Monday, September 22
Chicken House / Scholastic 2014
Teens in peril. That's where you lose me.
I try to read books as "blind" as possible, knowing as little as I can going in so I can let the freshness of the story carry me. Sometimes, though, I get a sense early in a book that it's going to piss me off. In the past when I was a younger man and felt like I had a lifetime to read everything I'd finish every book out of a sense of respect for the author and the craft. But I'm older now, aware that I will never get to read everything I want to, and some backs don't earn that right to be read to the end.
Here's the short version: I have no patience for books that put teens in extreme peril.
That sounds absurd. Peril, imminent danger, kids at the mercy of extremely dangerous adults, this is practically everywhere. Maybe I'm just getting tired of it.
Taken starts with a young woman meeting up with a group of young war veterans -- barely adults themselves -- getting ready to sail around the world for charity. Because the crew are themselves disabled their insurance requires an able-bodied hand named Rio, who is our narrator. There's some tension among personalities, resentment over having Rio as a babysitter, and as they set sail I suddenly get a hinky feeling.
This is called Taken. What, or who, gets taken?
See, I could get behind an adventure where a crew of new adults has to deal with the elements, a damaged boat, a clash of cultures and miscommunication, a trial of character. I can't resist. I flip the cover over and discover they are hijacked by pirates, held by a militant warlord, prisoners of war. There is an image of a fourteen year old girl clutching a machine gun with a necklace made of human teeth.
The news is full of kids in peril. A teen girl beaten and raped for protesting the public beating of her father. Women, girls, and boys abducted by militants, adding to the hundreds of others already gone missing. Terrorists using video games to recruit teens to their efforts. This is news, not something to be reduced to "ripped from today's headlines" sensationalized entertainment.
People can write what they want, people can read what they want.
I've got plenty of other books to read.