Thursday, March 8, 2007

Surrender, by Sonya Hartnett


The first book on my journey to understand the contemporary world is the 2007 Printz Award Honor Book Surrender, by Sonya Hartnett. Surrender was a great selection. It is one of the most frightening and compelling books that I have ever read (reassuringly, this is an instance of the cover being a very good indicator of the type of narrative contained inside).

My booktalk below gives some of the details related to the scene or situation that generates much of the action and suspense in this novel. However, what is really provocative about Surrender is the plot that follows from this situation. Basically, Hartnett creates a complex relationship between the main character, Anwell, and a "friend" named Finnegan. Through this relationship, Hartnett explores the meaning of isolation and friendship, and what it means to live in a world full of ghosts and terror (interestingly, the setting is Australia--Hartnett is Australian--but the setting for Surrender could be any rural environment in the developed world).

Surrender would be a terrific book to teach in 9th or 10th grade, and maybe even 8th grade, in juxtaposition with other suspenseful narratives such as ones written by Edgar Alan Poe. But the book also stands on its own; it is beautifully written, has lots of religious imagery, and contains subtle commentary on social problems in the contemporary world. The ending is guaranteed to produce energetic debate and discussion. This is a rare novel that will be read and enjoyed by both struggling and advanced readers.

I personally would think carefully about giving this book to a younger middle school student, especially ones who may not be comfortable with psychological suspense and horror. There are some violent incidents--nothing terribly bloody--but the telling is relentless in its darkness and gravity. Young adolescents and pre-adolescents will be drawn to the book; if this happens, I suggest asking them to postpone their reading, or engaging them in conversation about it. There is a lot to talk about.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

i hated this book..my english had to make us read it
.. yes , im in grade 9. its too difficult and the language used is too complicated...

courtneycritical said...

I read this book for my culture project. We had to really get into our stories and look at alot of the traditions, philosophies, and ideas in the books. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who doesnt like to read or think...it's a very intriguing story that is amazing once you take the time to really visualize it. I am in 10th grade.

Tom Philion said...

Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you had a chance to read this book--it is a bit edgy, but I also think it is a real page-turner.

I recommend all of the books on the right sidebar--they are terrific too.

Take care.

TP

Tom Philion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anon. said...

I'm in ninth grade and I think this book was slightly confusing to read, but I loved it 'til the very end ^^ Actually, my friend told me that Finnigan was imaginary before I read the book; if she hadn't, I really wouldn't have got the book much... Anwell/Gabriel was schizophrenic or something right? Well I'm not too sure about the ending, but the book still left me with a big impression =)

Anonymous said...

Probably one of my favourite books. I'm in eighth grade, and I know a few people my age I'd recommend it to, but I suppose it wouldn't be suitable for everybody in my grade. I'm not going to lie and say I understood it perfectly at first, but after a bit of re-reading more carefully it came together quite well. The way this book was written was beautiful, and flowed quite well, not a hard read at all. Towards the end you have to pay some closer attention, though.

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