Thursday, July 23, 2009

Round 2: Dylan Fontaine Vs. City in the Lake

Again...I just want to apologize to Renay for not posting this sooner. But at least I let you know what you were to be reading!! :)

For my Round 2 as a Judge for the Nerds Heart YA Tournament of Books, I was giving the tasking of choosing the best book between 2 really DIFFERENT books. Although the choice wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be (because one book totally stood out), they were really different types of books. One is a "coming of age" type of book; the other a Fantasy tale.

First: The reviews:
The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie (224 pgs., Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008).

I can tell you from experience that a jail cell is not a place you'd like to visit. Now, I'm no Papillon, and the police station serving the Sixty-eighth Precinct in Brooklyn, New York, is no Devil's Island, but it sucks just the same.

For Dylan Fontaine, the summer of his fifteenth year is not going so well. His mother left the family to move in with her former art professor. His father, a doctor, spends more time at the hospital than at home in an effort to avoid the hole his wife left in the family. Dylan's older brother smokes way too much pot and spends all his time with his band. His best friend Angie is dating a real jerk. Oh yeah....he's also secretly in love with her. Getting arrested for stealing underwear AND holding his brother's pot is just the final kick in the teeth.

Then Angie decides she wants to make a short film about Dylan, as part of her summer film course at NYU. Entitled The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine, it gives Dylan a chance to do things he normally would never consider. Take chances instead of playing it safe. And grow in ways he never realized he could. Can Dylan survive the summer AND keep his family entact?

What's not to love about Dylan Fontaine? He's funny, smart, sensitive and wise beyond his years. He's a loyal brother and friend. He's a basketball player that could be star; a classical guartist that could be fantastic; an artist that is gifted, but always plays it safe. And he really wants to make things right with his family. This is a wonderful coming-of-age type of book, and I loved it! April Lurie has created a fantastic story for the teen set and adults alike. (I don't think it would be a great book for the younger set, mostly because of slight sexual content and the drug use). Dylan is a fantastic character, with lots of layers. He's a boy trying to become a man in a really trying time. He does the best he can with the cards he has been dealt, and it's admirable the way he tries to keep his family together.

Randy, Dylan's older brother, is also a great character. On the outside, he's this tough guy, playing in a band and trying hard to get past his mother abandoning the family. But deep down, he's just a boy that's insecure and lost without her.

A quick read, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine, is definitely a page-turner. Lurie makes you care what happens to the people on the pages. And that is the sign of a great writer. 4.5/5

Book Number two:

The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier (304 pgs, Knopf Books, 2008).

The City is beautiful at sunset, almost as beautiful as the Lake itself. The waters of the Lake run with the crimson and flame-orange and deep lavender as the sun sinks beyond its farther shore, colors pouring across the water all the way to Tiger Bridge.

This fantasy tale set in an unknown time and place, is the story of a kingdom. When Prince Cassiel disappears from the Kingdom, the King is devastated. And not only that but the Kingdom seems to be dying because it. You see, Cassiel is the heart of the King. And that makes him the Heart of the Kingdom. Without him, things seem to be falling apart. His half brother, Neill, or "The Bastard" is taking a lot of heat for his disappearance. Many people think he might have something to do with it, maybe having set his sights on the throne.

In another part of the Kingdom, Timou is learning magecraft from her father, Kapoen. Growing up the daughter of a mage has never been easy for Timou, especially since she doesn't know her mother. And Kapoen has never been open about her birth. But when Kapone goes to the City to help find the Prince, and disapears as well, Timou is forced to learn about her mother, Lelienne. Lelienne, who just happens to be Neill's mother as well. She holds dark powers that are encompassing the Kingdom. Now that she has returned, Timou and Neill are becoming pawns in a game bigger than either of them understand.

First of all, I will be the first to admit I love fantasy. And while this book is right up my alley, I do realize it will not be suited for everyone. It's a bit confusing at times, and although Neumeier has weaved a very intricate story, there is a lot of philosophical babble that will go WAY over the heads of a lot of readers. For example:

We say it is a reflection of our City, we think of ours as the true City. But it is not so. The Lake holds -- it holds the eternal City, which the mage Irinore and the first King, Castienes, used to build our City. Ours is the reflection. The true City lies in a different layer of truth and dreams. But it is an aspect of eternal truth. It is more real than this ordinary City can be. Sometimes we dream of it -- of the truth that lies beyond our own City.

See? Not exactly easy reading. Much of the book reads like this. And as much as I liked Timou and especially Neill, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was going on. That being said, I did enjoy the storyline. I just think the execution of it was a little confusing. I also thought it finished off nicely with all the loose-ends tidied up.

In my opinion, for those of you that love Fantasy, I'm pretty sure will appreciate the story this book tells. Otherwise, I really think you are in for some difficult reading. 3.5/5

My Choice for Winner of Round 2:

Hands down it goes to The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine!!

Now....The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine will go up in the next round against either Cracked up to Be or The Screwed Up Life of Charlie the Second (not sure who won that bracket yet!)

The other two bracket winners are:

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger vs. Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo.

Thanks again for allowing me to be a judge. Sheesh. At least the pressure is over!!


Lenore said...

Sounds like having a long title was an advantage in this competition ;)

Nymeth said...

! I'm happy to see Dylan Fontaine move on :)

samantha.1020 said...

Great reviews Stephanie! I have these both added to my TBR list :)

Kailana said...

Having read both books, this is the decision that I would've made too. :)

Stephanie said...

Lenore - The longer the better apparently!!

Nymeth - Since you ARE the final reader, hopefully you will get Dylan!! I know Chris already read it, but I loved it! Great book!

Samantha - Although I did like both books, the choice was pretty easy!! I hope you enjoy them!

Kailana - Thanks! I ended up liking City in the Lake, but I didn't think I would at first. Kind of tough to get into.

Kim L said...

Excellent reviews! I'm glad at least it wasn't an agonizing choice :-)

Carolyn @ Book Chick City said...

Just wanted to stop by and say thanks for commenting on my blog yesterday. It's always nice to hear from other book bloggers. I'm glad you enjoyed my guest post at Maw Books.

Darla D said...

Latent Powers sounds like something I need to read! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. :o)