This app version of the short story culled from the collection in Dubliners explores the inner journey from childhood to adulthood. With beautiful prose and psychological depth, this is quintessential Joyce, in which coming of age is set squarely on the road to disillusionment.
The author's carefully nuanced descriptions of a dreary Dublin neighborhood are illustrated with Töttös’ gorgeous graphics, rendered in sepia tones and in a style reminiscent of the Edwardian era, in which Dubliners was first published. Initially illuminated through the lens of a child's imagination, the neighborhood gradually loses its luster as the young narrator's story unfolds. Frustrated at every turn by adults and impatient to leave childhood behind, his journey into adulthood is embodied in his attempt to travel on the train to the Araby bazaar and purchase a gift for the idealized object of his intense first crush. Available in six languages (and bracketed by an original music loop brief enough to be enjoyable), the text is accompanied by subtle sound effects—of village life, creaky floors, music at the titular bazaar—and occasional animations. The minute hand travels inexorably around a clock face as the boy waits; two two-shilling pieces clink gently when his uncle finally gives him train fare. This app is not remarkable for its interactive features, which are minimal, but for its respect for the source material.
A classic story in an appealing format.
(iPad storybook app. 14 & up)
Brazilian-American Sebastian “Bash” Alvaréz is just trying to get by when he meets the nerdy, white Birdie Paxton. The two spark up some romantic fire, but disaster quickly strikes. Late one night, Bash and his ne’er-do-well pal “Wild” Kyle are driving erratically (Kyle is at the wheel) and slam right into Birdie’s baby brother, Benny. The boys flee the scene, while Benny slips into a coma and the town begins to hunt for the perpetrators of the hit-and-run. Bash keeps his secret from Birdie as they grow closer, and readers will roll their eyes at the excessive misery. The author gives Bash a dying mother to balance out the equation, but the choice overloads the devastation factor. With everything emotional and awful and crazy and turned up to 11, nothing really sticks out. The two moping, guilt-ridden protagonists are drawn well enough—they alternate narration—but seem to be stuck in a narrative hell bent on getting readers to cry. Secondary characters are poorly sketched, given no interior life, and merely activated to interact with Birdie and Bash. The novel’s end is disproportionately sunny and hopeful, giving readers tonal whiplash. A last-minute Hail Mary act gets the teens out of the narrative corner, but it feels spectacularly tacked-on.
A tear-jerker that fails to connect despite desperate effort.
Ava Ling Magee, a college freshman at Davison University, struggles with her mixed-race heritage and a ruthless and controlling parent in Stoffers’ debut for teens.
When Ava arrives at the dorms, she’s greeted with a typical question: “Who’s Chinese? Your mom or dad?” Her response? “Neither.” It’s a bald-faced lie, as Ava is Chinese on her mother’s side and Caucasian on her dad’s. For most of her life, Ava has felt split between two worlds, unable to feel either Chinese enough or white enough. Worse, Mei physically and verbally abuses Ava (using both English and Mandarin obscenities freely), while her dad buries himself in work. Daring to major in English, not cellular biology, Ava finds a mentor in Professor Chen, whose hair features multicolored streaks and who encourages Ava to see herself in valuable ways. Another discovery, her Chinese grandmother’s diary, written during China’s Cultural Revolution, may hold treasured insights that could heal Ava’s present. While the author shines in some moments, notably with Professor Chen and Lao lao’s diary, her prose would benefit from hearty and tough-love doses of pruning. The inclusion of Ava’s parents’ back story and narrative shifts to their perspectives detract from Ava, as she’s whole enough to carry the book. Complex racial-identity themes run deep; though overdone at times, they nonetheless expose many of the challenges of being biracial. As an alternative means of exploring these themes, readers may prefer The Latte Rebellion, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson (2011), written for a slightly younger audience.
Provocative themes help to mitigate textual infelicities.
(Fiction. 16 & up)