Nerds Heart YA, Round 1: Premiere vs. Tall Story

My second year as a judge for the Nerds Heart YA tournament and it’s been a lot of fun to read books that I may not have read otherwise.  This year I was extremely pleased to be partnered with Holly ofBookHarbinger and together we were asked to judge Premiere by Melody Carlson and Tall Story by Candy Gourlay.

So here we go…  we’re posting our joint reviews of each book on our blogs.  We’d like to thank The Book Smugglers for letting us borrow their joint review format.

To read our review of Premiere, please head over to BookHarbinger.  Here is our review of Tall Story – hope you enjoy it!  And please see our decision at the end of this posting ….

Summary from the back of the book:

Be careful what you wish for . . .

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long lost half brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London, where he belongs.

Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as mad as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. But he’s not just tall … he’s a GIANT.

In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

First Impressions:

Michelle:  I thought this was a wonderful story!  It was told from the perspectives of the 2 main characters: 8ft tall Bernardo and his half-sister, Andi.   Candy Gourlay made it very easy for the reader to switch from one to the other.  I love novels where you are placed into the mind of one character for one chapter and then the next for the second chapter.  It’s such a great way to get two perspectives on the whole story as you work your way through the plot.

Holly: Before I even opened the book I had high expectations from Tall Story. Some of my best blogging buddies are from the Phillipines and had already read and reviewed it.

I agree, Michelle! I always enjoy reading novels written in alternating perspectives.

On the Plot:

Michelle:  The plot was very easy to follow and drew me in from the start. I guess when you drill down to the nuts and bolts of Tall Story – it’s really about the relationship between brother and sister, Bernardo and Andi.  Bernardo, is 8-feet tall and has spent all his life in San Andres, Philippines, living with his Aunt and Uncle.  His mother has been trying for years to get a VISA to have Bernardo move to London with her and when he finally gets one, he comes to London and moves into Andi’s room and her life changes in ways that no one imagined.  Andi and Bernardo were strangers but learned how to develop what turned out to be a very strong brother-sister relationship.

I found the relationships between brother and half-sister very intriguing and it kept me wanting more.

Holly: I agree about the plot, which hooked me quickly as well. I also liked how effortless the writing style read and how the chapters were short. Alternating settings kept things interesting as well.


Michelle:  Two themes popped out for me…  The juxtaposition of 8ft Bernardo who cannot play basketball with his short sister who is a very talented basketball player.  The way these two play off each other was brilliant.

The second theme that popped out to me was the folklore imagery of Atlas with Bernardo.  The strong belief of his home village that as long as he lives with them the village will survive all.   The pressure that is placed on Bernardo is incredible, especially when he leaves and a devastating earthquake destroys his Phillipian home.

Holly: Michelle, I loved the theme of opposites and how Gourlay used them to define her characters. Bernardo and Andie couldn’t be more different. Bernardo’s a giant from the Phillipines who can’t speak English very well, while Andi is very short, excels at basketball, and has lived in London her entire life.

I also liked the added layer of depth Fillipino mythology added to the novel and how it brought a small fantastic element to this rather simple story. It definitely keeps the reader intrigued and guessing as to how Bernardo’s story will play out.

On the Characters:

Michelle:  At the end of the book I felt that I knew both Bernardo and Andi.  Candy Gourlay did an awesome job at developing these characters that it was very easy to associate with them.  There are bits and pieces of them that are still with me – a sign of great characters to me.

Holly: Yes, I found both Bernardo and Andi very endearing! Bernardo may be extremely tall but he is still very young and vulnerable. Andi was quite the tom boy and I loved her spunk. The image of her playing basketball and Bernardo wearing his Velcro suit and Filipino sandals with socks will forever stick with me. I was touched by the development of their relationship. They start the novel as strangers and end it as a tested brother and sister pair.

Final Thoughts and Observations:

Michelle:  This book was a great read although I do believe it was more geared towards the middle school audience than the high school age groups.  I would love to see the older teens reading this book, seeing the themes and developing an appreciation for them.  However, I’m not sure how that would be accomplished other than using Tall Story in a classroom setting.

Holly: I agree, it’s definitely more middle grade than high school. Some elements of the story may be juvenile but Bernardo and Andi are very mature for their ages and the plot seems complex enough for teenagers to enjoy.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

“I stood there like Atlas, oceans and rivers sending trickles of water down my arm, forests like sandpaper against my skin, mountains poking into the nape of my neck.”                p. 45

Gourlay, Candy. (2010).  Tall Story.  New York, NY: A David Fickling Book.


Michelle: Another awesome book, however I did feel that it was more geared towards the Middle School age group than the High School age group.  The imagery however did lend itself nicely to be incorporated into a High School curriculum.

Holly: Like you said it is written for a younger audience but I think it has enough emotional depth to appeal to older teens. Reading Tall Story has made me curious to read Candy Gourlay’s other novels.

Decision?  Who moves onto the second bracket?

Drum roll please……  Tall Story by Candy Gourlay moves on in the NHYA 2011 Tournament.  For both Holly and myself, this story stayed with us.  It was one of those novels that even after reading it, the characters live on.  An easy ready, wonderful story with a lot of depth and beautiful imagery – what more could you ask for in a novel?


10 thoughts on “Nerds Heart YA, Round 1: Premiere vs. Tall Story

  1. Pingback: First Round Decisions «

  2. Yay, I’m so glad you both liked Tall Story and that it’s moving on to the next round! It reads like a middle grade or younger YA book but I’m still thrilled that there’s a well-written Filipino YA book that’s internationally available. I met Candy Gourlay during the Philippine launch of Tall Story and she’s really nice and friendly. 🙂

    • She seems like a really great person. When I finished reading Tall Story I posted my thoughts on it about a month ago and made a comment about a statement in the book and she replied and posted her own comment! I thought that was just great! I would love to meet her someday and look forward to checking on some of her other books 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for taking part in the tournament. I loved seeing your in depth thoughts on ‘Tall Story’, especially as it’s a book by a UK based author (British girl here).

  4. OMG reading this, i got really nervous as i came to the end when you guys were assessing if it’s for high school or grade school. I’ve heard from some prize giving people here in the UK that they find it hard to know what category to put my book. I wouldn’t know either! I asked my publisher David Fickling and he said it doesn’t fit into any genres or age groups because it’s an ‘ALL read’ … he says all the right things!

    I loved the way you made your review a conversation, it was engaging and had a thrill to it.

    THANK YOU for taking me to the next level!

    • Hi Candy!

      I like the “All READ” category! I was wondering are you aware of any schools using your book in the curriculum? I see so much potential here 🙂

      Thanks for dropping by again! Now I hope it makes through to the next rounds too

  5. Tall Story was one of my favorite books from last year. 🙂 I’m so glad it’s moving on to the next round, and that you enjoyed reading it!

  6. Thanks for commenting, Candy! I’m glad you liked the conversational format. I had fun writing it but wondered if the extra time to write it would pay off, so thank you!

    Michelle, you were a wonderful co-judge. Great write up and way to announce the winner. I hope Tall Story goes far!

    Tina and Chachic, it’s always nice to see you and am so glad Tall Story is moving on as well. 😀

  7. Tall Story sounds wonderful! It’s so refreshing that it’s such a family-centered story and from cultures very different from my own. Will have to pick it up this summer!

  8. Pingback: Review (Nerds Heart YA, 2nd Round): Tall Story, Candy Gourlay (2010)

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