Thursday, February 12, 2015

All the Answers (2015)

All the Answers. Kate Messner. 2015. Bloomsbury USA. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The pencil didn't look magic. It looked the opposite of magic. It was the kind of pencil a parent might bring home from some boring financial planning convention. 

All the Answers has a wonderful premise. The premise is this: Ava Anderson, brings a pencil from home, from a junk drawer, to school because she knows she'll have a math quiz. During the quiz, she learns the pencil is magical. If she writes a question, the pencil will answer her, answer her as a voice in her head. She uses it--gently--to help her with the quiz. After school, she tests the pencil again. Is it helpful just in math? Or is it good for other subjects? What about subjects not studied in school at all? Will the pencil help her have a better life? Based on the premise alone, one would think the book would be great fun: playful and amusing and overall satisfying.

Unfortunately, the book itself is not as wonderful as the premise. I'll start with the good. First, I must admit that I liked how Ava uses the pencil to bring joy to the folks in the nursing home. I think it shows her thoughtfulness and sensitivity. Yes, her grandfather is in the nursing home. Yes, she's been in the habit of going with her family weekly to visit him. But her caring extends beyond that--in a way. She also learns that life isn't all that simple. The pencil might be able to tell her some things, but, not all things, and not all the most important things.

Another thing I appreciated about All The Answers is the characterization of Ava. In some ways, she was oh-so-easy to relate to. And I liked spending time with her. I liked how she grew up a bit in this one. 

The biggest problem I had with All The Answers is the resolution. There were a few answers that I didn't need or want. Why do we really need to learn how/why the pencil works!!! It made me want to yell at the book!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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