Book: The Heir
Author: Kiera Cass
Summary: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon - and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairytale romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible. But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her own Selection - no matter how fervently she protests. Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought. -HarperTeen, 2015.
I added this book to my "to-read" list after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. There was a lot about the description of the book that intrigued me, but perhaps what was most interesting was the idea of reading a story with a familiar premise (father drives his sons to succeed in sport) in the unfamiliar setting of modern-day India.
And this is exactly what Aravind Adiga delivers. It's the story of two teenage boys, Radha and Manju Kumar, who have been moved to Mumbai by their father Mohan in the hope that he can use their skills as cricket to escape from their family's poverty. Adiga's story centers on Manju, the younger of the two, who idolizes his older brother and dreams of becoming a forensic scientist. Together they share a loathing at the controlling lifestyle that their father imposes upon both of them and the hope of escape, yet their growing self-awareness and exploration of life in Mumbai sets them on two very paths towards adulthood.
Such a story is hardly a novel one, but uses it to explore themes in a very different setting -- a vibrant, cricket-obsessed Mumbai, with stark divides of wealth and poverty. It's a fluid world populated with a solid cast of supporting characters, from the cricket scout Tommy Boy desperate to define his legacy by finding a great player to the handsome middle-class Javed, who represents both the main competition for the brothers and the allure of a different life. What they all have in common is that they are all striving in one way or another -- the adults striving for wealth through the children they try to control like chess pieces, the children who seek to break free from that control and discover themselves before the world opening up before them. It is their growing realization of their power to determine their own fate that drives the story, even if it leads them in some very familiar directions.
And that is what disappointed me about the novel: the predictability of Adiga's plot. The whole story unfolds in an extremely formulaic fashion, with the ending telegraphed to its readers well before reach the book's midpoint. Perhaps my expectations were excessive, but I hoped for something more from an author who has won the Man Booker Prize for his previous work. What he has written is an enjoyable novel about two boys living in a world of in which the promise of youth intermixes with the desperation of poverty, but I couldn't help finishing it thinking that it could have been so much more than it was.
Oh, well, at least it got me to finally learn about the game of cricket.
I just finished this book, and I'm still uncertain as to how I feel about it. Much of it was fantastic: the descriptions of life in Bombay/Mumbai, the characterization, the coming-of-age of two rural boys who are facing decisions that will shape the rest of their lives and slowly realizing for the first time that they rather than the people around them have the final say in who they become. And yet it's all anchored to a plot that is annoyingly formulaic in its construction. Perhaps this is unfair, but I expected something a bit more imaginative from a Man Booker winner.
This is my least favorite cover of the series because the model's head/neck positioning looks so awkward...
Anyway, I was generally happy with the conclusion to the series. I wish Lucy and Aspen had adopted. I guess I can still imagine that they do after the book ends.
I remember that in the first book, it's stated that a crown prince/princess is supposed to step up when the monarch feels he/she is ready and not necessarily when that monarch dies, so it was interesting to me that that happens in this book. I hadn't expected it, but it's happier than losing a parent in order to ascend the throne.
I also like that she demanded respect from her councilors, though I think anyone with that kind of power should purposely keep people in that position who have very different beliefs, so that he/she doesn't end up surrounding themselves with "yes men" and instead get a variety of ideas and opinions. But respect is vital.
Eadlyn has definitely inherited her mother's ability to leap to illogical conclusions in a single bound. She's gently rejected by one suitor and immediately comes to the conclusion that she is unlovable. Girl, chill.
I loved Eikko the most, so I'm really happy that he won (and that they had the blessing of Henri because he was such a sweetie). I particularly loved that he was allowed to show emotion and it wasn't used to emasculate him. Boys have feelings too!
I'm sad to see the series end, but glad it didn't disappoint. :)