by Peter Lerangis
Last week we chatted about the cover and shared links to the prequel and the trailer.
This week, Kathy (aka @thebrainlair) and I tackle the first 15 chapters of the book. We plan to split this book into 3 segments. Come along for the ride!
As always, my thoughts are in purple with Kathy's responses in blue. My thoughts are hosted here, and Kathy's thoughts with my responses are at The Brain Lair blog. Add your thoughts in the comments!
Section One: Chapters 1-15
The story starts off with a bang - “One the morning I was scheduled to die, a large barefoot man with a bushy red beard waddled past my house.” I was intrigued, to say the least. The first few chapters set the humorous yet adventurous tone of the book. I think this will hook my students into the story quickly, and help them deal with the fact that the backstory takes a while to develop. This is EXACTLY how I started my section - with the opening sentence. I agree, it pulls you in and sets the stage. “There will be some fun and some mystery” it says so grab hold of your chair. And, also yes, a little bit slow.
In spite of the fact that the first third of the book is setting up a whole series, I found it a quick and pleasurable read. In fact, I read through it so quickly that I forgot to take notes for this post! I had to go back and re-read the section to be sure I had some specific things to say. On the second read, I was pleased to be able to notice the bits of foreshadowing and detail that I missed the first time through. (I think we’ve mentioned before in these discussions that I tend to be a “big picture” reader unless I purposefully slow myself down or read multiple times). HaHa! I said I felt bogged down in details - even though I know it’s the beginning of a series and only the first part! I found it slow and didn’t take notes the first read because nothing stood out to me. I had to re-read it to take notes and find some discussion so may part wouldn’t be blank! ☺
I did have a few bones to pick with the story, though they tend to be things I see in almost all middle grade epic adventure tales.
1) The absent parents. Okay, so intellectually I understand why we need kids in middle grade novels to have either deceased or uninvolved parents. What typical parent would allow a tween or young teen to do the kinds of things that make for an interesting story, right? Yet Jack’s dad being in Singapore and rarely home makes me sad. I’ve read several other books recently where the death of one parent makes the other parent disappear from the scene. Seriously? If my husband were to die suddenly, I know I’d be devastated. But I wouldn’t take off, I’d stay by my children.
I was concerned that we didn’t hear any more about Jack’s dad either. He said he was coming home and it would have made the story richer if we could have seen what he was going through. I mentioned that I’m going to “hero’s journey” this story and that Jack is in separation, though technically, he has been since his dad is never home anymore. I also didn’t understand that if he Skyped weekly he didn’t know the name of the sitter. Who found and paid those people?
2) The “token” girl. I can’t remember who it was - but I know one of my online friends mentioned her daughter complained about this recently. How often does a team in a fantasy or science fiction novel split evenly? Does it EVER have more girls than boys? While Aly is very cool, and I appreciate the fact that they gave her hacker superpowers, it sure would be nice if it turns out she isn’t the only girl on this team by the end of the book.
We are on the same page here, though I think ALL the characters are tokens. They are your stereotypical setup which usually includes more boys than girls. I had intended to do a Percy Jackson comparison but could find a copy of The Lightning Thief at school, they are all checked out. I do believe that Percy has one major sidekick - Annabeth - who is also a computer geek. (My sons are huge Percy fans, so I checked with them. They confirm that Annabeth is a computer geek and architect)
What my students will like (and I did too!)
Super powers lurking as a possibility for anyone...
No need for a bite from a spider or a sweep of gamma radiation from a solar flare! No, this story brings us the idea that our own genetic code could contain the key to unlock the hidden reaches of our minds. Maybe we’ll have super powers in our lifetime?
It would be sooo cool to be able to tap into some sort of amazing powers. Even if was the ability to see a book and mention 5 books, some websites, a few movies, articles etc. that would go with that book and easily come up with a way that teachers could incorporate these into their lessons... Or something that was more useful to the world at large would be great too, I guess. ::smirk:
Need I say more? Probably... since brevity isn’t my strong suit. I did a “mysteries in history” unit last year and my students were completely fascinated. When you add in their current interest in mythology due to all of Riordan’s work, this is a total win.
Yes! I talk about things students could do as an extension of reading this book, and learning about Atlantis or exploring mythology would be easy and fun.
And the final debate - Science Fiction or Fantasy?
I was thinking fantasy based on the cover, but the genetic explanation for the powers the kids have makes me lean toward science fiction... I was thinking Science Fiction then changed when I learned about the mythology but I’m back to Sci Fi for both the genetics and possible time travel depending on where they have to go to get the Loculi.
I’m enjoying the pace, humor, and adventure in the story. So far I can say this is one I’ll be picking up for my classroom soon! What I’m dying to know is why Jack??? So far, outside of his hallucinations in the Wender hall, he’s not exhibiting genius. I know how he feels too.