aka YA Literature

Monday, December 31, 2007

Book of a Thousand Days

Title: Book of a Thousand Days
Author: Shannon Hale
Rating: B-

Being a HUGE fan of Ms. Hale's Goose Girl series, I had extremely high expectations for her newest book, Book of a Thousand Days.

Book of a Thousand Days is the diary of a simple peasant girl, Dashti, who accepts a position as maid to an unruly princess. After completely an extensive training, Dashti begins her service only to join her princess for a seven-year imprisonment in a tower due to the princess's refusal of her arranged marriage. Through the course of the book, the princess's true love often comes to comfort her; however, at the Princess's command, Dashti poses as the Princess...and secretly fall in love with him herself! Eventually, Dashti and the Princess escape to a war-torn world... now Dashti and the Princess must stop the evil forces and journey to meet "their" beloved Prince.

The Good: The last 100-pages are pure ecstasy! The creative manner in which Dashti overcomes the evil forces is reminiscent of Goose Girl, and nothing but pure joy. In fact, it would be hard for me to think of a better way to end this story.

The Bad: Perhaps the diary/journal format is not Ms Hale's strong point. This diary read much like my own...a whole lot of nothing happening...day after day after day! I don't know that I would really recommend this books to teens...the first 200-pages where so slow and hard to get through, that I doubt many teens would put the effort into reaching the exciting conclusion. I also found the whining of the Princess (and Dashti's acceptance of her whining) more than a little annoying. This is definitely no Goose Girl...

2007 Favorites

Since this is the last day of 2007, I think I can safely decide my favorite books of the year without fearing I will read another before the year is up. Note that these are my favorite books rather than the "best" books since the list and all my posts and "reviews" on this blog are not only completely subjective but also written very much in relation to me and my reactions to them.

Favorite Books Published in 2007
Freak Show by James St. James
This was by far my favorite book published this year and the only one that I think will stay in my all-time favorites list (you know, those books that just stay with you, that you mention over and over to others, that you put in your blog profile, etc.).

Other 2007 published books that I really liked and have been recommending to others:
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (we have 5 copies and they are constantly all checked out)
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (could be an all-time if the other books can elucidate the plot more)
Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Big Poppa E's Greatest Hits: Poems to Read Aloud by Eirik Ott (aka Big Poppa E) (Believe me, if you have students who compete in speech, they have heard of this guy. If you aren't convinced that teens will like his poetry, read this story.)

Favorite Books Read (but not published) in 2007
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Feed by M.T. Anderson
King Dork by Frank Portman
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Favorite Book Covers of 2007

I've noticed that these two books have extremely attractive covers, and as soon as we put them on the circulation desk for display, they are immediately checked out, and the students have often commented on the attractiveness of the covers:

Books I'm Most Looking Forward to Reading in 2008
Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
I'd also include Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen if I hadn't already read it (thanks again, Heather!) and whatever the sequel to Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey will be titled if I knew it was coming out in 2008.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"New"" for Young Adults

This was a nice review of Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in the Houston Chronicle today. I was pleased to see coverage of YA lit there. I thought it was interesting, however, that the title says "New for Young Adults." I will certainly not be looking here for "new" books if this is their idea of "new" since the book has been out for months, and he won the National Book Award back in October. Although I liked the book well enough, I have noticed that it hasn't been a huge hit with our students. Even the book club students we've persuaded to read it have not really loved it. Maybe we just have not found the right readers for it yet.

Also, a note to bloggers: Click here to learn how to complete the phrase "I hate ___" to dramatically increase traffic to your site. I am not including it here so as not to get too many irrelevant visitors. We're already getting too many from the suggestive subject line that Cody wrote about Vanessa Hudgens's sex tape and, recently, for this picture that Holly included. I guess this phrase would have been a better, easier plan than the one I had about author costumes. Who knew?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holiday Book Agenda

In addition to the books I already had checked out and waiting for me, these are the books I checked out yesterday to read over my Christmas vacation. Think I can possibly get them all read?

Dance of the Assassins by Herve Jubert
The Scroll of Seducation by Gioconda Belli
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (not a YA book but mentioned as good for teens in several reviews)
Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler
Shattering Glass, What Happened to Cass McBride, Playing in Traffic, and Right Behind You by Gail Giles
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (I have to admit that I started this book twice on audio and only got about half way through, so I am going to try reading the text now)

Holly, if you have any requests for which ones you'd like me to read first, let me know.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

I read this post about Skin Hunger on Bookshelves of Doom, and then when I was picking up my holds from the library, it happened to be sitting on the display and I decided to check it out. Even though this isn't my usual genre of reading, it really was fantastic! It reminded me of a darker Shannon Hale novel. It did take me a few chapters to really get what was going on and come to care about the plot and the characters, but then I couldn't wait for the plot to reveal the fate of the characters.

[achtung: possible spoilers]

This book has two separate storylines and the chapters alternate between the two. They are set generations apart but begin to intertwine. They are both set in a fictional land of the past. One story follows a girl named Sadima who is born to a poor farming family. Her mother dies in childbirth and she grows up with her brother and her distant and overbearing father. Magicians in this world are imposters who swindle people out of money, but Sadima is able to communicate with animals. When a boy from the city, Franklin, learns of this gift, he goes to her and asks her to move to the city with him where he and his friend, Somiss, are trying to revive true magic that was taken away from wizards long ago. When she is 17 and her father dies, Sadima finally decides to go to the city and look up Franklin. She moves in with him and Somiss and begins helping Somiss to transcribe the ancient gypsy songs that are (he believes) keys to the past wizards’ magic. Unfortunately, Somiss is overbearing and cruel. She falls in love with Franklin and begs him to leave with her, but he is loyal to Somiss.

The other story line takes place generations later and involves a teenage boy named Hahp. He is the second son of a wealthy man who is sent by his cruel father to study at the wizard academy. Magic abounds by this time, but only sons of wealthy men are allowed to go to the wizard academy. Hahp doesn’t want to go but is forced to by his father. His family is told that they will never see him again. When he arrives there, he is told that of the ten boys in his class, only one will become a wizard. The rest will die. The wizards who are their teachers are generally completely unhelpful and rely on the boys’ desperation to learn rather than actual instruction in magic. For example, the boys are given no food and can only eat when they figure out how to use magic to create food for themselves. They are not allowed to help each other in any way, and eventually they start dying off.

The two storylines eventually begin to overlap more and more. Each story is suspenseful and interesting on its own, and you have the added anticipation of figuring out how they connect. Bookshelves of Doom said the ending was a "cliffhanger," but that is a huge understatement! This was like an unfinished novel! What happened to Sadima???? I am also not clear on how it is that magic is ubiquitous in Hahp's story, even though the wizards only teach a few others and do not allow them to practice outside of the academy.

I will definitely be purchasing this for the library and recommending it to students who like fantasy. I like the cover art a lot too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Napkin Project

I don't read Esquire much because we don't subscribe to it at my library, and it's obviously more of a guy magazine than a girl one (also, I can barely keep up with all the magazines I subscribe to as it is). So I think I've been missing out on a lot of book coverage there. Like this very cool Napkin Fiction Project. Esquire sent 250 napkins to published authors and then got the authors to return stories written on the napkins. I want a YA author one!

Every so often I get great ideas, and I think this might be another (although, of course, I am completely stealing it from Esquire and it's not quite as great as my costume idea). I think David Levithan should collect napkin stories from a bunch of YA authors. I only suggest him because he's an editor, seems to know lots of authors, and has done other anthologies, so this seems like a natural fit (and I also love him). But really anyone would be fine with me. I'd offer to collect them and post them here on ATR, which would be very cool, but I don't have the author connections. I just want to read them.

This one called "Sarah II" by J.M. Tyree reminds me of another story I've read recently, but I can't put my finger on it. Any ideas what it is?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I have been trying to read all of the books in the Read 180 library, so that I can discuss them with my students who are reading them. I recently finished Slam! by Walter Dean Myers. Slam is a teenage boy who has a really messed up life. His father is an alcoholic, his best friend is a drug dealer, he does poorly at school, and his teammates are jealous of him. The only place he excels is on the basketball court. Slam! is not my normal type of read, but I could see its appeal to my students, most of whom come from similar backgrounds as Slam.
Each of my students is required to pick a book to read for 20 minutes each day during class. Most of them picked really small books initially, but one student chose Slam!. He worked diligently at Slam! for months until last week when he finally finished. He proudly informed me that it was the first book he's read without pictures. It's those moments that make me really love teaching.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

YA Lit-Related Album Meme

I am not really into memes. However, this one was fun and related well to one of my favoritest books of the year: King Dork. (From PoetrySlam)

1. Go to the Wikipedia home page and click random article. That is your band's name.
2. Click random article again; that is your album name.
3. Click random article 15 more times; those are the tracks on your album.

Band Name:

Album Name:
Contingent Workforce Outsourcing

Fan Fiction
Frou Frou
Gregorio Conrado Álvarez
Post-missionary church and monastery in Lublin
Schloss Beck
China compulsory certification
Expo '98
Hong Kong Council
Ink Eradicator [I think this would also be a good band name]
Interstate 35W
Jan Zamoyski (1912-2002)
Iota Phi Theta (disambiguation)
Soulshine Digital
Diuturnity's Dawn

PS - I like the word "disambiguation."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is a about a nameless man and his young son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Some time ago, the world was destroyed by some type of cataclysmic fire. Only a few people remain on earth, and they live as scavengers. The man and the boy are following a road, and they live in a constant state of vigilance and fear that someone will take their few meager possessions and/or kill them. They are truly living in a Hobbesian State of Nature. Many of the remaining people have taken to cannibalism, and they encounter the evidence of this a few times in the book. They have to try to find the last remnants of uncontaminated food in buildings and homes they come across, even though they have all been scavenged long ago. Although they are walking with some seeming purpose, it is not clear that they will ever reach a safe destination; they may only be walking to the south for the winter. It is about the struggle to survive when there is really nothing to live for except survival itself.

I read this book because it is on the 2008 Tayshas list. From what I knew about the book, it didn't seem like a book teens would enjoy. Now that I've read it, I am still unsure. I think I could probably booktalk it pretty well. There is this really scary and disturbing scene where the man and the boy come upon a house where it is evident that some people had been staying. The boy is frightened and begs his dad to leave, but they are starving and the man needs to pry open the basement door to see if there is any food there. They discover all these people trapped down there who start crying, "Help us! Help us!" Man, just thinking about that scene now days later still creeps me out. But I don't want to get students to read it if they won't like it. I would say some teens might like it, but it is extremely bleak and disturbing. After the first few pages, the tension of the book remains very high, and it definitely deserves its Pulitzer Prize. I felt the constant desperation and danger throughout the story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Beastly Movie

According to this article in The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Flinn's Beastly is going to be made into a movie by CBS Films as early as 2009. I haven't read it yet because SOME library system hasn't gotten it yet (I am the only one who has it requested, too), but I thought it was a student who turns into the beast, not a teacher.

Update: I haven't seen any official pages for the movie, but Vanessa Hudgens is confirmed in her role and Alex Pettyfer is rumored to be starring opposite as Kyle (ie. the beast). The book is told from Kyle's perspective.

Next update: Mary Kate Olsen has been cast as the witch who casts the spell on Kyle. I can see it.

Update III: Neil Patrick Harris is playing the tutor!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Get Ready for Lists

2007 is almost over, and I am already mentally preparing myself for my "best of" lists. Naturally, we will all want to do our favorite YA books of the year. But I think we should also do our favorite YA author blog, YA author website, and maybe our favorite My Space page. And maybe best YA news story of the year? Other "best ofs" you think we should do?

Holly, Cody, and anyone else who might read this blog, be thinking of your 2007 favorites!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Importance of Author Blurbs

On the Freakonomics Blog, they have been talking recently about the importance, or lack thereof, of author blurbs. At first, I was thinking that I can't recall ever reading a book based on an author blurb printed on a book, but then I remembered this. But this is the issue for me: I read the book because of what John Green wrote about it rather than the fact that he (supposedly) endorsed it. I put "supposedly" in there since Dubner points out that it is sometimes the editors writing these blurbs. I don't know, I honestly don't usually find the blurbs very helpful. But like I said, if the blurbs are well-crafted, then I guess they can be influential. Certainly I am much more likely to read a book endorsed by an author in an interview or on their blog.