Friday, June 4, 2010

REVIEW: Iris, Messenger

Iris, MessengerDeming, S.  (2007).  Iris, Messenger.  New York:  Harcourt, Inc.


199 pages (plus an appendix)

Appetizer:  About-to-be-12-year-old Iris is a dreamer, much to the annoyance of the Erebus Middle School teachers.  For her birthday, she is sent a book of Greek Mythology with strange hand-written notes in the margins that encourage Iris to question if the Greek gods are alive and hiding in the U.S.A.  One note even hints that Poseidon may be nearby.  So, the imaginative Iris goes in search.

Yet another attack of the female Percy Jackson story!  Kinda.  Iris, Messenger is different in that, while the figures of Greek myth are alive and kinda-well and living and working around New England, in place of Iris having to go on a quest to save the world or herself (although she is still dealing with worries over her mother losing her job), the focus on myth here is on retelling some of the most recognizable Greek myths.  As Iris meets the various gods, Poseidon, Psyche and others pause to tell a story about themselves or about humans who encountered the gods.

While I thought the stories-within-a-story technique was a nice way to share some myths.  The retellings often went on too long (we're talking 15 to 20 pages).  And I felt like there should have been more interruptions of the myths.  For example, Iris travels to a hair salon owned by Aphrodite (don't even get me started on the lack of jump there in the goddess's modern setting) in which Psyche works as the shampoo girl.  Psyche tells Iris the story of how she met Eros.

Fine, but in the story, she describes Aphrodite as cruel several times.  She's referring to the same Aphrodite that is doing Iris's hair as she's telling the story.  And Aphrodite wouldn't interrupt that?


Iris, Messenger felt a little too quick for me.  By page 21, Iris has encountered her first Greek god, Poseidon, and he seems more than a little pathetic.  Although that was Deming's desired effect, Poseidon has always been one of my favorite Greek gods (Have I mentioned that I very happily live beside a river?  I'm a fan of the waters.).  So, seeing him so pathetic (as opposed to the tanned beach bum of the Percy Jackson series) was a little too sad for my tastes.  Oh, Poseidon, send me a horsey!  We'll chat!

The ending also felt rushed.  Instead of a real conclusion to some of Iris's biggest concerns, the reader is only left with an appendix, a mix of various documents that the reader has to piece together to realize the ending.

Now, having sounded pretty critical, I do have to say, I think kids could really like Iris as a character.  She discovers new freedom when she is given *ahem* the power to travel by rainbow.  She stays out all night, gets her hair did and sings the blues in a night club.

There's also quite a bit of silly humor (my personal favorite there is the biology teacher who believes aliens built and control the world).

Dinner Conversation:

"The main difference between school and prison is that prisons release you early for good behavior.  School lasts about thirteen years no matter how good you are.  Also, prison has better food" (p. 1).

"There were magical things waiting to happen to Iris Greenwold.  They had been waiting ever since she was born, and they were getting impatient" (pp. 5-6).

"Certainly if someone wanted to hid away from the world, Middleville, Pennsylvania, would be a good place to do it, since nothing very exciting ever happened there.  What if the Greek gods were alive and well and living in her town?" (p. 13).

"Whenever your parents let you go off on your own to look for mythological figures, you should always agree upon a meeting place beforehand.  Don't pick something that might move, like a sand dune or bookmobile.  Pick something large and permanent, like a lighthouse" (p. 19).

"But why me?  Of all the people Athena could choose to watch over, why would it be me?...There's something special about me.  There are dozens of kids at her school who were more likely heroines.  They got better grades, or were cute or rick or good at sports, or winners of violin prizes or spelling bees.  Iris was none of these things.
But secretly she did feel special.  She always had.  She was just special in a way that school couldn't measure, but maybe Athena could" (p. 160).

"This kind of corporation usually has more skeletons in its closet than Zeus has girlfriends" (p. 162).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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