Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Series: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult/Adult, Science Fiction, Humor, Classics
Format: Audiobook, narrated by Stephen Fry
Rating: 4 stars
Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
It’s difficult to review such typical classics and have anything new and refreshing to say about them, but I’ll try my best.
I had a lot of fun listening to Stephen Fry narrate this book. It was definitely very humorous and quite strange, all things I’d heard people say before and was expecting. It reminded me most of an interesting combination of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, due to both the genres and the humorous, matter-of-fact writing styles.
Although I have not yet seen the movie of this book (but I do plan to do so eventually — what do you all think? Is it a good adaptation?), I know that Martin Freeman starts (my favorite from Sherlock and the Hobbit), so I pictured Arthur Dent as him the entire time I read this book. I seemed a perfect fit! As did Snape as Marvin’s Eeyore voice of course!
All in all, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was not my favorite book (nope, I still don’t like sci-fi), but I am glad I read it anyway. After all, now I do know the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything (42)!
(This book counts for the School YA Bingo challenge in the category of “A “Classic” YA Book”)
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Series: His Dark Materials, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Classic
Format: Audiobook, narrated by
Rating: 3.5 stars
Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.
The Golden Compass has so much promise! A fantastic young adult/middle grade adventure story with magic, other worlds, talking animals, and arctic exploration? Sign me up!
However, this is already my second reading of this book, and I’m sad to say it has disappointed me both times. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that causes this book to not live up to my high expectations except that maybe my expectations were just a bit too high. The ending did not satisfy, and I felt like the story just wasn’t complicated enough or completely resolved exactly.
My best friend Lydia does add this book to her list of favorites, and I greatly admire all those who do. Unfortunately, I have not experienced the great magic so many other people have when enjoying this series. While I will not be reading the rest of the His Dark Materials books (what a series name!), I hope to try once again with The Golden Compass in a few years.
(This book counts for the School YA Bingo Challenge in the category of “A Book that Became a Movie,” no matter how bad the movie was (I have not seen it thankfully enough).)