Monday, January 30, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers


·         Short summary from http://www.netgalley.com:
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
Pub: ABRAMS; Date: April 01, 2012
ISBN: 9781419701658
Genre: Children's, Literature & Fiction, Teens & YA
“From an acclaimed author, a contemporary love story with a Cyrano de Bergerac-like twist.”

In Dying to Know You, award-winning author Aidan Chambers has created an indelible portrait of a young man discovering his own voice in the world, and has constructed a love story that is as much about the mind as it is the heart.
In this contemporary love story, a teenage boy named Karl enlists a famous writer to help him impress his girlfriend, Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a letter in which he reveals his true self. But Karl isn't convinced he's good enough with words, so he tracks down Fiorella's favorite author and begs him to take up the task. The writer reluctantly assents, on the condition that Karl agree to a series of interviews, so that the letter will be based on an authentic portrait of Karl. The letter, though effective, has unexpected consequences for Karl, Fiorella, and the writer.

Aidan Chambers has received international acclaim and won every major young adult prize, including the Michael L. Printz Award and the Carnegie Medal. He lives in Gloucester, England, with his wife, Nancy. To learn more, visit him online at www.aidanchambers.co.uk.

  • Also by Aidan Chambers: Novels
o        Breaktime
o        Dance on my Grave
o        Now I Know
o        The Toll Bridge
o        Postcards from No Man's Land
o        This Is All - The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn
o        Notes on the Dance Sequence
·         I dove into this novel expecting to love it. Before I was half-way through it, I was still waiting. The problem was that it was too redundant. Not only was it redundant between stories, i.e., reference to Cyrano de Bergerac, but within the story, as well.
The main characters are a 75 year old man who is a published author; an 18 year old boy/man with dyslexia trained to be a plumber, Karl Williamson; Karl’s 16 year old girlfriend, Fiorella Seabourne; and Karl’s mother, Mrs. Williamson. Karl, because he’s dyslexic and doesn’t want his budding author girlfriend to know, asks the old author to help him write letters to his girlfriend. The author accepts because he sees so much of himself in Karl, hence the overly coincidental and redundant characterizations and plot: both Karl and the man are dyslexic, have the death of a close person affecting them, experience depression, contemplate suicide, struggle with their ‘art,’ like to cook, and deal with physical set backs.
The old author’s physical complaints, while expected from a 75 year old man, also became redundant. He was forever becoming cold and damp (the setting is in England), which sets off his sciatica, exacerbates his prostate condition (producing multiple urinating-in-the-bushes scenes), and causes him to get the ‘flu.
Converting Karl’s thoughts and conversations into the old author’s words establishes a redundancy in style, as well. Recurrently, the reader encounters Karl’s version of his words to Fiorella, and then the reader must re-experience them in the old author’s version of Karl’s words. Instead of producing an interesting, engaging juxtaposition, this reader felt as though I received multiple lessons in “full-dress English.
Chambers, metaphorically in the guise of the old author narrator, clearly explains his philosophies of life throughout the story, imparting the wisdom of his age to Karl and to the readers. However, his orations feel more like moralizing than like friendly advice from a senior citizen to a teenager, inveigling his audience to see the truth in his perspective. At other times, Chambers loses his clarity, and the old man describes Karl with so many different attributes, it’s no wonder Karl has trouble figuring out who or what he is.
The narrator, who is the old author, also repeats several times through the novel that he will tell the reader later what he is thinking or that he has an “inkling” of what will happen. I feel that is patronizing to a YA reader to be repeatedly hinted at to try to figure out some important piece of the plot now.
To his credit, Chambers created a title that is inspired on multiple levels. The reader is drawn into thinking that the title, Dying to Know You, is about the old author dying. At one point, the reader is moved to believe that Karl may die. On top of that, Karl and the old author both talk about their dead love ones. The reader can interpret the “You” in the title as either Karl, the old man, or one of their dearly departed. The “Dying” can be a literal death or the figurative death of a relationship.
The story touches on some key topics that appeal to YA readers, such as bullying, grief, depression, and falling in love. The motifs of art, fishing, cooking, and words offer the reader creative opportunities to contemplate life’s metaphors. For readers who benefit from ‘learning by repetition,’ Dying to Know You might be a welcome addition to their book shelves.

(582 words)