Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guardian of the Dead

Healey, Karen. Guardian of the Dead. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011)
William C. Morris YA Debut Finalist (2011)

Ellie can't seem to get control of her life lately. She's let her best friend Kevin "convince" her to drink on school nights and even to let him sleep in her room. She's made a fool of herself in front of the guy of her dreams, Mark (did she somehow mistake her secret fantasy that he actually wanted to interact with her for real life?). She's even starting to get along with Iris, Kevin's other best friend. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, she has a nagging feeling that the Eyelasher killings that have been terrorizing the North Island have something to do with her. This feeling goes way beyond the connection that everyone who's lived on the North Island feels to the murders, and that feeling might have something to do with Mark. Unless that's just her fantasy life invading reality again.

There is a lot to love about Guardian of the Dead. Here's the shortlist:
  • a smart, kind of nerdy heroine
  • the freedom/restrictions of boarding school
  • use and explanation of Maori myth (by a white author who has the balls to point out in the text the colonial nature, possible inaccuracies, and just plain wrongness of Maori myth written down by white people)
  • high school use of a university library, because serious shizz calls for serious research
  • patupaiarehe (fairy-type creatures), one of whom is Titiana in Iris's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream -- because I'm not the only one who likes art to imitate life
  • casual treatment of varying sexualities*
  • a hottie who is half-Maori, half-...well, something else
and I could go on. But do you want to know what I loved the absolute most about this book? The ending. I won't go into detail (or talk about the "action" ending) because I don't want to ruin it for you (cause oh-my-gosh is it cool), but I can still tell you why I love this ending.

Things go crazy, Ellie falls in lurv which may become love in the future, and Ellie and love-interest have to save the world. It's life-changing, obviously, but Ellie doesn't let it derail her life completely. She doesn't possibly blow off her art school application or get married right out of high school or ditch her best friend in the face of tru lurv and harsh circumstances or even, and this is the big one, drop out of school in order to save the world which apparently cuts off the possibility of being a brilliant academic and instead becomes a mostly silent side-character.**

Instead, Ellie keeps going, gets excited about going to college and majoring in Classics, and tells love-interest that she'll visit him when she's on break. She simply takes all that she's learned from these life-changing events with her, because that's what smart girls do.

So, if you want to read an urban fantasy (a little light on the urban grit) or paranormal romance (a little light on the romance) that's headed by a smart girl, this is your book. It's also your book if you want to read the Maori Percy Jackson equivalent, a good boarding school romp, a murder mystery, a different kind of fairy book...

Book source: Philly Free Library

*How often do you see YA books with a teen character who is asexual? Not often. I'm not going to lie and say it's not a big deal at any point, but it is not THE big deal. And it is not a problem ever, except to the people crushing on the character. :)

**Was this anyone else's take-away message from Hermione's whole 1 or 2 lines in that horrible epilogue?!? I know Ginnie's important and everything, especially cause she's the mother of Harry's children, but why does she get all the speaking parts? Since when does Hermione let everyone around her do all the talking?

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anachronist said...

You know, you are very persuading in your reviews. I would love to read this one so much that I might actually buy it if I don't find it elsewhere. I loved also your asterisked comments below - very funny and acute!

Lawral the Librarian said...

Thank you! You're so sweet.

I'm glad you thought my Hermione comment was funny. I was worried I might offend. People can be very serious about their HP characters. ;)

anachronist said...

Tell me about it - I used to be a mod on one of more popular HP sites. People were willing to rip your throat open, drink your blood and dance on your grave if you insulted their fav HP character or theory!

Lawral the Librarian said...

That must have been a stressful gig!