The Shell House, Linda Newbery

My second try with Linda Newbery.  I really want to love her!  The covers of her book are always so appealing!  This one had bits that were set in Chelmsford, and I lived in Essex for nine months!  But still, the only strong reaction I had to her books – like last time – was, Jesus God, I’m so glad I’m not raising children in England.  British schoolchildren are awful.  They are awful.  My flatmates thought I was from the scary ghetto because I have sketchy neighbors and got mugged one time; this in spite of the fact that they got the shit beaten out of them by their classmates in school.  I love England like a fat kid loves cake, but I could never ever raise kids there, ever.  Ever.  BECAUSE THEY WOULD DIE.

The Shell House is actually not about awful British schoolchildren.  Sisterland had much more awful British schoolchildren.  The Shell House is about a boy who is struggling with his sexuality, and a girl who is struggling with her faith, and a back-in-the-day World War I guy who’s struggling with both.  It had bits that were good, but there were also bits that were just blah.  Faith (the girl who’s um, struggling with her – I don’t know why I bothered with this sentence) isn’t terribly likeable, ever, and the two plots don’t come together very neatly either.  They’re thematically linked, but they aren’t juxtaposed in an interesting way, and Edmund himself, the World War I guy, wasn’t that interesting, or fleshed-out.  I felt sort of gipped on the Edmund front.

Okay.  I have Linda Newbery’s Set in Stone out of the library too.  If I don’t like that, I’m just giving her up forever as Not My Thing.  I wouldn’t be being so persistent if the covers weren’t so nice!

Sisterland, Linda Newbery

Ah, Linda Newbery. I’ve been meaning to read one of her books for about a year and a half – I very vaguely remember wanting to buy it at the Foyle’s on the South Bank when I was there in January 2007 with the family. Something with clocks.

Sisterland is about a girl called Hilly who has a problematic sister that’s got a crush on a racist kid (British kids are scary! I’m never raising my kids in England cause those British kids are way too frightening!), and her grandmother has got Alzheimer’s and is forever talking about someone called Rachel (on account of how she was secretly Jewish when she was a kid and she had a sister called Rachel who she lost touch with), and also there’s Hilly’s BFF Reuben who has a crush on a Palestinian kid called Saeed, and Hilly gets a crush on Saeed’s brother Rashid.

I enjoyed this, but my God, it dealt with a lot of issues. In that ostentatious way, like, And now, I will be dealing with the issue of – racism! Hey, don’t worry, homosexuality, you’ll get your turn! And look at the Holocaust crowding in on the side! Hold your horses, Holocaust, you’re our main event! I’m all in favor of YA books Dealing with Issues and everything, but I thought that Ms. Newbery was too clearly trying to Deal with Issues, rather than just letting them happen as they happened. And there was a lot going on here, so that none of them were really very thoroughly handled. Lots of juxtaposing of different kinds of intolerance, but not enough to where you really had time to get a ton of sympathy for anybody dealing with the intolerance.

Still, it was good. Not as good as I bet that book of Linda Newbery’s is that I saw at the Foyle’s but my library doesn’t have and I can’t remember its title and will thus never find it … but pretty good.