Review - Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Fireflies by Owl City.

Okay, quick recap about my goals in my reviews. I am WriterGirl. And as a superhero, it is my job to protect the innocent and bring to light the lesser-known works of amazing YA literature. So here are my rules I have placed on myself.

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks)
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will not review books before my 2005 (with very rare exceptions).

This is also the month where Color Online has challenged us to focus on books from different ethnicities. And I have found an awesome one for you. I proudly present Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz.

Samurai Shortstop
Current Amazon Ranking: #337,697
Originall Published: 2006
Pages: 288

First Line: Toyo watched carefully as his uncle prepared to kill himself.

My Take: This book is amazing. I don't say that lightly. This book is easily one of the best books I've read this year (he's very lucky Catching Fire hasn't come out yet). :) But the premise of combining bushido, the samurai's sacred honor code, with baseball during the rapidly changing time in Japan's history is absolutely stunning. He is able to blend east and west, old and new, in such a way that I did not think was possible. Really, even now, I'm floored. There might be some quibbles taken up that there are no female characters (I think you *see* two in the entire story), but I find that a testament to his immense research, rather than a fault of oversight on his part. Because honestly, that is how it was. The opening two chapters are stark in contrast, and may be off-putting to some (in the the first Toyo watches his uncle commit seppuku, a samurai's ritual suicide. The second is almost opposite, but no less startling, as all the boys race for the bathrooms after being forced to wait for an extremely long time during their school's opening ceremonies), but I am a girl (last time I checked), and I didn't find a problem with either scene. That first n particular was the catalyst that drove the entire story. It is a fantastic, incredible story. I cannot recommend this one enough.

Final Word: Read it. It is so unique, and just plain cool. In execution, in everything. If you want something different, read it.

P.S I found out the timeline between this and Anahita's Woven Riddle is only five years apart. Now that is seriously cool. I would almost recommend reading them side by side just for that.


Unknown said...

I can't believe that Alan Gratz lives practically next door to me and I haven't read this one yet. I will remedy that immediately! (PS: Have you see his Something... series? They're modern takes on Shakespeare, starting with Something Rotten.)

Kate said...

Wow. I want to read this now. I like your rules of review.

Heather Zundel said...

Beth - 0_o That is SO unfair! B-but I got to interview him, so that is almost as cool, right? Well, no, no it's not. (Yes, I have started reading his SOMETHING series. Horatio was ALWAYS my favorite character in Hamlet, so this just rocks).

Kate - Thank you. I'm so glad you like them.