Tuesday, February 17, 2009

REVIEW: Avalon High

Cabot, M. (2006). Avalon High. New York: Harper Teen.


Ellie Harrison, along with her two parents who are university professors, moves to Annapolis for the duration of their sabbaticals. Ellie must deal with attending a new school, making friends, making the track team, having a strange desire to spend hours floating on a raft in her new pool, doing a class project with her inattentive partner, Lance and having a strange connection with the most popular guy in school, Will, who is dating the most popular girl in school, a cheerleader named Jennifer.

With snowballing hints, it becomes apparent that Ellie has entered into a modern situation that closely mirrors the events on Arthurian legend. What starts off as a tentative romance turns into a fantastic battle between good and evil, that Ellie never commits to believing in, but finds she must follow to save the boy she loves.

The writing is okay. Cabot certainly is a few notches above Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight when it comes to skill. She also includes more humor than Meyer. And less angsty. SO MUCH LESS ANGSTY!

This is a good fantasy escape novel for teen girls. It answers the important questions of ‘What if I have to move and start a new school? What if the most popular guy in school seems strangely attracted to me? Hmm? What if I find that popular guy’s perfect girlfriend is cheating on him with said popular guy’s best friend? How do I resolve this without being evil and with maintaining the popular guy’s possible like/love for me?’

I still manage to find myself wavering in my appreciation of this book as a feminist though. While Ellie is active and strong, it is not because she is overcoming her own character’s mistakes from her previous life in Arthurian legend. Rather she has been miscast, making for a surprise at the end, but concluding with a sense of determinism when it comes to character actions.

Activities to do with the book:

This book would probably be best as a fun read (although if a class had projects on Arthurian legend, a savvy teacher could try to sneak it in somehow).

It would be good as a book club or individual read, if the group of students had already shown in interest in the Twilight series. There are a number of thematic and plot constructions that are similar and would lend these books to comparison. Or this could be a book recommendation for a struggling reader who has, for the first time ever, expressed an interest in books, specifically Twilight and doesn’t know if there’s anything else out there for her to read.

Also if the Twilight angle doesn’t work, Avalon High has led to a Manga series that would spark the interest of some readers.

Favorite Quotes

“You get to start over. In a whole new school. Where no one knows you. You can be whoever you want to be” (p. 1).

“Only the dark-haired boy smiled at me…I smiled back…It was weird. It was like he smiled at me, and my lips automatically smiled back—my brain had nothing to do with it. There was no conscious decision on my part to smile back.
I just did. Like it was a habit, or something. Like this was a smile I always smiled back to” (p. 19).

“Guys like Will do not hang around girls like me. It just doesn’t happen. Clearly, Will had thought I was some other girl—maybe someone he’d met at camp and had a crush on when he was eight, or whatever—and now that he’d realized his error, he’d be leaving.
Because that is how things are supposed to go in an ordered universe.
But I guess the universe had tilted on its axis without anyone mentioning it to me, or something” (p. 36).

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