Midwinterblood - Marcus Sedgwick
What would you sacrifice for someone you've loved forever?
In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a ritual sacrifice takes place.
It echoes a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire, they come close to finding what they've lost.
But can love last forever?
I was going to try to explain the book in my own words, but the rear cover was just so well written and succinct, that's what I am sticking with it. (Hopefully people will see this as a nod to the talent of the writer of the back matter, and not as a sign of my laziness!)
The novel is told in eight parts, each reading almost like a short story set in a different time, but in the same place, with mostly new characters in each section. While each story is rather independent in plot, specific themes and characters run through each timeframe, eventually weaving the stories and symbols together to create one large tapestry that fits beautifully together.
There has been talk around the water cooler that this book may not be teen friendly, but I hazard to guess that we are talking about the attention-span-lacking, ADD-diagnosed, difficult-to-understand teens who won't pick up a book unless their life depends on it (and reluctantly even then). I remind you, my audience, that these awards rarely bring popularity into their criteria (whether you agree with that or not), and as such the quality and content doesn't necessarily appeal to a wide audience. But that does not mean it isn't a spectacular novel. [END RANT]
Sedwick uses very spare prose, haunting language, and a keen eye for detail to bring together what is at first a disjointed series of stories, telling of the lives of certain individuals in a counter-intuitive, backward-moving timeline. As we move through the sections of the book, we see the same souls inhabiting various incarnations throughout time, sometimes as mother and son, sometimes as lovers, and sometimes as good friends. The idea is that as one reads on, more and more comes to the surface, explaining the relationship of these two individuals over the course of centuries. It is truly a brilliant narrative that is, in many ways, reminiscent of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. What at first seems entirely unrelated within a single section, suddenly explains whole components of the overall text.
There is no doubt that Sedgwick knows how to craft a delicate and engrossing tale. Will all teens read it and enjoy it? No. But since when has that been the criteria for awards that are not audience-based? Each novel will appeal to a certain audience, and those who pick up this book, intrigued by the back matter, and who have an open mind, will find themselves pulled into the dark, mysterious, and ultimately fulfilling tale that the 2014 Printz committee decided was the best contribution to literature for young adults. And I, for one, am satisfied with that claim.