Sunday, November 30, 2008
Book Review: Trigger by Susan Vaught
Author: Susan Vaught
Jersey Hatch is coming home. After a traumatic brain injury and more than a year in four different hospitals, he’s being cut loose to survive in the real world. It won’t be easy. He is no longer the brilliant, athletic boy he was before. His whole left side is well-nigh useless, and his patched-up brain now has as at least as many misfires as good connections. But he’s alive.
Now Jersey has to make his way through the wreckage of his life. With no memory of the year before the injury, he must figure out for himself why his former best friend hates him, how to make it through a normal schoolday, and what to do about his rapidly imploding family.
But most of all, Jersey Hatch has to figure out why he shot himself in the head.
Vaught brings her real-life experience as a neuropsychologist to this story of a boy attempting to reconstruct himself in the ruins of who he was before. But it’s not at all clinical or jargony. Vaught gives the neurology a miss and concentrates on an intimate recounting of Jersey’s struggles, physical, cognitive, and emotional. When he blurts out weird, fragmented words, the stream of conciousness that preceded it shows you how he got there and what he really means.
Personally I could have wished we’d gotten to know J.B. (Jersey Before) a little better. But the effect of the perfunctory explanation we do get is to underline the thundering pointlessness of his reasonings for what he did. At the same time, there is no moral, no preaching, just an honest exploration of redemption, forgiveness, and whether either is even possible.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Books I'm Thankful For
In the spirit of the season, here are some books I'm grateful that I got to read this year:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Swimming With the Sharks by Debbie Reid Fischer
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
Nothing by Robin Friedman
Good Enough by Paula Yoo
Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña
. . . and many others.
They're not comfortable, light reads, but each one took me on a trip into someone's skin and changed me a little bit.
I'm also thankful for this community of bloggers that keeps me informed of all the latest stuff (and their opinions thereof), as well as the warm sense of community.
Which books are you grateful for? Oh, hell, let's just call this a meme and pass it around the kidlitosphere.
PS I would link them, but it's late, I'm exhausted, and I still have to pack. Maybe tomorrow.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Real Life Stuff
I'm moving to another state in three weeks, so this blog may be rather sporadic. I don't have any reviews (yeah, you noticed that too, did you?) but I'll try to post interesting news bits I find. I just won't be able to do it daily.
Give it about a month and I'll be back. In the meantime, leave me some book suggestions in the comments--something light and entertaining that will give me respite from packing and canceling gas bills and trying to find apartments online and and and . . .
What? I can't heeeearr you!
Pretty darn awful and you know it, inner self!
My first few days were good. I was rackin' up the comments, having interesting and insightful conversations, and seeing the same happen on my blog. Then things started to taper off. I would mark posts to comment later and never get back to them. The comment I made went from fiveish to oneish to noneish. Pretty fast actually.
In my own defense, some real-life stuff was happening, but I still wish that I'd been able to keep up my commenting better. So this is going to be my New Year's resolution (and yes, I know New Year's is a month and a half away, but that dang real life is still getting in the way! More on that in another post.) I want to make comments every day. Notice I'm not giving a number. Some days, even one "Yeah, you go!" comment might be an effort. But I do want to put myself in the conversation, because I liked it there.
Thanks for putting this together, MotherReader and Lee! I think we should do it every year, just like the 48-hour book challenge. It's a great way of discovering new blogs, making new friends, and getting the happies when we get comments.
And next year maybe I'll actually make it the whole three weeks.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher of Balzer & Bray at HarperCollins, who edited Generation Dead while at Hyperion, reflected on the category's current popularity. “What recent authors have done is reinvent the genre,” she said. “Twilight took vampires—which are scary—and made them sexy. In Generation Dead, you have an allegory about discrimination, which makes zombies fascinating. These creatures provide great allegories for the issues teens face in their lives, romances and school.”So . . . business as usual, right?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Illustrating with Water with First Second
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Possibilities of Donna Freitas
SZ: Why do you think there are so few mainstream YA books that feature characters who have a positive relationship with their religious faith and/or traditions?Hurray Donna! This is exactly why I enjoyed The Possibilities of Sainthood so much.
DF: That’s a great question and one I feel I have to be careful about answering—though I am going to be honest. As a professor of religion, I am well aware how uncomfortable talk of religion is to many people, never mind an encounter with a person who is practicing in a tradition. . . . I think this situation is unfortunate because so many teens do practice a faith tradition and not everyone is disaffected. I’m not sure we (YA authors) do such a good job representing these teens and this aspect of their lives. Then also, to me, religion really can be lighthearted and filled with life and comedy.
I got my grubby little paws on the book at the ALA conference this summer, and this is how: I walked by some MP3 audio company, and they had a big, beautiful poster of the cover. I screeched to a halt and took a mental note of that book, knowing that I was gonna hafta read it. All axioms aside, I love a great cover. Then I actually found an ARC at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux's booth, and leaped on it like a hungry wolf. I think I scared the publisher's rep. Sorry 'bout that.
When I read it, I was delighted to see that the Catholic content wasn't played for mockery or shown to be hollow and meaningless, but that Antonia Lucia Labella is very strong and joyful in her faith. It was the second book I'd read in about a week's time with Catholic content (the other being Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's Leap of Faith.) At the same time, it was a completely different story--much more like chick lit, but still showing a girl who drew strength and guidance from her beliefs without being betrayed by them or being a mindless sheep.
Identity is comprised of many, many things for teens: sexuality, politics, fashion, music, sports . . . the list goes on and on. Faith and religion (similar but not identical concepts) are just as much a part of that list, and I hope to see more novels that address that in a variety of tones.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Hero Takes the Small Screen!
A few more details from MTV.com:
According to Variety, Showtime and Stan Lee are developing Perry Moore’s novel “Hero” into an hour long series.Yippee! I have a couple of Showtime shows on my regular TV rotation right now, so I'm very excited to see what they'll do with this. I just hope they remember the YA roots.
Congratulations Judy Blundell!
We're Gonna Need a Bigger Cover
The Knife Of Never Letting Go made the judges laugh, cry and debate its contents with passion; a striking mixture of thriller, science fiction and literary tour de force, it's influenced by writers as diverse as Laurence Sterne and Ursula le Guin, and should appeal to a wide readership.My question for those of you who've already read it--do you agree?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Much Ado About Nothing
I swear to y'all I am not getting a kickback for linking to PW (like they even notice any traffic I send their way; pfsh!), there's just been good stuff lately, or at least comment-worthy stuff.
I read The Pox Party (Octavian Nothing 1) and got an ARC of The Kingdom on the Waves (Octavian Nothing 2) at BEA in May. My reading habits being what they are, I didn't get to it until November. I finished it November 4th, in fact. In the evening, after the news spread throughout the land. Wow.
I don't plan stuff like this. Sometimes this just happens, like the day that Meg Cabot's Valentine Princess turned up at the top of my queue being, actually, Valentine's Day.
Anyway, enough about me. Interview. Quotage of note:
I’ve heard from one or two adults saying, “Are you sure this is appropriate for kids?,” but I think people don’t always give teens credit for how well they read. And not just looking up words they don’t know—they skip over words they don’t know, just like adults do. . . . And consider that kids read fantasy books, which in many cases have invented vocabulary. . . . Kids who are reading that are building a language in their heads. There’s no real cognitive difference. I think kids are excited by language, and they’re not always given credit for that.Interesting. I have to admit that's one of the things that stopped me from booktalking as widely as I might have, wondering whether the 18th century prose would block them. He says elsewhere, though, that he has kids of 11 or 12 reading this book.
Do they get every subtle shading, every issue that's touched upon? Probably not. But maybe this is where they can start to grapple with them.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Ellen Emerson White Chat
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The Winter Blog Tour is Blasting Through!
Lewis Buzbee at Chasing Ray
Louis Sachar at Fuse Number 8
Laurel Snyder at Miss Erin
Courtney Summers at Bildungsroman
Elizabeth Wein at Finding Wonderland
Susan Kulkin at The YA YA YAs
Ellen Dalow at Chasing Ray
Tony DiTerlizzi at Miss Erin
Melissa Walker at Hip Writer Mama
Luisa Plaja at Bildungsroman
DM Cornish at Finding Wonderland
LJ Smith at The YA YA YAs
Kathleen Duey at Bookshelves of Doom
Ellen Klages at Fuse Number 8
Emily Jenkins at Wrting and Ruminating
Ally Carter at Miss Erin
Mark Peter Hughes at Hip Writer Mama
Sarah Darer Littman at Bildungsroman
MT Anderson at Finding Wonderland
Mitali Perkins at Mother Reader
Martin Millar at Chasing Ray
John Green at Writing and Ruminating
Beth Kephart at Hip Writer Mama
Emily Ecton at Bildungsroman
John David Anderson at Finding Wonderland
Brandon Mull at The YA YA YAs
Lisa Papademetriou at Mother Reader
Mayra Lazara Dole at Chasing Ray
Francis Rourke Dowell at Fuse Number 8
J Patrick Lewis at Writing and Ruminating
Wendy Mass at Hip Writer Mama
Lisa Ann Sandell at Bildungsroman
Caroline Hickey/Sara Lewis Holmes at Mother Reader
A.S. King at Bookshelves of Doom
Emily Wing Smith at Interactive Reader
More Twilight Bashing
I am a bad, bad person.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Holy Graphic Novels, Batman!
Now, current graphic novels have diverged from the kind of 22-page comic books that this guy writes, but many of the things he says regarding the storytelling (dialogue-wise and artistically) still have weight in GNs. Go take a look.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Buy Books for the Holidays!
1. Books are easy to wrap. Square or rectangle. Done and done-r.
2. When wrapped, the little stinkers can tell it's a book, but which one? Which one?!? No amount of rattling will give the title away. The suspense will make them crazy, which we all know is the best part of the holiday.
3. One-stop shopping, baby, be it Amazon, B&N, Powell's, favorite indie store that smells like cats and incense. With the price of gas, who wants to go driving all over Hell's half-acre for that elusive red shirt that your teenager wants?
4. The start of a lifelong addiction. Get 'em hooked early, and the next thing you know they're knocking on the library windows at 9:59 am, desperate for their lit fix. Muahahahaha.
Are you giving books for the holidays?
Kirkus Reviews Chimes In
Fair warning, though: if you have a slow Internet solution, I suggest making a sandwich and maybe a chocolate layer cake while you wait for this 24 page pdf to download. Egad.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Publisher's Weekly Thinks You Should Read These Books
As I moaned in my post over at Kid Tested, Librarian Approved, PW doesn't seem to differentiate much in children's fiction, even when they get down to the nitty-gritty in grown-up stuff. I mean, seriously, they have a subsection for "Religious Fiction" and then a total YA book like The Hunger Games is next to Jeannie Birdsall's delightful but definitely kid's The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Geez, guys.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A Letter From the Audience
It's good for publishers to hear, and it's also good for us librarian types. Of all people, we're going to know the books they're looking for.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Knucklehead Makes a Book Trailer
Knucklehead featuring Jon Scieszka from Jon Scieszka on Vimeo.
Thanks to Fuse #8 for finding it.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Lookit The Pretty!
Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom for the link. Fight ya for 'em, Leila.
The Lisa Yee Title Contest Has a Winnah!
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Urban Lit and YA
Urban fiction - also known as street lit or street fiction - is a style of literature that depicts drugs, violence, and sexual promiscuity in black and Latino neighborhoods. Some of the books detail the extravagant lifestyles of drug dealers. Others describe the bloody violence associated with the drug trade. The sex scenes in some of the novels are extremely explicit, and sex is often used as a form of power rather than an expression of love.I have to admit, I haven't read much myself, but I noticed with interest the quotes from teens reading adult-oriented urban lit novels rather than school-assigned books, rather to the dismay of some adults. In response, a number of publishing houses have started offering YA urban novels alongside the adult fare, but they're still too mature for some quoted in the article.
The debate sounds awfully familiar. Like so many others in the YA world (including the sex in SF/F debate I posted about a couple of days ago) it seems to come down to protection vs permission, or from another angle, innocence vs knowledge.
Has anybody out there read extensively in the genre, either the YA or the adult stuff? What did you think?
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Jeez, Edward, Buy a Brush
Lest ye forget, Pattinson and Stewart are Edward and Bella, respectively, in the upcoming Twilight movie. I think I would have liked the books better if scenes like this had been included.
Friday, November 07, 2008
SF/F Takes on the S-Word
Hop on over to read a number of opinions on the place and function of sex within sci-fi and fantasy, and then how the same question applies to YA iterations of the same. Not surprisingly, many of the bloggers who say without hesitation, "Sure, if it moves the story forward" to sex in adult SF/F have a harder time with, "Well, what about the teens?"
This is a question I've been chewing on for a little while myself. Having just finished Kristin Cashore's terrific YA fantasy Graceling, which does happen to feature sex, I wondered about whether to pass it on to a teen I know with a very conservative mom. As I put it to a co-worker, "It's not graphic, but it's hard to mistake for making out."
As you no doubt can tell, a large part of my chickenositude was due to the same feelings as one of the bloggers expresses:
I think that parents are the ultimate filter--they should be reading (or at least reviewing) their child's chosen reading material and giving it the ok. Granted, my parents never did that for me, and I grew up unscathed (for the most part), but it's also about being involved…The thing about the sex in Graceling is that it was part of an equal and loving relationship, and the main character thinks hard about whether to get that involved from an emotional standpoint before she does it. There are worse examples for our teens out there. Just as another blogger points out,
I think something adults have trouble grasping is that young adults are a lot more intelligent and grown up that we would like to think. True, they don't know everything, even though they think they do, and they're still growing and maturing, but at the same time they're not stupid.Gah. This is why children's and YA librarianship is not for the faint of heart. Still, maybe this quote sums it up best:
I'm sure that if a teenager wants to read something sexy, I doubt they'll be heading for the fantasy and sci-fi section.Hee.
Comment Challenge Ahoy!
I admit it, I'm not the best commenter ever. I'll save posts, think about them, even link to them if I decide to write about the topic on my blog, but I don't comment on the other person's actual blog. Knowing what a thrill it is for me to get comments, I feel bad about not putting in a little time to give that thrill to someone else.
No more! MotherReader and Lee, I'm in and I'll do my darnedest to speak up, even if it's to say "Go You!"
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Neil Gaiman and the Graveyard Book
Gaiman went up to his office and started trying to write it. “I read the first page,” he laughs gently, “and I thought, ‘This is a better idea than I am a writer. So I will put the idea away until I’m a better writer.’”The weird thing (at least to me) is that they keep referring to it as YA in the article. To be honest, I didn't see The Graveyard Book as YA. Would teens enjoy it? Yeah, sure, especially if they're already Gaiman fans.
But I saw it as a middle-grade novel--admittedly one with a rather more traumatic beginning than you usually see, but this is the same group we make read Where the Red Fern Grows, so I don't exactly see the objection. Gaiman himself admits that he has 10-year-olds reading it. So wherefore the YA? Possibly it gets slightly more respect than "children's book." Who knows.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
National Book Award Finalists Talk
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Richard Dawkins and Fairy Tales
To my own surprise, I'm behind the idea of the children's book he intends to write, although I know it's going to be seen as promoting atheism. (And to be honest, the whole "Judeo-Christian mythology" didn't exactly rub me the right way.) We do need to start teaching 'em critical thinking, instead of answers to the test.
But I wonder if Dawkins fully appreciates the role that fiction plays in teaching critical thinking. Every time a child opens a book, they must answer within themselves some fairly fundamental questions. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who do I support and why? What do their choices mean to me? What would I do in that situation?
Granted, he's really behind scientific critical thinking, but I think literary critical thinking and scientific bleed into each other in a way that he may be too quick to dismiss.
What do you guys think?
Monday, November 03, 2008
Book Review: Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
Author: Elizabeth Scott
Kate’s life, never the stuff of Hollywood musicals, has now gone completely down the tubes. She used to have a best friend, she used to have a dad with a stable job, she used to not have to work at a sketchy vitamin booth at the mall. Now she’s on her own, but she’s not going to let anyone see how they’re getting to her. Especially that annoying jerk, Will Miller, who constantly mocks her by pretending to flirt. Can it get any worse?
Oh, yes, it can. Now her domineering (and rich) grandma is coming to “help out” at home. Her former best friend starts talking to her occasionally, but only when the popular crowd isn’t around. And worst of all, Kate finds herself in a weird, mostly physical relationship with Will that takes place completely in the mall.
She’s got to fix her life, fast. Trouble is, she can’t tell what’s wrong about it, and what’s right.
This was one of those books that I put down firmly at about midnight and turned off the light, because I needed to go to sleep. After five minutes, I turned it back on and finished the book. It’s not like there’s a great deal of suspense involved, I admit. You can pretty well tell that Anna is going to remain a selfish cow, that Will and Kate are going to get together in a real relationship, and that the family is headed for the rocks. It’s just seeing how Kate gets there and how she’s going to handle it that dragged me through the story.
The neatest thing about this book is Will. So often in YA novels with a romantic plot, the boy is an idealized creature: sweet, sensitive, and all-around so dang perfect you expect the light to go ting off his teeth. Will, on the other hand, is not the sharpest crayon in the box. He makes dumb jokes when he should be serious, he shows off too much in front of his friends, and after a certain point in the novel, every time they’re together, his brain goes straight to the Make-Out Place. In other words, he’s a teenage boy. With the exception of having the patience of a freakin’ saint when it comes to Kate’s insecurities, he’s just about the most believable seventeen-year-old romantic lead I’ve ever seen in a YA novel. It helps that there are things going on in his life that have absolutely nothing to do with Kate. I got the feeling that if Scott had decided to write the whole novel from Will’s point of view instead, it would have been completely possible.
I love a good romance, and it makes it all the better when I can believe in all the important characters. I believed in everyone in Perfect You.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Why I'm Voting
My first Presidential election, I voted for a third-party candidate just to thumb my nose at the two parties. My second one, I voted, but my candidate didn’t win, so I retired in disgust from the whole voting round.
But in this most recent election, I realized something. In such a huge country it’s easy to think that your vote doesn’t matter, like a snowflake doesn’t matter to a mountainside. But snowflakes make up avalanches. If enough of them move, the whole side of the mountain comes down. But you’ve gotta move first.
Enough of the corny metaphor. Here’s the thing: I don’t get to complain until I’ve actually put my vote in. This country isn’t perfect, but it’s mine. In this country, I have rights, like the right to work in a library full of books that don't agree with each other, and to make them all available to everybody. The right to practice my own religion, no matter who thinks it's stupid and brainwashy.
And tomorrow, most importantly, the right to vote. But it's more than a right. In exchange for the gift of living here, I have to give back by proclaiming how I want it to be run, and what rights I want extended to my neighbors.
So that’s why I’m voting tomorrow. Because this is my country, and no matter who wins, casting my vote is not a right, it’s a responsibility.
I've been a bad citizen in the past. But I've got the right to change that.
Check out the master list of Blog the Vote at Chasing Ray.
Bruce Coville Fanboy Interview
Coville talks about the writing process, his thought process during the writing of the series, and how much technology has caught up to his vision. Which as it turns out, it hasn't very much, but that's not really that important anyway. Then as now, the story's the real thing.
Part One here, and Part Two here.
Thanks to Chicken Spaghetti for the link.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Reading Roundup October 2008
Teen: Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Tween: The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower by Lisa Graff
Children: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Because I Want To Awards
Yep, It's That Good: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Most Fun Sequel: The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
Most Realistic Teenage Guy in a Girl-Centric Book: Will in Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott
Sequel, NOW!: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Most Discomfiting: Swimming With the Sharks by Debbie Reid Fischer