Thursday, April 25, 2013

St. George's Day: English Drama

In our week long Anglophile celebration of St. George's day, today is for drama. Not in the play-sense, but in the sense of "not the funny stuff we did yesterday."


White Teeth: A Novel by Zadie Smith. Archie and Samal are friends from WWII with much younger wives and teenage children. Following everyone's stories, this should be a sprawling multi-ethnic epic about modern London, but it moves at a good clip and features many young characters. It's an enjoyable modern classic.

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith. The Furnace is underground and run by the black suits. They have skinless dogs that eat kids. At night, the Wheezers come. The wheezers have gas masks for faces and take kids away in the night, never to be seen again. At 18, you're transferred out of the Furnace, but no one ever lives that long. Alex needs out. No one's ever escaped before, but Alex is going to try. He'll die if he's caught, but he'll die if he stays. The first in the extremely popular Escape from Furnace series, follow it with Solitary.

Now is Good by Jenny Downham. We're all going to die, but for Tessa Scott, it's going to happen sooner rather than later. She has cancer and has only a few months left. Before she dies, she has a list of the things she wants to accomplish. Travel. Fame. Love. And because she'll never see her seventeenth birthday, Sex. Drugs. A little law-breaking. A day where she has to says "yes" to everything. A day of living before her body fails her for good.


Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. After his uncle, his only living relative, is killed under suspicious circumstances, Alex Rider discovers that he was really a spy for M-16, and killed shortly before stopping something big. M-16 decides to press Alex into service to finish the job. The first in the wonderful Alex Rider series, the second is Point Blank.

Boy vs. Girl by Na'ima B. Robert. Farhana and Faraz are twins, trying to balance the strict ways of their parents with the lives of their classmates and friends. Farhana struggles with the hajib and cute boys, but Faraz's struggles are gang-related and threaten to bring everything down.

Saffy's Angel by Hilary McKay. When her grandfather dies, he leaves Saffy her angel. Caddy and Indigo get the car and the cottage (never mind the car hasn't run in years and the cottage is falling into the sea.) But Saffy's angel may be the clue to who her father is. But the true magic is in the family and their relationships. And Caddy's driving lessons. The first in one of my favorite series ever, be sure to have Indigo's Star on hand.


Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah. Alem is half Ethiopian, half Eritrean. No matter where he is, he's the enemy. His dad takes him on a vacation to England and then leaves in the middle of the night, with a note saying that he must seek asylum. Alem is left adrift in a cold, foreign land and has to navigate the insane system of asylum seeking and immigration.

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore. James can't catch a break. His mother is awful and his sister's father isn't any better. Then he gets suspended for fighting in school and his mom dies. Enter CHERUB. Founded over 50 years ago, CHERUB is a division of MI5--British Intelligence. No one ever suspects a kid, so that's who they send--kids. James will be a spy and receive a top-notch education, but only if he can survive the training period. The first of the CHERUB series, the second is The Dealer.

Where I Belong by Gillian Cross. In Somalia, Mahmoud is kidnapped and held for a massive ransom. In London, his sister Khadija is the only one who can raise the money, because she's the face of a major fashion campaign. Abdi lives with his Dutch mother in London and refuses to believe that his missing Somali father is dead. Freya struggles with the fact that her mother's career as a fashion designer will always come first. Told in their voices, their lives intersect in surprising ways.

What are your favorite contemporary English books?

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  1. One of my favorites is My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. LOVE that book!

  2. I agree and Annabel Pitcher 's second book Ketchup Clouds kept me up all night too


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