Sunday, August 28, 2011

Review: A Map of the Known World

"Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love."

  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • Release date: April 15, 2009
  • Page count: 272
  • Would appeal to: Artists, those who are grieving, those who want a serious contemporary read, Fans of Twenty Boy Summer
Favorite Quotes:

"If a sigh had a shape, a taste, a color, it would be a salty yellow triangle."

"They both look as though they have been broken into a thousand pieces and never properly mended. My mother's face is sewn too tight, while my father's face has become fuzzy in outline, like a cloud, with all of these little particles loosely holding on, floating, floating."

"Helena puts her arm around my shoulder and draws me into an embrace. Even though she's older, she's shorter than I am and slight, and so it feels like being hugged by a fairy, and in her sea-colored blue dress of ilmy organza with iridescent beads sewn onto it, she looks like she could be a water nymph."

"Freak. The way the mouth puckers, like it's filled with revulsion or loathing, to form the f, the disgust that gets spit out with the final hard k. I roll the shape of the word around in my mouth, and my eyes narrow with the long e."

"Nate, where did you go?...Is his soul floating around the house? Is he haunting Julie? Did he go to heaven? Does someone who puts the principal's office placard on a stall in the boy's bathroom have a place in heaven?"

I like the premise, though it's not wholly original; brother dies in car crash and family tries to put back the pieces. Lisa Ann Sandell does an excellent job painting a broken family from the point of view of the only surviving child. I did have great sympathy for Cora because her family was so focused on their own bouts of grief that they didn't really acknowledge hers, especially her father. I came close to tears at a point where Cora's mom breaks down.

At times in the middle, this read a little slow for me. Life isn't all action; I understand that much. You also have a lot of time to think when everyone's ignoring you and you go to the park or a field by yourself.

I do like how art played a large part in the story. Cora likes to draw maps of places she's never been and also figures out a way to honor Nate with a map. It was sad that her brother was an excellent artist, and she never knew.

Damian, Nate's best friend, was the brooding outcast of the story. Loved his character. He had a white father and African American mother, so he was mixed (a nice change from some of the characters I've been reading about). I also love the character Helena, the artist. I'm glad there is a junior reaching out to a freshman in the story (Helena to Cora).

Another underlying storyline is how people change. Rachel and Cora are best friends at the start. She wants a different experience out of high school; Rachel wants to party and focus on boys, whereas Cora is just trying to take life one day at a time. I found their relationship to breathe a sense of truth.

Also, I enjoyed the descriptions of how Nate used to act with Cora- the perfect picture of a protective older brother.

Several words were repeated close together. The word "dolt," Cora's term for dork, was used several times in the early chapters. The word "bleed" to describe colors blending was used a lot, and "wistful" was used four times to describe someone's gaze or look. Then within two pages, the word "hope" was used seven times. I had to mark it for the simple fact that it bugged me. At times, the similes also seemed very contrived, like the author was trying to hard to paint beautiful descriptions.

I enjoyed the message and the overall attempt to rebuild a family. A little romance is also splashed in, which is always fun for a freshman, since he or she is so young and often experiencing a kiss for the first time. Great descriptions of how the kiss makes the character feel!


No comments: