Friday, February 25, 2011


Most Civil War novels, focus on the battle front, where the action is bloody, or on the South whose whole way of life is dramatically changing, Walter Dean Myer's Riot takes a snapshot of New York City during the 4 days of the Draft Riot. President Lincoln has just called for more troops after Gettysburg and Irish immigrants focus their anger at free blacks in the city. 15 year-old Claire finds herself directly in the middle as the daughter of an African-American restaurant manager and his Irish wife. Claire, who has never given much thought to her skin tone (which is light enough to pass for white if needed), now finds herself lost in a sea of changing identity.

The novel itself is fine. It's written as a screenplay which allows for quick scene changes and lots of action. And it plays out in the 2-ish hours a movie would allow. And it's a new look at the Civil War which effected all parts of America, not just where there was fighting. (It's hard to imagine that with our modern wars.) Claire is a well-spoken teenager who wishes for more than she'll get, but you see the seeds of the Civil Rights movement in her feisty spirit.

However, I felt rushed. This is due to two factors: 1) I was listening to it on a playaway which is about the size of an mp3 player, but it holds exactly one book. That book cannot be downloaded or changed, but it also can't really be corrupted or scratched like other audiobooks. You provide your headphones and a AAA battery. I love them. BUT that gave me absolutely no clue on how long it might be. There was a 2 1/2 hour thing written in tiny print, but easily overlooked. I checked to see how many tracks there were and I was surprised at how quickly I got through them. 2) The playaway had a variable playback function so I sped it up (because I thought it was a normal audiobook and would take forever).

So while I wouldn't NOT recommend this book, I can't really recommend it either. Walter Dean Myers is a god about YA authors so, you know, he's worth reading. But maybe his best known work Monster would be a better place to start.

However, I highly recommend the playaway. It solves the portability problem of books on cd (which are limited mostly to my car and sometimes the computer), and it's pretty easy to use. They are a pretty new thing. Wikipedia says they're only at 10 library systems which have them so request your library to get them!

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