Currently Reading: Ender's Shadow
Only even as he thought this, Bean knew it wasn't true. If it could be done, Ender was the one who would have to do it. All those months when Bean refused to see Ender, hid from him, it was because he couldn't bear to face the fact that Ender was what Bean only wished to be—the kind of person on whom you could put all your hopes, who could carry all your fears, and he would not let you down, would not betray you.
I want to be the kind of boy you are, thought Bean. But I don't want to go through what you've been through to get there.
Author: Orson Scott Card
Synopsis: Set during the same time period as Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow tracks the perspective of the smallest, smartest child in Battle School. Known only as Bean, he goes from starving on the streets of Rotterdam to fighting alongside the greatest legend and hero of his time.
Notes: If anyone outdoes Orson Scott Card in nuanced fictional portraits of human nature, relationships, and character development, I've never read them. I would rank him with Jane Austen on this, and she's the best I could think of off the top of my head.
Foremost among his creations is Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, protagonist of Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Ender may be the single most sympathetic character I've ever come across in fiction. From the first pages of the first book, he evokes a combined desire to step forward and protect him and to stand back and watch him succeed. From there on out, readers learn to love him as his soldiers do.
Looking at him through Bean's eyes was, therefore, part of the power of the book. Much of the rest of that power, for me at least, was in the character development of Bean himself. Bean spends a fair portion of the book putting The Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen to shame in the cold-and-calculating-survivor department, and—well, it's very hard to explain without giving out spoilers, but watching him grow in humanity is a beautiful thing indeed.
And without going into those spoilers, I'm struggling to express why I loved this book so much, why it brought me to tears several times. I can praise it for being exceptionally intelligent, for hooking me in immediately and making me want to tell everyone and everything to scram until I'd finished, for keeping me fascinated even though I normally couldn't care less about technological marvels and war strategy. But the book mattered to me for different reasons. The lengths and widths and depths and heights of love that Bean discovers. The way Scripture is used, and the situations behind those references. What it's like to self-effacingly serve someone you love with all your heart.
There aren't words.
Recommendation: This book gets an unreserved yes from me.