review: a map of the known world

19 July 2012

Hi readers! I'm going to try something new with this review. I read a post on (Candace's Book Blog) about what people look for in a review, so I'm going to make this one to see if I can improve my reviewing skills. Tell me what you think! (P.S. this is a book I read quite a few years ago, but never reviewed)

book info:
ages: 13 and up
grades: 7-8 and up (Years 9 and up)
on sale: now
copy from: Amazon
pages: 243
publisher: Scholastic Press

title: A Map of the Known World
author: Lisa Ann Sandell

photo: goodreads
Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

They say no land remains to be discovered, no continent is left unexplored. But the whole world is out there, waiting, just waiting for me. I want to do things-I want to walk the rain-soaked streets of London, and drink mint tea in Casablanca. I want to wander the wastelands of the Gobi desert and see a yak. I think my life's ambition is to see a yak. I want to bargain for trinkets in an Arab market in some distant, dusty land. There's so much. But, most of all, I want to do things that will mean something.

I had read Ms Sandell's Song of the Sparrow. It's a brilliant story told in verse of Arthurian legend. I loved it.  Now, I'm reviewing a book now that I read about a year ago, so my thoughts aren't fresh. On goodreads, I had given it five stars (I can't give half-star ratings, so I think it was a 4.5)

A Map of the Known World is a simple and sweet, heartbreaking story about a girl discovering the secret life of her brother after his death, discovering love and along the road, herself. 

The story is truly believable. I could feel Cora's pain over losing her brother, it's real. Her family troubles are real and the writing. Her emotions were near tangible and I think that what she's missing is what's supposed to be missing. Cora's brother just died! I can expect her to feel hollow. 

Her relationship with Damian is real as well. I would say it's cliche to fall in love with one's brother's best friend, but to fall in love with one's brother's best friend when one's brother is dead? And when this best friend was there? That's a lot of complexity in the relationship, and it played out wonderfully. I liked how Cora didn't completely drown herself in him, and still focused on uncovering her brother's artistic past and coming at terms with his death.
 Damian is not the typical bad boy. There's raw feelings with him, and he doesn't curse or tease or play with other girls. There's something missing about him too, and once again, it's supposed to be that way (or at least, I think so)

I think that getting the way a family functions after a death of a member is incredibly difficult to write. There are so many feelings and emotions tangled together, and writing it in a way that makes sense to a reader is hard to accomplish, but Ms Sandell did it amazingly. Most authors, when someone dies, ignores the family and follows around the main character. However, in A Map of the Known World, the importance of family is actually written out, and I loved it.

The plot wasn't fast and action-paced: it was slow. Slow in the best meaning possible. Slow meaning that it was just the right pace for this type of story. It's about three hundred pages with slightly big lettering, and it takes place over the course of about a month or a bit longer than that. That's why it's detailed, and the pace is perfect.

I remember really enjoying this book, and being in awe of it's brilliance. However, I think the story could've gone deeper, and I really wanted to explore the characters more, though I'm sure the mystery around them is what makes it good...ahh, I liked it but it isn't the absolute epitome of the best, you know? I'll mark it down to 4 and a half trees

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