Herr, Ben. Alynia Sky, The Beginning and the End (Book 1). Book Review.

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This book was listed as a young adult but I believe it is better suited for children in the middle grades. Although the protagonist is thirteen, in some ways she seems younger but more importantly the story itself and the writing style is suited for grade school students.

Alynia Sky is a willful and easily distracted girl who is able to communicate with birds. The personalities of Alynia, the villagers, and the birds are interesting and unique. Alynia’s little friend, the rooster, is endearing and humorous. The birds are cute.

There is something unusual about Alynia, aside from the fact that she can communicate with birds. She continually gets herself into trouble but is forgiven because of her destiny. I would like to have seen more growth in her character, the emerging maturity kept slipping back to impulsive and egocentric behavior.

The explanations of the tree orphanage, the hunt, in the village are very well done. Herr paints a vivid and charming picture for the reader. However, the plot structure needed some work. Throughout the book, the major conflict was between Alynia’s willful behavior and expectations of elders. I felt this needed a clearer and more powerful resolution in which Alynia’s actions were the decisive factor. The story ended on the cusp of a major event wherein Alynia’s previous behavior could have been justified. The book is definitely the beginning but certainly not the end.

Since the book was a very quick read of only 116 pages (another indication that this book is MG not YA), I think the story should have been continued to a more satisfying conclusion.

The author created a very real world. However the dialogue sometimes seemed unnatural.

“I’ve known your father for years, and he comes across as harsh sometimes, but he really just wants the best for you.”

“I know. I always let him down, though, don’t I?” Alynia asked, remembering her mistakes.

“I don’t think you’ve ever really let him down,” Tapio said. “I think that he just wants you to understand that life isn’t all about games and playing all day. Sometimes, he forgets what it’s like to be a kid, though. That’s all.” Tapio put his arm around Alynia’s shoulder, hugging her, because he could see that she was getting sad thinking about her father.

“Thanks, Tapio,” Alynia said, determined not to cry over it. “You’re really nice. You’re like a cool big brother.”

Tapio smiled, pleased at her comment. “Alynia, I was just thinking the same thing about you. You’re like the fast little sister I always wanted but never had! I’ll teach you to race faster than anyone else in the village, just as I would have if I had a sister!”

One habit that slowed down the plot, was the repetition of an idea. For example, “The other two men were twin brothers. Alynia could tell because they looked exactly alike.” Why is the second sentence necessary? In fact, the word brothers isn’t even necessary.

If the author writes the sequel to this book, I would recommend the first be edited by someone else and the two books joined together. As well, I strongly recommend that the font style on both the cover and the title page be changed to something easier to read.

This book was given to me for an honest review.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages