Many years after its initial publication (1987)and its shortlisting for CBC Book of the Year 1988 – Short-listed Older Readers, I have finally read Obernewtyn. Why now? A student whose opinion I respect told me it was his favourite book/series of all time. So, my struggle started. I generally read a YA book in a day or two and often a few hours if the story really captures me, but Obernewtyn dragged and took me two weeks. I would normally have given up reading it based on the idea that if I can’t enjoy it/read it easily then none of my students would. But, I kept on going. For the first half of the book I found it difficult to work out the importance of characters and events (and even googled it to figure it out) but once into Part II I got into the plot and started to like the main character of Elspeth Gordie. So much so, that I may now read Book 2 of the series Farseekers. To find out more about the plot – google it! In terms of students I would recommend it for – good readers who are prepared to keep on reading, any age (from Year 6 upwards), there is nothing graphic or that would be deemed adult content in it.
Will, the student who motivated me to read Obernewtyn and did the review on the final Rangers Apprentice, has allowed me to publish his review of Obernewtn. Far more positive than mine!
Book review: OBERNEWTYN
Obernewtyn is a fictional novel written by Isobelle Carmody about a girl called Elspeth Gordie. It is set in our future, in a world that has been destroyed by a huge chemical war. The war poisoned the earth, turning it black, and caused mutations to form among humans and other animals alike. But the mutations aren’t all physical- they are mental too. These mutations cause some people to have powers; powers like the ability to communicate telepathically, or to read and influence others’ feelings. Elspeth is one such feared mutation, which are called misfits, and when she is forced to go to the mysterious mountain camp for mutations of the mind called Obernewtyn, her life changes forever.
This book is the first in a series of 7 books, called the Obernewtyn Chronicles. This series is my personal favourite, and has had me hooked through the first 6 books, and waiting desperately for the final instalment. The series follows Elspeth as she has many adventures throughout the land, and develops her powers. We are there as she makes her first friends, like Matthew, Dameon and Rushton, and as she realises who she is with the aid of her very close acquaintance, Maruman the cat.
The series is very unique, and feels more like one long story than a series of separate books. I love the way that Isobelle Carmody introduces the characters slowly, and eases you into the story. By the third or fourth book, I was completely immersed in the story, knowing the stories of hundreds of characters, and all their different traits and personalities. If I could say one thing slightly negative, though, I would say that the first book feels more like a prologue to a very big book than an individual novel. I mean, it has all different characters, and a plot line and everything, but the real story of Elspeth doesn’t get started until a bit later.
I would recommend this book and the whole series to anyone that will read it, and feels capable. There are so many different levels of enjoyment, that people from middle-aged years, teenagers, young adults and older people can all find enjoyment in this complex world. I think that anyone would like these books when they get into them, as the story just fits, and makes you never want to stop reading. I love this book, and the whole series, and I definitely recommend it. 10/10