I really had no business reading this book. First, take a look at the cover. I could have gotten beat up by a number of my friends for carrying this book around toting a cover like that. Second, this book is squarely rooted in the Young Adult realm of children's literature. That's not my forte. But I really wanted to give this book a chance. Step outside of my comfort zone for a moment. Every year some interesting discussions are had surrounding Newbery eligible titles and whether or not they are "too old" for Newbery gold. I can never take part in these discussions because I don't read YA. After reading a review that compared CHIME to the work of Elizabeth George Speare, I thought it might be worth the risk.
It wasn't. Not really.
This book doesn't have a snowball's chance in you-know-where at winning any sort of Newbery honor. With curse words scattered throughout, and a rather lengthy, rather sexual, inner conversation about girls' underpants, this book is definitely material for the Prinz and not the Newbery.
However, with that fact aside, I did read it, so I will review it.
CHIME is good, but not great. Briony is one heck of a narrator. Her snarky, wit is fantastic. From the opening sentence ("I've confessed to everything and I'd like to be hanged.") her self-loathe is felt, but definitely not shared, by the reader.
The plot is mysterious and eerie (especially a scene involving . . . SPOILER . . . an innocent girl being hanged while a village watches and waits for her to turn to ashes, which she never does) and the writing is top-notch. Check out some of these samples:
- "You may call me Briony," I said, "which makes it awfully convenient because so does everyone else."
- Silence clawed at my throat. It left a taste of burnt matches.
- The roof was slippery with moonlight.
- His voice hadn't undergone it's morning ironing.
I also had an issue with the revelations made in the ending. For a book that takes itself so seriously, with such brilliant language throughout, to end in such a predictable way was simply a letdown. There wasn't a twist I didn't see coming thanks to some heavy, heavy foreshadowing throughout.
My troubles with this novel may result from it being outside the typical age range of stories I prefer to read. Which if that's the case, my final grade may need to be digested with a grain of salt. Many folks in the YA world will undoubtedly love this (it did already receive a Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award) and I'm sure many Twilight teens will devour it whole.
Final Grade: B