Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Mentions: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

Release Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher & ARC: Random House Children's
ISBN: 9789553533590
Ages: 14+

"I'm the one who's left behind. I'm the one to tell the tale. I knew them both...knew how they lived and how they died."

Claire is Ella Grey's best friend. She's there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world. This is her story - as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final.

  • Mythology: There are few ways to make mythology more interesting than it already is. For the most part, as a student, you are introduced to mythology in ninth grade English, and for many, that unit easily becomes your favorite. From gods and goddesses, to tales of love and tragedy, mythology is the basis of literature (at least I think so). Here you have one of my favorite tales, that of Orpheus and Eurydice told through a modern YA version. As readers, we follow Claire, Ella Grey's best friend, as she witnesses Ella immediately fall in love with Orpheus as he sings to her through Claire's cell phone. Tragically, Ella is fated to follow the same path as Eurydice.
  • Language: ​What I find so interesting about this book, besides the mythological foundation, is the language itself. While it may be a challenge for some young readers who want a book full of action and adventure, Almond's language is much more entrancing and beautiful. Claire's 17-year-old British voice is honest and real, and she presents Ella and Orpheus's tale in a way that doesn't read like a textbook version but true, elegant prose. A nod to the writers of old, Almond success lies within the words, both in Claire's tale and Orpheus's.
  • Orpheus's Pages: ​​If you are familiar with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, what happens in this book shouldn't come as a surprise. If you are not familiar with the myth, you will be better off reading it before diving into Ella Grey. Orpheus's pages are noticeably black toward the end of the novel and describe his attempt to enter the Underworld and find Eurydice. It's always refreshing to have multiple perspectives in a book, and this section alludes to the myth perfectly. The descriptions of the Underworld are spot on to what we've been told in other stories but also provide Almond's own spin.
  • Final Thoughts: ​​ Overall, I quite enjoyed the book. I definitely think it is for a specific YA audience, perhaps a more mature reader. Many American readers may have to look up what some of the British colloquialisms mean (I admit, I had to), but once you get a hold of the language, the book draws you in and doesn't let you go until the last page. It's a quick read, and one that doesn't beat the myth over your head. The language and overall plot are very organic.

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