Notes From a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: Can I Be a Rithmatist?


Voting is open for YALSA’s 2014 Teens’ Top Ten book list- a “teen choice” list where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Readers ages twelve to eighteen will vote between August 15 and Teen Read Week, and the top ten titles will be announced on October 20.

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country, and to add to the excitement surrounding this much-anticipated book list, we’re featuring posts from these teens here on The Hub.

Here’s Ashley Hum from Book Hook at the Cecil County Public Library in Maryland to introduce one of this year’s Teens’ Top Ten nominees, The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson:

I’ll start off by saying that this is my favorite kind of book. There’s a fantasy world, with its own brand of magic, rife with epic duels and battles, with a pinch of murder and crime solving thrown in for good measure. What’s not to love?


In the book, Sanderson thoroughly develops his world, describing it in geographic, historical, and cultural terms. The United States has turned into an island nation of sixty small island united only in name. Through the character’s dialogue, we learn a little bit about the country’s history, such as the first Rithmatist, and the origins of the Battle of Nebrask that rages in the West. Culturally, the tension between Rithmatists and non-Rithmatists is developed through the author’s tone and events in the story. He also describes Rithmatics, the use of chalk lines for both defense and offense in duels and battles, very clearly. He explains through the characters’ dialogue as well as through diagrams.

The characters themselves are extremely realistic, with distinct personalities and behaviors. They don’t stray from character; they’re actually quite stubborn in sticking to their personalities. Joel is the son of the deceased chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, one of only eight schools in the Isles to teach Rithmatics. He’s quite bright, but only pays attention and studies subjects that catch his interest, i.e. Rithmatics. Melody, when we first meet her, is fairly whiny and annoying. But she grows up a bit over the course of the story, and turns out to be not so bad. She just needs a little more confidence and a little less drama. She and Joel make a great team. Then there is Professor Finch, a scholarly teacher of defense and Joel’s mentor of sorts, who doesn’t mind teaching a non-Rithmatist the art of Rithmatics. He’s smart as a whip. The characters in this book seem to have a life of their own!

The storyline definitely kept my attention. Rithmatists from Armedius are being murdered with chalklings. Their defenses are found chewed to pieces, and there’s blood in their defensive circles. There’s also a strange new Rithmatic line near each of the crime scenes. Joel, Melody, and Professor Finch must race to find the killer – and the meaning of the new line – before any more Rithmatists have to die. The revelation might surprise you.

The only thing I don’t like about this book is the fact that it ends in my least favorite sentence: “TO BE CONTINUED.” But of course, that means there will be more books, which is a very good thing. I can’t wait!

I would recommend this book to anybody who wants to escape this world to dive headfirst into another one. But don’t forget your chalk, because if you do, the professors have the authority to make you scrub floors for two hours straight.

-Ashley Hum