Skip to main content

Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgewick, 288 pp, RL: TEEN



Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick is the winner of the 2014 Printz Award, the Newbery for Young Adult books. While preparing to write this review, I was taking a look at past winners and surprised by how many of them I have reviewed - and loved - here and also pondering the current trend of adults reading YA literature. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the review for a list of these titles and my take on the scolding Ruth Graham gave us (adults who read YA) earlier this year. 

I don't think I've ever read a book like Midwinterblood, which is a series of chapters, short stories that can stand on their own, really, that are seemingly unrelated at first but then, as you read on, become clearly linked by patterns and symbols that repeat and reappear in new ways. By the final chapters of the book you are audibly gasping as you recognize the significance of things you encountered in earlier chapters and glimpse the bigger picture. As the great Eoin Colfer says in his review of the book for the New York Times Book Review, Sedgewick achieves the difficult task of creating a "sustained sense of foreboding," the literary equivalent of a "roller-coaster ride with multiple peaks" with his writing, which Colfer as a "reader and a writer," finds admirable. The structure of Midwinterblood alone is amazing, but Sedgewick adds another layer to the novel as mysteries within mysteries are revealed and obliquely strange occurrences are explained.

Fine. I'll come right out and say it, but please know that I didn't WANT TO because it will change how you think about this book that you haven't read. And I read/listened to this book (wonderfully, eerily narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt) Midwinterblood without knowing anything beyond the fact that it won the Printz and was a collection of linked short stories and that's how you should go into it too! It's a little like the movie The Sixth Sense - you don't want to know that Bruce Willis is dead before you even watch it. Hope I didn't ruin that for anyone... So, read on if you want to know what I'm talking about and I admire you if you stop here. But, if you stop here, scroll down to the bottom to check out the other cool covers for Midwinterblood and see the other amazing Printz winners I've read and loved.

There are vampires (and Vikings and WWII pilots and archaeologists) in Midwinterblood. But you don't know it until you are almost at the end of the book! What you know first is that there is something on Blessed Island that is dark and dangerous. It turns out to be an orchid that some believe can grant eternal life. In the first story, which is set in 2073, Eric Seven is a reporter traveling to the island to look into this myth. Once on the island, he finds and idyllic, peaceful way of life that slowly begins to reveal somewhat sinister underpinnings that slip away from Eric like fingers of fog as he continues to drink the "restorative" tea made from flowers on the island that his hosts give him. This first story is strange and unsettling and a little stand-offish. But I promise, but the third chapter you will be thick into what come to be, as the Publishers Weekly review notes, "Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries by mysteriously intertwined - this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice."  You will be thinking about Midwinterblood long after you finish reading it, unravelling the threads and connecting the dots.



PRINTZ WINNERS


Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley



Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

PRINTZ HONOR WINNERS

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman



You may be aware of Ruth Graham's article for Slate, Against YA which has the header, "Read What You Want. But You Should Be Embarrassed When What You're Reading Is Written For Children." As someone who forces herself to read a work adult fiction once a year and occasionally feels bad about it, I read and pondered this article seriously. And Graham makes some great points about the "uniformly satisfying" endings in YA novels and urges adults to seek out adult literature that has "stories that confound and discomfit" and "people you can't empathize with at all" among other things. She's right I have no doubt my brain is flabbier from shying away from adult books (which I once read vigorously) in the last ten years. But, as I get older I  realize that I can choose what I let into my life, my literary life and my imagination and I am weary of reading books about adults with sad and ruined lives, regardless of the brilliant writing and wisdom that these novels ultimately reveal. I've experienced a small wedge of that in my own life at this age and I don't feel hungry for anymore of in, in print or otherwise. I'm not a twenty-year-old excited to read Raymond Carver and Alice Munro anymore. They served me well when I was twenty and wanted to be a writer, but now, well. . . 

Source: Purchased Audio Book

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …