Monday, June 27, 2011

Awaken Book Review

Author: Katie Kacvinsky. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 9780547371481.
Annotation:  Seventeen-year-old Madeline Freeman lives in a world that is kept in a state of perpetual safety and peace. Everything is wired: school is digital, relationships, activities, everything is done by computer from home. But when she starts to see that this life is missing something, she must choose between being safe and really living.  
Personal thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book and read through it very quickly! It definitely makes a statement about how wired we are in today’s society and the slippery slope that lies ahead. As an former-Oregonian, I did find Kacvinsky’s use of Corvallis as a bustling metropolis of the future kind of funny. Other than that, the story was very interesting and well written. According to her website, she plans to write a sequel, Middle Ground, coming soon. I look forward to it!
Plot summary: The year is 2060, and seventeen-year-old Madeline “Maddie” Freeman lives a very sheltered digital life. In Madeline’s society, everything is done online from home. Children are educated through Digital School, a program created by Maddie’s father, and very little face-to-face interaction occurs anymore. Maddie has come to terms with her digital life, but this hasn’t always been the case. When she was fifteen, Maddie hacked into her father’s computer, releasing important information to those opposed to Digital School. This serious crime could have landed Maddie in a detention center for life, but her father’s influence saved her, and now she lives in a state of house arrest: her actions are monitored, websites she can visit controlled, and she is not allowed to socialize with anyone in person. Everything changes, however, when Maddie meets an online friend in person for the first time. His name is Justin, and Maddie quickly learns that he is one of the rebels opposed to Digital School that she helped in the past. Justin tries to convince Maddie that her digital life isn’t reality and that he and the rest of the rebels need her help. But can Maddie really turn on her family, even if she is opposed to her father’s creation?
Review:  This debut novel from author Katie Kacvinsky is a thrilling combination of technology, adventure and romance in an interesting futuristic setting. The society in Maddie’s 2060 is very conceivable given the current trends of our reliance on computers. Far more social interaction is done online in 2011 than ever before, and the complete shutting out of face-to-face relationships in favor of the safety of the computer screen doesn’t seem so improbable. Perhaps one of the best parts of Awaken is that it will likely shed light on these issues for teen readers who might be overly caught up in their Facebook, text messaging or online games. Apart from this hard look in the mirror, Kacvinsky has crafted an intriguing plot and set of characters that will surely make for a good series. Maddie is a very likable protagonist and her strained romance with Justin will likely remain at the forefront of the story in the next installments. The futuristic technology Kacvinsky creates, cars that can go underwater as submarines, lipstick-sized stun guns, add to the fun. A good start to a promising series.
Genre: Fiction/Adventure
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Divergent by Veronica Roth and The Giver by Lois Lowry.
Themes:  Technology, relationships, in-person vs. online interactions, romance, rebellion.   
Awards/Reviews:  N/A  
Series Information: Sequel Middle Ground coming soon.

Discussion Questions:

- Do you think that Digital School could actually become a reality? Why or why not?

- Why do you think that Maddie is against digital school? Would you feel the same way she does? Why or why not?

- Do you think that Maddie and Justin should try to have a romantic relationship? Why or why not?

- Why do you think Maddie's father wants to protect Digital School so much?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tiger’s Curse Book Review

Author: Colleen Houck. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Splinter. ISBN: 9781402784033.
Annotation:  Kelsey just graduated high school and isn’t sure what lies ahead for her, especially since her parents, who were killed in a car accident, are not around to guide her.  After she gets a temp job working at a travelling circus, she meets Ren, a mysterious white tiger who seems to be more than just a wild animal.
Personal thoughts: Although I wasn’t always a huge fan of Colleen Houck’s writing style, I did enjoy this book when it was all said and done. As a protagonist, Kelsey can be irritating at times, falling into such Bella-esque character flaws as whining, insecurity, and general angst. For me, the real enjoyment I found in the book lay in Ren and the tiger curse, as well as the setting in India. I look forward to reading the just released sequel, Tiger’s Quest.  
Plot summary: Eighteen-year-old Kelsey just graduated high school and lives a humdrum life with her adoptive parents in her home state of Oregon. Kelsey’s own parents were killed years before in a car accident, and she isn’t sure what life holds for her now that she’s an adult. After getting a temporary job at a travelling circus, Kelsey becomes enamored with a mysterious white tiger named Dhiren, or Ren. Kelsey is fond of the tiger with his soulful blue eyes, so she spends her free time reading to him and talking to him about her life. One afternoon, a friendly Indian man named Mr. Kadam visits the circus and informs Kelsey and Ren’s circus handlers that a man in India has offered to purchase the tiger for a hefty fee. The circus accepts, and Mr. Kadam asks Kelsey, who obviously has formed a bond with Ren, to accompany him and the tiger to India in order to make his transition into his new life easier. After arriving in India, Kelsey quickly learns that Ren is not actually a tiger, he is an Indian prince (an incredibly handsome one at that) who was cursed centuries before to spend his life as a tiger. Ren can only spend 24 minutes each day in his human form, and begs Kelsey to help him figure out a way to end the curse. Mr. Kadam, who is actually Ren’s faithful servant, Kelsey and Ren embark on an adventure in India that is beyond Kelsey’s wildest expectations.  
Review:  This debut novel of Houck’s Tiger’s Curse series sets the stage for a new fantasy series that is sure to excite readers who enjoy ancient curses, adventure and romance. It is obvious that Houck has done her research into the history and landscape of India. The story is chock full of references to ancient Indian figures as well as Indian dress, locations and landscapes. Houck’s writing-style is highly descriptive, which, at times, ventures into the realm of overkill (is it really necessary to know that Kelsey shampooed her hair twice in the shower?), but does set the stage well for the plot. She has also created a cast of characters that are complex enough to maintain the reader’s interest throughout this budding series. The romance between Kelsey and Ren is, obviously, the main selling point of the novel. Houck does an excellent job of describing just how handsome and dashing Ren in, as well as how madly in love he falls with the somewhat awkward Kelsey. Kelsey’s efforts to convince herself that Ren is only going to break her heart do, at times, seem contrived, but Houck has created enough sexual tension between the two to keep the reader interested. The addition of Ren’s brother, Kishan, a fellow tiger cursee, can only add to the mix. Overall, a good start to a promising series.
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Adventure
Reading level: Grade 6+

Similar titles: N/A
Themes:  India, curses, romance, sibling relationships.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Booklist.  
Series Information: Book one in the Tiger’s Curse series. Book two, released on June 7, 2011, Tiger’s Quest.

Discussion Questions:

- What aspects of the novel do you think are realistic? What aspects are not?

- Did you learn anything about India or Indian mythology after reading this novel? What did you learn?

- Who do you like better: Ren or Kishan? Why?

- What do you think this series has in store for Kelsey, Ren and Kishan? What would you like to see happen?

- Who is your favorite character in the novel? Why?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons from a Dead Girl Book Review

Release date: 2007. Author: Jo Knowles. Publisher: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 9780763644857.
Annotation: Leah Greene is dead, and Lainey reflects on her long-time friendship with the beautiful, troubled teen.
Personal thoughts: This was a very difficult book to read due to the subject matter, but also very well written. Knowles tackles some really tough issues about sexual abuse, friendship and loss. I would recommend it, but only with a warning that it’s not in any way light or fluffy.
Plot summary: After Leah Green is tragically killed, Laine reflects on their relationship as she tries to come to terms with the death. Leah and Lainey have been friends since they were little. As they were growing up they did everything together: had sleepovers, told secrets, played with dolls. But something was different about their friendship. Leah has a troubled past and was sexually abusive to Lainey, telling her that what they did was just practice for when they got older and began to date boys. Lainey was confused by her friend’s actions. Leah’s charisma and popularity made it hard for Lainey to question anything her friend says or does, but she knew that what they do in the “doll closet” was wrong. She felt dirty and guilty. As they grew up, Lainey struggled as Leah began to drift away, making new friends and becoming increasingly popular at school. Lainey is confused, and is constantly haunted by Leah’s past actions and taunting. At every turn, Lainey can hear Leah’s voice inside her head, reminding her that she liked what they did together. As Lainey thinks about her troubled friend’s life, will she be able to forgive her?
Review: Lessons from a Dead Girl is a truly haunting and heartbreaking story about abuse, friendship and forgiveness. The novel opens with the death of Leah Greene, and the rest of the story is broken up into chapters named with a lesson Lainey learned from her friend. As more and more about Leah and Lainey’s friendship is revealed, the truth about the abuse subjected upon Lainey at the hands of a peer becomes clear. Sexual abuse between friends, siblings, or children who are close in age is not something that is talked about as frequently as between an adult and a child. As the reader learns about Leah’s actions, it’s obvious that Leah herself has been sexually abused (it is later revealed that a family friend, Sam, is the person responsible for victimizing Leah.) This type of abuse has been presented in previous teen literature, but few novels have touched upon sexual abuse between friends in quite the same as Knowles does in Lessons from a Dead Girl. The novel itself is very well-written, but extremely difficult to read due to the subject matter. Teen and adult readers alike will find themselves sickened by Leah’s treatment of the innocent and trusting Lainey, as well as by the abuse Leah must have suffered herself. And while Leah is somewhat of an antagonist, her death is truly tragic despite the fact that Lainey is now free from her abuse. The story will raise many questions in the reader’s mind about Lainey’s struggles: What could she have done to help her friend? Is there any grace in Leah’s tragic death since she was clearly very troubled? Will Lainey ever be able to truly forgive Leah? Thoughts like these will remain in the reader’s mind long after the book has been completed. An excellent but heartbreaking read for teens.
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 9+

Similar titles: Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.
Themes: Friendship, abuse, loss.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal and Booklist. Winner of Pen New England Children’s Book Discovery Away and a Gold Star Award for Excellence from Named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Nominated for a Georgia Peach Book Award for 2009-2010. Named a Teen Top Choice at Flamingnet Book Reviews.
Series Information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- How did reading this book make you feel? Sad? Angry? Upset? Why?

- Why do you think that Lainey has such a hard time letting go of Leah?

- Why do you think Leah did the things she did to Lainey? Is Leah a victim too?

- In the end, do you think Leah was a good friend to Lainey? Why or why not?

- What are some ways you can help a friend if you suspect he or she is being abused?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Switched - My Sister the Vampire #1 Book Review

Author: Sienna Mercer. Release date: 2007. Publisher:  HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780060871130.

Annotation:  Olivia Abbott is determined to make the most of being the new girl at Franklin Grove middle school. Little does she know that new friend, goth-girl, Ivy Vega, is actually her identical twin sister…and a vampire!

Personal thoughts: I have to admit that I felt pretty silly wanting to run and get the next installment in this fun and interesting series. I think that these books are a wonderful substitute for younger readers who may not be ready to venture into vampire novels like Twilight or The House of Night series. I would highly recommend these to tweens who want something sugary with a dash of gothic.

Plot summary: Bubbly middle-school cheerleader, Olivia Abbott, is determined to make the best of her family’s move to a new town. She starts school and immediately seeks out the cheerleaders to befriend. It seems that the popular girls at this school, however, are not the nicest people in the world. One day, Olivia meets goth girl, Ivy Vega. Ivy is the opposite of Olivia: she wears black clothes and thick eyeliner, and is far from the cheerleading type. As Olivia gets to know Ivy better she makes a startling discovery: Ivy looks a lot like her, in fact, she and Ivy are identical twins! Things get even weirder when Olivia learns that their fashion choices aren’t the only thing different between them: Ivy is actually one of many vampires who call Olivia’s new town home. Despite their differences, Olivia and Ivy become close, and decide to help each other out, even if they have to switch places from time to time to do it! But can a vampire and a cheerleader really pose as one another without getting noticed?

Review: Switched is the first novel in Mercer’s My Sister the Vampire series which has since been followed up by five additional installments, with two more being published in 2011. It is a very interesting and original story, with likeable characters and a believable setting. Ivy and Olivia have a pretty fantastical story, but they deal with issues that are common in middle school: crushes, bullies, peer pressure, and self-confidence. The vampire aspect of the story only adds to the fun. Although this installment of the series does not go into too much detail about exactly how Ivy and Olivia were separated at birth and why Ivy is a vampire but Olivia isn’t, Mercer manages to make the reader care enough about her characters to want to find out how they came to be in their situation. A very good start to a popular series for tweens.

Genre: Fiction/Vampire-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 4+

Similar titles: Other titles in the My Sister the Vampire series by Sienna Mercer. This Totally Bites (2010) by Ruth Ames. Monster High (2010) by Lisi Harrison.

Themes: Twins, vampires, middle-school, sisters.

Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

Series Information: Part of My Sister the Vampire series by Sienna Mercer. Titles: Switched (2007), Fangtastic! (2007), Re-Vamped! (2007), Vampalicious (2008), Take Two! (2011), Love Bites! (2011), Lucky Break! (coming in 2011), Star Style (coming in 2011)

Discussion Questions:

- Who do you identify with more: Olivia or Ivy? Why?

- Do you think the vampires in this series are different or similar to the traditional idea of the vampire?

- What are some other stories, TV shows, or movies with twins? Why do you think twins are commonly featured in fictional stories?

- Do you think it's right for Ivy to pose as Olivia and vice versa? Why or why not?

- What are some situations you would like to see Ivy and Olivia pose as eachother in?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Book Review

Author: Stephen Chbosky. Release date: 1999. Publisher:  Pocket Books. ISBN: 9780671027346.
Annotation:  Charlie is different from other teens: he’s very sensitive, he doesn’t think of things the way other people do, but he’s determined to participate in the experiences of his freshman year of high school as much as possible. After befriending two seniors, Charlie finally begins to feel a part of something. 
Personal thoughts: I am a fan! This is a classic young adult novel that is also thoroughly enjoyable for adults. Charlie is one of the most endearing main characters ever written particularly because he is utterly quirky.  I am really looking forward to the movie version that is set to come out in 2012.
Plot summary: Charlie starts his freshman year of high school in the fall of 1991 and chronicles his experiences through letters to an unknown person (simply called “Friend”). The story begins with Charlie expressing how upset he is that his best friend, Michael, has recently committed suicide. It is clear that Charlie is an unusual fifteen-year-old. In his letters to his friend, he seems to think about things other people do not. After he is befriended by brother and sister, Sam and Patrick, both seniors, Charlie begins to experience things outside of his own mind. He is introduced to friends of Sam and Patrick, he attends parties and experiments with alcohol and drugs, and he explores his sexuality in his love for Sam. Throughout his letters, Charlie alludes to previous hospitalizations for psychiatric reasons, but divulges little about the nature of his psychological problems. As he encounters typical teen situations, Charlie must deal with them in his own way. Often he cries or says and does the wrong thing, but he is always, simply put, Charlie.
Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a very engaging story about a very endearing character. Almost from the beginning, the reader will fall in love with Charlie and his quirkiness. Although it is clear that he has some deeply rooted psychological issues, Charlie’s zest for his experiences is addicting. Charlie truly values the relationships he has with the people in his life. He discusses in great detail his feelings for his family, his friends Sam and Patrick, and his encouraging teacher, Bill. He also describes other experiences ranging from masturbation to acid trips to fighting. In every detail, however, Charlie provides an unusual but realistic look at what many teens experience. Charlie’s prose is a look at what teens might think or feel if they weren’t inhibited by the need to appear “normal.” Charlie realizes that he’s odd, but it doesn’t change who he is or how he feels. Charlie’s life and experiences draw the reader in, making the book difficult to put down. Teens and adults alike will find something in Charlie or in the people in his life to relate to. Charlie’s friend Sam must struggle with the sexual victimization she received as a child. Her brother, Patrick, is dealing with being a closet homosexual who is in love with the high school’s star athlete. Charlie’s sister has an abusive boyfriend who threatens to abandon her he finds out she’s pregnant. All of the characters in the novel are very relatable and create a rich and compelling cast for the plot. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky has created a fun, interesting, entertaining but also very sweet, sentimental and emotional read.
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: N/A
Themes:  High school relationships, being different.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Los Angeles Times, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.
Series Information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- Who do you think Charlie is writing to? How do you think the letter format enhances the story? Do you think the story would be different if told in the third-person?
- Do you like Charlie? Sam? Patrick? Who is your favorite character?
- Why do you think this book is so controversial?
- How do you think you would feel about the various situations Charlie encounters?
- How do you think the story would be different if it took place in the present day instead of 1991?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Divergent Book Review

Author: Veronica Roth. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books. ISBN: 9780062024022.

Annotation:  In Beatrice’s post-apocalyptic Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each devoted to a certain personality trait. When a person turns 16-years-old, they participate in a ceremony where they choose the faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives. Beatrice was born into Abnegation, the faction dedicated to selflessness, but has always felt a strong pull towards Dauntless, the faction devoted to bravery. Can she choose between being who she is and abandoning the family she loves forever?

Personal thoughts: Roth’s first novel in the Divergent trilogy has left me with a ravenous hunger for the next installment! An intriguing, entertaining and fun read full of adventure and romance. I enjoyed this far more than Westerfeld’s dystopian Uglies series, and loved it almost as much as Hunger Games (though not quite!) I have a strong feeling that this series is poised to be the next “big thing” in teen literature and highly recommend getting on board as early as possible!

Plot summary: In Beatrice’s post-apocalyptic Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each devoted to a different personality trait: Amity to peace, Abnegation to selflessness, Dauntless to bravery, Erudite to intelligence, and Candor to honesty. The factions intermingle, but members live starkly different lives depending on the one they belong to. Beatrice was born in Abnegation, but has always felt that she is not selfless enough to remain in the faction. When she and her brother, Caleb, turn 16-years-old, they get to participate in the choosing ceremony where they will decide which faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives. Before the ceremony, all 16-year-olds partake in an aptitude test that determines which faction they would be best suited for. When Beatrice takes the test, her tester, a woman from Dauntless, informs her that her results show her to be “divergent:” showing aptitude for more than one faction. This trait is very dangerous, and the tester warns Beatrice to keep quiet about it. When it comes time to choose, how will Beatrice decide between being herself and the family she loves?

Review:  This first installment in Roth’s Divergent trilogy is certain to delight any reader who enjoys post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels, as well as anyone who simply likes a good story full of adventure, excitement and romance! Roth does an excellent job of creating likable, interesting characters with enough depth to last through the trilogy. Beatrice is a formidable leading lady and gives Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy a definite run for her money as toughest damsel in distress. Indeed, fans of the Hunger Games will definitely find a new novel to love in Divergent, as Roth’s story comes just short of surpassing Collins’ successful first installment. What is slightly more satisfying in Roth’s novel is the romance between Beatrice and her initiation trainer in her new faction, a young man known simply as “Four.” Beatrice and Four clearly have a bond from the start, but the formation of their inevitable romance is one of the most satisfying parts of the story. Thrown into the mix is a good amount of adventure, violence, and conflict that makes for an incredibly entertaining novel. Overall, I highly recommend Divergent to teen or adult readers who are interested in beginning and very thrilling and promising new trilogy.

Genre: Fiction/Adventure/Post-apocalytpic

Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.

Themes:  Belonging, being oneself, human nature, family/friend relationships, overcoming fear.  

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Bookpage.   

Series Information: First installment in Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth.

Discussion Questions:

- What does the word "dystopian" means? Would you describe this novel as dystopian?

- What faction would you want to join? Why?

- Do you agree with Beatrice's decision? Why or why not?

- What do you think it means to be "divergent"?

- How does this novel compare with "The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rotters Book Review

Author: Daniel Kraus. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Delacorte Press. ISBN: 9780385738576.
Annotation:  After his mother’s death, Joey Crouch is sent from his home in Chicago to live with the father he’s never met in Iowa. Ken Harnett is as far from an ideal father as it gets: he lives in a small, filthy shack, is always covered in dirt and a strange, foul odor, and disappears for days at a time leaving Joey to fend for himself. Soon Joey makes a startling discovery about Harnett, however, that explains his strange behavior: his father is a professional grave robber.
Personal thoughts: Wow. This is certainly different from any book I have ever read, and was, at times, very difficult to get through. I’m not sure what to make of it. It is very well written and the characters are engaging, but in a horrifying way. Kraus dives head first into the utterly macabre, and only brave readers should dare to follow him into the world six-feet-under. While the novel will make your stomach turn, you will find yourself unable to wait arriving at the fascinating conclusion. I will definitely remember Rotters for a long time.
Plot summary: Joey Crouch has lived a sheltered life in Chicago with his eccentric but loving mother. After she is tragically killed in a bus accident, Joey is sent to live with the father he has never met in the small town of Bloughton, Iowa. Not sure what to expect, Joey’s worst fears are realized when his new smalltown life fraught with unhappiness: his father, Ken Harnett, is an unkempt and unfriendly man who immediately lets Joey know that his presence is not desired. Joey is treated horribly at his new high school, constantly mocked, bullied, and abused by students and teachers. Joey does find some solace in the company of his friendly band teacher who encourages him to continue playing trumpet, a skill fostered by his mother. But as Joey’s life becomes more and more depressing, even music seems pointless in the endless monotony of torment. One night, Joey decides to learn the truth about his father’s odd behavior and hides in his truck as he leaves for another one of his late night trips. Joey soon discovers Harnett’s secret: he is a professional grave robber, or Digger, who makes a living pawning the treasures he steals from the dead. At first, Joey is horrified. Soon, however, he is drawn into the mysterious world of the Diggers as Harnett teaches him the finer points of uncovering a corpse.
Review:  This tense and often disturbing novel packs a powerful punch on many different fronts. The opening of the novel outlines the strange relationship between Joey and his mother then quickly jumps into the events following her death. After Joey arrives in Middle America, the juxtaposition of his experiences at his new high school and the “adventures” he has with his father makes for an interesting but also horrifying plot. Once Joey learns that he is good at his father’s craft, he uses digging as a means of escaping the torment, abuse, and bullying enacted upon him at his high school. The satisfaction the reader feels at Joey’s overcoming these obstacles is curious in light of the fact that it is obtained through his enjoyment of grave robbing with his long-lost pops. Graphic descriptions of what can be found six-feet-under, including such phrases as “coffin liquor” and “the boneyard blues,” make parts of the novel difficult to get through in a stomach churning way. These horrors, however, are what make Rotters such a unique, utterly original, and highly memorable novel.  Kraus does a fantastic job of turning something as disgusting as grave robbing into a means for a father and son to connect. The novel, while written for young adults, definitely has a place in adult literature as well, and can be enjoyed by any reader who wants something truly different from anything they’ve ever read.
Genre: Fiction/Horror
Reading level: Grade 10+

Similar titles: N/A
Themes:  Father/son relationships, grave robbing, death/loss, high school, bullying, feeling like an outsider, traditions.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from authors R.L. Stine, Scott Westerfeld, Guillermo Del Toro, Chuck Hogan, and Michael Grant.  
Series Information: N/A

Discussion Questions:

- Had you ever heard of grave robbing before reading this novel? What had you heard? What did you learn?

- Do you think Joey's father's "job" helped the relationship between the two? Why or why not?

- Why do you think Joey was bullied in school? Have you ever been bullied?

- Do you think what Joey and his father did was wrong? Why or why not?

- What does the word "macabre" mean? How does it apply to this novel?