Judged by Kris • find her on Goodreads
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg is a good book. It’s centered around the regional academic bowl which frames four short stories that explore the strengths and minds of the students on Epiphany Middle School’s sixth grade team, and the teacher who doesn’t know why she chose them at all.
Year of the Griffin by Diane Wynne Jones is also a good book. Also a found family story, it focuses on the first year of six students at the Wizards’ University and the scrapes they get into while exploring their gifts of magic and dealing with their families’ various reactions.
So here’s the million dollar question: If they’re both good books, HOW DID I MAKE MY PICK? (I threw them across the room and the one that landed cover-side up won! Okay, no.)
Here’s the thing: The View from Saturday knows it’s a good book. It is neat and clean and very precise. It utilizes its devices with a master’s precision: frame narrative, foreshadowing, internal vs. external conflict, rising action – it’s all there and it works! It tells a good story!
But it doesn’t ever unfold itself enough to let the reader crawl inside it and enjoy it. It doesn’t breathe. It doesn’t come to life and exist after you put it down. It tells, very competently, the story of four smart misfits who come together, overcome bullying, and forge an unquestionable friendship. That story, however, feels almost tired because it’s expected. It’s rote. It’s easy. There are no outliers to that plot; it is all wound up very neatly.
Year of the Griffin doesn’t do that. It’s messier – it’s a sequel to another novel (Dark Lord of Derkholm, which I haven’t read), and there are gaps where it could explain itself better. The world-building is a strange mishmash of this, that, and the other thing. There are griffins and moonships and wizards and neckties and coffee.
And then, on top of all those other things, there are abusive parents and revolutionaries and sibling rivalry and it’s great. Because life is messy! It, too, tells the story of six misfits who come together and forge a friendship, but that’s only the beginning: as in life, the story doesn’t end there.
The world keeps spinning and stuff keeps happening and Year of the Griffin reaches out with claws and asks you, the reader, to think about your life and challenge how you live it and explore what else might be out there. It expands. It exists outside its own margins.
Fact: My selection for advancement in Round 1, Match 8 is… Year of the Griffin.
Congratulations to Year of the Griffin, which moves on to Round 2!