Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.
The Reader by Traci Chee
If ever there was a time I really, really wished I was a teacher already, it’s when I find phenomenal books that I know young adults will love. This is the case with The Reader by Traci Chee. An absolutely brilliant debut by the author, it is intriguing and heart breaking, yet full of hope all at once.
The Reader is extremely well-written, Ms. Chee expertly able to render heartache so moving the reader is brought to tears, yet equally demonstrates skill in the more tender and magical moments. Without her skill, The Reader would not have been effective at all, considering it is a novel built on the premise of learning to read and sharing knowledge via books. Describing the magical, powerful moment when Sefia first teaches herself to read, making it a visual sensation, is breathtaking, especially for someone such as myself that works in a semi to non-literate community. This would be something I would wholeheartedly recommend to the twelve to seventeen year old crowd, but obviously appeals to all ages since it’s just an amazing journey with strong characters. Plus, watching someone, even a fictional character, learn how knowledge and books can be power, can be used as a weapon to defend yourself with is so empowering and inspiring.
Each of the characters are complex and fully developed. Sefia, our main protagonist is marked by her many losses and driven forward, first as a rescue mission, then for vengeance, and finally for answers. She rescues, then befriends Archer, a caged boy forced to fight as part of a mysterious plot. They grow to care for each other, without hesitation or limitations. Sefia’s strength comes not from her anger or bitterness, but her goodness and soft nature. The same can be said of Archer who is an expert killer, seemingly against his own will.
If you’re a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s work, you will definitely fall in love with The Reader by Traci Chee. The writing is great, the action fantastic, and our two main characters just leave me wanting to keep them safe and happy and warm in blankets with cocoa.
Quotes & Excerpts
Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.
But books are curious objects. They have the power to trap, transport, and even transform you if you are lucky. But in the end, books — even magic ones — are only objects pieced together from paper and glue and thread. That was the fundamental truth the readers forgot. How vulnerable the book really was.
To the damp.
To the passage of time.
And to theft.
They say that fear is a pit in your stomach, but what she felt was a dissolving, as if the fog was burning off and frittering away, leaving behind only Sefia, bare and defenseless with nothing before or behind her but emptiness.
Chapter 3: The House on the Hill Overlooking the Sea
“Book.” Sefia grinned.
For a moment, she felt as if the marks were bright and burning. Gold crept in at the corners of her vision. Then she blinked, and the whole world flooded with light, whirling all around her in wide interconnected circles, up into the sky and among the stars. She’d seen the light before, but this one showed her the world was full of little golden currents, a million of them and a trillion motes of light, all perfect and exact and brimming with meaning.
Chapter 4: This Is a Book
It was as if, all this time, she’d been locked out, catching glimpses of some magical world through the crack beneath a door. But the book was the key, and if she could figure out how to use it, she’d be able to open the door, uncovering the magic that lay, rippling and shifting in unseen currents, beyond the world she experienced with her ears and tongue and fingertips.
Chapter 4: This Is a Book
Her voice rang out like a bell. “Maybe they’ll remember you, Cannek Reed,” she said, looking at each of the crew in turn, letting her gaze come to rest, finally, on Camey, who scratched his hooked nose uncomfortably. “But who’s going to remember your crew?”
“It’s the same with stories as it is with people,” Meeks said, his brown eyes gleaming in the dwindling light of the sunset, “they get better as they get older. But not every story is remembered, and not all people grow old.”