Friday, January 26, 2007

Up on Cloud Nine

by Anne Fine

For the readers' advisory class I'm taking from an action figure, one of the assignments was to pair up with another member of the class and perform readers' advisory interviews with each other. Based on a book that my partner told me about, I had to make five suggestions for her, and vice versa. Then, each of us had to choose one of the five suggestions to read. I told my partner about A Separate Peace, a book I read in high school about a boy who pushes his best friend out of a tree. Well, other stuff happens too, but that was the best part as far as I was concerned. So my partner went with that and suggested to me five books I might like, the most intriguing of them being Up on Cloud Nine by Anne Fine.

Up on Cloud Nine is about Ian, who is writing a biography of his best friend, Stolly, while Stolly recovers from falling out a third-story window. Stol, like Finny in A Separate Peace, is a quirky, charismatic liar who can get away with anything. Ian, like Gene in A Separate Peace, seems to be somewhat jealous of his best friend--Ian worries, in fact, that his mother wishes Stol were her son instead of Ian. Unlike Finny, though, Stol was not shoved out the window by his friend; it becomes clear rather quickly that Stol jumped. Much of the story revolves around Ian's attempt to understand why.

At first I was unsure I'd like this book. The first-person narrative is written in a strongly British teenage colloquial voice, quite similar to the voice that endeared Marcus in About a Boy [the movie] to me. For some reason, though, the voice annoyed me in Up on Cloud Nine. As I approached page fifty, I feared I'd have to follow Nancy Pearl's Rule of 50 and stop reading. When I got to fifty, though, and I still wasn't enjoying the book, I decided to ignore the rule. I'd already invested fifty pages of my life in this book, after all, and if I stopped reading that meant I'd have to pick one of the other five suggestions I'd been given and start over from scratch--I simply don't have that kind of time. Besides, the book's only 150 pages total. What did I have to lose?

It turns out I'm glad I broke the rule. Ian eventually grew on me, teen Brit slang and all, and I ended up really enjoying the book. It's not quite A Separate Peace, but then I'm not sure I'll ever find another A Separate Peace, especially considering the fact that the reason I loved that book so much had more to do with where I was at that point in life than it did with the book itself.

Please don't tell Nancy I broke the rule.


Th. said...


The dialect was one of the things that make the snogging books unreadable for me.

amyjane said...

I'll have to go back and try this one again--I had a copy in my classroom. The kids loved it but I had quit three seperate times, before page 50. Oops.

kirsa said...

Oh man, I hated reading A Separate Peace, and I hated watching the movie, though both of those were probably more due to the crappy English teacher I had that year (who did not allow anyone in the classroom to have an opinion that wasn't hers) than because of the content.

TutuKea said...

"the reason I loved that book so much had more to do with where I was at that point in life than it did with the book itself."

I wonder if that's not often the case with all of us. When I look back on the list of books I read this last year, there were so many that were SO GREAT! But I wondered if anyone else would agree, or if . . . (fill in with the above quote).