Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 Alex Award winner: Room by Emma Donoghue

"Today I'm five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I'm changed to five, abracadabra."

The Alex Awards are an award given to titles written for adults that appeal to young adults. Ten titles are chosen each year, and my goal this semester was to read one 2011 winner and review it. After skimming through the premises of each one, I found Emma Donoghue's Room to be the most intriguing synopsis, due in part to its mysteriously cryptic plot description.

In Room, we meet Jack on his fifth birthday. Ma is making Jack his birthday cake, marking his height on the wall, and talking about the day God sent him to her from Heaven. On the surface, the day seems like a normal day between a stay-at-home mom and her son; but something ominous lurks beneath the surface of their story.

I do not plan on giving any of the plot away because I would not dare take the experience of discovering Jack and Ma's harrowing story away from any of you. However, I will divulge my favorite aspect of the novel: perspective. Here goes...

This is the first for-adults novel I've ever read where the entire story is narrated by a young child, and Donoghue definitely knew what she was doing. We see every moment of the day, every interaction between the characters through Jack's mind. Donoghue said that in order to create a believable narrator without confusing readers, she created a dictionary of her own son's speech, noting the words he used for ideas he didn't understand and the syntax of his sentences. Jack's language, his way of associating and learning in his everyday environment is wonderfully imaginative, honest, entertaining, and poignant.

I will warn you that this novel is a hot pick right now and is in high demand at the St. Charles and St. Louis area libraries; I reserved a copy at City-County and started out at #81! But it was well worth the wait. This original, stirring story will be sticking with me for a very long time.

5Q: Amazing plot, realistic and thoughtful characterization, and an impressive point of view that is not often used well.
3P: I think young adults would enjoy reading this novel, but I think it would take a teacher/librarian/parent to encourage them to pick it up. It would be a great example for a lesson on point of view, setting, and characterization in an educational setting.

1 comment:

  1. This book completely blew me away, and it has completely readjusted my own perspective of the world. It nearly brought me to tears many times, but I'm SO glad I read it :)