As I read the titles in my bracket I will admit I cringed a bit when I saw The Hired Girl next to my name. I have never been a fan of Laura Amy Schlitz. Do I see the quality of her writing? Yes, totally. Her books just haven’t been for me. Patrick Ness’ books on the other hand have always intrigued me. Could I have been assigned two more different books? Could I guess which book I would pick as the winner before even cracking the cover? Maybe I would receive a pleasant surprise.
With low expectations, I started slogging through The Hired Girl, a story set in the Eastern US during 1911 introducing readers to, Joan who is all alone, though surrounded by brothers and farm work. A story which somehow touches on fears that many girls (and maybe boys) have, fears of not being good enough or smart enough for society. Somehow (almost against my will), I was hooked! I really wanted to see things worked out for Joan. The Hired Girl is heavy on the religious discussion, and while I know there is a whole spectrum of religious beliefs today I am not sure if most teens will relate to this theme. The story dragged on a bit long and wrapped up too unbelievably neatly for me.
As I started The Rest of Us Just Live Here I was really confused. The chapter headings had nothing to do with what happened in the chapter, but as I continued on I started to realize what a unique way Ness had found to tell a story! As with many of Ness’ books the use of a measured pace to set the scene pays off. Protagonist Mike has a sly, sarcastic sense of humor and will be relatable to a variety of readers. This was a typical sort of teen story, yet so unique. It was the kind of story I needed in high school, but just as with The Hired Girl I’m not sure it will speak to everyone. Then ending here too was a bit unsatisfying.
It was much harder to pick a winner than I thought it would be, but ultimately I had to go with my gut.
WINNER: THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE BY PATRICK NESS
Reviewed by Jessica Parker, Geneva Public Library District