Mini-reviews: The Storyteller and Cartwheel

The StorytellerThe Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Published by Atria

I have a total love-hate relationship with Jodi Picoult’s novels. Well, it’s mostly love to be honest … but the fact that she is usually so darn predictable and formulaic always makes me sort of hate the books a little bit. I have to be honest and say that The Storyteller was different from her usual novels in that it had a historical aspect to it, in that it was featuring a man, Josef, who was formerly a member of the Nazi party, and told through flashbacks of his time working at a concentration camp for parts of the book. I found the concept and plot to be really unique (especially for Picoult) which is one of the reasons I came to appreciate and enjoy the book.

The other reason I liked the book so much is that the characters seemed more authentic than what I’ve seen in some of her previous books. Sage formed a true bond with Josef even though she knew about the terrible atrocities he committed in his past. She also wrestled emotionally with the decisions she had in front of her: to forgive him or not to forgive him, to help him end his life (as he’s asked of her) or not? There’s more complexity to this novel than I was expecting, less courtroom drama stuff than is typical of a Picoult novel, and a whole lot of heart. I really enjoyed The Storyteller.

Cartwheel: A NovelCartwheel by Jennifer duBois
Published by Random House
Review copy provided by NetGalley

This novel has gotten a lot of buzz lately, but if you aren’t familiar with it, the basic gist is that the main character, Lily, is accused of killing her roommate Katy while the two are studying abroad in Buenos Aires. Apparently the story closely mirrors the Amanda Knox accusation/trial, but as I am personally ignorant about the details of Amanda Knox’s story, most of what duBois presented here was new, interesting, and deeply fascinating to me.

I found a lot to think about here. The thing is that Lily is an incredibly difficult character to understand – not even her family, or her best friends, truly understand her. She’s selfish and snobby, manipulative and cunning, but ultimately she is just a young girl lost in an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar people. Even though she has all those unfavorable qualities, as a reader I couldn’t believe that she would actually kill a person, even if there was some kind of motive that made sense, which there was not. Unfortunately I felt frustrated by the ending, it felt like nothing was really resolved, no answers were provided that were clear-cut, but I suppose that’s life. We never really know the truth in these situations when we are on the outside looking in. Overall, I couldn’t put this book down and even though the ending wasn’t my favorite, I was very invested in these characters and would highly recommend the book for that reason.

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3 thoughts on “Mini-reviews: The Storyteller and Cartwheel

  1. I feel that way about Picoult too — bermudaonion puts it perfectly. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the formula, but I often feel that she’s manipulating me emotionally. I think she’s a very strong writer who’s capable of more, as well, and it frustrates me that she doesn’t try new things. Except it sounds like this book is a big departure for her in a lot of ways! I’m actually sort of excited to read it now.

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