Middle Grade Monday – Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld

REMINDER that tonight at MIDNIGHT PST is the deadline
for the 2nd Round of the 50 First Lines Challenge

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I wasn’t going to post another MGM until after I got back from Bologna, but I just finished Scott Westerfeld’s very satisfying Leviathan series and wanted to say something about it.

First of all, I’ve generally heard of middle grade literature for those ages 8 or 9 to 12 years old and YA being for those over 14. So what happened to the 13-year-olds and what are we doing for them?

The answer: LEVIATHAN!

According to Amazon, this series is for 7th grade readers and older, so it does just squeak into the top edge of MGM literature. But more importantly, it hits squarely in the “tween” demographic, which is sometimes hard to please.

As I’ve said before, I’m on a mission to find good literature for this age. Material that does not condescend to its readers, but also strays from graphic violence and romantic love triangles as main plot points.

This steampunk series takes place in an alternate history where the secrets of DNA were discovered much earlier, the result being that scientists can create new animals, some invented for the purpose of warfare. It takes place during an alternate WWI, where it’s the Darwinists vs. the Clankers (biological vs. mechanical).

After his parents are murdered, the prince to the Austrian throne (Clankers) runs away and ends up aboard a Darwinist airship. He befriends a brave young midshipman, who is secretly a girl in disguise as a boy. Told in alternating POV’s, the girl cannot reveal her true self, even to her new BF, else she would be kicked out of the British Royal Service. Since flying is her life, she won’t chance it … even when she starts having feelings for the prince.

I don’t think 12 and 13 year old boys are much interested in the dilemmas of romance yet, but 12 and 13 year old girls might be, so this series is completely satisfying for BOTH demographics. In addition, the “romance” is more about friendship, trust, and loyalty – not the “oh-my-god-his-eyes-are-so-dreamy-I-think-he’s-my-soulmate” variety.

As a matter of fact, there’s a lot in here about friendship, loyalty, and trust as well as sacrifice. I think there are great lessons inside this action-packed story. And yes, there’s a lot of action (it is WWI after all), but not graphic violence.

Westerfeld’s Darwinist and Clanker inventions are extremely imaginative. He has his own vocabulary, too, so never uses profanity (“barking” this and that for the “f-ing”). It’s also really fun that Westerfeld puts in the back of his book which parts of his story are historically accurate and which aren’t. That would make for great classroom discussion.

I really liked the journey of the trilogy and the ending. Everything I needed to get tied up did, but it wasn’t in a pretty little package. There was a bit of ambiguity, which I really like. War is messy and unpredictable, so I believe it’s appropriate to the story.

It’s been a little while since a trilogy left me feeling so satisfied. Yay!

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10 Comments

Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, YA literature

10 responses to “Middle Grade Monday – Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld

  1. I am soooo looking forward to reading this series. Just brought it home to put in my TBR pile! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insight.

  2. BARKING SPIDERS!!! this is my favorite series IN THE WORLD! thank you for spreading the greatness

  3. Glad to have read your thoughts on this series. I picked up Leviathan at B&N this weekend (I’m a total steampunk junkie) but didn’t make it past the first couple of pages. I think it was mostly the military-speak that turned me off. I want to like it simply because it’s steampunk…so I may give it another go. Thanks!

    • Do give it another shot. Once you get into the story, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I liked all 3 books, but I think the 2nd one was my favourite. And I’m not even that much of a war buff, but I found his mixture of truth and fiction really interesting.

  4. Thanks for the review. I’ll have to get this for my boy to read next.

  5. Please do! It’s tough to find good literature for boys that age.

  6. I loved the first two books. I still need to read the third. Arg, now I want it right now.

  7. Thanks for this – it seems right up my son’s ally, I’ll have to find it for him.

  8. Pingback: Middle Grade Monday: Best of 2012 | writing to support my teaching habit

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