Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Novella Review: Nightjohn

Title: Nightjohn
Author: Gary Paulsen
Release Date: 1993
Genre: slavery, education, historical fiction, novella
My Rating: *
Official Rating: young adult fiction
Age Group: 16+ (depending on maturity of the reader)

Sarny is a young girl on a plantation. One day, a new slave is brought to the plantation. His name is John, and his back bears evidence of many horrible beatings. As Sarny struggles with what goes on around her, she eventually comes to discover a dangerous secret about John: he has come to teach slaves to read.

Word of Warning
  • People are referred to as "breeders" if they are going to be used in just that way.
  • Horrible bloody beatings. Descriptions of dogs attacking humans.
  • References to "the troubles" which is a girl's period.
  • One young woman doesn't take well to breeding, and is tied up and forced to comply (basically raped). She was a little crazy in the head before, but this pushes her over the edge.
  • A woman is beaten to protect someone else. Later, a man suffers the same fate.
  • Someone's toes are cut off.
  • A young man determined not to be old enough for the breeders shed sneaks away to a neighboring farm to meet with a girl, is caught, and then castrated (Sarny describes it as being treated like the cattle so there will be no more sneaking away to girls, but you get the idea of what's actually going on).
My Thoughts
This is a brutal, horrible book. Paulsen did his research well, and unfortunately this is the truth, the novella even based on a true story. While the story might be accurate, and might contain hope through education, I'd warn to be very careful about handing this on to youth readers. It's a short read, and I'd recommend reading it yourself before handing it to a student or one of your own children. Just make sure that what's in the book is something they are ready for. If not, it will come as a horrible shock and hurt them deeply.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Book Review: Flame of Resistance

Title: Flame of Resistance
Author: Tracy Groot
Release Date: 2012
Genre: historical fiction, romance, Christian, drama
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: adult fiction
Age Group: 18+
Awards: Christy Award

When Tom Jaeger's plane is shot down over France, he is rescued by members of the resistance group called the Flame and nursed back to health by a sweet old grandmother named Clemmie.
Greenland, the leader of the Flame, eventually forms a plan. Tom looks like the perfect German, so why not send him undercover? A few changes are made, and Tom finds himself going undercover to a Germans-only brothel to gain intel from Brigette, the woman who runs the house. Tom's not the least bit comfortable with this situation, but as long as all they have to do is sit and talk, he eventually gets over it.
But when the mission is compromised, will everyone managed to escape alive?

Word of Warning
  •  As mentioned above, there is a brothel. The author is very careful to carefully dance around anything descriptive, almost making sex itself a dirty thing (which was wrong).
  • Girls are catty.
  • People get hurt, get captured, and die.
  • Torture.
  • One young woman is captured and tortured, raped, and left for dead.
  • This is a war. Germans are horrible (though not all, as we soon learn). People die, people are starved, people are driven to horrible things just to survive. They ignore others and let them take beatings, they sell themselves into prostitution, etc. There is no sugarcoating here.

My Thoughts
The book was good. Well done, even. I enjoyed it, and I was hooked. The pilot is a compelling character, as is Clemmie, and even Brigette. It's a sad story, but a good one, and I think it sheds light on the truth of a horrible time in history that is far too often sugarcoated by our historical fiction. Well done, Groot. Well done.