Today’s top ten Tuesday pick from The Broke and The Bookish is character driven novels. That means novels where the action is driven by the characters and their decisions rather than the plot or the action within the book. There are some new characterizations being suggested to change the categorization to decision-based and action-based novels. Is that a good move? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s too much for me to think about right now. You might be saying to yourself, aren’t all novels driven by the characters decisions? Nope. Not true. Often the plot drives the characters decisions. Or the characters suffer as a result of the need to be twisty and surprising and whatnot.
Also, a lot of character driven novels revolve around personal choice, growth, and development. They may not result in big impact outcomes. If you belong to that group of people who refer to character driven novels as ‘boring novels’, you probably won’t love this week’s list. I think that concept is wrong but I will admit – character driven novels can tend towards the uber depressing.
Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
“When twelve-year-old Sidney Henderson pushes his friend Connie off the roof of a local church in a moment of anger, he makes a silent vow: Let Connie live and I will never harm another soul. At that very moment, Connie stands, laughs, and walks away. Sidney keeps his promise through adulthood despite the fact that his insular, rural community uses his pacifism to exploit him. Sidney’s son Lyle, however, assumes an increasingly aggressive stance in defense of his family. When a small boy is killed in a tragic accident and Sidney is blamed, Lyle takes matters into his own hands. In his effort to protect the people he loves — his beautiful and fragile mother, Elly; his gifted sister, Autumn; and his innocent brother, Percy — it is Lyle who will determine his family’s legacy.”
Depressing as fuck.
“When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils … Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?”
This book gets some unfair knocks. People couldn’t seem to get beyond the Harry Potter stuff (which I adore). Maybe now that it’s been a while, this book will get a fair shake. It’s a slow moving reflection of the intricacies of small town relations.
“After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of Galatea 2.2—Richard Powers—returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Lentz involves Powers in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net on a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the device grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own name, sex, race, and reason for exisiting [sic].”
This book takes a lot of concentration and brainpower.
“Lighthousekeeping tells the tale of Silver (“My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal, part pirate.”), an orphaned girl who is taken in by blind Mr. Pew, the mysterious and miraculously old keeper of a lighthouse on the Scottish coast. Pew tells Silver stories of Babel Dark, a nineteenth-century clergyman. Dark lived two lives: a public one mired in darkness and deceit and a private one bathed in the light of passionate love. For Silver, Dark’s life becomes a map through her own darkness, into her own story, and, finally, into love.”
Winterson’s work is always about her beautiful writing and characters.
“To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work”
Not necessarily the strongest story ever, but one of the best audiobooks for getting wrapped in the character.
“Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids – as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.”
A small story in a big, big setting.
“In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls’ school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them – along with Callie’s failure to develop physically – leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all. The explanation for this shocking state of affairs is a rare genetic mutation – and a guilty secret – that have followed Callie’s grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family’s second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene’s epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.”
A family discovery generations in the making.
“Meet Dolores Price. She’s 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she’s determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.”
If you’ve ever been an insecure, uncertain, depressed teenage girl, you should probably read this book – even if you’ve never experienced the crap the main character goes through.
“When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?”
Not the fun romp the musical might lead you to believe. Dark and twisty and depressing. But slow and draggy at points. Be warned.
“Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.”
The action of this novel is kind of in the past. We’re now getting an explanation of why it all happened. It’s YA. And good YA at that.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s stuff.