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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Map of the Known World

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell (April 15th 2009—Scholastic)

Grade: 3 stars out of 5

Summary: “Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

They say no land remains to be discovered, no continent is left unexplored. But the whole world is out there, waiting, just waiting for me. I want to do things-I want to walk the rain-soaked streets of London, and drink mint tea in Casablanca. I want to wander the wastelands of the Gobi desert and see a yak. I think my life's ambition is to see a yak. I want to bargain for trinkets in an Arab market in some distant, dusty land. There's so much. But, most of all, I want to do things that will mean something.

Review: A Map of the Known World is an elusive book. I cannot seem to grasp the right words needed to form a complete thought. So let us start from the beginning—my expectations.

I was quite ecstatic that it was actually written as a novel rather than a verse poem. I wanted to see how Ms. Sandell would use her poetic method into paragraph forms. Will it still contain the lovely lyrical melody? Or would it fall flat like a sinking rock? There were some scenes where I can definitely see the melody she once had in the Song of the Sparrow. It came alive when she described the artworks—vivid imagery and creative use of mediums. Many authors would have stuck to paint or graphite but she went out of the way and used organic materials as well as metals—moss, fabrics, nuts and screws. But aside from that, the tone was strictly basic. But still good nonetheless.

I thought that Ms. Sandell captured the relationship with Nate and Cora well. It was through flashbacks that she presented Nate before the self-destructive persona came along. The caring brother and his road to anger came and went relatively quick. I think that if she spread it over the course of chapters then it would have had a greater effect. But it was still nice to find little hidden treasures of Nate everywhere.

Damien, however, was in and out. I felt like he was forced into the scene then forced out. The relationship between Cora and Damien was iffy and tremendously fast paced for me.

Speaking of Damien, in the book she mentions that his mother is black and his father is white. It seems to me that international backgrounds are becoming less scarce. Think about it, first there were Perfect Chemistry with Latinos, then North of Beautiful and the Chinese background, and now Damien with his mixed heritage. I think it is quite nice to find an expansion of this. Either that or the authors are writing about some fantasies—oh la la la…I am so off topic now. Moving on…

Overall: A Map of the Known World was a creative and fun outlet. Fans of Song of the Sparrow will be pleasantly surprised by this latest novel.

Cover A
It is simply stunning but also shows an important piece of art from the book.


  1. I haven't read anything by this author, but I really should. Map of the known world looks so good.

  2. I really enjoyed this book. I like the cover, too. It was the cover that initially drew me to it.

  3. I want to reeaaadd it :)

    I don't think I've ever read her stuff before. hm