Me: Whatever shall I do?
Inner Aella: Why, write a review and get that cloying tensity outoutout.
Me: AH! Of course!
Me: AH! Of course!
Sym has an imaginary friend. So what if she's 14 years old? Titus is the only steady thing in her life. She can depend on him and his past to stay the same. For once, Titus, better known as Captain Scott of the Shackleton Expedition, almost made it to the southerly most point of the world. Unfortunately, the endeavor failed and he died, only to return as the comforting (and 125 year old) figment in a broken girl's mind.
So when Sym's genius of an uncle (Victor) proposes a trip to Paris, who is she to turn him down? And when her mother's passport mysteriously disappears, who is Sym to question how it occurred? But there is more than meets the eyes to Victor's day ride into France. Oh no. Soon Sym finds herself on a trip to Antarctica with celebrities, scientists, and a very attractive Viking-boy. There, her bond with Titus grows and is sorely tested when everything goes awry (or maybe they were meant to go awry *eyebrow raise*). Dead captain or no, she must keep her wits about her in the barren land that has come to be known as the Ice. And even when surrounded by the mirages of ice and sun that blur the edges of her focus, the choice is clear. Fight for her life above all else. Or die.
The White Darkness received the Printz award this year and was completely engrossing on a psychological level. Sym's character is complex, bearing enough originality to maintain my attentions through the entire first-person work. And yet, at the same time, I was struggling to believe her sanity. Why does she not notice her Uncle is a nutter from the very beginning? At times, I was worried that perhaps I wouldn't be able to enjoy her character because she wasn't giving the appearance of being especially bright. But at the conclusion of the novel, I was happy I had stuck with it. I realized her ignorance is the product of mental blocks she has developed to preserve herself.
Ms. McCaughrean's novel is excellently researched and at times, chilling (no pun intended). Her descriptions of the poles are dark and beautiful and the experiences of the explorers as they succumb to the blinding white of the snow and the killing cold are written realistically. It seems almost as if the author herself had experienced such things in an earlier time.
But if you're looking for a swashbuckling adventure story, this isn't it. An afternoon of quiet time will be needed to absorb every element. And, like what lies beneath the ice of Antarctica, there is much more to the story than meets the eye. Some key elements are easily missed if the reader so much as skips a page. But I don't think that will be a problem. You'll want to read every piece of the incredible description and startling twists.
I bestow upon this novel a 6 out of 7 lightnings (and a prize for longest review)! Expect more reviews than ever from the Maelstrom in the months to come.
In Pursuit of Odyssey,
P.S. Has anyone read any exceptionally humorous books lately? As I said before, my mindset is in a constant shade of gray from the sort of reading material I have been consuming of late. Comment Away!