Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: The Storyteller

Title: The Storyteller 

Author: Antonia Michaelis

SPOILER FREE description (self explained):

Anna and Abel are complete opposites. Anna lives in her own bubble of a sheltered home, great grades, and no real worries. Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a tiny cold apartment, and has everything to worry about (particularly because he's responsible for his younger 6 year old sister, Micha).

Anna listens in as Abel tells Micha a fantastic fairytale that soon sounds very real. Abel is only 17 and could quite possibly lose Micha, either to their abusive father or to a social service worker. Soon, Anna involves herself into their lives and the fairytale. But when all of the antagonists of the fairytale start turning up dead, Anna fears she has fallen in love with a murderer.

A History of The Storyteller : The Storyteller was first published in German by Verlagsgruppe Oetinger, Hamburg in 2011 under the title Der Märchenerzähler (which translates to 'the bard' or 'the storyteller').  Then Aumulet (a branch of Abrams)  printed the book in 2012, translated by Miriam Debbage. Also note: I found this cool video along with other promotional items.

On the Author, Antonia Michaelis: Michaelis is originally from Germany and publishes most of her books there. Some of her works have been translated, including Batchelder Honor Award winning Tiger Moon and Dragons of Darkness. Michaelis also spent a couple of years teaching in South India.


I came across this book when winning a raffle at my local library (and trust me, I never win anything). There was plenty of books I wanted to take, but I chose this one. Why? I hadn't heard of it like I did the books on the other self (which I can now see is because of the fact that the original printing was in another language).

A familiar equation, troubled boy and good girl, might turn some away. However, Michaelis doesn't fall in to this predictable trap. The added layer of giving Abel a younger sister is great. The novel was dark, and touches on some serious issues such as rape, suicide, and poverty. The main story line is that of a love story. A great one.

I commend Michealis for not allowing her characters to lie flat. Abel has layers. He sells drugs for a reason and he doesn't use them. He's protective and guarded, but he's also violent. He's also a killer. I was kind of disappointed when I found out in the end that it was him, but I don't think this is a book where a conspiracy theory would work. His actions all have reason, even the ones that seem unforgivable. For example, I, for one, was about ready to rip my book apart when he raped Anna. I was thinking what the hell man! I was in denial and tried to look for a way to show it wasn't him, but it was. All throughout the rest of the book, I kept thinking, how are you ever going to make up for that?

But Michealis manages just that.

Giving us something that wasn't obvious, but was still almost too perfect as an answer to his actions. That's not to say it's alright to rape someone under those conditions, because it's not. However, I, as the reader, felt satisfied.

Micha and Anna were both amazing as well. Micha was that right balance between being young enough to need a babysitter, but old enough that she wouldn't die without one. Anna herself was a bit subtle compared to the other characters, but I'm fine with that. It often has to happen in a story where the protagonist is 'watching' and then getting involved in someone else's conflict. She had just enough voice without overwhelming her other characters.

The themes in this novel aren't quite so evident. We can see the whole, 'don't judge someone before you get to know them' thing going on. The kids at school thought of Abel just as the 'Polish Peddler', when in fact he didn't speak a word of polish. Those students didn't know the things he was dealing with or the travesties he went through. Anna had no clue either, so when he claims the doll, she as to investigate.

The Storyteller was a fantastic love story that I will look forward to having on my self for a long time.

Who would I recommend it to?
Ages fifteen and up, mostly girls. To anyone who likes a sweet bad boy, or boys with little kids (and let's be honest, is there anything that makes your heart melt more?). To anyone who loves YA romances.

Favorite quote:
"Tiles, she thought, easy to wipe clean, to sterilize. All the misery of the world focused in a tiny bathroom on the fourth floor." 

Have a different opinion on the novel? Have a book recommendation? Leave a comment below!

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