As the second part to yesterday's post about the Five Elements of a Good Read, I want to discuss two Young Adult Novels: Max and Menna by Shauna Kelley and Guardian Spirit by Sarah Martin Byrd. I read and reviewed both books for Rebecca's Reads. (Guardian Spirit will be up within the week).
Both stories center around the world of abuse and how it affects families, such great material for creating a gripping, memorable tale. Plus, both stories have a Native American element as well as a boy and a girl who suffer in abusive homes. But only one story stays with me and has been added to my recommend-to-friends list: Max and Menna.
I know quickly the books that will stay with me. I don't always take the time to dissect why. Sometimes it's just a feeling. But I was intrigued reading these two books so close to each other, especially with such similar themes. Why did I love one and not the other? Don't get me wrong, Guardian Spirit was not a failure. I gave it 4 stars with the tagline, "Just Missed Being Great". I read a lot of books, and I enjoy a lot of books. But it's the rare gem that makes my recommendation list.
I realized Shauna Kelley took more risks, risks that paid off. Max and Menna were not perfect characters, but they were real. I identified with them. And when I finished the book, I stared in disbelief at the last page. It couldn't be over. I couldn't let them go. That's powerful. With Guardian Spirit, I wanted everything to work out and I needed to know the ending, but I won't remember this book a year from now. The characters weren't developed or, quite frankly, interesting enough to stay with me. Again, not a failure. Just not great.
Even more than that, the conflict seemed more real, touchable even, with Kelley's novel. In Guardian Spirit, there was believable conflict, but I didn't flinch or react when she described it.
You see the journey, the lesson learned, the cruelty of fate along with experiencing a range of emotions in Max and Menna. I had a hard time putting it down, because the desire to know was too great. I wanted to yell at the characters, shake them. My emotions were raw, and I was invested. Throughout Guardian Spirit, I kept seeing opportunities for the author to make me care more. In a bad book, I wouldn't have cared at all.
Sometimes, a book that's close to great is more disappointing than a terrible book. A bad book is just that. Bad. It would take too much effort to even get it to mediocre. But a good book is just so darned close, it's sad when it misses the mark.
I commend both authors for their tales. I'm just inspired by Shauna Kelley's effort to hit the great bulls-eye.
Have you ever been frustrated by a book that was almost great?