Monday, August 22, 2011

Hair Makes Your Brain Sweat: Fever Crumb

Middle grade books are a category of kidlit that confuses me.  I think it means books that are too young for YA but too old for early readers, but that's a huge middle ground.  I tend to think of middle school as another name for junior high, but some books that are perfect for third graders count.  So then I started thinking of it as high elementary, but the latest Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade) finalist, Fever Crumb by Peter Reeve, felt like YA to me, so much so that I offered it to my ninth grade nephew, who read it and agreed that younger kids probably wouldn't get it.

Fever Crumb lives in a post-apocalypse London, a decade after humans have risen up against the mutants that ruled.   She was raised by Engineers, scientist types who eschew all emotion and shave their heads for some rational reason.  But now it is time for her first apprenticeship, which leads her towards all sorts of emotional and fire-arms related adventures, including meeting her parents and watching people struggle and die.  Oh, and zombies.  But she doesn't fall in love, which I guess makes it for younger kids? Odd.

Most of the book wanders about explaining the world, which unfortunately involves some flat villains wallowing in villainy, but more importantly leaves Fever reacting to everything about her instead of acting on it.  This slowed down my reading, but at the end, as she and I finally understood more about both the society and her personal history, she began to assert herself against the world directly.  I'm fairly sure my fifth grader wouldn't go for this book (and he's buried in reading right now), but I'll try the seventh grade guy.

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