I read two great books this month, The Immortal Boy for young adults and Just Like That for the middle grade set.
The Immortal Boy
What a cool concept. The Immortal Boy by Francisco Montana Ibanez is written in both Spanish and English and packaged in the same book. English readers are enjoying the translation by David Bowles, while the Spanish version is the original and takes up the second half of the book. This is the first book written by Montana Ibanez translated in English.
The story is unique – a family of five children are on their own, living in their family home without parents. The older two children, a boy and a girl, are trying to ensure their siblings go to school and have enough to eat while trying to manage the same for themselves.
Then there is a young girl in an orphanage, there because her mom is in jail. She will do anything to befriend a boy everyone calls Immortal Boy.
“How they weave together will never leave you.”
This is a true statement of fact, although I figured out how they weaved together before the book came to a close.
What I can’t figure out, and what I hope the author will tell me during my upcoming Q&A, is whether this is set in the present time or the past and whether this is common where he lives (now or in the past). Personally, I hope it is set in the past as it’s heartbreaking to me that five children could be left without a parent and no one – not the tenant who lives in their house or school officials seem to think they should step in.
Without saying anything that can potential spoil anyone’s reading of this book, I was curious about a certain fact in this book and looked it up. Interesting.
The Immortal Boy was an interesting read with great characters – the siblings who have to do more than they should and the girl, who doesn’t let her situation get her down and who tries hard to be friends with the Immortal Boy when everyone leaves him alone.
Just Like That
I had high expectations for Gary D. Schmidt’s Just Like That set in the 1960s with Vietnam War and “social conventions as a backdrop.”
I absolutely loved, loved, loved Pay Attention Carter Jones by Schmidt, and highly recommend it to everyone, but young boys/men in particular. Amazing book. Excellent characters, great storyline and a book that showed the importance of manners, being a gentleman and the importance of helping family.
And while I didn’t love Just Like That as much as Pay Attention Carter Jones, I still really liked it.
In this book we meet Meryl Lee Kowalski who arrives at a Maine boarding school after the death of her best friend. We also meet Matt, who comes from a trouble past, but who attempts to heal in the same Maine town.
“Meryl Lee and Matt begin to face their demons and make fresh choices – singly, together and with the help of unexpected friends.”
It was an interested glimpse into a past, both the Vietnam War and what society was like to those who weren’t privileged. Meryl Lee and Matt were wonderful characters who you cheered for. There were also some truly great adult characters as well, including the headmistress of the boarding school and some of the teachers. There were some laugh out loud moments as well as some moments that were exceptionally frustrating, looking back with 2020 eyes. I am very happy I didn’t have to grow up at that time. It makes me wonder if I would be a Meryl Lee or someone who sits back and doesn’t rock the boat. I can only hope I would have been a Meryl Lee.
Some great lessons in this book as well – about working hard, finding your passion and standing up for others. Another hit, Mr. Schmidt.
A copy of these books are courtesy of Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.