Thursday, May 16, 2019

Novella Mini-Reviews: The Test by Sylvain Neuvel & Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

The TestThe Test by Sylvain Neuvel
St. Martin's Press
Publication: March 1st, 2019
Paperback. 112 pages.

About The Test:
"Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. 

Twenty-five chances to impress. 

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?"

I was never able to get into Sylvain Neuvel's first trilogy, the Themis Files, but the concept of this novella was too good to pass up and I ended up enjoying it much more than his other books. The concept of The Test is very simple: an immigrant who traveled with his family to a future Britain must pass a citizenship test. The execution of that test, however, is much deeper and more compelling than that. As far as plot goes, I really can't tell you any more than that without spoiling anything, but rest assured that this book takes off at a thrilling pace only a couple pages in and doesn't stop until you hit the last page. Since it's only about an ~100 page story, it reads extremely quickly, but it packs a lot into those pages.

The exploration of morals, prejudice, and decision-making were contemplated in a striking--and rather shocking--manner that is certain to leave you thinking about it long after you put it down. The story takes an initial unpredictable twist that will put you on edge, then just when you think you know how this whole story is going to go, it still manages to shake things around and leave you constantly unprepared for the results. This story works perfectly as a novella and every page was utilized in a precise and exacting manner; Neuvel truly knows how to write about about powerful topics in a short but fulfilling manner.

Overall, I've given The Test 4.5 stars!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Publication Date: June 13th, 2017
Hardcover. 187 pages.

About Down Among the Sticks and Bones:
"Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. 

This is the story of what happened first… 

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. 

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. 

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices."

I've been holding onto a copy of this novella pretty much since it came out and I don't have a good explanation for as to why I hadn't read it yet. I loved Every Heart a Doorway and consistently heard nothing but raves for the additional novellas that have been published, yet something prevented me from picking it up. And wow do I regret not picking it up sooner!

I loved Down Among the Sticks and Bones even more than the first novella in this series and it's probably going on my favorites of the year list. This novella somehow managed to pack everything I love into its short 187-page journey and I still have a genuine book hangover for this one. It follows Jack and Jill as they embark upon a journey that will act as the precursor to them being sent off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This novella was filled to the brim with a stunning dark fairy tale atmosphere that truly permeated the entire plot and setting and made it impossible for me to stop reading (or even thinking!) about it.

The themes explored in this book also felt so relatable and hard-hitting, full of tough decisions and heartbreaking consequences. Jack and Jill were nothing like I expected--in the best way possible--and the characters that inhabit the world they enter were equally engaging and constantly begged for my attention. At this point, I really can't think of anything that I didn't like about this novella and I couldn't ask for anything more, so of course overall I'm giving it five stars!

1 comment:

  1. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is my absolute FAVORITE, and I've read the whole series. And her next book, come tumbling down, also involves Jack, I can hardly wait!