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Christina Reads YA

"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis

Brother, Brother

Brother, Brother - Clay Carmichael You can find more of my reviews (plus discussions and giveaways) at Christina Reads YA.This was my first attempt at a YA novel that was blatantly described as literary by the publisher, and I think that it has great potential for discussion in the classroom and beyond. Plus it makes for an easy read since the prose flows quite smoothly (see excerpts below) and there are many twists that will surprise readers.There isn't a lot of plot in this book, though there are plenty of dramatic reveals. The book is less about action and more about the themes, with the uplifting sense that Brother, the small town, easy-to-relate-to underdog with two pet dogs (including psychic Trooper (see quote except below)), will prevail with his morals intact and his sense of purpose restored after Mem's death. There are a lot of great themes that can act as a springboard for discussion. With Mem's death comes the theme of taking your own journey. The typical journey of self-discovery and coming-of-age but mixed in with a discussion of privilege, power, the corruption of human nature, and the importance of friend and familial relationships. The familial dynamics in this novel are particularly complex, and I really wanted to examine the various relationships (i.e. Jack/Cole, Jack/Brother, Cole/Brother, the guys working on Brother's car, etc.) in depth, understanding how they mirrored (or worked with/against) each other across the duration of the novel. The intertwining of hatred and love make their dysfunction entertaining to read.I love how the southern setting is conveyed with the sort of hospitality and manners of the old south. This hospitality especially shows when Brother meets Kit, and she stands up for him, taking him under her wing when she knows little about him. She makes for a great girlfriend: fierce, smart, loyal, and their romance is sweet to read and easy to root for as it, along with the other relationships, furthers Brother's own character development. This book is a quiet read that sometimes speculates on nature versus nurture and even broaches drug addiction. When Brother uncovers the family secrets, you'll root for him to discover himself, and learn what it is to become an adult who knows what matters most.A great review from Emily on characters, plot, and more can be found at Book Jems should you wish for a more detailed explanation. In the publisher's catalog, this book was described as: "A southern, literary YA novel reminiscent of the Printz Honor winning book, [b:Where Things Come Back|8563789|Where Things Come Back|John Corey Whaley|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1330581469s/8563789.jpg|13432259], about a seventeen-year-old boy who finds out that nothing he believes about his family is the truth." I haven't read Where Things Come Back, but I found this novel rather enchanting. Here are some early, non-spoilery quotes:"Trooper's instincts are like that--an early warning system to tell you that conditions are ripe for change and consistent with instability and upheaval... That's been Trooper's gift to me. Being more awake as life happens. When he stares and paces, I listen harder; I open my eyes a little wider and notice more. I don't worry so much about what's going to happen, I just try to notice what he does." (8)"Brother imagined the hidebound eulogy Harvey would deliver. For years, whenever the reverend's sermons expressed views opposed to Mem's own, she hadn't just sat silently and listened. 'Don't just spectate, Brother: witness, question, think for yourself.' Often to Harvey's chagrin, she waited until he finished, then stood to politely offer rebuttal. Brother particularly remembered the Sunday Harvey preached on the evils of abortion to a nodding congregation. At the sermon's end, Mem rose in the pew and in her soft, old lady voice told all present that considering the opinions just expressed, she knew the church adoption rate would rise tenfold in the coming year. She could attest to the joy these adoptions would bring, she said, and ignoring Harvey's glare, took her seat and wiped Brother's snot-crusted nose." (16)"Probably it was the grayness of the day and his lack of sleep plus all the Cokes, the two packs each of peanut M&Ms, cheese waffles and nacho-flavored chips, but he started to feel shaky and sick, and it struck him like a hurled brick that Mem was really and truly dead. He'd left steady work and Schulyer without strategy or plan. He'd never really soloed, not like now. What did he know about running his whole life? What the hell had he been thinking?" (38-9) "'Just call me when you get there,' Charlie called after her, then glanced at Brother. 'In about twenty minutes, the way she drives.'The man knew his daughter.'Hush now,' Kit called, 'you're scaring him.'For the first time Charlie looked squarely at Brother and laughed. 'You scare easy, you better bail now.'" (59)Note: I am giving away my ARC on the blog, if you're interested.