BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations
We are delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Melissa Savage's new book The Truth About Martians.
Read on for a review of the book followed by an exclusive guest post by author Melissa about how author Judy Blame inspired her to tap into the power of the unreliable narrator in her stories.
Book Title: The Truth About Martians (available here)
Author: Melissa Savage
Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: January 2019
Most Suitable For: Years 4-6
Reviewed By: Nathan Wilcox, Primary school teacher
‘The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.’
‘You afraid, Mylo?’ Dibs asks me.
I don’t have to think long to answer that one.
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘Then that must mean you have a mess of true courage in you already, then.’ He smiles.
I wrap my fingers around the edge of the opening and peer inside the disk again, and I think, maybe, just maybe, he’s right.
An alien adventure packed full with humour, heroics and a whole lot of heart.
This is a wonderful story of courage in the face of adversity and pain, which is as much about friendship as it is about extra-terrestrials. Brimful of references to classic sci-fi, this book reminds me of a cross between E.T. and The X-Files in which our main characters really do seek to uncover the truth about martians.
We begin at night, on a farm in Roswell, New Mexico during the 1940s, as Mylo and his best buddy Dibs are awoken to the sound of something odd crashing into a nearby ranch. Although this event seems strange enough, circumstances get even stranger as Mylo begins to hear a voice from somewhere calling to him for help.
Throughout the book, we dig further into Mylo’s innermost emotions as he deals with past grief and future concerns whilst all the time, asking deeper questions about how God could allow for such suffering and pain. Savage does an excellent job of asking all the right questions that an 11-year-old would be asking in times of difficulty and isn’t afraid of leaving the questions to dangle without an obvious answer.
The book had many dimensions that I thoroughly enjoyed as a reader; it had an intriguing story, it had characters I cared about, it had the beginnings of a love interest, it had suspense, it had excitement and ultimately it had a very moving message about bravery. This is a must-read for lovers of the mysterious with interests in cryptozoology, the mythical and the unexplained.
by Melissa Savage, author of The Truth About Martians
The Unreliable Narrator
We read to be entertained. We read to learn. We read to experience how to navigate what it means to be human. And most importantly, we read to feel something. And without a strong connection with the protagonist, a writer can lose their audience very quickly. Without that intimate relationship, a writer cannot reach the reader on the same level. For me, one of the most compelling ways in which to capture that intimacy is through the unreliable narrator of the first person point of view. And no one does that better for the young reader than Judy Blume, one of my favourite authors growing up.
Judy Blume didn’t just give us protagonists in her timeless stories, she gave us enduring friendships with characters that we could connect to. That’s how I felt reading her books as a child. I was a part of their world and knew them on a level that felt more like a friendship than just a passive observer. How did Judy Blume capture this amazing feat so skillfully? I believe one of the ways in which she creates such compelling protagonists for her young readers is her use of the unreliable narrator or first person point of view. For some, reading (or writing) a story in first person is a challenge due to the limitations of the scenes unfolding from only one person’s voice, thoughts, feelings, or observations of the world around them. This is a valid challenge, because the narrator is in essence unreliable, limited in their knowledge, experience and perceptions of the world around them. However, for me, this is also a way in which the character’s voice can shine its brightest and Judy Blume’s ability to bring her characters to life on each page influenced me greatly in my own writing style.
Who could forget Margaret Simon in Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret? as she navigates through her journey of the incredible mystery of becoming a woman and all that entails through her eyes of innocence and experience. Or Karen Newman in It’s Not the End of the World as she watches her family implode. Karen’s Mom and Dad are set for divorce and not only is she devastated by this revelation, she knows for certain that it’s up to her and her alone to get them back together again. Or Davey Wexler in Tiger Eyes who unexpectedly and violently loses her father and must find permission to be whole again. She finds her own way through it, eventually learning how to cope with the changes in her life and opening herself up to the gifts she finds along the way.
Not all stories are meant to be told in the first person point of view, however, it can be a tool to create the desired intimate psychic distance that writer’s strive for when creating protagonists that readers connect with on a deeper level. It’s an intimacy that captures the inside of a character’s head, their heart and their deepest soul. Judy Blume’s compelling stories for young readers depict the challenge of being human through the eyes of young characters with their own limited experiences and ways of navigating the world around them. And it is the epitome of what makes her stories timeless.
We all read to be entertained, to learn something new and to experience life in a way we haven’t ever experienced life before. We read to feel something. And through the amazing voice, character development and the drive of her completely unreliable first person characters, Judy Blume manages to give generations of readers all that and more.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIANS by Melissa Savage out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Follow Melissa Savage on twitter @melissadsavage
Many thanks to Melissa for writing the guest post, to the publisher for sending us a review copy and to Nathan for reviewing it.
Remember to check out the other stops on the blog tour!