The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

My first of five books from the Canada Reads 2018.

3/5 stars.
ebook,  184 pages.
Read from February 5, 2018 to February 11, 2018.

I’ll admit, I picked this book to read first because it was the shortest and it is the one I was the least excited about reading. YA books, while they can be enjoyable, often don’t satisfy any sort of intellectual need that I expect out books sometimes, especially ones that are in competition.

It is the future and we have out-worked ourselves and over-stretched our planet to the point of desolation. Instead of coming up with real solutions to combat the problem we have ended up working harder with the same old resources. We have worked so hard that we no longer dream. Like a plague, dreamlessness spreads itself across the globe and like having lost part of their soul, people are starting to go mad and are willing to do anything to regain back the ability to escape and to dream. There is one group of people who have somehow managed to not lose their ability to dream, the Native Americans, and with the spread of the epidemic, they are now being hunted for the dreams that live within the marrow of their bones.

“From where we were now, running, looking at reality from this one point in time, it seemed as though the world had suddenly gone mad. Poisoning your own drinking water, changing the air so much the earth shook and melted and crumbled, harvesting a race for medicine. How? How could this happen? Were they that much different from us? Would we be like them if we’d had a choice? Were they like us enough to let us live?”

Struggling to keep their culture and language alive while they are slowing be picked off by Recruiters for their marrow, small groups of natives are living out in the bush and having to move as much as possible to stay alive. You follow the story of fifteen-year-old Frenchie who has been separated from his family and has since joined up with another smaller group of Natives just trying to stay alive.

If the premise sounds a bit far off, like dreams in bone marrow, it is because it is and it was my major fault with this book. Sometimes dystopian premises can go a bit too far. However, this novel pays so much tribute to the Native American tradition of oral story-telling creating some amazing chapters and sequences in the writing style. The story is also a set reminder and reflection of what we have done to the Native Americans in our past and current history. There are many natives alive today that know all too well the horrors of the residential school systems in which they were forced into, robbing them of their culture and sometimes of their dignity which is exactly what is occurring this book.

The characters are easily relatable and you’re quick to like them, especially after hearing them recount their own stories. The author also does a good job in creating some very effective emotional and tragic scenes. It also wouldn’t be a YA novel without some romance which, wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. There were a few angsty-awkward romance moments but overall fairly believable, especially for teens.

The story ends with a satisfying but partial resolution making it look like this book is going to be the first in a series, another thing I hate about YA novels, but at least it wasn’t a cliffhanger ending.

So does this book meet the Canada Reads 2018 criteria? Does it open your eyes? Yes, in a metaphorical sense. It takes the issues facing Native Americans today in Canada and puts it a more somewhat palatable form. The connections that the author draws between the fictional world that Frenchie lives in and the world that real Natives live in are comparable and important, as are the environmental reflections, but will this book stand up to another with a more poignant story that is not dystopian? Personally, I can’t see it happening but I guess we will see what the other books bring to the table and how the debates are presented.

 

Just Announced! Canada Reads 2018 Shortlist

One book to open your eyes…

Huzzuh it’s time for Canada Reads 2018!

With Ali Hassan as the host and overseer, the five defenders will debate this year’s theme: One Book to Open Your Eyes.

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Excited cat is excited. 

The contenders and their chosen books are:

I am personally looking forward to reading Mark Sakamoto’s novel! As always, I will read all five books and have my reviews and thoughts posted for your peep holes before the debates take place.

The debate takes place from March 26-29, 2018. The debates will air on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m., will be live-streamed on CBC Books at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on CBC Television at 4 p.m.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

Whether you loved or hated Anne of Green Gables, Emily is the superior Heroine.

“If you’ve brains it’s better than beauty – brains last, beauty doesn’t.”

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 417 pages.
Read from July 7, 2017 to July 14, 2017.

This book was first published in 1923 and has never been out of print since. How’s that for a legacy! Montgomery was also writing and publishing before women even had the right to vote and her writing has been inspiring young women for nearly 100 years.

I had the second book in this trilogy on my shelf growing up but because I was a nerd and wanted to read things in order and so I never actually got around to reading this book as a tween. A shame really, as I am certain I would have been obsessed with Emily.  As someone who is indifferent to the story of Anne of Green Gables, reading this book was initially out of duty to the fact that it sat neglected on my bookshelf for decades.

Emily is just a young child when she is sent to live with her mother’s relatives of whom she has never met.  Her mother passed away from consumption years earlier and her father has now just passed. Having learned that her mother eloped with her father, her mother’s side of the family, the Murray’s, were keen to keep that disgrace away from the family name but knew that they must take care of the child out of duty. Nobody wanted poor Emily. After some reluctant decisions (and being forced to part with one of her cats), Emily was sent to live with her stern Aunt Elizabeth in New Moon.

Emily learns that her mother’s side of the family is fairly well off and that the family is well respected in the area. However, even if humble, Emily misses her home and her father. She makes friends with her cousin Jimmy, the first of the Murray clan to be kind to her, as well as with their neighbour Teddy, Isle unforgettably fierce tomboy, and the young boy that helps out on the Murray plot, Perry. Stubborn, serious and imaginative, Emily slowly adjusts to her new way of life at New Moon and even comes to like it, but her strong-will continuously gets her trouble with her Aunt and family. Emily wonders if she will ever feel accepted, loved or appreciated in her new home, especially with her growing talent and desire to write.

You know why this book is awesome? Because Emily is smart, fierce, ambitious, thoughtful and imaginative. She also has thirst for knowledge, is a loyal friend, and has an intense appreciation for nature. Whether in 1923 or the present, girls need great characters like Emily to let them know that anything is possible. What makes Emily a better heroine than Anne is that Emily is by far less dramatic and a bit more complex. She is more serious and considerate than Anne and is able to work through troubling situations with a bit more grace. Emily and the plot, in general, have a darker tone than Anne of Green Gables but it is still whimsical and playful.

I loved Emily. If I had read this book as a tween I would have sworn that I was Emily; serious, stubborn, loves cats, imaginative and a passion for writing at a young age. It was the connection with Emily that made me enjoy her story more than Anne’s and also made me want to pursue reading the whole trilogy of her books, something that I do not do often.

“The universe is full of love and spring comes everywhere.”

So while this book had similar features to Anne of Green Gables, this story felt more successful. Emily is dynamic and while she has similar personality features to Anne there is more depth to the story of Emily and a realism that is not matched in Anne of Green Gables. Emily’s story is written 15 years after the publication of Anne’s and it is clear that Montgomery improved her writing during that time.

Whether you loved or hated Anne of Green Gables, both are valid feelings and reasons to read this book and enjoy its amazing characters and story.