Two books- one set in (mostly) modern day with a splash of sci/fi vs a dystopian fantasy novel- which one will win and move on in the tournament?!
The Alex Crow written by Andrew Smith is weird, Weird, WEIRD. Smith’s books typically revolve around teen boys and extreme situations, and this book follows suit. There are several seemingly unrelated stories that somehow end up intersecting and are relayed through different narrators. The narrators and different story arcs include a boy named Ariel from the Middle East who survives his town’s slaughter and then his journey to freedom and eventual adoption by an American family, a schizophrenic man on a mad mission, a failed naval expedition to the Arctic from the late 1800’s, maladjusted boys at summer camp and a tech company that is developing biological implants. Ariel and his adoptive brother Max’s adventures at camp are absurd but terribly honest, and you learn about one hundred different and raunchy ways to say masturbation. This is a layered story that is deeper than one might think in the beginning, with thought provoking issues. If you resist the urge the put the book down in the beginning, you will not be disappointed with the end!
Ink and Bone written by Rachel Caine was the opposite reading experience, where I was intrigued in the beginning, but let down at the end. In a steampunk dystopian alternate world, the Alexandria Library never burned, leading libraries to gain great knowledge to be kept hoarded away from the masses, with personal ownership of books outlawed. Jess Brightwell, whose family business is smuggling books to the rich, is accepted as an apprentice to be trained to enter the Great Library’s ranks. He and his fellow recruits are winnowed down to a smaller group by their teacher Scholar Wolfe, and later sent on a dangerous mission to help retrieve some original books from a war torn region. The book has several parallels to the Harry Potter series such as students trying to find their footing at a new school, a cold teacher who is not what he seems, and fighting against a powerful evil. I tire of almost all Science Fiction/Fantasy novels having to be series, often leading to long winded and confusing plot lines. As expected this book is the first in a series, so the ending is set up to continue storylines that were left open ended.
Both books deal primarily with male main characters, include a large group of motley side characters and are action driven, making them well matched. I liked both main characters, but Ariel in The Alex Crow was the more enduring of the two, with me rooting for his hard won happy ending. While Ink and Bone had many merits and I originally thought it would win, I wasn’t invested enough in the story, due to its several convoluted plot threads, to want to continue the series. Thus, the stand alone novel, The Alex Crow, is the winner!
WINNER: THE ALEX CROW BY ANDREW SMITH
Reviewed by Nancy Reimer McKay, Ella Johnson Memorial Library