aka YA Literature

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Down the Rabbit Hole

Title: Down the Rabbit Hole: An Echo Falls Mystery
Author: Peter Abrahams
Rating: B+

Ok, I'll admit that I'm not normally one to read mysteries, but since Mr. Abrahams will be visiting my library this summer I though I should at least read one of this works.

Down the Rabbit Hole follows a young girl, Ingrid, who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After taking a wrong turn on her way to soccer practice, Ingrid finds herself in the middle of a crime scene and suspect in the town's first murder. Ingrid must unravel the clues and solve the crime before the police link her to the crime.

I actually enjoyed Down the Rabbit Hole (although I'll admit that this may have something to do with my lack of experience with good mysteries.) I found Mr. Abrabrams story to be both humorous and intriguing. My only minor complain might be that the ending was a little predictable...however, I realize that this could largely be due to that fact that I'm an adult reading a book intended for kids in junior high!

Ana's Story

Okay, I am interested. I'm interested in reading Jenna Bush's Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope that is about a 17 year-old Panamanian girl with HIV, a girl Jenna met and interviewed while working for UNICEF. I admit that I always thought of the Bush daughters as party-goers and not really quite worthy of taking seriously (although I do think it's tough to be a "first child" and the public should be understanding of what it's like to be a teen). This seems like a potentially serious and interesting story, and I find it really interesting that it is targeted at teens. The story I read about it says it reads like a novel, so maybe it won't be "preachy." Could be very good. I am also interested to see the publicity events surrounding it and what Jenna will do after this. I would love to see her go on "The Daily Show" and/or "The Colbert Report!" I hope she gets a website and maybe a MySpace and all of that going if she wants to reach teens. I couldn't find any as of now. I wonder how many teens will actually be interested in reading this.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fly on the Wall


I started listening to Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn yesterday. It was narrated by Carine Montbertrand, to whom I gave a very favorable review of her performance of Westerfeld's Uglies. However, she was so the wrong person for this first-person teen narrator that I had to give up on it. I'll just have to read it instead.

Friday, May 25, 2007

E. Lockhart!

E. Lockhart answered these questions for me on K.L. Going's very cool "Author Interviews" forum section of her website. I'm posting them here for your further edification and enjoyment!

1) What was your dissertation about?
Late 19th century and early 20th century British illustrated novels -- their publishing histories and their reception. Sherlock Holmes. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Trilby by George duMaurier.

2) Can you describe the process of making a novel into an audiobook? How is it decided whether or not a book will be made into an audiobook? How involved, if at all, are you in the decision process and then the production? How happy have you been with the audio versions of your books so far? [You know how I love audiobooks!]
It's pretty minimal, in terms of what an author does. The Boyfriend List and Fly on the Wall were audiobooks, but my other books have not been. Basically, the publishing house reps your audio rights -- and if they sell them, they inform you. You get some money, but not oceans of it.

I had a chat with the producer, but they hired actors without my input. I was invited to come and see the process -- which is pretty interesting. I mean, it's a woman reading your MS in a soundproof room, with a director and a technician telling her when to stop and start -- but it was interesting to me, to see how the director coached the actor, and to hear the actor reading my words. They had slightly early version of the MS for Boyfriend List, so people who listen to the audiobook are subjected to a few awkward phrases and irrelevant sentences that I axed from the final version!

In the end, I can't listen to the audios. I think the actors were probably great, but the text sounds so different inside my head, I couldn't deal with hearing it interpreted another way. It's a good thing I'm not a playwright!

3) What person(s) who has not yet contributed a boyfriend/girlfriend list to your site would you most like to see do one?
I love having YA authors I admire. I guess if I could pick just one it would be Louise Rennison, author of Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, etc. I think she must have a doozy of a boyfriend list, and all her writing cracks me up.

The next questions were inspired by my recent reading of "Bake Sale: A Ruby Oliver Story," which is part of the short story compilation Not Like I'm Jealous or Anything.

4) What are you good at cooking?
I am a pretty good cook, if I do say so myself. I have people over for dinner every week. My mom taught me the basics, and I learned the rest from cookbooks. This week I am making a celariac salad from Julia Child, and a feta/watermelon/cilantro salad, among other things. I am not a sophisticated baker, but I do love to make cakes. Here is the most insane cake I ever made. It is a taj-mahal ice palace, with rock candy and gummy penguins.

5) What's something you've done that you otherwise wouldn't -- just to impress a guy?

I took scuba-diving lessons.

6) Fill in the blanks to these cliches:
The way to a guy's heart is through . . . well -- in The Boy Book, Cricket says "the nether regions!" But I think she is wrong.
The way to a girl's heart is through . . . Hm. I once fell for a guy because he sang songs outside my window in the middle of the night. He really did. It was very very silly. BUt it wouldn't have worked if I hadn't already liked him. THe singing just made me FALL.

7) I liked what Ruby has to say about the importance of thoughtful gifts. What is the best gift you've ever received? Given? (or at least one of the best)
Honestly, I like a love letter. I don't remember the presents. I remember the notes that went with them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A sad day for libraries

All fifteen of Jackson County Library branches are closed as of Saturday, April 7, 2007, due to a lack of funding.

Although it is no longer active, Gary Paulson wrote a wonderful letter on the Jackson County Library blog about the impact of libraries on his life. His open letter can be found here.

I feel for all the library staff members who lost jobs they loved dearly. I feel even more for those communities who lost such an invaluable resource.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's a Gay, Gay, Gay, Gay World

Ok, as the resident gay here at A True Reality, I felt it was time for me to finally critique some of the prominent gay literature out there for teens...so here are three of my favorites.

Title: Boy Meets Boy
Author: David Levithan
Rating: B+

The Good: Ok, I loved the fact that this is merely a simple love story. The book didn't really seem like a "gay" love story, but somehow tapped into a more universal understanding of relationships, which anyone can relate to.

The Bad: I didn't really care for the unrealistic setting of Mr. Levithan's novel. I mean, a high school with a quarterback who's a drag queen....

Title: Rainbow Boys
Author: Alex Sanchez
Rating: A-

The Good: Rainbow Boys is perhaps the most realistic portrayal of gay life (at least gay life as I've known it.) It has a rawness that most YA books seem afraid to touch...I mean, the teens in this book actually have sex (of course, all graphic details are left out.) The book breeches several of the key issues gay teens face - bullying, safe sex, HIV/AIDS, and the struggle of finding one's self.

The Bad: I have found that there is a standard format for most gay teen literature. Usually there are 3 character types: 1) the average boy that floats the middle range of the high school social ladder; 2) the openly gay character that is extremely flamboyant and hated by most of the student body; and 3) the closeted super jock (quarterback, captain of the basketball team). I found that Rainbow Boys falls too heavily into this overly-used format.

Title: Geography Club
Author: Brent Hartinger
Rating: B-

The Good:
I really liked how prominently the Internet played in the teens meeting other gays. I also liked the underground nature of the student's gay organization....both very realistic aspects.

The Bad: As with Rainbow Boys, I felt that this book relied too heavily on the 3 archetype characters. This was by far the weakest of the three novels I've reviewed.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall

When I was at TLA, I signed up to receive some ARCs of various YA books. I was so excited to get a box of books in the mail last week, one of which was Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass. Heaven is unusual because it is written in verse. Normally that would be a turn off for me, but this is written and a very simple, easy to follow way. Here is the opening paragraph to the novel:

For fifty cents and a Gobstopper
I lifted my shirt for the neighborhood boys.
My oldest brother Matt caught us
and chased the boys with a
Wiffle bat.
Word got around, and at nine years old
I became the girl
other girls' moms
didn't want them to play with.

I read this book in under an hour (with interruptions). I wouldn't be surprised if ALA chose this as one of their Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. The main character, Tessa, sometimes does mean things and she is not always likable, but that is what makes her so real.

Oh, one other thing that I love is the book cover uses fonts from actual mall store name fonts (did that make any sense?).

Grade: B+

A Certain Slant of Light

Book: A Certain Slant of Light
Author: Laura Whitcomb
Narrator: Lauren Molina
Book Rating: A
Audio Rating: B

The Book:
Holy cow, I so loved this book. I know it was on ALA's BBYA list, so maybe I'm the only one who has been overlooking it thus far. But I just haven't read much about it on any of the YA or librarian blogs or discussion groups I follow, and it is so fantastic. Even though it's not just like Twilight, I plan to suggest this to people who like that book. It was so well-conceived, with so many great aspects and twists to the plot and so many depths. I thought the plot and characters were both incredibly well-developed. If I have any criticisms, it's that the number of similes were a bit distracting at times and I didn't think it was in character for James and Helen to jump into "bed" so quickly, even considering they'd been dead for years.


The Good:
Molina was a good choice for an adult who is in a teen's body. She was able to be both at the same time, somehow. She had good separate voices for most of the characters.

The Bad:
Somehow the narratorial voice was at "dramatic" for too much of the book. There was a little too much "quavering" going on, and there were some points where I thought Molina didn't quite portray the textual descriptions. I thought the performance was adequate but didn't add anything to the "experience." The discs didn't warn you when they came to an end, which I hate. :(

Monday, May 21, 2007

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist Audio

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist absolutely needs to be made into an audio book. It would be so great to have a male and female narrator alternate chapters. Holly, when you finish reading it, tell me what stars you see as the voices/characters. I must say that the website for this book is pretty cool and has some good extras (but why no audiobook?????).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Gossip Girls

Lots going on in the (YA-related) minds and lives of the A True Reality members today. It's just one of those days, whereas nothing was worth posting about yesterday.

"Gilmore Girls" is being cancelled and "Gossip Girls" is starting? Uggh, I sure hope the series is better than the books, but even if it is, do we really need another show like that? Although, I guess every generation usually has one (whether or not they need it . . . ); example: "Beverly Hills 90210." I have an idea for my women's studies thesis or maybe just a journal or MLA conference paper where I write about the messages in Gossip Girls. (I also have this idea for an academic LFA paper, but I haven't had any incentive to flesh it out at all.)

BTW, although I used to really like "Gilmore Girls," I never liked Alexis Bledel as Rory. Sorry. Oh, and Jared Padalecki used to do interp in high school in San Antonio.

River Secrets

Title: River Secrets
Author: Shannon Hale
Rating: A+++

Continuing the Bayern Saga from her previous two novels (Goose Girl and Enna Burning), River Secrets picks up at the war's end with the main characters headed on a mission to ensure that peace is maintained. As with her past novels, old characters wrestle to control their powers (Wind Speech and Fire Speech), while new characters emerged with new and equally impressive powers.

Although the superhuman powers remain a key focus in this novel as in her past works, River Secrets follows Razo, whose lack of superhuman powers, make for a more believable and realistic tale which still manages to weave elements of the outrageous into an extraordinary adventure story.

Although Ms. Shannon's fantasy world is highly different from that of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, I find that many teens who enjoyed Twilight also love Hale's tales from Bayern! All I can say is write quickly, Ms. Hale...I expect a fourth installment soon!

Mormons taking over the world of Fantasy!

Ok, I'll admit that I've never read (or even really seen) the Book of Mormon, but all I've got to say is...it must have some really kick-ass dragon and vampire scenes. First, Stephenie Meyer burns the world up with Twilight and New Moon....and now adding to the list of Mormon fantasy writers is Shannon Hale. Looks like the Church of Latter Day Saints is where it's happening!

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I’m not going to do a full “review” on this since I read it instead of listening to it, but let me say this. I read it in less than 24 hours, and I loved it. Loved. It.

Some random thoughts:

  • I love how, unlike many other YA books I’ve been reading lately, they didn’t bother to explain all the bands, movies, and other allusions, even when teens are likely not to know who/what they’re talking about. Excellent. That’s how books should be.

  • Of course every girl wants a guy to write a song for/about her (especially if he’s cool and cute)! Poetry is a little more iffy since there’s a greater chance for badness and cheese.

  • Norah likes Lucinda Williams. I totally saw her in concert like three weeks ago (LW, not Norah, as Norah is a fictional character).

  • Do you hold hands by intertwining your fingers or do web-to-web? Discuss.

  • Norah said she can pass the Pepsi Challenge just by smelling. I totally said the exact same thing when I took it in 7th grade at Splashtown! And let me just say how bogus it is that they use that to say that people “prefer” Pepsi in taste tests. People are not identifying which drink they like better. They’re trying to identify Pepsi because if they do, they get a (stupid little) prize like a Pepsi koozie (which then serves as more advertising for Pepsi, if people actually use it and not throw it into a junk drawer).

  • The RWA needs to nominate this for their best YA book because if this doesn’t “guide” teens towards adult romances, I don’t know what will. The almost-sex scene is so totally like (but yet better written and hotter and more explicit than many of) the ones I read in romance novels.

  • When Norah was describing how Tal wanted her to be more political, more Jewish, more vegan, more kosher, etc., I kept thinking of “Whatever” by Guy Forsyth. This should have been in the playlist, as this is an excellent and utterly perfect song. (Admittedly, it's probably not Nick and Norah's style, though.)

  • Despite the fact that I liked the characters a lot, I don’t know if I’d like them as much in real life. Or at least, I think they (especially Norah) might get on my nerves because they are music snobs. I really don’t like people who get all snobby about music and, like, only like “underground” music. I don’t like all music or all kinds of music, but I’m not a snob about it. However, I know we’re all snobs about something (at least one thing, if not more). One of my ex-boyfriend’s friends is a total restaurant snob. We couldn’t go eat somewhere one time because it wasn’t “unique.” Other people are snobby about movies. If I’m being honest, I think I’m probably snobby about fashion sense. I mean, people should have some.*

* Kind of fun story: I was at the mall in San Antonio and I was walking behind this girl and guy. The girl was wearing jeans tucked into these suede boots that had fur on top of them and a stringy cut up tank top and a beret. I was thinking, “Uggh, that looks so stupid and I bet she thinks she looks really great.” Then a little later, my brother says, “Hey, Paris Hilton is in Hot Topic.” I go over to look because I don’t believe him, and guess what she’s wearing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Author Interviews

I would like to see more author interviews on A True Reality. So far, we have only had one. I would love, love, love to interview John Green, but I do not ever see that coming to fruition for the following reasons:
a. He is much too famous now.
b. We have gushed over him way too much on this blog. It would be embarrassing if he ever read it. And my constant references to him as my boyfriend don't help.
c. Cody has written two very unflattering entries about him which I would also not want John to see. I feel that Cody is a bit jealous of John Green because John Green rivals Cody in geeky hotness.

I know that everyone (all three of us) here at A True Reality would love to interview Stephenie Meyer. Interviewing her would be like someone from my high school newspaper interviewing (insert famous movie star name here).

Maybe there won't be interviews with Stephenie Meyer or John Green on this blog. BUT, we will be doing some more author interviews (via email, of course). And we promise not to ask lame questions like "Who is your favorite character and why?".

First Loves

Sheryl and I had an interesting conversation yesterday about the thrill and lasting impact of first love. I posed the question, "Do you ever truly get over your first love?" Having married my high school sweetheart and first love, I believed the answer to be no. Sheryl forwarded me an interesting article from Psychology Today that seemed to support my belief. Titled, Lost Love: Guess Who's Back?, the article talks about the powerful phenomenon of first loves and the success of those relationships being rekindled later in life. One part I found particularly interesting said that the heightened levels of hormones during adolescence "sets the stage for once-in-a-lifetime sexual intensity paired with a unique opportunity for attachment - creating a model for love that persists for life."

Of course, not everyone looks back fondly on their first loves, as some of the artwork on Patricia Waller's website can attest.

Whether they ended amicably or not, it is undeniable that adolescent romances are powerful and shouldn't be shrugged off as puppy love. Some YA books that do a great job depicting the intensity of first love are:
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Looking for Alaska by
my boyfriend
John Green

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Life Is So Unfair

John Green is going to be speaking on a panel at ALA on audiobooks! Freakin' audiobooks. I love audiobooks. With Judy Blume! *Sigh*

The Boyfriend List

Book: The Boyfriend List
Author: E. Lockhart
Narrator: Mandy Siegfried
Book Rating: A-
Audio Rating: A-/B+

The Book:
Okay, I really, really liked this book. It wasn't profound, it didn't move me, it probably isn't going to win any literary awards, but it was just fun. What I liked most was the way Lockhart did that Seinfeldian thing where she just writes about the way things are for teens. For instance, I loved the part where Ruby said she and her friends didn't want boys at the dance to be gentlemen; they wanted boys to ask them to dance and send them cute text messages. One thing that would have added to the insight was to include "the summer camp syndrome" where you get to summer camp and no guys are really attractive or anyone you'd normally date, but after a week or two, guys start to look good just because there's no one else there. I liked the movie footnotes a lot but didn't care for the allusion and vocabulary explanations (more on this in a separate future post). What prevented this from getting a straight up "A" was the ending. I don't know . . . it just wasn't satisfying. It didn't really seem like anything got resolved. I guess that's what life is like, but it's just not how I like my novels. But this novel was laugh-out-loud funny and cute and sweet and had great characterization.


The Good:
I thought Siegfried was just fantastic as Ruby. She sounded perfect for a 15 year-old girl and got the tones and moods just right. This was one of the performances where I think I liked the book much better listening than I would if I read it. I was a little worried about how the footnotes would play out in audio form, but they were just great and didn't seem awkward at all.

The Bad:
Siegfried didn't have much character differentiation, especially for Ruby's peers. I kind of prefer distinct voices in an audio performance, especially in some of the scenes with a lot of dialogue where it's difficult to tell who is speaking. Also, the CDs didn't give any warning when they were ending, so my changer just skipped to the next CD. I hate that.

Nebula Award Winner

Justine Larbalestier won the Nebula Andre Norton Award for YA science fiction/fantasy book this weekend for Magic or Madness. This isn't one of my usual favorite genres, so I haven't read this or any of the other nominees, but here were the other books nominated:
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld (wonder what it's like to compete against your spouse for an award)
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Scott has a fun blog entry about Justine's win and his Paris tour here.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Interview with Julie Blattberg

Interview with Julie Blattberg, author of Backstage with Beth and Trina: A Scratch-and-Sniff Adventure

We here at A True Reality are very excited about our first author interview. Although all communication took place via email, I found Julie Blattberg to be very sweet and accommodating and her interview responses funny and interesting. You can find Sheryl's review of her book here. I would like to add that we got such a kick out of Backstage with Beth and Trina when it arrived at our library. We (meaning Sheryl and I) immediately passed it around to all our coworkers to see their reactions (especially to the page with the scratch-and-sniff condom). One of my coworkers loved it so much that she purchased it that same day! So thanks, Julie, for livening things up at the library. Without further ado, here is the interview:

You said in an earlier interview with Jeffrey Yamaguchi that you wanted to create a scratch-and-sniff book for grown-ups. Were adults your intended audience when you wrote this? Do you think adults would experience the book differently from teens?
Yes, I set out to create a cool book for adults—as opposed to children. It struck me as unfair that little kids have all the fun--like scratch-and-sniff books and stickers and glitter! So I started with the format, then; came up with the characters: two cool chicks whose quest would lead them backstage at a rock-and-roll show; and the story, which had to be funny.
If you’re an adult and you pick up Backstage with Beth and Trina, I’d hope that you’d have the same reaction as a young adult: “This book is really cool, but it is fiction--and I probably should not try that at home.” Some may look back a decade or more into their own pasts to see a bit of Beth and Trina in themselves--and some might look as far back as last weekend to see how much fun the culture (I think we can call it culture) of live rock shows can be.

How did you pick the names Beth and Trina?
Beth is named after a song by Kiss. Though I was never a huge Kiss fan, this particular ballad, “Beth,” is one that every classic rock aficionado just knows. If you haven't heard it--it's on their Destroyer album (and while you're there, check out "Detroit Rock City" and "Shout It Out Loud," too). With all due respect to all of the charming and lovely Trinas out there (and I know that there are some out there!), that name came to me when I pictured the semi-trashy girls from my high school days who wore lots of makeup and were a little loud and fast in everything they did. "Trina" struck me as a great groupie name.

Is Beth and Trina's experience really your idea of the "best night ever," or is it more tongue-in-cheek?
For me personally, yeah, it would be super-cool to hit a club with my bestest friend and, uh, "get to know" the hot, hot, hot lead signer of my favorite band. (But I wouldn’t want my night to include burning hair and alleyway vomit.)

What is your most memorable backstage experience?
Sharing drinks and stories backstage with INXS (many, many moons ago) and seeing a pair of tight black jeans with white skulls all over them approaching slowly from a distance. Before I saw his face, I knew that it had to be Michael Hutchence. He was so incredibly beautiful, I couldn’t breathe. Or standing 8 feet away from David Bowie. OMG! But then again maybe the most memorable time was at the 2000 Millennium party at MTV where I did kiss a very handsome (and very wasted) lead singer of a very great band (who probably does not remember). Let’s not tell the guy who brought me to the show, OK?

Have you experienced any backlash or objections to your book?
None at all. Even my mom thought it was pretty funny. And I was thrilled beyond when I learned that it was an ALA Quick Pick. But then I read your A True Reality post about your library system and was a little heartbroken. Books serve many functions in our world. Of course there’s education and inspiration, and literacy and fantasy, but entertainment is important, too, and getting a person to pick up a book, despite the all of the other distractions out there… Some folks might find the content “racy,” but Beth and Trina practice safe sex and they don’t drink and drive. What more can I say?

Do you plan on writing more books? Will they be similar to Backstage or do you want to explore other types of writing?
Absolutely! I've got a few book ideas percolating right now—fiction and nonfiction. Topics include: nerds, Shakespeare, rock icons, photography, and ghosts. They won’t all be scratch-and-sniff books, but they are all a little visual and a lot of fun. Some are for teens, some are for adults, and some are for kiddies.
And, of course, I’d like to publish more adventures with Beth and Trina! Oh, the places they’ll go…

Thursday, May 10, 2007

An Abundance of Katherines

Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Rating: C-

Now, I know most of you probably think I'm completely illiterate since I haven't posted near the number of reviews as my fellow blog-mates, but you have to realize that I've been slowly suffering through Mr. John Green's new novel, An Abundance of Katherines.

The novel begins with the main character, Colin, being dumped by his latest Katherine...the 19th Katherine in a long list of ex-girlfriends all baring the same name. Crushed over this and the fear that his past as a child prodigy won't translate into adulthood genius, Colin and his best friend solve all their problems in the only way possible...a road trip to Tennessee!

Although I'll praise Mr. Green for a few humorous scenes and some nice turn-of-phrase, overall this work lacked anything worth discussing. I found the novel to be dull and highly predictable (even by YA standards). It almost seemed as though Mr. Green wrote this novel while watching late, late movies and incorporating trite movie plots into his work. My recommendation is to just read the interesting footnotes and forget the rest!

Cool Book

This book just came in today, and it is just really cool. It has good photos of the finished products, the instructions are easy to understand and do, and, most importantly, the finished products are actually good looking and don't look "crafty" or cheesy. I did notice a pair of earrings with washers that would be way too heavy to actually wear, but otherwise the projects look very cool.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Title: Truesight
Author: David Stahler, Jr.
Grade: B+

I picked up Truesight over the weekend based on a recommendation from a presenter at TLA. As I read it, I kept thinking how much it reminded me of Lois Lowry's The Giver.

Jacob, the main character in the novel, is blind. So is everyone in his colony. They pride themselves on their blindness and look down on Seers (those outside the colony who can see). Jacob is nearing his 13th birthday when he will be given his lifelong career (much like The Giver). However, shortly before his birthday, Jacob starts getting blinding headaches and seeing flashes of light. Soon his eyesight is fully restored. Jacob starts to see things around him that shock him. The colony isn't as perfect as he thought it was. Once it is revealed that Jacob can see, he has to make the choice between having the surgery to restore his eyesight or leaving the colony (and his family and friends) forever.

This story is geared towards a junior high audience. I really enjoyed the concept behind the book, but was a little disappointed in the too obvious execution. However, it is a quick, fairly interesting read and I think most young teens will find it fascinating.

So Yesterday

So, this is the second book by Scott Westerfeld that I've read (ie. listened to) and I like his books, but they just aren't in the "A" range for me and I've been trying to figure out why. I would totally recommend them to teens and especially to teachers to include in their curriculum. I'd love to use them for a book discussion group. So what is the problem? I think it's that he's like the Michael Crichton of YA lit for me. His books take interesting topics and issues and create very suspenseful and well-written plots. What is missing for me are more complex and developed characters and an emphasis on attention to language.

The Book: So Yesterday
The Author: Scott Westerfeld
The Narrator: Scott Brick
Book Rating: B/B+
Audio Rating: C+

The Book:
I didn't totally get the project that the Jammers were working on. While I'm a nerd and like historical allusions and such, I thought Hunter/Westerfeld spent a little too much time explaining historical events. Maybe it's because he's writing for a teen audience and feels the need to be explanatory, but it sometimes feels didactic. If he took the historical allusions and condensed them way down and had more confidence in his readers, I think this would move the plot along faster and address some of the things I mentioned in my Westerfeld into. Readers, even teen readers, are smart! They can get it. And if they miss some stuff here and there, that's okay. We don't have to be told everything. In fact, I kind of like it better that way. I love when I can go back and "get" more from books I read before, either because I know more, am older and wiser, or I just notice things I didn't the first time. That's one reason I love The Handmaid's Tale so much. I know I didn't get all the allusions and symbolism in it, but its complexity is what made it so great. I find the historical explanations interesting, but it gets in the way of my enjoyment of the fiction. I really did like Hunter's parents--very realistic reactions.


The Good:
Let me preface this by saying that if you like straight-up narration without voices for each character, then you'll probably like this performance a lot better than I did. Brick's interview with Audiofile said that he "understands the author's intent," and I would certainly agree. I can't think of any places in the book where I thought he wasn't capturing Westerfeld just as I interpreted him.

The Bad:
Like I said, one of my main drawbacks was the lack of character voices and differentiation. Also, I thought his voice was just way too old for Hunter and didn't fit. Brick sounded like the guy who narrated this video on advertising that I used to show my students (ironic, eh?).

P.S. I LOVE the cover of this book! Westerfeld's website for this book is also pretty cool.

Monday, May 7, 2007

RITA YA Award Changes

The RWA has proposed some changes to its YA Romance award category. Instead of requiring romance to be "the main focus of the novel," the proposed change would require romance to be "an important element." It has also proposed increasing the minimum number of words for eligible novels from 25,000 to 40,000. I thought this was interesting: "The Young Adult novel is our best way to guide young readers toward adult romance."

So here are two questions for you: (1) Do you think there are certain YA books that would "guide" teens towards adult romances? (2) What books that you've read would be worthy of a YA Romance of the Year award?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Frenemies of the Library

Isn't it ironic that everyday most libraries are overrun with teens, yet good luck getting more than 2 of them to ever show up to one of your planned programs! Therefore, I have developed a new organization at my library to make use of these vital teen stats that are going wasted every month! My new Frenemies of the Library will use these teens to achieve the following three objectives: 1) up the teen statistics every month; 2) create a variety of programming that require absolutely no work for the YA librarian; 3) MOST IMPORTANTLY, all Frenemies of the Library programs are designed specifically to piss the hell out of your older collegues!

Upcoming Frenemies of the Library events at my library:

Skating @ the Library
Ok, now I know there are those that will say the library installed those kickass ramps because of some ADA law....WRONG! What better way to pass the afternoon than to host an extreme sports competition. I mean, what's the worst that could happen, a free trip in an abulance? And, as an added bonus, it will also give you a change to distribute all your lastest skating and car periodicals. Save your library the time of cataloging and processing of these items and merely give them away so that your teens don't have to go to the trouble of stealing them all! I see nothing but a win-win situation here.

Kickin', Screamin', and Gamin'
Host a special evening of online gaming for your teens. Now, unlike most computer program your library hosts, this should NOT take place in a special computer lab. Instead, scatter your teens on random computers throughout your quietest areas of your reference section. Now, have the teens compete...whichever can make the most noise while doing the most pointless computer activity will win. I recommend hosting this program in the early evenings...right when the majority of your adult population is trying to actually use the computers for meaningful reasons - it will be fun all around.

Book Banning & Gay Characters

Maureen Johnson's latest book, The Bermudez Triangle, has been removed from the Mid-High School library in Bartlesville, OK. The parent who objected described all kinds of sex scenes that didn't exist, and the board that removed the book apparently didn't even bother to read it. I really liked how the parent suggested the Bible as an alterantive title on the objection form. Guess the Bible is just an all-around better book alternative to just about anything. Why do we bother to buy anything else for the library? However, I'm sure we can all agree how silly and insidious book banning is, so I won't dwell on it too much. What I would like to discuss is the issue of homosexuality in YA lit. Since there was actually no sex in the book at all, I can only assume that the parent objected to the mere inclusion of a lesbian relationship in the book, the most "graphic" depiction of which is kissing.

According to a study by Harvard University in 1995, at least 2.5% of teens identify themselves as homsexual. I don't know if that number has changed since then, but I do know that this is too many students to marginalize and ignore. Many studies have shown that homosexual teens are among the most at risk for using drugs, depression, homelessness, and suicide. Indeed, suicide is the leading cause of death among homosexual teens. I'm not saying that having YA literature in your high school library will prevent this, but a study by George Washington University did find that "gay sensitive" schools do improve the lives of the gay students who attend. I think having appropriate and relevant materials in the library is part of this (not to mention I believe it probably has benefits to non-gay teens as well). What is more important, that gay teens have access to materials and an environment that makes them feel healthy and safe, or someone's desire not to have such materials available (although they never have to use them personally)?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blue Bloods

Book: Blue Bloods
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Book Rating: B

Melissa de la Cruz was on an author panel at the TLA Conferece that I really enjoyed. If she worked at my library, she would be someone who would fit right into our lunch/gossip crew.

Blue Bloods is the first book of Melissa De la Cruz's that I have read. She describes it as "Dynasty meets Anne Rice" or "90210 as vampires." Who could resist that description? The book was a fun, quick, teen read, but I felt like it could have been longer with more development. It seemed like she rushed through key plot developments too quickly. She spends more time dropping name brands and describing outfits then she does on developing her story. I did find her explanation of how vampires came into existence very interesting, particularly her explanation of the lost Roanoke colony.

This is a book that teens would enjoy...especially fans of Stephenie Meyer. Although I did not enjoy this book as much as Twilight, I am still hooked enough to read the sequel, Masquerade (releasing today).