aka YA Literature

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Just heard that there's a new The Great Gatsby movie in the works to be directed by Baz Luhrmann. I love remakes like this. I think it's important to update them every few decades or so.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Books about dragons are generally not my thing. However, Firelight was an excellent exception. I suspect this is because the main character, Jacinda, spends much more time in her human form than in her dragon form, as do all the other characters. It's more of a human romance and action story than a fantasy dragon book.

Jacinda is a sophomore in high school, and she is a draki. Draki descended from dragons, but they evolved the ability to morph into human form as a way of blending in and protecting themselves. She lives with her mother and twin sister Tamra in her pride's secret mountain town, but after an illegal flying incident outside of the pride territory goes awry (hunters see her and shoot her), her mother takes both girls away under the cover of night to protect Jacinda from the pride's retribution. Jacinda has a special draki power: she can breathe fire. And this makes her especially appealing to the pride's king and his son, Cassian. Jacinda doesn't want to mate with Cassian, however, and her mother doesn't want the pride using her that way either. Indeed, her mother really doesn't want to have anything to do with the draki. So the three resettle in an arid desert town where Jacinda's mother hopes that they won't be found by their pride and that Jacinda's draki self will die from lack of exposure to the moisture and fertile earth it needs to survive. Jacinda is miserable, but she meets the gorgeous (of course) and secretive Will, and he makes her draki come alive whenever she's with him. Romantic tension and plenty of action proceed from there.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely recommend it. One of the great things about it is the development of all the characters, not just Jacinda. Jacinda's relationship with Tamra in particular was very complex and believable. I thought the elements of draki life were also creative and well thought-out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


As the subtitle tells us, Jane by April Lindner is "a modern retelling of Jane Eyre." Twenty year-old Jane Moore is forced to drop out of college and get a job as a nanny because her parents died and left her without means of finishing school. She ends up getting a job as a nanny for the daughter of Nico Rathburn, an aging rock star who is trying to make a comeback. And if you know the story of Jane Eyre, then you know what happens.

I personally thought it was okay, but it's probably only really worthwhile if you're a huge Jane Eyre fan or one of those readers who has read everything and just needs another book. It's not the kind of book I'd really recommend to someone asking for "a good book." I didn't buy Jane and Nico's falling in love. She was not only shy and responsible (both fine and good), but she was boring and she and Nico never really had any connection or anything in common (even though the narrative states that they do, I never saw it in the scenes). I can totally buy that she falls for him; he's rich and attractive after all. But actually truly falling in love? Both of them? I didn't see it. I also thought (and this is somewhat of a spoiler, but not really if you've read Jane Eyre), it didn't make sense that his wife was living in the attic. I think Lindner could and should have taken a few more liberties with the modernization, especially here. In the original, it made more sense because divorce wasn't really the option it is today. It was just not believable to me. Maybe she could have been off living in France or something, maybe showing up here and there, stalking him or something if it was necessary to introduce the "threatening" aspects or foreshadowing.

I do quite like the cover, even though it doesn't really portray the Jane of the book imo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Help

Even though many people (all women) told me how much they loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett, it just didn't sound like my cup of tea. There are so many YA romances and dystopias for me to read! But I bought a paperback copy in England for the plane ride when I had run through all the books I'd brought with me. I started reading it when we boarded, and I only stopped when (a) they served a meal and (b) I finished. It was fantastic. I'm not recommending it to all my students (my male sci-fi/fantasy fans probably wouldn't be into it), but there are a lot of teen readers I am recommending it to. I'm planning to convince my sophomore English teachers to use it as one of their lit circle choices too.

Set in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, the chapters follow three main characters: Eugenia ("Skeeter"), Aibileen, and Minny. Aibileen and Minny are both African American women who work as maids in the homes of young middle class white women. Skeeter is a young privileged white woman who has just graduated from college and is living at home with her parents while she searches for a job in journalism. All her other friends (including Aibileen's employer) apparently dropped out of college long ago to get married and are already mothers. Skeeter starts to question the arrangement of society and to wonder about the personal lives of the maids when her best friend Hilly initiates a campaign to have separate bathrooms installed in white houses just for "the help" so that the white families won't have to share their bathrooms.

There are some issues with the book (ex. Is Hilly too two-dimensionally evil? In a book purportedly about the lives of the maids, does Skeeter's story and moral discomfort take over the narrative?), but it's still engrossing and worthwhile. And I think these kinds of questions are what make the book great for lit circles. Skeeter's relative youth and struggles with her parents (she loves them at the same time that she disagrees with them and is trying to create a measure of independence for herself) make it something I think teens can relate to as well.

Holly and Cody, you have to read this. I used the UK cover of the book because I like it better than the US version. The UK photo is from the Library of Congress archives. What do birds have to do with anything?