by Traci Chee
Read: July 15 - 30, 2016
Published: September 13, 2016 by Putnam
Source: ALA (Thank you, Penguin!)
Series: Book 1/3
Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.
Three things I loved about The Reader:
1) The whole design of the book adds to the magic of the story. Smudges in the margins, stories within stories, secret messages in the page numbers, I love how all of this adds layers and enhances the experience of reading the book. The writing and words in general are part of this too, as this story as a lovely lyrical quality to it that drew me right in.
2) The world slowly expands as the story unfolds. At first we're only given Sefia's limited point of view and we only know and believe what she does. But as the book continues, we are given a peppering of other characters' perspectives that adds complexity to her world. And yet at the end you still realize that you didn't have all the pieces you thought you did. Some of the direction of the book, I guessed. Some things I did not. But I loved that I questioned, at times, what exactly Sefia was doing, but I ultimately always trusted her judgement.
3) Sefia is loyal and fierce and compassionate. This girl has been dealt a difficult hand in life, and I admired her for sticking to her convictions and her mission. She is a survivor but has not lost her humanity along the way. One of my favorite parts of this story is her relationship with Archer. A boy she rescues from terrible circumstances who becomes her companion on her journey. Their support and care of each other was one of my favorite aspects of this story. It is a lovely, slow moving, heading towards a romance that grows out of a tight bond of two people who rely on each other to survive. And I didn't want to rush them. I love the ways that Sefia and Archer are different - they are both ferocious as well as vulnerable - and how well they compliment each other, and take care of each other through everything. I just wanted to give them both a big hug while I was reading!
Love Triangle Factor: None!
Cliffhanger Scale: Low/medium - definite set up for the next book but ends on a quiet moment.