aka YA Literature

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I've only recently started reading YA lit, so I'm still trying to read a bunch of older books. Because of this, I don't really want to write more reviews of books people have reviewed to death. However, I listen to lots of my books on audio rather than actually reading them, so I am going to do a review concentraing mostly on the audio performance of the book.

Book: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Narrator: Carine Montbertrand
Book Rating: B+
Audio Rating: A

The Book:
I was entertained, but I don't think I would have been into this as a teen, not because it wasn't interesting but just because it wasn't really my thing. But I think this would be a fantastic book for a middle school language arts and/or science class or book discussion group. Probably a good pairing with Brave New World for sophomores too. There are a lot of really great and "meaty" issues like genetic engineering, environmental engineering, waste, plastic surgery, how people are judged, how our personalities and interests are shaped, nature vs. nurture, etc. I really kind of wish Westerfeld hadn't added the whole lesions thing, however. All these great and complex issues are still there, but the lesions make it easy for the reader to dismiss the pretties and villify the specials. The complex questions Tally began to confront as she made her way to The Smoke become easy to forget once the specials are changing the brains of the pretties and making them dumb. How much greater would it have been if readers had to struggle to decide if being attractive itself changes you, if it's possible to be both attractive and intelligent, what life would really be like if everyone were equally physically attractive, etc.? Okay, I realize I wrote a lot about the book itself, but I just really liked the issues raised in this book and I fear that the lesions make it easy to gloss over them and easily identify good vs. evil. On to the audio . . .

The Good:
Most books I've listened to about teen characters have a teen-sounding narrator, so I was surprised and at first put off by the narrator since she doesn't sound like a teen. However, once I got into the story, it was great. She did a great job of differentiating all the characters and distinguishing between narration and dialogue. Montbertrand also did the very best job of any audio book narrator I've heard at using appropriate inflection, changes, speed, volume, etc. to match and enhance the action of the book. Supreme job! And I'm saying this as a former speech teacher who is really into and hyper-aware of these issues. I also liked that the end of each CD said, "This is the end of disc 2 (or whatever)." I hate when discs don't do that and then my CD player starts automatically moving to the next disc in my changer.

The Bad:
I really didn't like the nerdy, scratchy voice Montbertrand used for Shay. It didn't match my understanding of the character and didn't really seem to fit with any of the descriptions of her, except, I guess, that she had pony tails? There were some slow parts to the book that I would have skimmed had I been reading, but I had to just slog through it since I was listening.

1 comment:

Holly said...

I like this idea of evaluating both the story and the narrator. I never realized until recently how the narrator can make or break an audiobook.