Hmmm...

Feb. 28th, 2009 02:37 pm
lady_schrapnell: (Default)
[personal profile] lady_schrapnell
Review of Gullstruck Island in the Guardian, by Patrick Ness. (Taken from Achockablog, where Michael Thorn makes an interesting point about the length of children's books, though one I still don't consider very relevant to this particular book.)

I will admit to a bit - or maybe more than a bit - of defensive protectiveness, but this still seems to me a pretty weak review for a number of reasons. For one thing, what's the point of the first paragraph? By saying 'it's only middle-aged reviewers who complain about the length of children's books, not the children themselves', and then following up with suggesting that the 504 pages of Frances Hardinge's "delightfully inventive" AND "endlessly creative" book may "sound exhausting to you" but that's why it's a children's book - then I want to ask in return why he thinks we should pay any attention to his discussing the length at all? Those of us who read children's books because we love them are going to be less than impressed with this little bit of over-the-head-of-the-child nod to the other adult readers of children's and YA books who suffer along with him. Those who read them for purely professional reasons might wonder why he thinks his middle-aged reading reaction has any relevance if it is so out-of-keeping with the 'intended' audience's response.

Further on he does a similarly sloppy bit of thinking in "There is, in fact, probably too much more, not in terms of page length but in that Hardinge lets herself get bogged down too often in necessary explanations. How churlish to complain, though, about too much imagination." Yes, it might be, but he's actually complained about the author's supposedly letting herself get bogged down too often in explanations. Quite different things, even leaving aside the fact that I very much disagree about any bogging down's happening.

Next up is this: 'If the "blissing beetles" - which make a sound so beautiful everyone who hears it dies of pleasure - are a little too Hogwartian, then there is more than enough else to engulf young readers, holding them captive for the long haul.' (italics mine) Too Hogwartian? Which is supposed to mean... ? And as he's several times mentioned the fact that young readers are captivated by the Harry Potter books anyway, this is another non-sequitur.

And ending with a return to the thinly disguised jab at the book's being too long in "Blame JK if there just happens to be more of it than there used to be."

If he wanted to criticise the book, he should have picked out things that he felt were actually flaws in the book and discussed them. If he wanted to make himself look smart by implicitly condescending to the child (actually teen) readers - that kind of cheap trick is pretty sad. Especially in a children's book author. And for the record? According to Amazon The Knife of Never Letting Go (only Book 1, btw) is 496 pages. Impressive conciseness in comparison to Gullstruck Island!
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