Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Weight of Water

by Sarah Crossan

The plot of Crossan’s novel is not complicated: Kasienka is a young teenage girl and this is the story of how her new life in England after having moved with her mother from Poland. Crossan writes from Kasienka’s point of view, describing the prejudice aimed towards her and other difficulties she encounters. But when someone special enters her life it gives her new hope; although her family situation and a stream of problems coming her way more than counteract this.

But there is one key difference with this novel, it is written entirely in verse.

At first I was worried because nine out of the ten poems I read I do not like. I was concerned that the novel would be un-engaging and the poetry would separate us from the plot and characters, but I was very wrong.
Somehow the poetry flowed as if I were reading a novel. Each poem moves the story forward but there was a different focus to different to each of them, like chapters. I found myself just wanting to read on and on and I was genuinely interested in Kasienka’s life. I particularly liked how when she described how an adult had spoken to her very slowly and the frustration she feels from the fact that she is treated as if she has lesser intelligence than the people around her.

Kasienka and the characters which surrounded her were very believable and the poem helped Kasienka’s feelings to be described in a very simple but emotional way and I felt that I could not help but sympathise with Kasienka’s sadder situations and be happy for Kasienka in the more positive events. Someone also pointed out to me that the fact simple poetry is used mirrors the limited language Kasienka possesses - either way the poetry definitely adds to our understanding of her feelings.

Of all the writing, I could not fault it, I thought there was a perfect balance of realism and intrigue to the Weight of Water which made it so readable. The characters were presented in such a way from Kasienka's point of view that I judged them and immediately believed in them. In fact the only criticism I would have is that the ending came all too soon. Because of the way the poems were written the book was very short anyway, and I wanted to have a more final ending which did not leave it so open.

However, overall, ‘The Weight of Water’ is an excellently written book, and if all of the books in the shortlist are of this quality then it is going to be a very hard decision to narrow down a winner.

By Nathan, Yr 10

Monday, 25 March 2013

Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein

When ‘Verity’, a British special agent, parachutes into Nazi-occupied France in October 1943, she is captured immediately. Held by the Gestapo at their headquarters, she is given two weeks to tell them everything she knows about the British war effort, or else they’ll shoot her on the spot. Reluctantly she agrees, knowing it’s her only hope of ever getting out, and so begins her story. Hurriedly told on scraps of paper, Verity reveals not only her secrets, but her journey, and her most extraordinary friendship with the pilot that flew her into France, Maddie.
I absolutely loved this book and I could hardly put it down! The characters Wein has created were exciting, unique and extremely realistic. Their stories were so intricately entwined that the plot was gripping from start to finish. Just when it seemed like you knew what was going to happen, another twist would throw you off of the scent and make you desperate to read on. The description in the book is detailed and interesting and we can visualise almost every setting mentioned, from those that are frequently visited, to those mentioned by Verity in fleeting memories.
Maddie was enchanting, a funny and emotional character, brought to life by Wein’s inspiring words. However, without a doubt my favourite character was Verity. This girl, who has so many names throughout the book, had such a moving story to tell, during which she shares with us, as the reader, her hopes, fears and dreams. Both the main characters have such selfless personalities-always worrying about each other- that you can’t help but love them, and their friendship is one that runs much deeper than normal bonds. As well as this, I also loved the way that smaller more minor characters were developed too, especially Von Linden, and Engel towards the end of the book.

As well as these things, what made the book so gripping for me was the narrative. In Part One of the book Verity tells the story, and we see her life told by her from a third person point of view. This sounds quite confusing but was really effective as it meant we could see all the characters, including Verity herself, from a neutral viewpoint and were able to make our own judgements. However, bits of Part One are also told in the present- snippets of information or small anecdotes about the goings on in the prison where Verity is being held. These parts were very moving and were often about her feelings and emotions. It is hard for me to talk about Part Two’s narrative without giving a plot twist away, and ruining the book for those of you who haven’t read it. Let’s just say, it was a shocking twist at first, but I thought it worked really well.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and I have to say it is probably my favourite book so far this year! The characters were believable and obviously well thought out; the narrative was brilliant and full of depth; and the plot was gripping, full of fantastic twists and turns. An absolutely fantastic book which I would recommend to anyone!

Eleanor, Year 10.