Books 33 - 35

33. Hero by Perry Moore - I was hoping for something beyond a "coming of age" plot from this winner of the 2008 LAMBDA Fiction for Young Adults, and I wasn't too disappointed. Thom, the main character, has more pressing matters than coming to terms with being gay - he's got super powers, and although that's not all that unusual in the world Moore has created, it's not all that easy, either. Super powers don't make the other people any smarter or less judgmental or less likely to have problems of their own, as Thom learns when he's accepted to train with an organized group of crime fighters. And dealing with his father's fall from public grace and his mother's abandonment are still crappy facts of life, even if you hang out with people who can fly and throw flames and all kinds of other cool tricks. The book isn't especially strong on writing style (I wondered if Moore equates writing for young adults to writing like a young adult) and the world Thom lives in is a little grey when it comes to sense of place, but as a story about how we're all the same in that we're all different, it's a pleasant read.

34. M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman, read by the author - A collection of short stories by Gaiman that have all been published previously, this time collected with the Young Adult reader (listener) in mind. There's a definite building of story depth as you progress through this book, from the beginning "The Case Of The Four And Twenty Blackbirds", a noir crime fiction using some of the best known names in nursery rhymes, to the final "The Witch's Headstone" that brings together all sorts of dark magic that doesn't end badly, if not well. Gaiman is one of the very few writers that I know of that is also an excellent story narrator. (For evidence of that, listen to The New Yorker's podcasts of authors reading their favorite authors!) Every story in this collection by Gaiman has the sound of being told to entertain - and they do.

35. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Tales by F. Scott Fitzgerald, audio book read by Grover Gardiner - I'd like to be more positive about these stories, but as the collection progressed, a single, sad thought kept coming to my mind - Fitzgerald really was a one hit wonder. That might be unfair, in that these stories are his early works, but they were published, so they do stand as a part of his body of work. The titled story is pretty good, especially in concept. And the arc of the main character gives an interesting look at what would happen if we really were more mature when we were younger rather than older. But the story never goes too deep, and the supporting characters are more like backstops, there to bounce dialog and action off of, but never adding structure. The stories are all surface, glitzy and wordy and overwritten, and if you try to look deeper, you'll discover Fitzgerald didn't go any deeper. I suppose that's a good portrait of the era he was writing in, but beyond their historical significance, I'd have a hard time recommending this collection to anyone.

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