Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2015 Contenders: Across a War-Tossed Sea, by L.M. Elliott

Across a War-Tossed Sea is the story of Charles and Wesley Bishop, brothers who were evacuated from England to the USA during WWII. Through their interactions with their host family, other Americans, and even a group of German POWs, Charles and Wesley learn about themselves, the power of friendship, and what true bravery is.

It's not a bad setting, certainly, and it's not an awful book. However, Across a War-Tossed Sea falls into two of the traps that so often plague historical fiction novels, and as a result, I can't champion it for the Newbery.

The first is that, in the interest of showing a cross-section of life at the time, the book's characters tend to become stock types. So, instead of three-dimensional people, we have the evil Nazi, the noble POW, the wise and kind Native American, the racist bully, the Atticus Finch-style progressive, etc. It just made the book feel like there wasn't anything emotionally at stake, since the characters weren't real people.

The second is the tendency to try and cram historical details into dialogue and descriptive passages. This might help the book get a Common Core push, but it makes the writing awkward and the conversations stilted and stiff. Across a War-Tossed Sea has more than a few As You Know, Bob moments, and I found that they pushed me out of the narrative.

Like I said, Across a War-Tossed Sea isn't a terrible book -- the pacing is good, and I think readers who are most interested in action may well enjoy the Bishops' adventures. It also comes with something of a built-in audience, as it's billed as a "companion" to L.M. Elliott's well-regarded earlier book, Under a War-Torn Sky (2003). (The crossover is minimal, but readers familiar with the first novel will likely enjoy it.) However, I don't think it's a serious contender for the 2015 YMAs.

Published by Disney/Hyperion in April.

No comments:

Post a Comment