Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nerds Heart YA Review: Donut Days

Welcome to Round 1 of the Nerds Heart YA book tournament! This year we're looking at little known YA literature that have a focus on different kinds of diversity (race, sexual orientation, religion, etc). As part of the tournament, Angela of Bookish Blather and I were asked to read The World Is Mine (Come Up Series #1) by Lyah B. LeFlore and Donut Days by Lara Zielin.

I suggest that you visit Angela's blog first to read our thoughts on The World is Mine, then come back here to read what we thought of Donut Days. Then, check back later today to find out the winner of this round!


Lorin
In some ways, Donut Days couldn't have been more different from The World is Mine. Then again, there's something really universal about teenagers trying to figure out their place in the world and how to shape their future.

Angela
When I finished reading Donut Days , I was totally unsure how to judge it against The World is Mine . The books really are soooooooooo different. But you're right, teens trying to find their place is universal and appears in both books. Emma is trying to define herself separately from her parents - stepping far away from the evangelical world she's been raised in. Blue is doing the same, questioning whether the law degree his father desperately wants him to have is best for him. Also, Emma is a flawed protagonist (rather selfish with her point of view), like I think the author may have been trying to make Blue (but went overboard).

Lorin
It was really interesting to read a book that was so overtly about God and religion and being spiritual. Granted, I avoid Christian fiction like the plague, since I hate being preached to. But Donut Days didn't seem preachy to me, maybe because I thought it was actually really funny.

Angela
Like you, I avoid preachy Christian fiction - but I do enjoy books that explore religion, so the premise of this one was right up my alley.

Lorin
I thought that the author, Lara Zielin, did a great job of presenting different viewpoints in way that (usually) didn't feel like a Point/Counterpoint essay. And Emma's parents, who could have easily been portrayed as crackpots (Adam was a hermaphrodite? The earth was created 6,000 years ago?) came across as genuinely incredibly sweet people.

Angela
I thought Emma's parents were really interesting. When it opened with the "Adam as hermaphrodite" theory, I was sure the problem was going to be that her parents were overly liberal which would cause problems within the church. To see them hold that crazy theory - but simultaneously believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old, which seems to be from a much more conservative view point - was a little jarring. Maybe the hermaphrodite theory has a theological grounding I'm not aware of (I actually just went to Google it and "Adam was a hermaphrodite" was the top suggestion after I typed "Adam was a," so it's clearly not something the author made up), but it stuck out to me in a weird way. Not bad, but it was a little weird.

Lorin
Just from Googling, it looks like the hermaphrodite theory is more common in Judaism. I had never heard of it before this book, either. It still seems a little weird to me, but then again, any religion seems weird to an outside person.

Angela
I absolutely loved the Angelfire Witnesses. The "bikers with a heart of gold" trope isn't exactly new, but the bikers were so well developed that they felt like full characters, not at all stereotypes. They were easily my favorite part of the novel.

Lorin
Bear, the Angelfire Witness who befriended Emma, was awesome. You're right - he was definitely a type. But he was just so great! Makes me wish I had a born-again biker friend who looks like he eats kittens for breakfast!

Angela
The one stereotypical character? The daughter of the man in the church with the "prophesy" [Molly]

Lorin
Other than her brother Jake, Molly's whole family were just The Villains. I could tell that the author was trying to give Molly some motivation (beyond just being a stuck up brat. How many teens gets a company named after them?) when she had Nat and Emma mention that Molly might have been jealous of their friendship. But since we never heard from Molly herself, like we heard from Nat, it was easy to just place her in the "villain" category and forget about it.

The biggest flaw in the book, I thought, was that it was maybe a little too light. It was a really quick read and the ending just wrapped everything up very nicely. Okay, maybe there was a little hint of a cliffhanger at the end, but it was so low stakes, I wasn't really concerned.

Angela
This was definitely an overall lighthearted, low-stakes book. The weight of the novel comes from Emma's struggle with her faith - and the faith of her family and friends. I enjoyed that she wasn't the sort of preacher's kid who totally rejected her parents' faith in favor of hardcore atheism. Her faith is much more nuanced and subtle, which I think is what kept the book from being preachy. Since at the beginning of the novel she was pretty sure of her beliefs, she didn't have to spend time convincing us about them - which is also part of her stubbornness. She knows what she believes, she thinks she's right, so why does she have to listen to opposing view points?

Lorin
I definitely liked that Emma wasn't a stereotypical pastor's kid. She was neither a goody-two-shoes, nor was she the rebelling wild child. She was just a teen who liked some aspects of her parents life and didn't like others. But she was definitely more accepting of her own path than of anyone else's. I thought the resolution of this, and her conflict with best friend Nat, was a little pat, but generally I thought Emma's development felt pretty natural.

Angela
I think part of the "pat"-ness of the resolution comes from how quickly the whole novel happened. It's basically only two days in the donut camp, with brief flashbacks, like to the day of her baptism. I wish the book had been a little bit longer, to give adequate time to really build up the tension (and thus possibly not make Molly & her father look like such cartoon villains) as well as give a little more time to resolving Emma and Nat's conflict.

Lorin
Can you imagine how different Donut Days would have been if its structure had been more like The World is Mine, where we get to hear from all the characters?

Angela
There definitely could have been a lot more room to explore Molly, because after Nat explained a bit of her motivation at the end, it became obvious that Molly was more than just a mean girl. I don't know if I would have wanted it to go so far as changing the narrative style to multiple first person narrators, like The World is Mine, but a little more time with her would definitely have been worth it! I'm a big fan of well-done villains (some might call it an obsession), so I definitely would have liked more from her.

Summary
Here's what we thought about Donut Days:
- Well done with potentially sensitive topic
- Sympathetic main character
- Too short
- Stereotypical villain

Stay tuned for later today, when we compare the two books and pick a winner to proceed to the next round.

1 comment:

  1. Even if I didn't already know the winner, based on the two discussions I would say you should pick Donut Days, even though I haven't read it.

    I always worry that Christian fiction will be too preachy and I'm glad this one was not. It doesn't really sound like something that would interest me, but I do want to get to know Bear, so I may have to read it :)

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