So now that the American Library Association has announced their youth media award winners, I’m back on lots of award reading! Currently the book of choice is the winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.
What I’m Reading Now: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
What’s It About (Jacket Description): In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumor has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visitor arrives. He is greeted warmly, but something is wrong. Something is hidden on the far side of the island. Something that, as if in a dream, he cannot reach.
And so it is that under the light of the waxing and waning moon, seven stories unfold: the story of an archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact; of an airman who finds himself far from home; of a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking. And the story of a love so primal and passionate it slips the bonds of time.
This is the story of Midwinterblood.
Do I Like It: Let’s just say it is abundantly clear why this book won an award!
Thoughts: I don’t even know where to start with Midwinterblood. In a way it’s like a short story collection, except that the same two characters appear in some form in all the stories. And each story is part of a larger story, so it has a much more connected narrative thread. That I’m reading backwards. I kind of want to go back to re-read all the chapters in reverse order when I’m done. And I guess that says something, that I’m not even done yet and I already want to re-read it!
So, this kind of confused excitement is most of what I feel about Midwinterblood, but I’ll try to give a little more of a review. The characters of Eric and Merle, two connected souls finding each other through different lives, are what hold the novel together and bring each shorter episode into the larger story. Each story in Midwinterblood so far has been really unique, despite the fact that they all have Eric and Merle in them. But the stories are so different tonally, and the characters come at different ages and with different relationships to each other, so each story feels fresh. Some of them – like the opening story – get my “doom sense” tingling. Other ones, like “The Painter”, have more of a sad sweetness about them. Nothing is completely free of the overwhelming creepiness of the island and the mystery of who Eric and Merle are and why their lives keep connecting.
Sedgwick’s writing is wonderful. He does a great job creating the eerie but still beautiful and seductive island of Blessed. At this point, I’m half in love with the island and half terrified of it. He makes even the littlest things – an apple, a hare – important and appealing and delightful. It’s easy to see why this book won a prize known for honoring “literary” books.
Midwinterblood isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever read before, but I’m really enjoying it for its own sake – and for the experience of reading something so fresh. Midwinterblood is a great read for anyone who likes more “gothic” kind of creepy, as well as anyone who likes intergenerational stories or just really great writing. I’m definitely enjoying it, eeriness and all!