Monday, June 20, 2011

Room by Emma Donaghue

The Book Talk:

The Book Review:

I really do mean to make this blog mostly focused on young adult and children's literature, but for some reason I couldn't stay away from this book.  I justified reading it because it's a 2011 Alex Award Winner, which is a prize given to ten adult books with appeal to young adults aged 12 to 18.  So yes, Room is an adult novel, but there are definitely some older teenagers I would recommend it to.

I'm going to do my best to write this review without giving away too much of the story.  It is in many ways a thriller, and I don't want to ruin the page-turning quality for readers.  If you want to hear a little more about what it's about, make sure you watch the book talk I've posted above.

This is one of those books that's not easy.  It's not light or fluffy or fun -- in fact, in many ways it is highly disturbing and very sad.  However, while it's not an easy book, it is an amazingly well realized novel.  In almost every way (plot, pacing, writing style, voice, character), Donaghue's talent as a writer shines through.

Probably the most stand-out of these talents is Donaghue's ability to create her main character's first person voice.  Jack is five-years-old, and I truly believed the entire time that this narrative could be the thought process of a child.  Sometimes when adults write in the voice of children, it feels stilted and dumbed down, but Jack is amazingly well crafted.  He's smart in some ways and ignorant in others, he's sweet and mean and real and everything a five-year-old really is.

I had read some reviews that mentioned that the first half of Room is perfectly paced and emotionally suspenseful, but that it falls short a little in that department in the second half.   I actually have to completely disagree with these reviewers.  Yes, the first half and the second half are different, but they are suspenseful and deliberately paced in different ways.  It's almost like you're reading two different novels that have been placed together as perfect companion pieces.

I could probably go on and on about why I believe this book is worth reading and well done, but I want to end this review with some thoughts about its appeal to teen readers.  At first glance, this seems like a book that's too much for a teen audience (even though it's narrated by a child).  It's gritty and brutal and disturbing, and there is a lot of very adult content.  However, I can think of at least three teenagers who frequent my library who I would hand this book to in a heartbeat.  Kids like to read about things that really happen in the world, and stuff like what happens in Room DOES happen in real life.  This book is for teens (and adults) who love Ellen Hopkin's Crank, Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl, and even Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games.


  1. You should do "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" next. I don't know anything about it but I'm really enamored with the title.

  2. Suggestion noted Krishna :) I probably won't do it next, but I will add it to my queue.

  3. I could NOT stop reading this book, and now I'm kind of obsessed with it. It was hard and beautifully done and engrossing and just so good. Also, your blog here is fantastic. Seeing you doing this makes me happy :)