not the same as the film as the movie was simplified for the screen and time. So if you liked the movie, I suggest that you pick up the book for a more complete experience.

Reality Check

This YA novel, by Peter Abrahams, was not great mystery, but good enough that I would be willing to read another story in which Cody was the protagonist. Cody, big-time high-school football jock, has a pretty good life going into junior year when suddenly it all turns to crap. His girlfriend gets send to boarding school on the other side of the country, he seriously injures himself and is unable to play football, becomes depressed, and drops out of school. And then to top it all off, his now ex-girlfriend disappears from her preppy and very expensive boarding school. For some reason, Cody takes it on himself to find her and drives across the country to participate in an investigation and man-hunt. The story, surprisingly, was not particularly exciting and Cody seems too stupid to behave so defiantly. Actually, many of the characters were two-dimensional and lacked development. Worst of all, there was the standard mystery unexpected twist at the end and I was disappointed by denouement because everything was wrapped up too quickly with not enough tying up of loose ends. Maybe, if I was a football guy, it might be better, but I’m not.

Half Brother

In Kenneth Oppel‘s newest teen fiction, Half Brother, thirteen-year-old Ben Tomlin’s life changed dramatically during the summer of 1973: his father changed universities, his family moved half-way across the country from Toronto to Vancouver, from living in the city to living in a rambling country home, and his parents have adopted an eight-day-old baby. An eight-day-old baby chimpanzee.

The family was supposed to raise Zan as a human and full family participant as part of a language experiment in which Zan would learn and use American Sign Language in the hopes that he would begin to show true language usage.

This book is told from Ben’s point of view and explores animal welfare, what it means to be a person and a member of a family, work/family balance, teen love, and social success as a motivator. His voice is bang-on: clear and accessible.

This book was really very good except that there was a slow section at about the 3/4 mark. And except for this slow part that required slogging through, it was a very absorbing read with a satisfying conclusion. I would recommend for those fourteen and over, especially anyone interested in animals, research or language. Sensitive readers are cautioned as there are some parts in which animals are not treated humanely.

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