The Boys of Blur
By N.D. Wilson
Published 2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Charlie is returning to his roots. His stepdad's former coach has died, so the family attends his funeral. Soon, Mack is offered the coach position to finish out the season. Charlie's not sure how he feels about it, living in a town with so much family history - his mom, his stepdad, and his real father. Things are about to get more confusing when Charlie and his newfound cousin stumble upon a strangeness in the sugar cane. Charlie may need to become a hero.
I snagged a galley of this at ALA because I absolutely loved Wilson's Ashtown Burials series (though I haven't read book three yet - for shame!). Now, the buzz seems to be building around this book and Betsy Bird (of Fuse #8) is calling it a Newbery contender.
Now, for another edition of Librarian of Snark confessions: I've never read Beowulf. In any form or translation or reinterpretation. So, I might be missing something big about this book. I know enough to understand that, at least in some way, Wilson is offering his own interpretation of the epic with this book. A little crazy? Maybe. But, I also think this book works exceedingly well.
Though I'm sure I'm missing the subtleties and nods to the Beowulf legend, this is a mighty fine book regardless. If you had told me that someone - anyone - wanted to write a retelling of Beowulf for the middle-grade set, even without knowing the story, I'd have given you the side-eye. I suppose what we should be thankful for is that not just anyone chose to do this - Wilson chose it. Wilson makes an epic of English poetry insanely compelling for the youth of today. His writing is vibrant and colorful and it wraps this epic tale up so well. I think kids will have a hard time putting this story down.
Wilson manages to capture an exciting fantasy novel and an introspective hero dealing with the troubles of everyday life all in the same book. I was right there with Charlie every step of his journey and I rooted for him so much. I love that Wilson manages to write a book set in the South that's not dripping in charm, yet is still clearly of the South. This is just a lovely book and I'm so glad Wilson has come to my attention.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.