Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend (Teen/Crossover) Book News

In starting up the Weekend Reviews again I am finding that there are as many news stories about teen and crossover books as there are reviews in the mainstream media.

Ian Crouch brings us up to date on the case against Leonora Rustamova (U.K.) in The New Yorker. Rustamova wrote, with her teenaged students, a self-published novel called Stop! Don't Read This, a book in which teen-aged boys, "named after and resembling her students, sell cocaine, skip school, and, at one unfortunate point, practice 'orgasmic moans' that sound like 'the soundtrack to teenage gay porn.'"

Weekend Reviews

Welcome to the final weekend reviews of February! (Crossing fingers for an early spring...)

Crossover Book Alert: Carol Memmott reviews Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches for USAToday. Memmott begins her review with the assertion, "Adults entranced by the kiddie witches and wizards in the Harry Potter series and the teen vampires in the Twilight Saga — you've earned this grown-up tale." Sounds to me like teens will be all over this one. (Nick Owchar also reviews A Discovery of Witches for The Los Angeles Times.)

Meghan Cox Gurden reviews Judy Blundell's Strings Attached for The Wall Street Journal and concludes the positive review with "Adult as well as older teen readers will appreciate the skill with which the author slowly separates the skeins of this tangled story to reveal the violent truth of what Billy once told Kit: "We pack away lies in [our] house like you pack away Christmas."

That's it for this week's reviews, unless I've missed something. Stay tuned for a new weekend link feature at Crossover--Weekend (YA/Crossover) News!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you happen to be interested in Russian...

Children's and Young Adult books, check out The Working Group for Study of Russian Children's Literature and Culture, a blog I am running for a professional organization.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Books that Changed Your Life at 16

Don't miss Nina MacLaughlin's post at Flavorwire titled "Books that Rocked Your World at 16 But Fall Flat Now." Her opening paragraph is great: "We all have a few: the books we read when we were young that altered everything. These were the world-changers, the reality-definers, the stories you died over, gushed to your friends about, pushed into the hands of boyfriends and girlfriends, urgently, sincerely. They were pivotal, inspirational, important." Don't you remember that feeling and its inevitable counterpart--disappointment when your friends didn't agree with you?

MacLaughlin returns to those books she read as a teen and now finds lacking. Then she suggests an alternative to read as an adult. She closes with The Catcher in the Rye and the fact that she's yet to find an adult equivalent. Maybe that's because The Catcher in the Rye is, really, a book for teens? At the very least, as Gail Gauthier put it in the comments to one of my posts, Catcher has "cast a long shadow over YA fiction."

MacLaughlin's piece got me thinking, though. Which book rocked my world most at sixteen? Oddly enough, it was a play: Ibsen's "A Doll's House." I wonder if it would stand the test of time for me. I'm guessing it would, but I think I'll read it again soon to find out.

Which books changed your life at 16? Are you still impressed by them today? Have you read a book as an adult that you could honestly say "changed your life"?

The comments on the MacLaughlin piece also are very interesting.

Weekend Reviews

I'm reinstating the Weekend Review posts I used to write at Big A little a. There will be a difference, however: I'll be focusing on Young Adult and potential crossover titles only.

First up this week? Charles McGrath's review of new (and older) teen dystopia for The New York Times. Selected Quote: "What distinguishes this kind of dystopian fiction from its adult counterpart — beyond its being less dire and apocalyptic — is a certain element of earnestness, even preachiness, and the moral is pretty transparent: be yourself. " Liz B. has written a fair-minded rebuttal over at A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy.

Susan Carpenter reviews Strings Attached, by Judy Blundell, in the Los Angeles Times."Told from the perspective of 17-year-old Kit Corrigan, the book opens in New York City. The year is 1950. Kit has just finished working her first big-city job in a second-rate Broadway play and is desperate to find a new stage production and living quarters. " Carpenter also reviews Death Cloud: A Novel, by Andrew Lane. Death Cloud is "the first in a young-adult series approved by Conan Doyle's estate, in which British author Andrew Lane casts Holmes as a sleuth-in-training."

One from last week that is not a review of a Young Adult novel. Instead, it's a review by Alan Cheuse for The San Francisco Chronicle of young-adult novelist David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seventeenth Summer and today's Readers

Some people argue that Maureen Daly's 1942 novel Seventeenth Summer was the first Young Adult novel published in the U.S. (I've also seen compelling arguments for The Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders.)

Of the books we've read so far in my Young Adult literature course, students have found Seventeenth Summer the least relatable. Many of them found Daly's protagonist and narrator, Angie Morrow, too passive, too unobservant, too wishy-washy when compared to today's young adult female narrators. I think the students are glad they read the novel (I hope!) for historical context, but I'm not sure it's one they'll reread in the future.

Have you read Seventeenth Summer? What do you think about the novel and today's readers? What causes a Young Adult novel to age out, to become no longer interesting to a new generation's readers?

And, here are a few discussions from my class blog: