Saturday, April 14, 2012

Neglected Stepchild: Libyrinth

Poor Libyrinth -- by the time I read this book, I was so cranky that I was ready to pounce on any flaws. After Pearl North's book was chosen as one of the Floating Diversity Book Club selections (the January selection, actually), I ordered it up from my library and then assumed it was one of the Cybils choices.  So it wandered along in that pile until I realized my mistake, and then it got stuffed in my general reading stash.

There I forgot why I checked it out again and thought it came from my Reading My Library list, which has its own stack since I try to knock off about one a week. And when I noticed that mistake my son found it and read it, and by the time I noticed it had disappeared into his room I had only a week left to read it.  Harsh deadlines make me cranky, as does the vague feeling of guilt I get for hogging a library book for three months (King County has amazingly generous lending periods).

I had severe issues with the agency of the two main characters.  It seemed like they spent most of their time getting captured and threatened and very little time taking action or making choices. When the author had the spunkier of the two girls suddenly come down with a paralytic illness I stomped about with disgust. At least her love affairs were appropriately casual and shallow-- I feel that if one finds oneself forced to save the planet, that's where to put one's concentration. Suddenly flirting with a captor and wondering if he thinks you are pretty seems a bit off-topic.

The book's qualification of diversity is the lesbian inclinations of the more sensible heroine, the one who concentrates her attention mainly on saving the world and only admires the cuteness of a companion in her sparse free time. It also examines gender by having three societies -- one female-ruled, one male-dominated, and one apparently egalitarian. However, none of these has enough depth to really make any kind of statement.  Also, I think the characters are multi ethnic.  I pictured most of the characters as vaguely African, but I don't remember if that's because of the cover or if I noticed the description (I often don't).

There are two more books in this series, and I'll summon them from the library since my seventh grader is keen to see what happens next. Once again let me brag about my son who ignores all stereotypes about "boy books" or whatever -- he likes science fiction and flying ships, and North delivered them to him. Who cares that the viewpoint characters were female?

He was much more enthusiastic about this book -- he wants the superpower of hearing books like Haly can. He complains I over think things -- he thought the characters did great and falling in love is just a teenage thing that doesn't bother him or slow the characters down at all. I guessed he hadn't even noticed the Clauda's crush, and he scornfully laughed at me -- he had even noticed she was a lesbian. He admired how she plotted her way into getting the key technology thing. As a bibliophile, he adored the conceit of the library as the key location of all culture and information in the planet.  I think I'll take his advice and try the next book, but start it early enough not to fear the calendar.

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