Alcatraz versus…

The 5th and 6th grade book groups are both reading the same book this month, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson.  I’ve been wanting to read this book, first in a series of four (so far), partly because of its title, and partly because several of the library’s most avid readers have recommended the series to me. 

But – I’m sorry, very sorry to be this blunt – I hate the book.  It’s all a little too cute, too self-conscious, too adult – it’s impossible to get lost in the story, because the narrator keeps butting in with comments about the book or himself.  And the narrator, Alcatraz, is supposed to be a thirteen year old boy, but his rants and complaints sound more like a forty year old cranky grownup.  For instance, when his new-found grandfather pulls into a gas station, Alcatraz observes:  “I didn’t recognize the brand – the sign hanging above the ridiculously high prices simply depicted the image of an upside-down teddy bear” (p. 37).  How many thirteen year olds are going to notice, let alone comment on, the price of gas?

I’ve read several of the reviews that were written about the book when it was published in 2007, and I think that the Horn Book Magazine says it best in this phrase from its review:  “For all its self-aware preciosity…”  Obviously there’s an end to that sentence, an end that doesn’t agree with me, since the Horn Book recommends this book, but “self-aware preciosity” sums up my criticism of this novel.  I’m sure that Alcatraz and his creator would dismiss me as an “evil librarian,” but I just can’t find much to like in the book.

So now it will be doubly interesting to hear what the 5th and 6th graders have to say about it when they meet this week and next week, respectively.  I’ll try to keep my opinions to myself at first, so that the kids get a chance to say what they really think.  If all of the kids really like the book, maybe I won’t even mention my thoughts at all.  Maybe.  Stay tuned to hear how these two book discussions go…and now I’ve got to get back to finishing the book.  Sigh.

2 thoughts on “Alcatraz versus…”

  1. Hi Abs,
    I think there’s a real value to sharing your thoughts on this book, after allowing the kids to check in on it. Your perspective as an adult reading a young adult novel will necessarily be different from their experience. I think there’s a starting point there for a discussion about audience and how some books, such as Harry Potter, seem to transcend the adult/child divide, while others, such as this one, fall straight into it. I’m interested in hearing the kids’ take on the book. -L

  2. Hi Liz,
    You’re right – there is value to sharing my thoughts on this book…I’m going to try to write a blog post about the discussion tonight…

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