The three books I have for you to consider today came to me via my Kindle, a sale at the Indigo online bookstore, and my local library. It is fair to say that the cost of each is no indication of their worth.
Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.
This is a heart-rending story of a clever ten-year-old girl, Melody, who has cerebral palsy and cannot speak. Because of her physical limitations, she is placed in a special education class where the children are, essentially, baby-sat. Little effort is made to understand their abilities or needs. One teacher in particular assumes Melody is mentally incapable of anything more challenging and cannot understand why she gets frustrated at being shown the alphabet for the umpteenth time.
Fortunately, Melody has a neighbour who sometimes takes care of her and recognizes her potential. Eventually, the girl is given a device to help her communicate and ultimately a computer that gives her a voice. The story is about her competing in a quiz team and, much to everyone’s surprise, showing herself to be the brightest of them all.
If this tale has shortcomings they are that Melody’s intellect is presented as being too far superior to both her peers and her teachers, and the students in her class are reduced to cliches. Even so, it is a moving story and readers will be cheering for her all the way. It will also motivate readers, particularly young adults, to resist stereotyping the disabled and perhaps even to become advocates for those who are different.
All The Devils Are Here by Louise Penny
The title of this book is taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” As the story unfolds you will understand why this is the perfect allusion.
I am a big fan of Louise Penny and will always be grateful to my friend Mary Beth for introducing me to her. The Inspector Gamache series is a delight in many ways, but perhaps in particular because the characters are so complex. Even the bad guys are drawn with nuance and a respect for life’s vicissitudes. The stories all begin with a murder but solving the crime is only a part of the work of the inspector; in the process he has to untangle webs of relationships and histories of changing fortunes.
All The Devils Are Here is set in Paris, France and draws in all of Inspector Gamache’s loved ones. There is even the birth of a grandchild at a time when he is caught up in one of the plot’s most tense moments. All of Louise Penny’s books are built around family bonds and honouring even those family members who create friction. In the process of trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the attempt on his Godfather’s life, Gamache also unravels the mystery around his troubled relationship with his son Daniel.
He involves many other family members in solving the riddle of the attempted murder and they do this by exploring the city from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the Archives Nationale and the luxurious Hotel George V. If you are not familiar with Penny’s books, this is great place to start. Then you can go back and read the rest!
The Boy From The Woods by Harlan Coben
This is the first book I have read by Harlan Coben, and I wondered why he chose this title. When this story starts, the boy who raised himself in the woods, improbably named Wilde, is already a man and working as a sort of private investigator in concert with the police. Aside from that peculiarity, though, this is a great yarn that kept me reading until much too late in the night.
Wilde is drawn into a search for a teenaged girl, Naomi, when his godson, Matthew, tells him he is concerned about her absence from school. Both Naomi and Matthew have been trying to avoid or negotiate bullying in school, and there are suspicions about the bullies’ involvement in Naomi’s disappearance.
Subsequently, one of those bullies also goes missing, and the plot thickens. Are the two teens together? Is the ransom note legitimate? What is on the tapes that the kidnappers want so badly? As the mystery unfolds we find that a local politician and the parents of the bully have a lot of explaining to do.
Wilde uses his charm, his skills as a woodsman, and his personal connections to unravel the various threads that entangle the teens in other people’s secrets. And, it is a lovely bonus to read about a heroine who is a seventy-year-old woman; that doesn’t happen often.