aka YA Literature

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart

It's been a while since I read The Boyfriend List or The Boy Book, so even though I liked both books, I didn't immediately read my ARC of The Treasure Map of Boys. I just didn't have a burning desire to know what's happened to Ruby. And for a while as I read it, even though I was entertained by the plot, I was thinking two negative things: (1) Why is she SOOOO into boys? And after Lockhart wrote this amazing burgeoning feminist in Frankie, I felt very disappointed in Roo. Why is she doing this to herself and her friends? (2) I never had that many guys like me at once. How is this possible? And why do they like her so much?

But . . .

By the end, I felt like Ruby had some realistic breakthroughs that weren't all moralistic and completely rejecting of boys and not completely "I'm happy with who I am and I don't need a boy to be happy." After all, girls like boys! I like boys! People are generally attracted to others and happy when one (or more) of those others likes you back. And while I do think there is something to be said for not hooking up with a guy your good friend likes, I liked the idea that you forgive people you love. What I loved about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and what I think Lockhart does really well here again with Ruby is convey how complicated relationships and feelings can be, how sometimes you feel a way that you intellectually know is not right or healthy or helpful but you cannot seem to control it. It's hard to know what's right and sometimes hard to do that even if you know what it is. Sometimes making yourself happy means hurting others, or making one person happy means hurting another. So yes, the novel is cute, but it also captures a lot of complexity. And I also loved the notes that Noel wrote Ruby! There's a lot to be said for feelings expressed in words and then actually written down on paper to be read and savored. And his were so creative. I want notes like that.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

I really liked Graceling, so I was eager to read Fire when I got it in the mail. However, I didn't realize that it isn't really a sequel. If anything, it's more of a prequel. It takes place in the same era and general location of the seven kingdoms of Graceling, but it's before the events of Graceling and in a different kingdom with different characters. There is only one character that overlaps with Graceling (more on this below).

I don't think I'm going to give away too much of the plot and certainly not the ending, but if you don't want to know anything more about the plot, stop reading.
Fire is the title character, and she is a young woman living in the Dells. Actually, she's only half human. Her mother was human but her father was a "monster." Monsters in the Dells are the form of normal animals (people, birds, bears, fish, etc.), but they are vibrant colors and are much more dangerous than their regular animal counterparts, and they crave the flesh of humans and other mosters. Fire struggles against her monster nature and deals with her monster powers of being able to control people's minds/wills. She tries to coexist with other humans and live down her father's ignominious reputation. Despite the danger she poses, she's an excellent archer and a great asset, so she ends up being enlisted to help the king's army in their defensive war against two neighboring kingdoms. There's action, romance, and great character development. I don't think it's giving away too much to say that the one character who exists in both Graceling and Fire is Leck (before he became king of Monsea) since he is a baby in the prologue.

I really enjoyed Fire, and I like that each book is related to the other but they stand alone as strongly as they do together. I like that you want to read the next book because you like this one so much, but you are completely happy and satisfied by the new book even though it doesn't continue on with the same store line and characters you fell in love with. Each book is absorbing, satisfying, and complete on its own (yet gives you more of what you like so much!). I will say this is for a slightly older audience. While Graceling was fine for middle school, this would certainly be a bit edgier title for middle grade readers just because there is more discussion to sexual relationships (although the actual sex is all off-screen). Still great for both guys and girls. One of my male students who read Graceling also read my ARC of Fire and said he liked this as much, if not better than, Graceling.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wuthering Heights Movie

According to the MTV Movie blog, Gemma Arterton and Ed Westwick are going to star in a new version of Wuthering Heights. I post links about YA book movies and whatnot every so often, but I am actually really excited about this one!! I *heart* Ed Westwick. And now I'll get to see him do not only his brooding and rakishly cocked eyebrow (which he does so well!), but also hear his real British accent. [Swoon] Elisabeth Rappe from MTV seems to be complaining a little about how this is one of the three pieces of English literature that "are regularly dusted off for a big screen adaptation." But you know what? I think it should be (along with the two she mentions - Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice - and Hamlet). They are great stories and I love to see them interpreted (especially Hamlet, which is meant to be performed and interpreted). I loved the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice, even though I also loved the Colin Firth version, for example. And every time they are redone with "the hottest actor or actress of the moment," it gets a new generation interested in the story. Sure, there are some stories people probably would rather watch the old version of over and over again and never want to see redone, but most teens would probably rather see the story done by contemporary actors with modern filming. I'm sure it's blasphemy to say this, but I'd be happy to see Gone With the Wind redone now.

Oh, and Peter Webber who directed Girl With a Pearl Earring is going to direct this film. I thought that was an amazing movie, so I am super excited for this movie.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

I feel like I have read one too many vampire books lately. After Stephenie Meyer's success with the Twilight series, it seemed like everyone was trying to cash in with a young adult vampire series of their own (I mean, I know there were YA vampire series before Meyer's, but they really seemed to flourish afterwards). Anyway, I had pretty much sworn off vampire fiction, but then my school librarian handed me a copy of The Reformed Vampire Support Group that she picked up a TLA. I loved it! It was such a refreshing change from the vampire lit where everyone is beautiful and strong and amazing. Catherine Jinks' vampires aren't even all that likable and they sure whine a lot. It was hilarious. Plus, there is even a little murder mystery and romance action going on to give the story a bit more kick. I am not sure if the cover art will be appealing to the average teen, but the story itself will.

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

Awhile back, I received a review copy of Being Nikki by Meg Cabot. Being Nikki continues on where Airhead left off with Emerson still in the body of a supermodel (how terrible, right?). For Emerson, it is, because she is still in love with her old best friend from high school, but is prohibited from telling him her true identity.

I found Being Nikki to be much more suspenseful than Airhead. And towards the end, the book takes a turn that caught me completely off guard. I love Meg Cabot, but let's be honest, her books are usually predictable. Not this one. I won't spoil it for you, but it is really intriguing. The only thing that frustrated me is that it totally leaves you hanging at the end. I am so tired of reading books and then having to wait impatiently for the next one in the series!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo in the Real World doesn't have the plot description that normally attracts my interest, but I had noticed several good reviews of it. So I picked up the audiobook version from the library to listen to on my way to and from Houston this weekend (for Melissa Marr's Teen Faery Ball!). This is all I'm going to say about it: When I got back home today, I had exactly one CD left to listen to. I rushed inside, dropped all my stuff on the floor, pulled out my print copy that I fortuitously had in the car, and plopped down on my couch to read the rest. Then I immediately e-mailed my friends and told them they MUST read this book. I'm thinking this should get at least a Printz Honor, if not the Printz.

Let me also add that Lincoln Hoppe does an excellent job at performing the audio version. His pacing is excellent, and I'm actually quite glad I listened to (most of) the book rather than reading it because I have a tendency to read really fast, and this book deserves a slower pace (which I think Hoppe did perfectly). I loved all his interpretations of every sentence, and I tend to be pretty critical about such things. Maybe it's the former speech coach in me. The only problem was that Hoppe also narrated King Dork, which is one of my favorite books, and so I had a hard time not thinking of him as Tom Henderson.