Posts Tagged ‘gordon korman’

Regular Read: Island, Book 3: Escape by Gordon Korman

Escape (Island, Book 3) Escape by Gordon Korman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
By the time I got to the third book in Gordon Korman’s Island series, it was kind of a relief just to know that it would all be over soon.

To recap the events of Shipwreck and Survival (SPOILERS AHEAD, BUT THIS IS A REVIEW OF BOOK 3, SO I’D HAVE HOPED YOU’D HAVE FIGURED THAT OUT ON YOUR OWN), thirteen-year-old Luke Haggerty is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and is sent, as part of his sentence, to participate in a sailing trip with five other troubled kids. Charla Swann is an overachiever from the inner city, Will and Lyssa Greenfield are siblings who get into violent fights — Lyssa is super-smart and Will feels inadequate in comparison — Ian Sikorsky is a geek whose only contact with the outside world is the Discovery Channel, and JJ Lane is the spoiled son of a famous Hollywood director.

In the first book, their captain is swept overboard and the first mate abandons them. In the second book, they find themselves on a tiny island populated only by a wild boar and some international smugglers.

Now, in Book 3, Escape, the kids need to take drastic measures to get rescued. Will has a gunshot wound that’s gotten infected, and he needs immediate medical care. Reaching much, Korman? Geez. JJ has an idea: he’ll stow away in the criminals’ cargo plane and, if they find him, he’ll offer himself up as a hostage on account of his father being so rich and famous and all.

And the story just keeps getting more and more ridiculous from there. I don’t know; if I hadn’t read the Everest series first, then I might not have minded the ridiculousness so much. But I still think I would have minded it a little. The story starts with promise — it reminded me of Gary Paulsen’s excellent Hatchet in the beginning. But it slowly degenerated into a sensationalist tale of hiding from criminals using the most extraordinary means possible to get back home.

This sort of plot is just so trite. I wouldn’t tolerate it in a television series and I won’t brook tolerate it in a book.

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Regular Read: Island, Book 2: Survival by Gordon Korman

Survival (Island, Book 2) Survival by Gordon Korman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM ISLAND, BOOK 1: SHIPWRECKED. Consider yourself forewarned. There are no spoiler tags besides this one: SPOILER!! SPOILERY SPOILER TAG FOR A SPOILER!!!

Survival is the second book in Gordon Korman’s Island trilogy, and this is where the series takes a southward dip in my opinion.

Luke Haggerty has survived being shipwrecked only to find himself on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. He and his fellow survivors Charla, Ian, and Will need to find food, fresh water to drink, shelter, and a way to get back home. To complicate their situation, Will becomes delirious with dehydration and crashes off into the jungle alone.

On the other side of the island, celebrity kid JJ Lane and Will’s sister Lyssa wash up on shore. JJ is convinced that the shipwreck is merely part of the “troubled kid” sailing program in which the kids were participating when all of this went down.

The kids find each other and a link to civilization — a small port that’s been overrun by smugglers. And that’s where the series took a bit of a dive for me. It’s just so cliché for the kids to find a link to the outside world only to discover that the only other people on the island are murderous criminals. Will’s hysteria, I could have understood. JJ’s constant name-dropping and refusal to see the truth of their situation, I could deal with. But all of that plus armed smugglers? It really made me roll my eyes.

The survival bits were decently fun, but not quite fun enough for me to really recommend this series wholeheartedly to lovers of children’s lit.

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This book could've used a smoke monster or two.

Regular Read: Island, Book One: Shipwreck by Gordon Korman

Shipwreck (Island, Book 1) Shipwreck by Gordon Korman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
These books were such an easy read that I was able to finish the entire trilogy in one day.

Gordon Korman’s Island series wasn’t as fun for me as his Everest series — possibly because the plot was a little less believable, in my opinion.

But the first book starts off in a promising way. It opens on Luke Haggerty, who’s being sent on a sailing excursion called “Charting a New Course”. He was framed by a classmate who brought a gun to school and is being forced to participate in the program as part of his sentence. The program teaches kids self-control and discipline through the hard work of sailing. Luke’s shipmates include the captain, his weaselly first mate, Mr. Radford, and a few other troubled kids.

As the book’s title leads you to believe, the kids do end up getting shipwrecked on an island. The first book covers their journey to this point. While there was a fair amount of action, I didn’t think that this series did as good a job fleshing out the characters as the Everest series did. Many of them seemed more like mere caricatures to me, especially the character of Mr. Radford.

And one detail that rather annoyed me was how one of the characters, JJ Lane, is supposed to be the son of a famous director. Korman tries to legitimize his fame by dropping names of actual celebrities, which I think was a mistake on his part. The book will not bear well with time as a result, and JJ’s relationships with these celebrities would be pretty improbable, even if he were a real celebrity kid. I personally thought it would have been better if Korman had made up celebrities instead of dropping real names.

All in all, though, I thought that Shipwreck was a fun read; not a bad way to pass time on the train.

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Cannonball 22: Everest, Book 3: The Summit by Gordon Korman

The Summitt (Everest, Book 3) The Summitt by Gordon Korman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The last installment in Gordon Korman’s Everest series begins with thirteen-year-old Dominic Alexis on the cusp of setting a world record and achieving a lifelong dream: he’s about to summit Mount Everest, the world’s tallest and most challenging mountain.

Along the way, he’s overcome many obstacles: his age, the fear of others that he’s too young and too small to do this, and the physical difficulties of the altitude and the mountain. He’s made a few friends: the Sherpas, his team leader, Cap Cicero; and the world’s top young mountaineer, Ethan Zaph. He’s also made an enemy: Tilt Crowley, who wants the title of youngest to summit Everest for himself. Tilt is older, bigger, and stronger, and he’s determined to win.

Korman has done an excellent job of building tension and anticipation throughout the series up to the moment of truth: who will be the youngest ever to climb Everest? And he also began the series with a funeral. We know that one of the climbers is going to die, and we finally get to find out who that climber is.

Throughout the series, Korman also did a surprisingly good job of giving some depth to his characters; more so than I’d expect in a short, goofy series like this. Perry Noonan is an interesting one. His rich uncle funds all of Perry’s climbing. He’s actually scared to death of climbing, but it’s the one common interest that he has with his uncle, whom he loves. He figures his uncle will be crushed if he doesn’t carry out this dream, and so he’s torn between his legitimate fear of dying and his love for his uncle and desire to please him.

Then, there’s Tilt Crowley. Tilt’s been a bully from the beginning, but it’s hard not to feel bad for the guy when you discover that he grew up in poverty and desperately needs the exposure and money from climbing to support himself and his family. He’s willing to take desperate measures to get what he wants out of his climbing career. We can see that he has twinges of conscience here and there, but will he do the right thing when it really counts?

And then we’ve got our A plot: Dominic’s quest to climb Everest. The Nepalese government is doing their best to prevent him from going because of the bad press they’re getting (thanks, in part, to Tilt, who’s been feeding sensationalist stories to a tabloid back home) for letting a mere child try to climb Everest.

All in all, this is one of the better adventure series out in children’s lit today. The action is suspenseful and entertaining, and there’s a surprising level of depth to the characters.

And, now, you must excuse me while I go and Google pictures of Everest.

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I'll probably never get there. Besides, I'm SO afraid of heights.

Regular Read: Everest, Book One: The Contest by Gordon Korman

The Contest (Everest, Book 1) The Contest by Gordon Korman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After my last experience with Gordan Korman, I was a little wary wading into this series. But my sister, who is obsessed with Everest insisted that I give it a try, so I picked it up one day.

Boy, oh, boy, is Gordon Korman back. His Everest trilogy reminded me that, despite his missteps, Korman can weave a pretty fantastic story when he wants.

The plot revolves around thirteen-year-old Dominic Alexis, a young climber whose brother Chris is the second-ranked young mountaineer in the world. He wins a contest that gives him the chance to go to a boot camp where he will compete with nineteen other people, including his brother, to become one of the youngest people ever to summit Everest.

Korman does a great job with the training scenes and with building up a rivalry between Dominic and Tilt Crowley, the camp bully. He did a good job of building the dynamics between the contestants as well as their individual personalities. He also gives the reader the perspective of the expedition leader, veteran climber Cap Cicero. He moves between different characters’ perspectives with relative ease and the story flows quickly and naturally.

And what a story! I’m thirty-two, out of shape, and afraid of heights, and reading this book made me want to train for Everest. If I did, it would probably look something like this, but with climbing instead of skiing:

(Sorry, but WordPress won’t let me embed the only full clip of the montage I was able to find. You can watch it here, though.)

I do enjoy a good adventure/survival story, and Korman came blazing back in my personal opinion with this li’l trilogy.

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Cannonball Read 9: One False Note (The 39 Clues #2) by Gordon Korman

One False Note (The 39 Clues, #2) One False Note by Gordon Korman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I firmly believe that writing for kids should still reflect good writing.

Just because they’re kids doesn’t mean that you should throw in a bunch of explosions or fighting to keep them interested. No, I believe that children, like adults, learn how to write from what they read. I’m not just talking about grammar, here. I’m talking about style, descriptions, expression — the whole shebangbang.

And the better the writing is now, the better it will be in the future, when today’s kids grow up and write books of their own.

This is why I’m so disappointed with this book. Gordon Korman wrote This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall when he was only twelve — it was published when he was fourteen. The Bruno & Boots series was full of fun and energy — I wanted to move to Canada and attend Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies so that I could engage in shenanigans with the boys at McDonald Hall. His characters were believable and had a lot of depth under all the fun.

How can it be that Korman’s writing got worse as he got older?

After reading The Maze of Bones, the only things that made me read the second book in the series were that: A. my nine-year-old buddy BN was looking forward to lending it to me, and B. the second book was written by Gordon Korman. I figured that if anyone could rescue this series from a crappy second installment, it was Korman.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

The second installment in the series takes the kids from France to Austria to Italy. This time, they’re chasing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We get a lot of nice Mozart factoids along the way, but I’m dubious as to the accuracy of some of them. For example, the book claims that Mozart had a twin sister. He did have a sister, but they weren’t twins. What’s up with that, Korman?

But my biggest beef with this volume wasn’t the inaccuracies. It was the lack of style.

Maybe it’s because he was given such crappy characters to work with in the first place, but the book was just as two-dimensional as its predecessor. I guess I was expecting too much — if Korman read Rick Riordan’s installment and then tried to copy his (flat) style, then he did too good a job. Korman, sometimes, it’s okay to turn down a job.

Really, the only thing One False Note really does is get the Cahill kids from France to Italy, from whence they will fly off to Japan. *sigh*

Man, I miss Ellen Raskin so much.

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