aka YA Literature

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cybil Nominations

I was without Internet access over the holiday, so I am just now looking over the final Cybil nominees. Can I just say how much I admire and do not envy people on award committees such as these? I would have a hard time finding time to read all those books. Also, I have little patience and interest in reading books that I am not interested in reading. As I've mentioned here before, there are so many that I am anxious to read that I just cannot bring myself to spend time reading others (even though I'm sure I'd end up liking many of them).

Even though I quite liked many of the nominees, I have to say that my support would definitely go to Freak Show by James St. James.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Various Things

I have just a few random things going on in my mind today, and rather than post separately about each, I think I'll just combine them all here, especially since none of them are particularly exciting in and of themselves.

1. I posted the other day about how Kristen Stewart is going to play Bella in the Twilight movie. Supposedly filming starts in February, but when are they going to cast the Cullens??? Shouldn't they have done that by now? I once posted that I thought Jonathan Rhys Meyers would make a good Edward, but he does/did drugs and that turns me off. Still . . . . (Last time I made the mistake of posting a picture of JRM and then we kept getting all this traffic from Google image searches for him.)

2. Amazon has voting for the best teen books of 2007. The candidates are the top ten best selling books for teens on Amazon.com through October 2007. I am really surprised at some of the books on there (Math Doesn't Suck, for instance - - was it really that popular?). The editors' picks are kind of interesting. I don't think I've seen anyone talking about Arrival by Shaun Tan.

3. I wore my "Sam Hellerman is a Genius" shirt last Friday because I was booktalking King Dork. It was fantastic! Someone in every single period asked me about it before I even started talking about books. "Who is Sam Hellerman? "What does your shirt mean?" I need to get/make some more fun book shirts. (Un)fortunately, I checked out King Dork in the very first period, so I could only kind-of describe the book and not check it out to anyone.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Life As We Knew It

I decided to read all of the books on the 2007 Teens’ Top Ten that I haven't read yet so this weekend I picked up Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer. The story is written in diary form by a high schooler named Miranda. Early on in the book, Miranda and her family go outside to watch a meteor that is scheduled to hit the moon. Unfortunately, that meteor knocked the moon out of orbit and closer to the earth. All sorts of natural disasters began to occur: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, and so forth. Miranda finds herself holed up in a small portion of her house with her mother and two brothers.

I am not the natural-disaster sort of girl. I don't like the movies and I don't normally read the books. However, I could not put this book down. It hooked me right from the beginning. The writing style has a Diary of Anne Frank sort of feel to it. The ending is not tied up in a nice little bow, but I like the way Susan Pfeffer ended it. I think this is a book that even my reluctant readers wouldn't be able to resist once they started reading it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Object to Objectification

You know I am not one to support objectification. I am the one who asked very politely if the announcements at my school could please not talk about how hot the volleyball players look in their spandex shorts. However, how did I not know about the Hot Men of Children's Literature? Better yet, why did we not think of this? Sure, we have our boyfriends, but we have never actually said that we think authors are hot, nor made a (probably irrelevant and demeaning) list of them. I am thinking David Levithan is missing from the List. (Can I also say how much I agree with fusenumber8's post about MTA because, hello?, glasses are hot?)

*Holly, you wouldn't even believe the curcuitous way I came to this site. It invloves your comment about 13 Reasons Why not being at the library and Asher's bio on iPage mentioning his inclusion in this list. I figure if someone's going to put it in his bio, I can in decent conscience mention it on this blog.

Audiobook Love

I've listened to some audiobooks recently that I haven't felt interested in blogging about: Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (good book but pretty awful audio, IMO, because it was way too overly dramatic in tone throughout the entire performance) and Twisted and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (both solid performances, and I liked Mandy Siegfried even more in Speak than in Lockhart's books). But I felt compelled to blog about my most recent audiobook: Feed by M.T. Anderson. The book has been out for quite a while now, so if you've read it, you know how amazing it is, both intellectually thought-provoking and emotionally engaging (and I'm not a sci-fi fan at all). But the audio production and performance is probably my favorite ever. David Aaron Baker gives a fantastic performance as Titus. I thought the friends' voices were a little overly Valley girl/surfer boy-ish, but he did an excellent job at portraying the emotion and differentiating all the character voices. And every time there was a feed with news or ads, they used different people to perform them and added music. Whenever the characters were chatting, they had some kind of echo effect so that you could tell they were hearing it inside their heads instead of out loud through their ears. Awesome. This is an example where the audio really adds something to the book instead of just reading it well.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

13 Reasons Why

I just finished 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I don't know if it was all the glowing reviews or the intriguing premise of the book, but I was expecting to like it a lot more than I did. I did like the book, but I didn't love it the way a lot of others seem to.

Clay Jensen comes home from school one day to find 7 recorded audio tapes left for him. He finds that they were recorded by Hannah, the girl on whom he had a crush and who recently killed herself. The tapes are about the thirteeen reasons why she killed herself and are addressed to the thirteen people who contributed to her reasons for suicide. The premise is fantastic and I think I'll have a very easy time getting students to read this. It will definitely be in my booktalking rotation. I mean, how easy will this be to set up? (Answer: Very.) I liked how Clay would go around town not really knowing who all was involved in the story and who had heard the tapes, as well as how he had meta-knowledge and different interpretations of things that Hannah didn't have. The layers of understanding and misunderstanding were interesting, and I appreciated the intertwined stories of Clay's present storyline and Hannah's recounting of past events. I think the reason I didn't like this as much as I thought I would is that I had very little sympathy for Hannah. At one point, I did sort of feel for her (won't say when so as not to spoil anything), but mostly she was just sort of weak and irritating. I know that Clay felt annoyed and mad at her at times too, so in a way, maybe this actually demonstrates that Asher did a good job with the characterization. But since I didn't really feel for her, I just kept wanting the book to get to a part where I could feel something for Hannah's plight. It was interesting, but it didn't make me not want to put it down or care terribly much about the characters. I'm also a little confused about how Hannah could include Jessica in her list and tell the rather negative stories about her, considering what eventually happened.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What They Don't Teach in Library School

I got my American Libraries e-mail today, and it included a link to this story by Jennifer Kiffmeyer called "Things They Don't Teach You in Library School." Now, her story was obviously geared towards being an elementary school librarian, and most of the things on her list were not even necessarily specific to being a librarian but generally being an elementary school educator. So I was thinking: What are some of the things "they don't teach you in library school" that you learned and need to know?

I will tell you one thing that I never knew. Database and e-book prices are totally negotiable. I remember a reading maybe on how it's important to carefully review the contracts for database subscriptions, but I don't remember anyone ever saying how negotiable the prices are. Example: A database company (I won't say who) was trying to promote their new product to us for $1,000. They called with a special promotion for $800. We were like, "No thanks. We really don't have that kind of money." They were like, "What would you pay for it?" Us: "I don't know, maybe $200?" Them: "What about $250?" Us: "Give us a free trial and we'll see." And that's just one of many, many examples.

Another thing they didn't teach in library school but is extremely important is doing good displays! Seriously, just putting a book on the circulation desk equals a guaranteed checkout. We should have had a unit on thinking up display ideas and putting one together (ones that actually look interesting and eye-catching). But maybe other library schools do this and I just didn't.

Now these are serious things that they could have taught and that I suspect some people do get in library school. What are some things that you just have to get on the job?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ARCs put to a good use

When I left my job as a YA librarian to teach high school Reading, I took my rapidly growing collection of YA ARCs with me. I placed them in a crate in my classroom and set them out for my students to peruse. Ok, the students that I have? Hate reading. Seriously hate it. But the other day, one of them started rummaging through the crate and picked out a book and asked if he could borrow it. I tried to stay cool, but inside I was all "Yes!" Then three other students wanted to look in the crate and each chose a book to take with him. They are reading outside of class! And no one is making them!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

YA Author Fun

Want to hear YA authors pronouncing their names? Listen to them here on TeachingBooks.net. Many also explain the origin of their name. Authors include Gail Giles, Sarah Dessen, Gabrielle Zevin, Nikki Giovanni, and Chris Crutcher. Kind of fun.

Vampire Academy

Okay, let's start with the most important thing about this book: Is it just me, or does the cover model look like Angelina Jolie?

So the basic plot of Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead is that, in addition to humans, there are three major players in the vampire world. Moroi are mortal vampires who must be protected from the evil immortal vampires, the Strigoi. Moroi are protected by Dhampir who are half vampire and half human (Moroi can't mate with each other). The two main characters are Lissa, a Moroi princess, and her best friend Rose, a Dhampir "guardian"-in-training. The book opens with them being taken back to the secluded Vampire Academy in Montana that they escaped from a year previously. From there, it's half high school cliques and politics and half serious vampire-world issues. For instance, Lissa has secret healing powers that take a toll on her emotionally and physically, and Rose can get inside of Lissa's head to experience what she does. Both girls have complicated romantic interests, and someone is leaving dead animals for Lissa to find.

I enjoyed the book and read it in two sittings. However, I would most likely recommend it to voracious readers who have already read everything else in the library or to readers who really like vampire books. I'd say it's probably comparable to Melissa de la Cruz, possibly a little bit more developed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Recently read

I have finally gotten to the point in my new teaching career where I have time to do other things besides grade papers and plan lessons. So, last Saturday I made a trip to my old library and picked up a few YA books recommended by Sheryl. Sheryl has reviewed most of them on here, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin - I really enjoyed this book. It is a quick read about a girl named Naomi who falls down some stairs and gets amnesia. She can't figure out why she loves her boyfriend, what the deal is with her best friend (who is a guy), and why she has the hots for this bad-buy type who rescued her. This book actually reminded me a lot of Christina Applegate's new show, Samantha, Who.

The Off Season by Catherine Murdock - This sequel to Dairy Queen is just as enjoyable as its predecessor. I listened to Dairy Queen on audio where the narrator had a heavy Midwest accent so the whole time I was reading, I kept hearing D.J.'s Wisconsin accent in my head. D.J. gets a little more romantic action in this book, but don't hold out for happily ever after.

King Dork by Frank Portman - This book is very different from my normal YA reads. The narrator is a hugely dorky guy whose whole face spasms when he is nervous. And yet he still gets some hot and heavy makeout action. King Dork isn't as quick of a read because it is more detailed and has lot of references to literature and music. I liked it. And, like Sheryl, I want a shirt. But I want mine to say "The Chi-Mos."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Lock & Key

I read Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (thanks to the ARC I got from ATR reader Heather - - thanks again!!!). High school senior Ruby Cooper goes to stay with her older sister Cora after social services is alerted to the fact that Ruby is living alone in a house, abandoned by her unstable mother. Ruby and Cora used to be close, but they haven't spoken since Cora left for college ten years ago. In the intervening time, Cora has become a lawyer and married a very wealthy man named Jamie. At first, Ruby is desperate to run away and return to her old friends and her old life, but Cora and Jamie are very dedicated to her, and she begins to adjust to her life with them and at her new school. [Achtung: Possible small spoilers coming.] The neighbor who lives behind Cora and Jamie, Nate, is (conveniently!) Ruby's age and attends the same private school she must attend. He is an athlete and handsome and very nice, and at first, Ruby tries to maintain an acquaintance-like distance. It doesn't work too well, though, and Ruby and Nate end up being attracted to each other and sort-of-unofficially dating. Nate has his own issues, however, and Ruby has to figure out how she can help Nate or deal with not helping him.

Basically, if you like Sarah Dessen's writing, you'll like this book. It's very typical of her. I like her writing, so I liked this book. There is a female main character, she has some personal issues with herself and her family, there's a hint of romance, and things must be worked out. As with her other books, there are well-developed secondary characters. Each character and situation is always different in her books, but the style is very consistent. One thing that is slightly different in this book is that Nate also has issues to work through. I think it would have been neat if the book alternated between Nate and Ruby as narrators to give it a little something different. I didn't like this quite as much as Just Listen (man, I loved the sister in that book), but it was good.

One of the fun tidbits about Lock and Key is that it obviously takes place in the same generic place that Just Listen did because Cora and Jamie live in Wildflower Ridge, and Nate turns on Annabelle's radio show (among other JL allusions).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sarah Michelle Gellar (& Other Stuff)

In the October issue of Self magazine, the photo spread of Sarah Michelle Gellar mentions that she collects first editions of children's books, particularly Dr. Seuss (I wonder if all these books in the photo shoot are her first editions or if they're just props). I thought this was pretty neat, but it got me thinking about those "Books That Made a Difference to ___" articles every month in O Magazine, where a celebrity shares about five books that "made a difference" to them. I love this feature of the magazine, but I always wonder just how truthful celebrities are being. I mean, they are usually pretty heavy and serious books. For instance, Hugh Jackman's books in the November issue include Banker to the Poor, Cloudstreet, The Grapes of Wrath, Siddhartha, and Long Walk to Freedom. And sometimes celebrities include children's books as well. I kind of wonder where the Nora Roberts and Dan Brown books are. Here are my questions:

Do celebrities really read this many "serious" books?
Does O Magazine just select celebrities who do read these kinds of books?
Do the celebrities read "lighter" stuff but those are not the books that "made a difference" to them? The title of the feature isn't "favorite books," afterall.
Is there any chance (some) celebrities are fronting a little on the books they choose to seem "deeper" (for lack of a better word)?

All right, Cody and Holly (and anyone else!), what books would you choose for your feature in O Magazine?

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Golden Compass

Title: The Golden Compass
Author: Philip Pullman
Rating: A

Since New Line Cinema is releasing The Golden Compass in December, I decided to read it in advance and see what the hype is all about. I don't know how I missed Pullman's His Dark Materials series before this, but I am so glad I finally discovered it!

The Golden Compass (and the entire His Dark Materials series) follows Lyra, a small girl, on her quest to fulfill her destiny and save the world from disaster. (I don't want to reveal too much of the plot because it was just so darn good!) I will, however, praise Mr. Pullman for just how intelligent this series is! He has managed to blend a fascinating story with some of the most complex theories of modern Quantum Physics...and created a story that is completely addictive. This series would be an excellent recommendation for any of the older teens who loved Harry Potter and want something new to read.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing how well the movie holds up to Pullman's work.

Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith

This was quite a unique book. As I was reading, I just kept thinking, "Wow, this is really dark." The three main characters are high school acquaintances Morgan, Ondine, and Nix. They have always felt they were different from others, and as the story begins, things are really starting to change in their lives. Nix has dropped out of school because he can't handle seeing rings of light around people who are about to die. Morgan sleep walks into the forest at night (still not exactly clear on what she does there). Ondine sees butterflies on her ceiling come to life. James "Moth" Motherwell is a little older than the three of them and a little shady, but he obviously has some supranatural mind-powers where he can, for instance, persuade the gas station attendant to sell Ondine and Morgan alcohol. **Some spoilers now follow** Eventually, Moth gets all three of them to attend this huge "concert" in the mountains where it becomes clear that Ondine, Nix, and Morgan are "changelings." They will eventually go through an "exidis" and leave their corporal human bodies to become simply conscious matter. They all resist this realization in various degrees, and there is added conflict in the story when another character, Bleek, is a "cutter" who intends to use them in various ways to extend his own life (which will mean that they are doomed to eternal conscious suffering rather than going through their exidis).

Some of the ways that this book is "dark" include the extensive use of "dust" (apparently a type of drug), Morgan's somewhat sadistic actions towards animals (including smushing a frog with her windshield wipers), and a final climactic scene in the dark underground tunnels where Bleek has tortured their friend Neve and impregnated her. I liked the book in that I was interested in the story and figuring out what was going to happen, and the characters were well developed. But it was unsatisfying in the end (Smith has said she intends to write sequels), and I was left very confused about a lot of what goes on with the changelings and why (perhaps this was intentional on the author's part to convey the confusion that the characters feel).

See Trisha's post about it here on The Ya Ya Yas blog A(long with some more of my comments).