Monday, November 14, 2011

You’ll Like it Here (Everybody Does) Book Review

Author: Ruth White. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780385739986.
Annotation:  The Blue family is forced to suddenly abandon their home in North Carolina when the residents suspect the truth about them: they are originally from the planet Chroma. Seeking a new place to live, the Blues end up in Fashion City, where everything appears harmonious and they are told over and over, “You’ll like it here. Everybody does.” But as they learn more about their new home, they realize that not everything is at it seems.
Personal thoughts:  I have to admit that the title of this novel is really what grabbed me. The creepiness of that phrase really elevated my hopes for the story. I was not disappointed! I really enjoyed You’ll Like it Here (Everybody Does) for many different reasons. It was an incredibly quick read, and I found myself unable to put it down, something that doesn’t often happen for me. I really found the author’s writing-style to be appropriate for young readers but far from juvenile. There are also many references in the novel that only older readers will be able to pick up on, making it even more interesting for parents, teachers or librarians who want to familiarize themselves with the story. I hope that this title makes school reading lists because I really think it has the potential to be a modern classic.
Plot summary: Eleven-year-old Meggie Blue and her older brother, thirteen-year-old David, love their lives in North Carolina. They live with their mother and loving grandfather who they call Gramps on a big ranch in the countryside. After a tragedy strikes their small town, however, the residents begin to suspect the truth: the Blues are not exactly human. Originally from the planet Chroma, they have been forced to relocate after pollution and disease caused their planet to become uninhabitable.  Now the Blues must flee again in the device that brought them to Earth, a “glass rocket-ship” called the Carriage. The Carriage brings them to their new home, a place called Fashion City. At first, everything about the city seems to be harmonious. They are given food, shelter and clothing and told over and over again, “You’ll like it here. Everybody does.” The population of Fashion City may be a bit drab, but the Blues are welcomed into their new lives of factory work, school, and frozen meals. It seems that in Fashion City, violent crime has been eradicated and, in its place, people are punished for things like uniqueness, daydreaming and ambition. As Meggie and David learn more about Fashion City, and the mysterious Fathers who the population praises as ensuring the survival of their town, the Blues begin to wonder if the place is truly as harmonious as it seems.
Review:  Calling to mind such classics as The Giver, Fahrenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruth White’s You’ll Like it Here (Everybody Does) is a quick but very thought-provoking novel for young readers. The story is told in alternating voices between eleven-year-old Meggie and thirteen-year-old David. Meggie begins narrating the story, and, for the first several chapters, it is not evident that the Blues are, in fact, aliens. The discovery of the truth makes for just one of many exciting twists in the plot. As adult readers are bound to pick up on, there are definite literary references in White’s description of the “utopian” Fashion City. The residents seem to be perpetually locked in a muted, communistic way of life devoid of any creativity, self-expression or ambition. Elders are rounded up for Vacation 65, a form of retirement that takes those who are no longer useful in Fashion City to a tropical paradise. The sinister overtones of the oppression in Fashion City will not be lost on younger readers. At one point in the book, a friend of Meggie’s describes how all of the pets in the city were recently rounded up as animals were found to be carriers of disease. Although the novel does take some dark turns, it doesn’t dive too intensely into the horrors of absolute control and oppression, making it a very appropriate introduction for tweens into dystopian fiction. Overall, You’ll Like it Here (Everybody Does) is a very satisfying and entertaining read for tween, teen and adult readers alike. This title would be especially interesting for a classroom discussion or book group.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 4+
Similar titles: The Giver by Lois Lowry, Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle.       
Themes:  Uniqueness, being different, aliens, oppression, race, dystopian, coming-of-age, perfection.  
Awards/Reviews:  Written by Newbery Honor Award winning author.
Series Information: N/A   
Discussion questions:
- Find out what the phrase “unreliable narrator” means. Would you describe Meggie in the first few chapters as an unreliable narrator? Why or why not?
- Were you surprised to learn that the Blues were not from Earth?
- Name four historical figures that appear in Fashion City. Why were they important to society in real life? What do you think the author included them in the novel?
- Which character did you like better: Meggie or David? Why?
- When did you realize the truth about Vacation 65?
- Would you like to read a sequel to this novel? What would you include in a sequel if you were writing one?

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