Saturday, August 11, 2012

YA Fiction: Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

Publisher: Henry Holt
Date: August 7, 2012
Format: ARC
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 242
Reading time: two days

From GoodReads: Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family's failing tuna cannery. But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers a real girl amidst the squalor. So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea. Despite how far she's come, Karen remains defined by the things she can't do—until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family's fishery. Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations.

My review: Novels about people with "different abilities," as Karen Nieto puts it in this book, always have the potential to be powerful and moving, a combination of inspirational, engaging, and unique storytelling that makes for a memorable book. Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World is no different. Karen's story, spanning from her childhood into her forties, is arresting and intriguing. The author does a fantastic job of letting readers into the mind of an autistic savant; one is able to understand and even relate with how Karen and her peculiar brain work.

The story itself is also engaging, near-perfectly developed. There's few slow moments, but at the same time, nothing is rushed. The plot occasionally took different directions from what I had expected, given the book's blurb, but it always felt true to life. Karen's voice is not without humor, either, though it is an appropriate laugh-with-me rather than at-me as I navigate this odd world drollness. The only issue I had at all was that the passage of time is often confusing, the reader not being sure of Karen's current age or how much time has passed between events. I suppose this is just another aspect of Karen's unique voice, though.

Maturity Factor: Profanity and sexual references. The writing, at least to me, seemed to fit in with YA, even MG if not for the above maturity factor.

Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World was first published in Spanish in 2010. It has been translated into many other languages, including a Simon and Schuster UK edition under the title The Woman Who Dived into the Heart of the World, released in February 2012.

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