Title: The Land of 10,000 Madonaas
Author: Kate Hattemer
Goodreads Ratings: 4.32
Format: ARC from Publisher
Summary: Five teens backpack through Europe to fulfill the mysterious dying wish of their friend. Jesse lives with his history professor dad in a house covered with postcards of images of the Madonna from all over the world. They’re gotten used to this life: two motherless dudes living among thousands of Madonnas. But Jesse has a heart condition that will ultimately cut his life tragically short. Before he dies, he arranges a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, his best friend, and his girlfriend to take after he passes away. It’s a trip that will forever change the lives of these young teens and one that will help them come to terms with Jesse’s death.
Disclaimer: I should probably fess up that I haven't completely finished this book yet. I blame my reading speed (25 pages an hour!), work (2 jobs...) and my post-accident haze that's still distracting me. Add that in with responsibilities at home and a nasty cold that blindsided me and you have a nice excuse sandwich. However, I am being fully honest and truthful when I say that what I have read so far is incredible and that this book will probably be one of my favorite reads of the year. Below, you can find all the reasons that I want to convince you to give it a try and even if it's not a full review, I think I have a lot to say.
Multiple POVs are super tricky--and I should know--I've tried writing them. Multiple POVs in third person, is a bit like sitting down in the middle of a dinner party and watching a conversation volley around. You can only hope that the people are interesting enough to listen to!
I think Kate Hattemer does an impressive job of distinguishing tone and voice from the various characters (there are five!) and giving each such a distinct way of thinking and talking. I know Ben from Trevor like I would know my voice from my best friend. I know Cal from Lillian even though both voices are laced with pain and anger and teenage girl entitlement.
Not Another Dead Teen Book:
There's nothing more depressing than reading another Fault In Our Stars. While I love a good tear-jerker, there's only so many dying kids books i can take. This book, however, was totally different. We didn't have to suffer through the nailbiting questioning of "Will Jesse actually die in this book?" Unfortunately, he actually died before the book started. The characters are six months into their grief and are each dealing with it in their own unique, if heart-wrenching, ways.
Also, the fact that he died of a hole in his heart is terrifying, since I had a hole in my heart when I was three. I had surgery, something Jesse wasn't fortunate enough to have, and am a-okay.
I can't really explain this well except to say that when you first start reading The Land of 10,000 Madonnas, you're kind of drawn in more by the stellar writing than anything else. Kate Hattemer definitely knows how to write, folks. And I think you should read it and find out for yourself.
I LOVE roadtrip, eurotrip, any kind of books featuring a journey. I think they're awesome and full of potential. And this book has the makings for an amazing journey. I love that instead of a post-graduation trip, Jesse treated his cousins and friends to a Euro-trip to find his mother. And the conflict stems from the fact that we know his mother doesn't want to be found. The trip is complex from the start, and with Jesse's dying wishes hanging over them, the reasons for each of the teens to want to complete it is just as pressing and important.
I also love ensemble casts as much as I love roadtrip books. There's nothing better than a bunch of characters playing off of each other, especially in tense scenarios (usually heist situations a la Cinder.
I love that alliances are formed and broken, that tentative friendships are made and secrets are kept. I love that Cal and Lillian hate each other from the start and Ben is awkward and that Jesse is clearly there, in Cal's laugh and Matt's memories and the notebook, pictures and maps he sent.
There's five different characters and five different histories. Each had their own complicated relationship with Jesse and between the journal he left behind and the memories we get a glance at, Kate has done a great job of filling in the blanks. I feel as if Jesse was my friend too and as if I felt his loss just as the others have. I keep looking for him in scenes where clearly he cannot be. I love that he's brought these characters together and that through them, he can live a little longer.
This contemporary is beautiful and sad and real. I already know how much it's going to make me cry and I wish I had more time to curl up with this and savor every second. I can't wait to hear more and more of you as you meet Jesse and his friends and I hope that you like as much as I have so far.