First, a quote I found in the gift shop of the Bodleian library of Oxford:
"'Tis the good reader that makes the book good."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Which is precisely why I'm researching the history of children as readers. I also went back to my old pal Roland Barthes, to see if I could scare up any good quotes about reading....
"If a book bores me, I have the courage, or cowardice, to drop it. [...] So if I read a book, it's because I want to."
--Roland Barthes, from The Grain of the Voice p. 220
Go Roland! I also searched for some quotes, and liked this one:
What do we ever get nowadays from reading to equal the excitement and the revelation in those first fourteen years?
--Greene, Graham, from Oxford Reference Online
Now to novels:
Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
If addiction is the disease of our time, then Dessen's novel is very timely. It contains the usual introspection of her female protagonists. Ruby is saved from the memories of her alcoholic mother by helping someone else, who in the end will be her boyfriend. There are dark parts, but it's all smoothed out, as is characteristic of Dessen's enjoyable writing. I'd question how much sympathy a kid who had actually lived in Ruby's circumstances would have for Ruby, especially the aspect of the novel which includes Ruby being taken in by her (now wealthy) older sister, who married the founder of a social networking site. At over 400 pages, this is a commitment, but one I wasn't sorry to make.
Peeled by Joan Bauer
If you know Squashed, Rules of the Road, or any other of Bauer's works, then you know that she basically writes one very, very appealing story over and over again. This is no exception. Young girl and budding journalist joins small-town fight against fake "paranormal" events that are being staged by a big-town developer. And wins. Bauer is always a treat, even if her plots and characters are always similar. What she writes, she writes so well.
Ever by Gail Carson Levine
My favorite by Levine remains Dave at Night, which was pre-Ella Enchanted and so pre-Disney and princess books in her writing career. However, Ever is a good yarn. The questions it raises have to do with belief and religion. Olus, god of the winds, falls in love with a mortal girl, Kezi. Unfortunately, Kezi has just forfeited her life to save her aunt according to the laws of the god she and her family worships. We never meet this god, but we meet other gods and a spooky land of the dead inside a volcano. We are more told than shown that things are not as they appear, but when you're dealing with a heavy topic like religion, making the attempt to open the discussion at all in books for children is a good thing. The best sparkly romantic moments are when Kezi, herself a dancer, is flying on Olus' winds.