Bitter of Tongue

I’ll dispense with the pleasantries. At this point, if you haven’t read all of the Shadowhuntery goodness by Cassandra Clare, stop whatever you’re doing and correct that situation. (Also, I’m silently judging you from the comfort of my desk chair.)

Now, let’s move on to the seventh installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, Bitter of Tongue

In Bitter of Tongue, we continue to follow Simon Lewis, former vampire, through his second year at the Shadowhunter Academy. Things seem to be going well for Simon. He’s stronger and happier than he can remember being. (Given the state of his memory, I’m not sure how much that says.) His relationship with Isabelle Lightwood is starting anew, and he’s coming to terms with his future as a Shadowhunter.

Or so he thinks…

While on a mission to capture a faerie, Simon unwittingly finds himself thrown into the faerie realm. He is imprisoned, and his only hope of escape comes in the form of Mark Blackthorn, former Shadowhunter and current member of the Wild Hunt.

Even though the Clave (the Shadowhunter “government”) has essentially turned its back on Mark because of his faerie blood, he decides to help Simon escape…but not without first sharing a bit of his pain and misery over being separated from his family.

Simon takes in everything Mark says, and he vows to do something about it. He’ll not only keep an eye on Mark’s family, but Simon will also work to change how Shadowhunters view themselves and others. He won’t simply accept that the Shadowhunters are all-powerful or superior to mundanes and Downworlders. Not anymore.

Simon is reawakening to the truth of his new life, and he may have some powerful allies on his side. Will they be able to make a difference? Time will tell…

_______________

When I first started reading Bitter of Tongue, Simon really bothered me. He wasn’t his usual snarky, sarcastic self, and I didn’t like the change. Luckily for me (but maybe not for him), that didn’t last long. I guess being captured by faeries will do that to you. By the end of this story, Simon was back to seeing Shadowhunters as they are instead of how they should be. The rose-colored glasses were off once more, and Simon realized that battling prejudice remained a huge problem with Shadowhunters.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I loved seeing more of Mark Blackthorn in this story, even though what I saw was heartbreaking. Seeing the Blackthorn siblings through Mark’s eyes brought tears to my own and made me even more eager to read Lady Midnight, the first book in the highly-anticipated Dark Artifices trilogy (due out on March 8th, 2016).

Before we get to Lady Midnight, though, we still have three more installments in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. Story #8, The Fiery Trial (released on September 15th), involves the parabatai ceremony of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. Story #9, Born to Endless Night (out on October 20th), features my favorite warlock and yours, Magnus Bane! The tenth and final story, Angels Twice Descending (expected on November 17th), is the tale of Simon’s Ascension and should be quite the nail-biter. I can hardly wait!

If you, like me, love the world of Shadowhunters and want to learn more, you may want to check out Shadowhunters.com and the ABC Family site for the upcoming Shadowhunters TV show. Exciting stuff!

Angry Management

Any time I hear that a book has been challenged in a school library, I do two things.  First, I wonder if the person(s) making the challenge have read the book and understand its message.  Second, I pick up the book and read it for myself.  I think a lot of readers are with me on this, especially my teenage readers.  What’s the first thing that happens when you tell a teenager–or anyone, for that matter–that they shouldn’t do something?  They do it, of course!  So, this summer, when I heard that Chris Crutcher’s Angry Management (a nominee for the 2011-12 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award) had been challenged and pulled off the shelves in one South Carolina county, I knew that the controversy surrounding this book would only make sure that teens would read it.   I don’t even know that I would have read this book if some goofball hadn’t tried to remove it from his kid’s school library.  (I’m an elementary school librarian now.  This book was barely even on my radar.)  But I did pick up Angry Management, and I did read it in its entirety–which is more than I can say for the parent who tried to have it banned.  If he had read the whole book, maybe he would have learned a little about how the censoring of ideas only leads to trouble.  No one wins when we try to trample on the First Amendment.  (For more on this controversy, visit http://www.chriscrutcher.com/south-carolina-2011.html.)

In Angry Management, we are reintroduced to some of Chris Crutcher’s most memorable characters–Sarah Byrnes, Angus Bethune, John Simet, Montana West, and others–in an anthology about teenagers with reasons to be angry.  Whether it’s an abusive father, an absent mother, homophobia, racism, being overweight, fighting against censorship, or just struggling to survive, these kids are facing a lot, and they have good reason to be angry.  But can they use their anger and turn all of their rage into something positive?  Can they deal with their scars–on the inside and outside–and use their hurt to do something good, be something great?  Will they be able to show everyone that they can’t be broken…no matter what is thrown at them?  It’s not an easy road to travel, and not all of them will be successful, but these beloved characters have a chance to use their anger in a productive way and change their lives forever.  “Not a good chance, maybe.  But a chance.”

Before this book, I had only read one other novel by Chris Crutcher–Whale Talk–so I wasn’t familiar with most of the characters in this anthology.  It didn’t matter.  Even without the background from previous novels, the stories in Angry Management were powerful, and each one taught a lesson.  Yes, there was a bit of language (the reason this book was challenged in SC in the first place), but it was true to the tone of the book and the lives of the teenagers depicted.  Most teenagers aren’t going to say, “Well, phooey,” when they’ve lived with abuse their entire lives.  Sometimes, only an expletive (or five) can convey just how angry someone is.  The message of Angry Management is what we need to focus on.  We–teens and adults alike–should use our anger to make us stronger, and fight against the injustices that try to keep us down.  We need to use our rage to lead us to a better–and more hopeful–future. 

I hope you’ll take the time to read this wonderful book.  It is moving, eye-opening, and heartbreaking, and it serves to remind us that, at the end of the day, we always have hope that things will get better.

For more information on Angry Management and other books by Chris Crutcher, please visit http://www.chriscrutcher.com/index.html.  If you’re a South Carolina school librarian, pay special attention to his upcoming appearances in our state.  Awesome.