The Sign Of The Chrysanthemum (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

The Sign of the Chrysanthemum - Katherine Paterson, Peter Landa Oi... my head... not to say that this book is horrible. It was an okay read. However, what I don't like about a lot of Paterson's novels is the lack of hope. Basically, this novel was no different. I wanted to read this book because, even though I've read other books of hers and I noticed the recurring theme, I thought since this was her first novel and it was about Japan (my favorite country) it was going to be different. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

I usually find that I have no problems with the writing style of authors. That's not the case with Katherine Paterson. Though having a nice grasp of putting words together to paint a beautiful scene, she lacks transitions. She would start off in one area of the setting and then, before you know it, you're somewhere else entirely. There were parts in the book where you had to re-read a paragraph in order to know that the scene had change. The same thing could be said about the mood. There's one particular scene where one of the characters was being forceful and smug then, without much notice, that same character was being cowardly the next sentence over without any reason. It was far too confusing and not very well explained for any reader to follow or even care.

Story-wise... the book was poor. It follows a boy trying to locate his father so he can make a name for himself. It might have worked if only there was actual searching going on. No, nothing happens. The boy decides to make excuses for what's going on and then, enter hopeless message here. It dragged on to get absolutely no where and just made me want to slap someone out of shere annoyance. The only part I liked about the story was the Japanese aspect of it. You get to learn a lot about the Heian era in Japan from little snippets of court life to how women where changed into geisha and even what happened with beggars. There's even mention about the war between the Genji and the Heike. However, these come in small amounts and not enough detail so even this part of the book is lacking. (Not to mention there are various typoes on Japanese names.) -_-"

Not all the characters are horrible. Muna, the main character, was a very sweet boy. His name means "No Name" and it is one of the many reasons why he decides to find his father to make a name for himself. I do sympathize with him even though he makes a lot of stupid decisions. He is easily manipulated and has issues with making decisions for himself. It makes me upset that by the end of the book, you feel that he came to a decision that Paterson gives to all her characters. That being "Life sucks. Deal with it." There's this other character called Takanobu. He was Muna's first friend when he arrives in the city and I adored him! He's fun, quirky, free-spirited; he had all the qualities I like in my characters. But Paterson destroyed him! He had so much promise and then you see him get slowly corrupted. It makes me sad.

There's a bunch of side characters that suffer a similar fate. Kawaki, Akiko, even Fukuji, though not a side character, gets betrayed and all you want is to hold him to your bosom and say, "All this will be fine. I'll love you!" Although, to be fair to Paterson, I did feel that Fukuji, this kind elderly swordsmith, was the only one to find a happy ending. He was the only one I felt was able to find peace with what his position brought about him. I wish the same could be said about the other characters.

Put briefly, the novel was okay. The message in it is dull and non-inventive but there's some parts of it that was good enough to keep one reading until the very end. You feel bad for a lot of the characters and there's not much of a story... and it's down right depressing in some areas. However, you do get some of the Japanese history and not all the characters suffer a tremendous loss so it's not all tears. I wouldn't recommend children reading this. There was some adult themes, though well hidden, that appear in this book. (Prostitution being one of them) My suggestion is that you check this one out of the library first before you decide to buy it. It'll save you a few dollars that can be spent on donuts. *Nods*