To Go: 85
11. The Conversations – Michael Ondaatje
12. The Birth House – Ami McKay
13. Essex County – Jeff Lemire
14. Mary-Anne Saves The Day – Ann M. Martin
15. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp – R.L. Stine
I guess I lied when I said I’d be reviewing Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You next, because though I’m close to halfway through the book, I had to read R.L. Stine’s The Werewolf of Fever Swamp first, since we’re discussing it in children’s lit tomorrow.
The book centres around Grady Tucker, a twelve-year-old whose family just moved to Florida so that his father can study swamp deers in their natural habitat. Their new home borders on a massive swamp. Every time Grady goes exploring in the swamp, he encounters something new (from a peat bog to a snake that bites him, and even a swamp hermit), and every night he hears the howling of what he thinks is a wolf. And then he meets a wolf-like dog. When animals from the swamp start being killed each night, the neighbourhood – and Grady’s family – blames Grady’s new wolf-dog for the disturbances. Grady’s faced with the task of proving that his dog isn’t the killer everyone believes him to be, and in the process he discovers something very disturbing about his friend.
I didn’t actually hate the book. Given that I’d read Mary Anne Saves The Day last week, I wasn’t expecting much out of this one – both of the books are supposed to be representative of gender-specific children’s literature, so I thought they’d be comparable in terms of nauseating content. However, for the most part, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp was pretty interesting. I was extremely surprised by the final plot twist, which usually doesn’t happen in novels I read for children’s lit – by the time I get to the final pages, I can anticipate what happens. Not with this book, though.
However, I didn’t like the subtle gender stereotypes that were encoded: Emily, Grady’s older sister, was written as overly emotional, dramatic, shrill, and whiny, whereas Grady described himself as “the calm one in the family. I take after Dad” (13). Unsurprising that his “calm” nature comes from his father – it’s like a quiet throwback to the days of Father Knows Best, where all the men are cool heads of rational logic, and females are overdramatic, and overreact to everything. Not to mention that for a “calm” character, Grady sure does know how to throw a hissy fit – over, and over, and over again. He, for the most part, was a generally unlikeable character.
It wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t good either. I just have lukewarm feelings about it.
Next book: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You – Peter Cameron