The inclusion of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood (which, I kid you not, has been described as a "lesbian sex book" in at least one headline) and Nic Sheff's Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines on Monroe Township School District's Summer Reading List has been challenged, and so, with a week or so left before the fall semester starts, both books have been removed from the list.
The coverage of this story is confusing and sometimes contradictory, which is annoying.
One article says that the Murakami was required reading for students going into 10th grade Honors English, and that Tweak was an option for the 12th grade Honors class. It also says that there were three books that people took issue with, but never mentions the third book again. Then it goes into a description of another high school's offerings. Which is oh-so-helpful to those of us who are actually interested in the Monroe story.
Another article says that the books were required reading for middle and high school students. Then there's a typo (I assume) that suggests that only one book (but which one?) was removed from the list. Then it says that the Murakami was for incoming 10th graders, so that seems trustworthy, as that's what everyone else is saying. But, then again, who knows? And there's no word about Tweak. Then the Family Research Council is quoted, and they use the phrase "homosexual agenda". Wheeeeee! And that article says that the Superintendent said that the list will be re-worked and ratings will be added. Double wheeeeee!
A third article doesn't add any info, which leads me to assume that it was cobbled together from the other articles. Much as this blog post has been.
To make everything EVEN MORE confusing, there appear to be two MonroeTownship Districts in New Jersey? The one with the issues, though, is the one that, ironically, has no summer reading lists posted on their website. Which is EXCEEDINGLY helpful.
Nine groups—including the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the National Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri—sent a joint letter to Superintendent Vern Minor and Republic School District's seven school board members.
Happily, unlike most of the coverage of the situation, the article about the letter mentions that only four of the seven board members were present at the vote, and that only one of those four had actually read the books in question.
Now the school board is going to revisit the books at their September board meeting. One hopes that all seven members will be in attendance and that all seven will have actually, you know, READ THE BOOKS.
Also, there was a protest at the most recent school board meeting about the district's response to a sexual assault (if you haven't read about that story, your head might explode when you do: it's that horrible) at the middle school AND the book banning.
On her thirteenth birthday, poultry girl Cecily Perryn finds a jewel-encrusted locket under one of her hens. While she doesn't have many friends—people in the village generally avoid fatherless bastards as well as those who consort with suspected witches, and Cess is both—she feels sure that the locket must have been put there for her. But by who? And why?
That would be dangerous enough—if, after all, she is caught with it, people will assume that it's stolen—but there's a more pressing problem: boys are disappearing from the area and turning up dead, so there are mutterings about witchcraft in the village. When Cess' best friend disappears, all heads turn towards her, and it won't be long before accusations start to fly...
Considering its extremely short length (under 250 pages), The Coven's Daughter took me AGES to read. While I was reading, I enjoyed it well enough—the period details are especially good—there was nothing in the storyline or the characterization or the relationships between the characters that created any sort of "Read Me! Read Me!" draw. So, I was halfway through the book all week long (I kept procrastinating by getting caught up on Leverage*) and I finally sat down and finished it just now.
The author clearly did a TON of research, and, like I said, the period details are good. But her method of explaining them gets old, as it always follows the same pattern:
"Gorse, cousin? Be glad it is not elder," quipped Cess before she could stop herself. With its strong smell and easily drilled wood, that plant festooned the poles of girls who had been easy with the boys as Cess knew Beth had, for all her superior airs.
Almost always the detail, and then an explanation from the narrator. It doesn't feel necessarily awkward or forced, but when it happens four times on a page (which was often), it slows the rhythm, and it distracts attention from the already-thin story.
Occasionally, the explanation comes in the form of infodump dialogue, and that IS awkward:
Edith nodded gravely. "These men hold extreme views, I have heard of them. They are trained on the Continent and smuggled into England. The majority of Catholics in this country are law-abiding people, wanting only to practice their faith without persecution. They are as much afraid of the radicals as everyone else, if not more so, for their murderous plots make all Catholics appear to be enemies of the Queen. It is a sad state of affairs."
Beyond that, my biggest complaint is that the magic element seems extraneous, more a vehicle to ease the plot along than anything else. It's a pretty straightforward story—even with the political intrigue, there aren't really any surprises if you've read a few stories in this vein... which I have—and overall, it felt very, very outlined. Like, A led to B led to C led to D which of course led to E and F. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
And, who knows? Young readers might note the parallels between religious extremism then and religious extremism now.
Five word review? Competent, but not amazingly so.
*Josh loves Parker, of course, while I heart Eliot.
I have just received confirmation that one week after the campaign began, Simon & Schuster has reversed its decision and will publish the fourth volume of Will Henry's journals.
Monstrumology lives. I didn't bring it back to life - so don't congratulate me. Toast yourselves, honorary monstrumologists, for YOU did it. In the words of Eliot Ness, "Never stop. Never stop fighting till the fight is done. Here endeth the lesson."