aka YA Literature

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sam Hellerman is a Genius

Look what I got in the mail today!

I ordered it because I loved King Dork so much and because I liked this saying. I've never bought a shirt related to books before (although I've liked some), but I think I should start doing it more (but only if they have cool sayings like this one). I think I may wear it during my next day of booktalking.

I also discovered that Frank Portman has another novel called Andromeda Klein coming out in 2008. I can't wait. I like the title and cover of this better than those of KD. Perhaps The Magic Blog (ie. some ATR reader) will send me an ARC! And perhaps Portman will tour in promotion of the new book, and perhaps that tour will include Houston (perhaps the Blue Willow Bookshop where many a famous YA author has signed?). And perhaps I will then be ecstatic.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Authors Wanted

I think it is time for another author interview. I attempted to get one with P.C. Cast, co-author of the most excellent Marked series, but she did not respond. The first author interview we had here at ATR came about through a rather embarrassing blog entry where I posted my wish list of authors I would like to interview. The google-happy John Green found my wish list and graciously offered to be interviewed. Since it worked once before, I have decided to try it again. So...I would like to e-interview the following people (who hopefully like to Google themselves and turn out to be as awesome as John Green was about being interviewed):

MEG CABOT (I have read every single book you have written...even the 1-800 series)
SARAH DESSEN (Love your books. Love. Them.)
STEPHENIE MEYER (c'mon, we are both BYU alums!)
SCOTT WESTERFELD (I met you at TLA...that bonded us, right?)
E.LOCKHART (any secret sister to B2O is bound to be AWESOME)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Rating: A-

A couple weeks ago the National Book Award finalists were announced - and sadly, I had read none of the books on the list. Since The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was the only book selected that I had actually heard of, I decided that would be a good place to start.

The story itself uses a basic theme that is quite common in YA lit today...the average teen chronicling life in a simple diary format. While this format is generally more popular in books with a female point-of-view, Alexie is by no means alone in having a male protagonist...an equally good example would be Exploits of a Reluctant (but Extremely Goodlooking) Hero. Although The Absolutely True Diary isn't exactly original in format, it is fairly unique in the fact that it's main character in an American Indian.

The novel chronicles a year in the life of Arnold Spirit, a young Indian who has decided to leave the poor Reservation school in favor of the wealthier "white" high school. Harassed by both the Indians he left and his new classmates, Arnold suffers a difficult year. Although he is eventually accepted for his decision, his journey is by no means easy; over the course of the year he must deal with poverty and alcoholism among his tribe, as well as the death of multiple family members (most of them directly linked to alcohol). Yet surprisingly, Alexie has somehow managed to give all of this a humorous twist. The Absolutely True Diary truly presents a story that is both humorous and heart-breaking.

Gail Giles Has Great Taste

People have been posting on the YALSA book list serv about who'd they'd like to see win the Printz Award. And Gail Giles said she'd like to see James St. James win for Freak Show. Gail (may I call you Gail?), I couldn't agree more! It was awesome. And, if I may closely quote GG, "what I wouldn't pay to hear him speak at the Printz Awards ceremony!" (Not that I'll be there, but I'm sure there will be podcasts.)

Speaking of Meg Cabot

which I was in my last post ---

I think she and Daria and I need to go see Kathy Griffin perform. I mean, KG is like THE celebrity I'd most like to meet, and Daria and Meg both really like her. Not sure how I can persuade them to take me along with them, but maybe I can work something out. And then maybe we can join Rachel Cohn and David Levithan for a "My So Called Life" marathon. Maybe YALSA can sponsor this as a Dream Prize or something (and I'll win, naturally). "Win a Night With Daria Snadowsky and Meg Cabot to see Kathy Griffin Live, Followed by a Night of Watching 'My So Called Life' on DVD With Rachel Cohn and David Levithan." It could work. I'll bring cupcakes.

Blogs & Their YA Book Counterparts

I was finally reading American Libraries today, so I read the PC Magazine's 100 Favorite Blogs article. Naturally, I was shocked (SHOCKED!) that ATR wasn't listed. I think Smart Bitches was the only book blog on there (if I remember correctly, and it is a good one . . . and not counting comic books, of which there were several). But I still found some awesome connections to YA lit. I mean, how can you not think of So Yesterday when you see The Cool Hunter? I wonder if Scott Westerfeld reads it.

Another connection (less exact, I know, but I loved the blog and needed an excuse to include it):

I wonder if Meg Cabot reads Cupcakes Take the Cake. . .
Of course, EcoGeek has the John Green connection. And PostSecret is sort of a book blog. Which reminds me: do you think PostSecret (the book) would be appropriate for a high school library? I've been thinking of buying it, but I'm not sure if it is appropriate.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dumbledore Revelations

So Rowling has "revealed" that Dumbledore is gay. This brings up an interesting issue of what is "true" about book characters and plot if it's not in the book. I mean, sure, I understand that maybe this is how she has thought of him all this time when she was writing, but if you don't put it in the book, do you get to post facto make this part of the story by stating it at a reading? Are we to incorporate everything an author says or writes about a character into our understanding, even if it's not in the book(s)? I haven't totally fleshed this out in my mind yet, but I sort of think that if you want to make this part of the plot and/or character, it needs to be in the book. Otherwise, you are just leaving it up to reader interpretation, and while you may have your personal authorial take, it's not actual "fact." It kind of reminds me of Stephenie Meyer saying how she worries about "solidifying" plot and character elements on her website. In a way, I like the idea of authors clarifying their thoughts about characters and explaining things and having "extra" information on their websites to supplement stories, but on the other hand, I tend to think this as much less "official" if it's not in the book. Is everything not in the book up for grabs (a la fan fiction)? I'm torn right now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reading List

I've seen this list on a couple of other blogs and I couldn't resist doing it myself. I read a lot more than I expected, but most of it was required reading for college lit classes
(English major). Nowadays I am slummin' it with chick lit and YA lit.

Bold those you’ve read.
Italicize books you have started but couldn’t (or just didn't) finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once.
Underline those on your To Be Read list.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: A Novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian Halfway through...
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Ubervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Monday, October 15, 2007


So today is BAD (Blog Action Day), and since the environment is one of the global issues that is most important to me, I definitely wanted to participate. I wasn't sure what I'd post about here on ATR, but fortunately, I just finished Westerfeld's Extras and I figured it was a good fit. The environment and environmental protection play a critical role in the novel's plot, so I can can kill two metaphorical birds with one stone here.

Okay, I know many of you have probably already read and/or read about Extras by now, but just for the record, let me briefly explain the plot. The main character is an "extra" named Aya Fuse, an ugly in Japan three years after the mind-rain (ie. right after the Diego War and the end of bubbleheaded-ness, thanks to Tally at the end of Specials). Aya's city is a "reputation economy," meaning that fame is pretty much the currency and (almost) everyone's end-all goal. Lots of crazy surges take place all the time, but the main point is to become famous. Aya is hoping to be a famous "kicker" like her brother Hiro. Kickers create stories that are spread through skintenna feeds, which makes the producers (ie. the kickers) famous. While working on a story that she hopes will make her extremely famous, Aya stumbles into an even bigger story, although Aya is not entirely sure what is going on. It becomes dangerous, she is invloved, Tally & Friends arrive to intervene, and the mystery is eventually solved.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the environment plays a big role in the story because not only do the characters reference the irresponsibility of the Rusties (like they did in the previous 3 books), but steel and its scarcity are central to the plot. Steel is very scarce, particularly as bubbleheaded-ness is over and cities are trying to expand. They are trying to scavenge all the steel possible from Rusty ruins and are even considering going back into Rusty mines to find more. Tally and David are trying to save the earth, so of course, they are fighting against this. As Aya is pursuing her story, she finds these "freaks" who are hording steel canisters, which she is not sure the purpose of. I can't really say too much else without giving away a lot of the plot, but suffice it to say that if you wanted to have a book to talk about environmental issues or if you wanted to do a bookmark or display of teen books about the environment, this would be completely appropriate.

My take on the book? Well, I have only ever listened to the books in this series, so this was a new experience for me. In a weird way, this was kind of better because it went faster. I'm not so much into the "suspense" parts with the flying and the hovering and the chases and the sneak suits, so in reading, I could just sort of skim over those parts. What I did really like in this book, though, was the whole concept of the "reputation economy." I can totally see how many of the current trends and practices we have now could develop into the society in which Aya lives. The idea that individuals would be preoccupied by their Face Rank is totally believable, just considering how much and often people Google themselves or check their Amazon sales number or their website's ranking or whatever. Fame seems to be a pretty big attraction, and I thought it was utterly believable and fitting that the second most famous person in the city was someone obsessed with trivial things liked what someone is wearing or who they are dating. There are tons of things to discuss here, including Paparazzi, the price of fame, what makes people famous, the benefits of fame, how people will become famous in the future, how the Internet changes or affects who becomes famous and how, etc. I really appreciate that Westerfeld is able to meld these weighty issues into the plots of his book without being too didactic.

And though it doesn't have anything to do at all with Extras, here's a link to Hank Green's EcoGeek site. It's just a tribute in honor of BAD.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

King Dork

Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
Narrator: Lincoln Hoppe
Book Rating: A
Audio Rating: A-

I decided to listen to this book because I needed an audiobook for the weekend and none of my requests were in. Plus, I was getting ready for some booktalks, and I realized that I pretty much only read girly books and thus am not very familiar with more "guy" books.* I basically just pulled this off the shelf, looked at the synopsis and noted John Green's endorsement (despite the fact that he is dead to me), and figured, "Maybe this won't be too bad." But I really adored this book. I laughed so much, I can't even tell you. I appreciated the insightful commentary on AP teachers' love of A Catcher in the Rye and the way in which AP classes often have much easier and less relevant "projects" in the name of creativity and giftedness. The ever-changing band names and album titles ("Margaret? It's God. Please Shut Up.") were pure genius. I also liked how Portman made all the details come together (example: ChiMo). It was just great. And I think it is equally appealing to both males and females, and I can't wait to start pushing it on students. I do kinda wish it had a different title since I personally don't find the title very appealing or representative of the plot or greatness of this book.


The Bad: Usually I start with "the good," but I'll end with it this time because the narration started out pretty bad for me but ended up pretty good. Hoppe didn't sound like a teenager. At least at the beginning, he was breathy and sounded a lot like a Peanuts narrator to me. The performance was total narration, which doesn't have to be bad, but he didn't really capture the right notes of sarcasm and slang from the teen narrator, and it seemed that some characters (like Mr. Teone) just screamed for character voices instead of the same repetetive and breathy narration.

The Good: I didn't like the narrator for quite a while. His voice didn't seem right to me and he was missing lots of the sarcastic tones, in my opinion. However, after a couple of CDs, he either got better or I got used to it because by the end, I was enjoying the performance and thinking that Hoppe was doing a good job of portraying Tom's confusion, sarcasm, and general perspective.

* On the subject of booktalks, I've noticed people debating whether or not one should booktalk books one has not read. For the record, if anyone cares, I come firmly down on the "you can booktalk books you have not read" side. I have several reasons for feeling this way. (1) I have done it with success and with no bad experiences. (2) I don't pretend to have read them if I haven't, and no students have seemed upset or put off by this. (3) It is not possible to read all books. There are too many. I have many adult books I want to read in addition to all the YA ones I want to read. My life is too short and does not have enough time in it to read books I'm not interested in reading (especially when there are so many I want to read). Therefore, if I don't booktalk books I haven't read, I am really limiting the number and type of books I can booktalk.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn

Book: Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn
Author: Sarah Miller
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Book Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-

I've been waiting for this book on audio for literally months! Finally it came in. The back synopsis says, "What if you could see inside the head of the guy you love? Know his every thought? Feel his every dream and fantasy? The mystery girl who's inside the mind of Gideon Rayburn can. She tells us the intoxicating story of her beloved Gideon, an adorably clueless boy who flukes his way into New England's fanciest prep school." Sounds cute, right? Some light chick lit along the lines of E. Lockhart is what I was expecting. Well, it's not exactly deep, I guess, but it wasn't the light-hearted romp I was expecting. With the drinking, drugs, sex, and occassional cussing, it was edgier than I expected (which I happen to like). In addition to the little publisher synopsis, I think it's important to add that Gideon's new roommates, Nicholas and Cullen, are extremely hot and popular and come up with a bet that Gid can't lose his virginity to Molly McGarry before Halloween.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I gave up NPR on my daily commute to listen to it, which means that I was totally enthralled. I even considered bringing the CDs inside to listen to them at home but decided against it only because I didn't want it to be over (and thus without a book to look forward to) too soon. The main drawbacks for me were that the identity of the narrator became pretty obvious after a while. Perhaps Miller could have added some more commentary to obscure this just a bit more. And a couple of times, it didn't make sense for the narrator to be who she was (ex. the everyone-almost-got-expelled-because-of-the-pot scene). But it was still very good. I liked how the narrator was a little cynical and also able to be a little cynical about herself too. I will definitely recommend this book to teens.


The Good: Campbell did a super job at narrating and creating voices for everyone, especially the characters with accents like Pilar. Really great.

The Bad: I thought Campbell sounded a bit too old for a high schooler, even if she was smart and somewhat sophisticated. Nicholas sounded perfect, but Cullen sounded a little too much like him in parts. I thought Cullen should have sounded a little more surfer/frat boy-ish and a little less snooty-sophisticated like Nicholas.

*Can I just ask what is up with the cover of this book? I'll grant you that Gid thinks about girls' breasts a couple of times, and Pilar does wear white (although I don't think she wears a Polo shirt at any point). But really, what does a woman's half-opened chest have to do with the book? Gid's not that shallow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature

Today, the National Book Foundation announced the finalist for the National Book Awards. The following are the finalist in the area of Young People's Literature:

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One
M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl

Sadly, I've only heard of one of these books....and I haven't read any of them! Couldn't they have chosen at least one or two popular titles! I mean, I'm not expecting the see Stephenie Meyer on the list (she's far too good for a stupid National Book Award)...but at least something we might already have in our collection!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

N&NIP: The Movie

Apparently Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (like, one of my all-time favorite YA books) is going to be made into a movie. Michael Cera is playing Nick and Kat Dennings is playing Norah. Maybe I'm wrong, but I totally do not see Cera as Nick. He's so young and cute, not at all like I imagine Nick. I mean seriously, does he look like someone who would be in a queer core band?

It could be a good movie if they do it well. We'll see. RC seems happy about it and said the script is "excellent." What I really want is a freakin audiobook! Is that too much to ask? Would this not be perfect for two cast members?????

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Bras & Broomsticks

Title: Bras & Broomsticks
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Narrator: Ariadne Meyers
Book Rating: A-
Audio Rating: A-

I haven't listened to any YA audiobooks in a while to post a review. But I recently finished Nineteen Minutes on audio and was awaiting Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn on CD, so I picked this up. We recently got the latest in the series, Spells & Sleeping Bags, and so I thought I should see what this is like. Since this book has been out for some time, I won't bother with a plot description.

At first, I thought it was slow. I had a hard time getting into it, and it was seeming like very average teen chick lit (amusing and enjoyable but nothing notable). At some point about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through, though, it really picked up steam, and I ended up really liking the book. I knew that the witchcraft was going to backfire, but it didn't backfire the way I thought it would, and it wasn't as "comedy of errors" as I was expecting. Rachel was really bugging me with how completely blind and stupid she was being in not telling Raf about her father's wedding and just continually expecting it to all work out. I also thought Rachel's klutziness at the fashion show was a little overdone. Despite that, Rachel had an endearing and funny teen-speak that I enjoyed, and the book ended up being kind of what you expected (I mean, it's pretty obvious all this witchcraft is going to backfire) but also able to sustain my interest in finding out what would happen and hoping that it would all work out. The ending with Raf was quite well-done---redeeming for Raf and true to Rachel's personality. I was glad to see that things were worked out, but not completely and not with, like, Rachel becoming totally popular on her own or realizing "the magic was within her." It was a good balance of working out and disaster. It's also nice because it's completely appropriate for middle and high school, and I think both age groups would like it. I'm usually one for "older" and edgier books, but I found myself liking the mix of romance, humor, vulnerability, and plot complications.

The Good: Meyers was believable as a teen and hit most of the right notes in capturing the essence of all the teen phrases and girly observations. She did an excellent job at creating differentiatied and appropriate character voices and keeping them consistent throughout.

The Bad: There wasn't anything bad, just a few places that Meyers used inflection choices that I wouldn't have. She didn't sound like what I pictured for Rachel, but the performance was very good. The CDs didn't let you know when they were over, which is super annoying.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

When you know your Twilight addiction has gone too far...

At my library, I am known as something of a Stephenie Meyer fanatic! My coworkers often joke about how bad it is....and trust me, they've had to sit through many of my rants on the glories of Ms. Meyer and her works!

Well, one of my coworkers happens to collect police insignia (I know, the library attracts all kinds of weirdos!) Anyway, when I mentioned to him that Forks and La Push are actual towns, he said he thought his collection included police patches for both of those towns. Well, what a pleasant surprise this morning when I discovered these two patches on my desk! My blog mates may have gotten Stephenie's autograph at the Texas Library Association's Spring Meeting, but we now know who the biggest Twilight fan is here at ATR!!!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


How can I possibly get a galley of Sarah Dessen's upcoming Lock & Key? I need one. Badly! Desperately!

Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot was on the Today Show today talking about girls wanting to be popular. Man, I love her blog. She's so hilarious, and her pictures are just great. It's hard to believe she wasn't popular when she was younger because not only is she super funny, but she's got great style.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Forks in '08!!!!

Ok, the other day I was browsing the wikipedia pages on Stephenie Meyer and the Twilight series...when I discovered that Forks and La Push are actual towns. While the pictures of the towns leave a lot to be desired, the forest surrounding the towns...and the ocean views are freakin' amazing! Seeing these pictures got me thinking that it might be fun to have a Twilight Tour '08! Fly up to Seattle, and then drive over to Forks for a few days.

Well, as I was researching all this, I discovered the website for the Forks Chamber of Commerce actually has an entire section dedicated to the "Twilight Points of Interest". Apparently the folks at the Forks Chamber of Commerce think we fans are interested in such scenic sites as Forks High School (where Bella first met Edward) and the Forks Police Station (where Charlie works.)

Now, while I can understand the town wanting to jump on the fame Twilight has brought their town, couldn't they come up with a few better sites than the high school and police station? Maybe a historic exhibit that shows the true story of the Quileute Indian Tribe...or something as cheesy as a Victorian Bed and Breakfast masquerading as the Cullens' house (although that might be hard sans the beds!)
Regardless, here's my open invitation for the Forks Tour '08!!!!