aka YA Literature

Monday, April 30, 2007

Looking for Alaska

Book: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Narrator: Jeff Woodman
Book Rating: A-
Audio Rating: A-/B+

The Book:
I didn't really care for the what-I-learned-about-life-written-in-my-final-exam device that Green used to end the book. It is a bit over-used and rather expected. The moment Miles started describing his world religion class, I feared this is how the book would end. I also like to be shown what he learned rather than told, although I realize this was a coming-of-age novel with a first-person narrator, so some personal reflection on life lessons is to be expected. I did really love the final prank (wish the book would have ended with that). (No one from Culver Creek looked up the speaker's credentials on the Internet?)

I did think the book was pretty witty and I really liked when Miles threw up on Lara's jeans and he said they were the kind that girls wear to look really good without looking like they're trying to look really good. Very insightful! Like Vegan Virgin Valentine, this is a book I would have liked a lot as a teen because it is about smart, intellectual students who are interesting and interested in the humanities, especially English. This speaks to my teen self. Green did a really great job of portraying Pudge's ambivalence towards Alaska and the very realistic push-pull of her character. The dialogue was also extremely realistic.
The Colonel was my favorite character. When he said of the labyrinth, "I choose it," I got chills. That was a critical moment in the story for me. It reminded me of this article I read by Catharine MacKinnon about how women use that as a coping mechanism to deal with the inescapable oppression of patriarchy: "Faced with no alternatives, the strategy to acquire self-respect and pride is: I chose it." Alaska might appreciate MacKinnon's feminist interpretation of the labyrinth. Is choice possible? Is it only a coping mechanism? What if you choose this as your coping mechanism, then is it a choice?

The audio . . .

The Good:
Again, I'm more into having teen-sounding narrators for first-person teen books, but since it's all past-tense, Woodman's voice is appropriate for a young adult version of Miles. The narration matched the tone of the book and its actions, and Woodman had good distinct voices for all of the characters. The Colonel's voice was just outstanding! There was the helpful music at the end of each CD to cue me to change the CD before the end, too.

The Bad:
It didn't seem like Woodman had really decided how Takumi should sound and so his voice was inconsistent and a little off from the character. However, the absolute worst thing was Alaska's voice. I loathed it. It sounded like a character from A Tuna Christmas or something, certainly not anywhere near a hot teenage girl (even giving leniency and understanding for the fact that Woodman's a guy). It was just awful. And since she's the title character, it had a pretty significant effect on the listening experience for me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Scratch 'N Sniff

Backstage With Beth and Trina: A Scratch-and-Sniff Adventure! arrived at the library yesterday and provided us with many minutes of entertainment. There are hardly words to describe it (yet I will attempt to!). This is not a book I would ever purchase, but it's fun to pick up and ponder.

Book:Backstage With Beth & Trina
Authors: Julie Blattberg (author) & Wendi Koontz (illustrator)
BWB&T follows two teenage/20-something girls as they head for a night on the town where they go to a night club to see and hook up with a rock band. Each page contains a color picture, one sentence of text, and a scratch-and-sniff circle. The smell options proceed from deoderant ("This is Beth and Trina. They like makeup and music and men.") to a pine tree air freshener to cigarettes to stale beer ("Awesome!") to a condom ("Ohmigod! Beth is hooking up with the lead singer!"). That's right, a condom. What teenager hasn't always wanted to scratch-and-sniff a condom? The book ends with Beth and Trina lugging the band's equipment and barfing in a back alley ("What a night! Could it get any better?").
Apparently, some people (okay, just one person) believes the authors are serious in this book, that they indeed think old guys with balding heads, beer guts, ugly clothes, and beards are "cute" and that it is really fun to spend the night out lugging the band's sound equipment and barfing in the alley. The rest of us realize that the authors are pointing out the less-than-glamorous realities of most night club experiences.
As an update, in between first reading this book and wondering at why the library would buy it for the teen collection, all the copies have been recalled by materials selection in our library system.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

John Green is dealing crack...or maybe meth!

Ok, I'd like to bring a sad fact to everyone's attention. I used to work with these two nice normal librarians...we would have lunch every Friday, gossip about coworkers, laughed at patrons - everything a good librarian should do. However, a few weeks ago, these two former coworkers went to TLA and met the mysterious John Green. Ok, now I don't know if you've seen pictures of this man, but he's not really much in the looks department...definitely not someone you'd drool over. Well, ever since these two lovely ladies returned from their conference, they've acted as though the sun rises and sets on John Green's ass (and according to them, it's apparently the sexiest ass in the whole world!)

Now, recently I began reading Mr. Green's newest book, An Abundance of Katherines. While I'll admit that I'm only in the first chapters, I see little in Green's work that makes him worthy of my friend's idolization (a full review will follow once I've actually suffered through it!) Anyway, at this point, I see nothing in either John Green's appearance or literary talent that deserves such devotion. Therefore, I began pondering...what could cause such idolization? The only possible answer seems to be drugs! It's obvious that Mr. Green slipped my friends something while they naively waited in line to see Stephanie Meyer. Shame on you Mr. Green!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The greatness that is the brotherhood

Brotherhood 2.0. It must be discussed. Because 2/3 of this blog’s authors are in love with 1/2 of the Brotherhood. The brothers, John and Hank Green, have decided that they are not going to communicate for a whole year except through video blogs (also known as vlogs). The result? Comedy gold.

Sheryl and I met John Green at TLA. This momentous occurrence is something we are sure to mention whenever we discuss TLA. In fact, just this morning, at our All-Staff meeting, I showed a PowerPoint presentation that Sheryl and I (mostly Sheryl) put together that highlights our TLA experience. We were sure to include our pictures with John Green in the PowerPoint. I pointed out how John Green’s arm was around me in the pictures. I think everyone was duly impressed.

Ok, back to the point…Brotherhood 2.0 is great! Funny! Witty! Intelligent! And not just because John Green is geeky hot (um, how many times did I write “John Green” in this one entry?).


I've only recently started reading YA lit, so I'm still trying to read a bunch of older books. Because of this, I don't really want to write more reviews of books people have reviewed to death. However, I listen to lots of my books on audio rather than actually reading them, so I am going to do a review concentraing mostly on the audio performance of the book.

Book: Uglies
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Narrator: Carine Montbertrand
Book Rating: B+
Audio Rating: A

The Book:
I was entertained, but I don't think I would have been into this as a teen, not because it wasn't interesting but just because it wasn't really my thing. But I think this would be a fantastic book for a middle school language arts and/or science class or book discussion group. Probably a good pairing with Brave New World for sophomores too. There are a lot of really great and "meaty" issues like genetic engineering, environmental engineering, waste, plastic surgery, how people are judged, how our personalities and interests are shaped, nature vs. nurture, etc. I really kind of wish Westerfeld hadn't added the whole lesions thing, however. All these great and complex issues are still there, but the lesions make it easy for the reader to dismiss the pretties and villify the specials. The complex questions Tally began to confront as she made her way to The Smoke become easy to forget once the specials are changing the brains of the pretties and making them dumb. How much greater would it have been if readers had to struggle to decide if being attractive itself changes you, if it's possible to be both attractive and intelligent, what life would really be like if everyone were equally physically attractive, etc.? Okay, I realize I wrote a lot about the book itself, but I just really liked the issues raised in this book and I fear that the lesions make it easy to gloss over them and easily identify good vs. evil. On to the audio . . .

The Good:
Most books I've listened to about teen characters have a teen-sounding narrator, so I was surprised and at first put off by the narrator since she doesn't sound like a teen. However, once I got into the story, it was great. She did a great job of differentiating all the characters and distinguishing between narration and dialogue. Montbertrand also did the very best job of any audio book narrator I've heard at using appropriate inflection, changes, speed, volume, etc. to match and enhance the action of the book. Supreme job! And I'm saying this as a former speech teacher who is really into and hyper-aware of these issues. I also liked that the end of each CD said, "This is the end of disc 2 (or whatever)." I hate when discs don't do that and then my CD player starts automatically moving to the next disc in my changer.

The Bad:
I really didn't like the nerdy, scratchy voice Montbertrand used for Shay. It didn't match my understanding of the character and didn't really seem to fit with any of the descriptions of her, except, I guess, that she had pony tails? There were some slow parts to the book that I would have skimmed had I been reading, but I had to just slog through it since I was listening.

Day Care Registration @ the Library a.k.a. Teen Volunteer Orientation

Now that the snow is melting and Spring is unfolding all around us, it's time to think of everyone's favorite time of year...Summer Reading. And what better way to begin Summer Reading than preparing to open our doors to each and every delinquent teen whose parents want to unload them for part, or all, of the day. To best prepare for this, the librarian(s) should spend countless hours in meetings creating rules and regulations to govern every minute of the volunteers time and freedom.

Sample volunteer rules to consider:

1) No calls, texts, IMs, pages, emails, postcards, or telegrams.
2) No drinking, eating, talking, sleeping, or breathing.
3) Do not look, smile, or even consider talking to the actual library patrons.

Now, I know this is but a short list of the rules you will need to establish. My recommendation is devoting at least 2 hours of staff time to the development of each rule...after all, we all know we wouldn't want to give those teens an ounce of freedom...I mean, it's not like they're real people or anything!


As librarians, we often get patrons who want book suggestions. We usually ask them what types of books they like and try to suggest something similar. One great website for this is LibraryThing. You can create your own account and enter what you are reading and what you have read (your "library"). You can connect to other people who have similar libraries and get suggestions off their list or you can simply type in a title and get several suggestions. BUT...that's not all this great website does...it also has an UnSuggester! What is an UnSuggester, you might ask? Well, you simply type in the title of your favorite book and it gives you a whole list of books LEAST LIKELY to share a library with that book. Genius! And also? Completely useless.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New YA Literature

"The Whole Lesbian Sex Book" is not appropriate YA literature? Who could possibly tell from the title and the cover? Apparently not Earl Adams of Bentonville, Arkansas, who is suing the city of Bentonville for $20,000 because his sons, 14 and 16, checked out the book when they found it in the "military academies" section of the city's public library. Adams claims that his sons "were greatly disturbed by viewing this material and this matter has caused [them] many sleepless nights."

I won't even touch the obvious jokes and assumptions about the causes of their "sleepless nights," but let's focus on the lawsuit, shall we? I mean, I'm certainly against censorship and think the book should remain in the library. If Adams were "just" objecting to the book because he doesn't think it's appropriate for the library, that's one thing. But trying to get $20,000 because his two sons checked out this book? Please. It's not like they were forced to read this or that they could possibly not have known what the book was about before they checked it out. It's pretty obvious from the title alone. Unless Adams is just really, really gullible and found the book and believed some far-fetched desperate attempt on his sons' part to deflect guilt. "We had no idea the book was about lesbian sex [even though the title says it clearly]! We found it when we were searching for books about military academies. You wouldn't believe the trauma we've suffered since reading it. And continuing to read it. Chapter after chapter. Even when we realized what it was about."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Top 5 Panels Missing From TLA

  1. Blogstalking Your Favorite YA Authors
  2. How to Get Hot Authors at Your Library
  3. The Hidden Secret of YA Authors: We're All Friends
  4. Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most Free Stuff at TLA
  5. YA Authors: The New Sexy