aka YA Literature

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Time 100

Suzanne Collins is one of the "Time 100" of the world's most influential people. Pretty cool, but the drawing that I suppose is supposed to depict her is really awful and very little like her, imo. It looks like this series of purposefully terrible sketches one of my students does of me.

No Stephenie Meyer on the list, although Robert Pattinson is.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Kaylee and her best friend Emma sneak into an 18+ club (they're only HS juniors). While Emma is off dancing with her many admirers, Kaylee is unexpectedly approached by one of the most attractive and popular guys in school, Nash Hudson. Before she really understands why, she and Nash are dancing together. In the midst of trying to enjoy the moment and figure out how she got so lucky, Kaylee notices a drunk girl who is surrounded by shadows. Kaylee is suddenly wracked by pain as everything begins going gray, and she feels a compulsion to scream. She's felt this one time before, about nine months ago in a shopping mall, and her incessant screaming caused her aunt and uncle (her legal guardians) to check her into the psychiatric unit of the hospital. Not wanting to repeat that experience nor to cause Nash to think her crazy, Kaylee exerts all her willpower to keep from screaming. But Nash can tell something is wrong, and eventually he and Emma escort her outside the club. After calming down, thanks partly due to the soothing humming that Nash offers, all three teens return home. The next morning, however, Kaylee turns on the news to discover that the drunk girl was found dead at the club last night. Then other young teen girls in her city start to collapse mysteriously and die for no apparent reason, and Kaylee never met the second victim but does know the third girl (a cheerleader at her school, whom Kaylee has the same physical reaction to just before she dies). Kaylee is struggling to figure out how the deaths are related (they must be related, right?) and why/how she seems to know they're going to die. She's trying to decide how she should proceed with her aunt and uncle since she doesn't want to return to the psych ward, and Nash seems to be a huge comfort to her. Does he understand her better than she could even know? I was interested in her relationship with Nash, the mystery of how she knows these girls are going to die and why they're dying, and why her dad has been pretty much absent since her mother died. I never felt like there were too many threads in the plot, and while you could figure out parts of each question, it wasn't all telegraphed from the beginning.

I really enjoyed this story, and I even went to a nearby but not-my-usual-library this weekend so I could pick up the second book in the series, My Soul to Save. Both books kept me very engaged, and I liked that they were complete stories in themselves. They made you interested in the characters but not feeling like you were left hanging at the end. And I really liked the ending to My Soul to Take because I didn't see it coming but it totally fit and made sense for the storyline and the characters.

Tangential: I liked that the parents weren't okay with Kaylee and Nash being alone together. To me, this is a realistic portrayal of concerned parents. I'm sure there are parents who don't care if a guy and girl are gettin' busy, but that was never my experience as a teen. I feel like I've been encountering a lot of nonchalant parents in my YA reading lately.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Rock Bottom Remainders

What do Mitch Albom, Dave Barry, Roy Blount Jr., Greg Isles, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, Stephen King, Matt Groening, James McBride, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, and Soctt Turow have in common? Apparently they're all members of a "band" called The Rock Bottom Remainders. I haven't heard of them until now. They are touring to raise money for Haiti relief, and the Pearson Foundation and We Give Books will be donating books in the tour cities (DC, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York). Apparently, they have little in the way of musical talent, but I can see how they'd attract a crowd. Too bad it's so contained in the northeast part of the country.

Monday, April 19, 2010

David Levithan Love

I haven't gotten my library copies of Will Grayson, Will Grayson yet, but fortunately I got an ARC at TLA last week. I cannot wait to read it! EW has an interview with John Green and David Levithan here. I've read pretty much all of this before in other places, but what I didn't know is that David Levithan and Rachel Cohn have another book coming out in October! It's called Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. Since I've LOVED both of their other books and requested that all their future books be written together, this is just fabulous. But how did I not know of this until now??? Apparently, they were trying to throw me off with this.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Rules of Attraction is the follow-up to Perfect Chemistry. Alex and Brittany are going to college in Colorado, and Alex's younger brother Carlos moves there to live with Alex for his senior year of high school. Their mother sent Carlos there so he won't end up in jail. After an incident at school, however, it looks like Carlos might still be headed in that direction. Since Carlos can't really live in the student housing with Alex, the judge says he can't stay there. He ends up staying with the extremely well-adjusted family of Carlos's "peer guide" from school, Kiara. Her dad is also friends with Alex because he was Alex's professor. Kiara isn't traditionally hot and she stutters, but after a slightly rocky start, she and Carlos develop an attraction to each other.

I feel pretty much the same way about Rules of Attraction as I did about Perfect Chemistry. I mean, as I re-read my post about Perfect Chemistry, I was thinking, "Well, that pretty much exactly sums up how I felt about this book."

* Seems like a romance I would normally like: check.
* Would normally like the happy ending but this is too over-the-top (esp. the epilogue): check.
* Unrealistic/lacking authentic voice for the characters: check. (for Carlos anyway)
* Gang member who is too "good": check. (Think about this when you read the reason Carlos really got fired from the sugar mill.) And I can add into this one that Kiara's family seems extraordinarily well-adjusted and even pretty okay with the two of them living together under the same roof and obviously having a physical relationship. Not totally believable for me. Also not totally believable: the father's entire diverse background and the way it works into the resolution of things with Devlin.

Once I let go of all these things, I did enjoy the story, though. It was a lot steamier than I remember Perfect Chemistry being. I wouldn't have it in a middle school library, for instance. I don't want to spoil anything for you, so if you're really concerned about that, you may want to stop reading here. But if you're still reading, then know that when Carlos and Kiara finally have sex, it's pretty explicit. It doesn't describe the actual act, but all the way up to it where they are getting naked, how and where they are touching each other, etc. I liked that Elekeles included the fact that they used a condom and they talked about it. It wasn't a big "conversation," just something they did in the normal course of having sex, and that seemed like a pretty positive way of including that important issue. Definite props on that.

The bottom line is that if you or your patrons like Perfect Chemistry, you're/they're sure to want and to enjoy Rules of Attraction. I know PC has been very popular in my library. And look, even though I had all these problems with PC, I was still anxious to read ROA. Also, even though ROA is the sequel and you'll understand the Fuentes family backstory a little better if you've read PC, you could still easily read ROA without having read PC first.

I liked the cover on this before I read the book, but I really liked it after I read the book. For one, it's a particular scene from the book, not just a generic cover of a guy and/or girl (which I figured before reading the book). But I don't know if I would have thought of choosing that scene, and I think it's a cool choice. I don't know, it just seems very original and poignant as a cover. And the cover is very faithful to the scene from the book, including the cars and what they're wearing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Numbers by Rachel Ward

When Jem looks into someone's eyes, she sees a number. That number is the date they are going to die. She doesn't want to see the numbers, and she tries to avoid looking into people's eyes. This "power," along with the fact that she's been in foster homes since her mother died of a drug overdose, means she is a loner. When she meets Spider, they get along well, but Jem doesn't want to get close to anyone, and she especially doesn't want to get close to Spider since she sees that he only has three months to live. Try as she might, however, she keeps getting more and more caught up with Spider, and things really take off when she and Spider are caught on camera running away from the London Eye just before a bomb explodes. The police want them for questioning, either as suspects or witnesses, not knowing, of course, that they ran because Jem freaked out when she saw that everyone around them had the same death date (that very day). Once Jem and Spider are on the run from the law and Jem is trying to figure out if she can do anything to change the death dates, the action and tension of the book really get notched up. A good read.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why "Vampire Diaries" Makes Me Mad

I am referring to Vampire Diaries the CW series, not the books. When they first announced that Vampire Diaries (henceforth referred to as V.D., heehee) would we made into a television show, I had high hopes for the show, especially when I saw the cast of characters. But, one things has been driving me NUTS lately, so much so that I almost can't watch the show. It involves completely ignoring a major plot line.

One of the major plot lines initially was that the vampires could not go out in sunlight. The Salvatore brothers are able to go out in daylight because they have their magic rings, something Stefan said he hadn't heard of any other vampires having. They even went so far as Stefan taking Damon's ring to keep him trapped in the house at one point.

However, now their little town is being overrun by vampires who seem to be able to prance around in daylight without a worry. Maybe everyone suddenly has magic rings? But I don't see it on their fingers! Am I being too nit-picky here? I feel like in books, authors wouldn't be able to get away with such a huge omission, but on TV it is like, well, that whole no-daylight thing was pretty constricting, let's pretend it wasn't a MAJOR issue. What's next? Will vampires no longer need to be invited in? Will they no longer drink blood? I just keep hoping for the episode that explains it all.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back Creek by Leslie Goetsch

Back Creek is set in 1975. The main character, Grace, is about to go to college for the first time. However, many events unfold that summer that cause her to question who she is and how she views those around her. When I say many events, I’m not kidding. She witnesses a suicide, her mom leaves, her long-lost sister shows up, and, oh yeah, a hurricane hits the area. Not to mention she has to take care of her alcoholic father. Quite a few plot events for a relatively short novel.

This story is being marketed to young adults, but I think it would be a better fit with an adult audience. The first thing I noticed was the cover. It is kind of bland and boring. Having done many a YA book display in my time, I know that the catchy covers are the ones that teens gravitate toward. Also, the setting…1975. I think most teens like extremely current or set way back in time.

That being said, the story itself was interesting and I really liked Grace, the main character. She is the peacemaker, the one who tries to hold her family together. I enjoyed following along as she discovered her place in life. This story is one that I would most likely recommend to my friends or sisters, but probably not to my students.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bree Tanner

MTV has this post up about how Jodelle Ferland, who will play Bree Tanner in Eclipse, got an advance copy of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, but she could only read it on-set with security watching her, and then she had to burn it. That book will surely make her relatively small part a whole lot bigger.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Creepiest Children's Books

The Huffington Post has a collage of the "creepiest children's books ever (PICTURES)." A couple I don't really agree with why they think they're so creepy , but some are really funny. Be sure to read the captions.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Poetry Reviews

I presume in conjunction with National Poetry Month, PW has an article this week entitled "What Poetry Reviews Are For (And Up Against)."

As I read this article, I had some thoughts. First, I'm REALLY glad PW still reviews poetry books. It's one of the only print review magazines that regularly does so. I know that some sources like VOYA or SLJ will include some YA poetry books, but there aren't a lot of these, and I really like to buy adult collections. I realize that I probably buy more poetry than most school or YA librarians, but surely I'm not the only one.

Second, after discussing how poetry reviews in publications like PW aren't necessarily for the (sole) purpose of selling the books, it says:

“The importance of reviews for book sales is overrated,” [Matthew Zapruder] says. “I don’t think reviews are particularly necessary to help people decide if they want to buy the book or not, since anyone who has access to the Web can Google an author and find a pretty good sampling of someone’s poems on on-line literary magazines, especially from recently published books.”

I'd like to disagree. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the importance of reviews for the overall sales of poetry books, but I do disagree that they aren't important (and I mean particularly in major print publications like PW). In the first place, although I really like to buy poetry books, I don't have the savvy or the time to peruse specialty poetry sites. Secondly, this is an example where Zapruder is thinking people should/would go out and search for the information rather than having it come to them. This would be like the difference between going out to a database to find an article rather than having the hard copy of the magazine or journal delivered to you every month, or going out to read/search a blog rather than getting RSS feeds. It's assuming a lot more interest, initiative, and knowledge on the part of the potentially interested buyer. And it also assumes you've heard of a poet or their work. I do a lot with poetry at work, but in 99% of the cases where I'm reading a poetry book review in PW, I've never heard of the poet. I can't search for information about poets if I don't know who to search.

I hope PW continues its poetry reviews. It's my primary source for buying new poetry, and the length and type of information provided in the reviews is exactly what I need. I don't need a lengthy in-depth analysis of the poetry. I know what types of poetry I'm looking for for my curriculum, so I just need a description of the style and themes. Whether it's a good review or not isn't even so much important.