Friday, April 30, 2010

21. Valiant

Black, Holly. Valiant. ISBN: 978-0-689-86822-1. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. First Edition, 2005.

Plot Summary
Valiant is the account of a 17-year-old tomboy named Valerie Russell, who after catching her boyfriend Tom and mother in a moment of intimacy, flees to New York City. Feeling lost and betrayed, Valerie shaves her head and wanders the streets of New York until she befriends a group of homeless runaways. Valerie’s new friends Lollipop and Sketchy Dave introduce Valerie to their life in the abandoned underground of New York City’s subway system. Valerie is also introduced to Dave’s brother Luis, who functions as the leader and mediator of the group in their task of serving the troll Ravus. Luis has “the sight”, passed down from his father, making him able to see and communicate with faeries in New York. Luis and Dave deliver a potion they call “Nevermore” made by Ravus to faerie folk living in exile in New York City. “Nevermore” acts as a protection against iron for faeries so that they are able to keep up their glamoured appearances.

“Nevermore” is meant to be used by faeries only, but Lollipop and Dave start injecting the potion to get high and Valerie ends up becoming hooked on the drug with them. Valerie becomes entangled further in the “Nevermore” underworld when she and Lolli are caught breaking into Ravus’ home. As punishment, Valerie must serve Ravus for all the items that Lolli tried to steal. Ravus puts Valerie on “Nevermore” delivery duty and soon after faeries on her delivery route turn up poisoned and dead.

Critical Evaluation
Black's second novel in the modern Faerie tale series takes a slight departure from her previous storyline presented in Tithe. Valiant is an urban fantasy with a much more human element compared to Black's previous work. Through her human character's she explores themes of depression, homelessness, and drug abuse. These very real problems will strike a chord with readers, and by adding supernatural elements to each of these issues, she dresses up her problems in layers of alluring fantasy. Valiant takes the gritty style of Holly Black’s urban faerie fantasy further by incorporating issues and themes important to teens today. By introducing issues of drug abuse, infidelity, homelessness, and family betrayal, Black’s bleak look at urban life is brought to the forefront. Teens today have friends who use drugs, see the homeless problem on street corners across America, and live in less than ideal family situations.

Valiant shows that even a normal athletic teenage girl can join the wrong crowd, spiral out of control, and lose her way. By living vicariously through Valerie, teens can help to make sense of their own life decisions. They are able to understand the hazards of drug use, the homeless lifestyle, and the feelings of betrayal without being told how to feel. This book can also be used by teens experiencing these issues as a coping mechanism, to illustrate that even an addict can overcome her addiction and lead a normal life again. The action in the story is upbeat, intense, and keeps readers turning the pages. The third person narrative style works well for the second book in the series allowing Black to explore the thoughts of the story’s different human and non-human characters. The constant action sets the pace for this tale of betrayal, murder, and revenge.

Reader's Annotation
Imagine catching your mom and boyfriend making out. Now imagine running away to New York City, living underground, and becoming the servant of a troll.

Author Information
Holly Black is a bestselling fantasy author for teens and children. She is currently working on a graphic novel series called The Good Neighbors as well as a novel about curses called The White Cat. When she isn't drinking coffee, or reading in her secret library, she enjoys playing with her cats, and writing in her journal at:

urban Fantasy

Curriculum Ties
substance abuse

Book Talking Ideas

How does drug use destroy Valerie's life?
Forbidden love
How is Valerie betrayed in Valiant?
How does Valerie prove her courage and bravery?

Reading Level
grades 10+

Challenge Issues
drug abuse, homelessness, violence, sex

Challenge defense ideas:

1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
After reading several of Holly Black's urban fantasy novels for my author/genre study, I have decided to include this title for review because of the serious issues of drug abuse and homelessness it discusses. These are two issues that teens can read about in order to learn more and also to use as a means to cope.

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