Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reading "The Chocolate War" in 2011

I'll admit it: I had not read The Chocolate War (1974) until early 2011 when I was putting together a Young Adult Literature course. I'm not sure why I hadn't read this one in Middle School or in Junior High, but for some reason I didn't.  It's possible the novel's overwhelming maleness turned me off, but I don't know for sure.

I knew a few things about The Chocolate War before reading it this January.  I knew it was, for example, a much-banned book, and I knew that it is read in schools today.  In fact, I polled my YA-course students and many of them had read The Chocolate War as part of a Middle School or Junior High English class.  (One of my students read it in a fourth-grade class!)  The inclusion of The Chocolate War in so many school curricula surprised me as The Chocolate War holds the #4 spot on the ALA's 100 most frequently challenged books list (1990-1999) and is #3 on the 2000-2009 list.

So, what makes The Chocolate War relevant today 35 years since its release?  Is it relevant only because it is controversial?  Is The Chocolate War a good Young Adult novel?

First a brief plot summary with spoilers: Trinity High School serves as the novel's setting--one as grim, and brown and gray as the road featured on the newest edition's cover.  Two forces rule Trinity: 1) the Priests, headed temporarily by the malevolent Brother Leon; 2) the Vigils, a secret gang of Trinity students led by Archie Costello.  The story centers around the school's fundraiser, which this year is selling cut-rate Mother's Day chocolates with the lavender "Mom" ribbon removed.  (The discarding of the lavender ribbons serves as a signal of the lack of color and of women and girls in the novel.)  The novel's protagonist, Jerry Renault, receives an assignment from Archie--he is to refuse to sell the chocolates for 10 days.  Jerry's refusal enrages Brother Leon, a fact that earns Jerry some respect from his classmates, especially those who are not associated with the Vigils.  Brother Leon is worried about the chocolate sale and asks Archie for his assistance in "motivating" the students and in pressuring Jerry to accept some chocolates for sale.  When Jerry's 10 days are up, however, Jerry decides to continue to refuse the chocolates.  Why?  He tells another student he's not quite sure, but wonders "Do I dare disturb the universe?"  Jerry's continuing refusal to participate in the fundraiser leads to bullying from all sides (including from the teachers) and culminates in a fight with a member of the Vigils in which Jerry is brutally beaten.

Several things surprised me about The Chocolate War in 2011:

1. Cormier's sophisticated narration.  Cormier uses a third-person narration, unusual for YA problem novels even in the 1970s.  The point of view shifts from character to character--some of them minor players in the story, some major--as the story unfolds.  In fact, the story opens from the point of view of a very minor character (Obie) and it isn't until several chapters into the novel that we understand that Jerry is the novel's protagonist.  The effect of this strategy is in the foregrounding of the setting; The collective bullying is more important than the individual's suffering;
2. There is no lesson. Jerry doesn't learn anything from resisting his bullies, except that perhaps he should have gone along with the crowd;
3. Cormier's teens (Archie, Emile) are just as corrupt as the adults, and his adults (Brother Eugene) have the potential to be as innocent as some of the teens;
4. The frank description of young male sexuality and, in particular, of masturbation.  The teens' sex lives are as alienating and as futile as Trinity High itself.

The Chocolate War inspired excellent discussion in my YA lit course and resulted in some interesting blog posts, including one on Jerry's identity, one looking at The Chocolate War as an allegory for Nazi Germany, and one questioning the definition of The Chocolate War as a Young Adult novel.  I left my reading of The Chocolate War certain about one thing--The Chocolate War is an ambitious, literary novel.  It is also a novel more adults should read; It's an important crossover work and proof that Young Adult literature can be as significant as "literary fiction."

Crossover potential YA -->Adult: Absolutely.
C. Anita Tarr's 2002 "The Absence of Moral Agency in Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War" (in Children's Literature, vol. 30) changed the way I read The Chocolate War, however.  I will post about these reconsiderations soon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Book Reviews

It's a slow week for YA and Crossover book reviews in the major media.  Are we waiting for the announcement of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award?  Is everyone at Bologna? Are we all on Spring Break?  In any case, here's what I've found this weekend:

Not my thing, but I know many teens and adults love these books: Jean M. Auel's The Land of the Painted Caves, the final volume of the Earth's Children series, is out and Carol Memmott reviews it for USAToday. (And Liesl Bradner reviews The Land of the Painted Caves for the Los Angeles Times.)

Susan Carpenter reviews Ruta Sepetys Between Shades of Gray for the Los Angeles Times "Not Just for Kids" Column. ("A story of hardship as well as human triumph, Between Shades of Gray is an eye-opening reimagination of a very real tragedy written with grace and heart.") More on this novel at Weekend News today.

Mandy Southgate considers Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study for (here in SeattlePI): "This ability to create completely unique, imaginative yet believable worlds and to weave great stories within those worlds puts Maria V. Snyder up there with my favourite authors Anthony Horowitz and Garth Nix."

Shelby Scoffield reviews Carrie Ryan's Dark and Hollow Places for Deseret News. ("Zombie apocalypse. Sisters falling in love with each other's former flames. New York City destroyed and surrounded by carriers of a lethal disease.")  Scoffield interviews Ryan here.

Barbara McIntyre reviews Lisa and Laura Roecker's The Liar Society for The Beacon Journal. ("...quite dark, with intimidating adults, conspiracy theories and coverups")

My favorite Mal Peet reviews a new Australian novel Everybody Jam, by Ali Lewis, in The Guardian. ("So a nice, sweet book, then? Not if you look with a darker eye at the title and read it as: everybody tipped into a cauldron, brought to a rolling boil, then allowed to cool and set.")

Tony Bradman considers Irfan Master's A Beautiful Lie (a novel set in India before 1947) in The Guardian and offers up a mixed review.

Okay, now here's a review of Laura Kasischke's The Raising (review by Julia Keller for The Chicago Tribune) that has crossover potential written all over it: "...The Raising is that rare thing: a literary novel distinguished by splendid prose that is also a down-and-dirty page-turner, a creep show featuring empty caskets and walking corpses." Downloading...

Weekend Young Adult (and Crossover) Book News

Welcome to this week's Weekend (and Crossover) News.  You'll find a few interviews, Between Shades of Gray, and Alex Rider.

Alexandra Alter talks to Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) for the Wall Street Journal.  ("Early hype suggests the novel may resonate equally with adults and teens. The book has already sold in 23 countries, and 16 of the foreign publishers will release it as an adult novel. In Britain, Penguin U.K. will publish two versions—adult and "YA"—with separate covers and marketing campaigns. In the U.S., Penguin is featuring the book in both its adult and young adult catalogs, and has been promoting it with adult book clubs.")

You can find two reviews of Between Shades of Gray in last week's Weekend Reviews post.

Some TV-book news from Variety: "Nickelodeon has optioned the rights to Sara Mlynowski's Magic in Manhattan series."

Diana Wynne Jones's obituary in The New York Times. (And, in The Guardian.)

Karen MacPherson talks to Anthony Horowitz on the release of his final Alex Rider novel Scorpia Rising for Scripps News Service.

And, don't mis Horowitz's own "Why am I killing off my hero? It's elementary, of course" in the Daily Mail.

Tarra Gaines speaks with Rebecca Stead for CultureMap.Houston.

Did you know Waterstones did not have teen sections?  Well, now they will.

Kurt Rabin interviews Steve Watkins about his new YA novel What Comes After for (The Free Lance-Star).

Eric Volmers talks with author Cathy Ostlere, whose YA novel Karma is out this month in the US and Canada, for The Calgary Herald.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Reading "The Pigman" in 2011

When I was in middle school, Paul Zindel was my favorite writer.  I remember liking especially The Undertaker's Gone Bananas and Confessions of a Teenage Baboon.  I think Zindel appealed to me as a 13-year-old reader because in the late 1970s, there were few books written just for teens.  (Lois Duncan was another writer I loved.)  And Zindel's books, even when funny, are always tinged with a hint of darkness, something I found intriguing against the backdrop of my sunny Southern California childhood.

I read Zindel's The Pigman again just last month with my students in a Young Adult literature course.  I was curious as to how Zindel's 70s sensibilities would hold up with today's readers, myself included.  The answer is that--despite some antiquated slang and obsolete objects (a typewriter provides the novel's frame)--The Pigman holds up quite well indeed.

As a reminder, here's the basic plot of The Pigman.  John and Lorraine are two high-school loners who become unlikely friends.  John is good-looking, but wild, while Lorraine is a quiet good girl with self-esteem issues.  Paul and Lorraine spend an afternoon together making crank calls, and as a result of their activities meet Mr. Pignati, the Pigman.

Mr. Pignati is a childlike older man, who enjoys the zoo, encourages John and Lorraine to rollerskate in the house,  and introduces them to new foods, like escargot and chocolate covered ants.  Mr. Pignati also has a secret: He hasn't come to terms with his beloved wife's death and tells the kids she's off visiting a relative.

The truth comes out just before Mr. Pignati has his first heart-attack.  While he's in the hospital, John and Lorraine throw a huge party, complete with drinking, general mayhem, and the borrowing and breaking of Mr. Pignati's beloved objects.  John and Lorraine have a little time to begin making ammends, but before their relationship with the Pigman is healed, the Pigman suffers another heart attack and dies.

It's a brutal little novel, but one that stills reads well today.  Here's what my students and I found in 2011:
  • While the framing device for the story (a project for English class) seems dated (probably because it has been imitated so frequently), the dual narration works.  My female students (27 of 30 are women, it must be noted) found Lorraine's voice in particular to be authentic and compelling.  Here's what they had to say about Zindel's dual narration in The Pigman.
  • The issues Zindel highlights--teenage alienation, problems with adult authority figures, self-esteem issues, and anxiety about growing up--still resonate today
  • The students found the Pigman a realistic and sympathetic character, even though most of them said that their parents were more protective in the 2000s than John and Lorraine's were in the 1970s.
  • One thing I noticed this read round was the power of the party scene.  When I read The Pigman as a child, I understood that John and Lorraine should not have thrown a party in the Pigman's house while he was convalescing in a hospital.  As an adult, it become clear how painful a betrayal that act was.
What do you think of The Pigman in 2011?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weekend (and Crossover) Reviews

Here are the (late) YA/Crossover reviews from major media sources, March 14-20:

Monica and Hannah McRae Young review books for young readers in the Winston-Salem Journal.  They provide capsule reviews for a number of YA novels in verse (Dizzy in your Eyes, by Pat Mora; Orchards, by Holly Thompson; Glimpse, by Carol Lynch Williams; Karma: A Novel in Verse, by Cathy Ostlere), but the one that goes on my to-read list is So Shelley, by Ty Roth, for this description: "This dark novel is not for the easily shocked or naive reader.  The author has re-created characters around the Romantic Age British poets--Keats, Byron and Shelley--with a plot that is both gruesome and strangely evocative."

Melinda Bargreen reviews "three new novels by Kristin Hannah, Anjali Banerjee and Lise Saffran, all set on islands in the Pacific Northwest" for The Seattle Times.  Night Road, by Kristin Hannah, looks like it would appeal to teen readers.

Mary Quattlebaum reviews five new YA titles for The Washington Post, including Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray, a novel I want to read: "Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both."

Meghan Cox Gurden also reviews Between Shades of Gray for the Wall Street Journal.

Karen MacPherson reviews poetry for kids of all ages including a volume by and for teens, Falling Hard, edited by Betsy Franco, in The Washington Post.

Linda Elisabeth Beattie considers Sarah Collins Honenberger's Catcher, Caught for The Courier-Journal.

Philip Marchand reviews Tim Wynne-Jones's Blink & Caution for the National Post The Afterword page. Marchand discusses what makes a novel YA in the review.

Susan Carpenter reviews Brandon Mull's Beyonders in The Kansas City Star.

And here's a kid-review of a YA title in the Guardian: SophieDophie writes about My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher.

Meneesha Govender reviews Jennifer Lynne Barnes's Raised by Wolves for IOL (South Africa):  ("Raised by Wolves is packed with intriguing and supernatural escapism that should have many teen readers hooked. I wonder if it’s going to become a new hit series?")

Pam Norfolk reviews John Grisham's YA novel Theodore Boone: Half the Man, Twice the Lawyer for The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times.

Susan Carpenter considers Blake Nelson's Recovery Road and Nic Sheff's We All Fall Down for The Los Angeles Times' "Not Just for Kids" column.  ("A novel and a memoir teenage drug addiction and rehab is seen from the addict's perspective.")

Alice Jones reviews Godspeed: The Kurt Cobain Graphic for The Independent.

Here's a review of the adult-->YA Crossover Title I'm listening to now: Judy Romanowich Smith talks Kate Morton's The Distant Hours for The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.  ("A tale of pure mystery and delight.")

Mary Harris Russell reviews a younger YA title, Angel in my Pocket, by Ilene Cooper, in The Chicago Tribune.  Harris Russell also provides a capsule review for Shaun Tan's Lost and Found with John Marsden's The Rabbits.

Weekend (and Crossover) News

I know it's already Tuesday, but a busy weekend leads to a late news roundup.  Better late, than never, I hope!  Here's the "news" from March 14-20:

Corey Wittig talks Alex Awards in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Sarah Pekkanen writes of girls and boys and the gender divide in children's and teen books for The Washington Post. She begins with a discussion of Forever, a book my students will be blogging about soon.

Kimberly Morgan discusses "More Than Just Vampires and Wizards: Why Young Adult Fiction is Worth Your Time and Money" for Yahoo's Associated Content network.

I don't know about you, but I loved coloring books as a teen--especially intricate ones designed for adults.  Maria Popova reviews five such coloring books for The Atlantic.

Check out the finalists for the Lambda Literary Award here at School Library Journal.

Don't miss Sally Lodge's interview with Cheryl Klein on the publication of Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults in School Library Journal.

You will find lots of YA and Crossover titles recommended by Philip Pullman, Michael Morpurgo, Katy Guest, John Walsh, and Michael Rosen in "The 50 Books Every Child Should Read" article in The Independent.

Adrian Chamberlain profiles YA novelist Susan Juby on the occasion of the publication of her first adult novel, The Woefield Poultry Collective, for The Times-Colonist (Victoria & Vancouver Island).

Aric Davis, who has previously written thrillers for adults, takes on YA with Nickel Plated and thinks about the boundaries of violence when writing for teens. (In the Wall Street Journal SpeakEasy blog.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend (and Crossover) Reviews

Susan Carpenter reviews Brandon Mull's Beyonders for the Los Angeles Times's "Not Just for Kids" column.

Bill Eichenberger reviews David Halperin's Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (" much a philosophic treatise as it is a voyage through fantastical worlds")

Summer Moore considers the seventh in James Patterson's Maximum Ride series Angel in the Winston-Salem Journal. (..."a strong installment in the series. It is full of fight scenes mixed with puppy love and many fantastic flying descriptions that will make readers wish they had wings.")

Sharon Galligar Chance reviews Ireland-centered books, one of them a Young Adult title (The Book of Tomorrow, by Cecelia Ahern), for the Ventura County Star. ("Ahern, who is the daughter of the former prime minister of Ireland, is well known for her sassy, brassy, chick-lit novels, and "The Book of Tomorrow" is no exception to the rule.")

Jodi Delong reviews a flipbook ("...two stories, back to back... you read one story by one author, and then flip the book over to read the second story") for teens by Christy Ann Conlin for The Chronicle Herald (Halifax).

Darcey Steinke reviews Judy Blundell's Strings Attached for the New York Times.

Meghan Cox Gurdon reviews Tim Wynne-Jones's Blink & Caution for the Wall Street Journal.  Gurdon finds the book good, but objects to some of the language and imagery: "...perhaps because the book is so skillfully wrought, one wishes that it could have been written without not just foul language but also foully specific images, such as that of a 16-year-old girl sleeping with a sadistic drug dealer." Hmmm....I'm putting Blink & Caution next on my crossover-reading list.

Graham Moore reviews the new Sherlock Holmes YA, Death Cloud, by Andrew Lane for the New York Times. (The NYT is a bit behind with their YA reviews this month.  Strings Attached and Death Cloud have been reviewed elsewhere for weeks.  Oh, but here's a new title: Pamela Paul takes a look at Deadly, by Chibarro, in the Children's Bookshelf column: "...the rare Y.A. novel in which a girl’s intellectual interests trump adolescent romance.")

Karen MacPherson reviews books for kids with disability themes for  Two of the titles MacPherson discusses are Jordan Sonnenblick's After Ever After and Antony John's Five Flavors of Dumb.

Molly Fischer considers Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife in the The New York Observer. Fischer begins the review with "A young-adult novel is like porn: hard to define, but you know it when you see it" and compares The Tiger's Wife, which has been reviewed positively elsewhere, to a children's or YA novel in its structure and themes.  In other words, a crossover book, but not in a good way, at least according to Fischer.

Christy Ann Conlin (whose own YA novel was reviewed this week by Jodi Delong and cited in this post) reviews Michelle Paver's first adult novel Dark Matter: A Ghost Story for The Globe and Mail.  (Paver is the author of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series.)

Weekend (and Crossover) News

For the teens who loved Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood, there are tie-ins available: Liesl Bradner highlights Daniel Egneus's seriously-beautiful illustrated version of Little Red Riding Hood for the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog and Susan Carpenter tells of the ebook version of the Red Riding Hood film written by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright, also in the Los Angeles Times.

Lee Wind interviews Jodi Picoult for  Wind asks, "you have a huge teen and young adult following...Does awareness of your teen readers shape your writing?"  And Picoult answers:
I love my teen fans. First of all, they're not shy. They write me all the time and talk about how much they enjoy my books, and who wouldn't like that kind of feedback!?...I love teen narrators because they have a built-in BS meter. They won't let you get away with a lie; they always cut to the heart of the matter. 
This is an excerpted question and answer.  Don't miss the entire exhange!

Last week I linked to an interesting article on teen books today in India, and this week there's a fascinating article on feminist publishing in India and its growing success on (&The Wall Street Journal).  One feminist house, Zubaan, has a new imprint for children ("upt to teens") called Young Zubaan.  Commissioning Editor Anita Roy says this is foucs is due to the fact "children’s books in India are conservative, preachy, derivative and just not very good."

Tad Vizner profiles Amanda Hocking, the young writer who made tons of money selling her YA fiction in self-published ebook format, for Interestingly, Hocking credits bookbloggers, to whom she sent print-on-demand copies of her books, with her early success.

Do you want your teen or tween to read "great books" they haven't read in school?  Then check out this article on "Great Books Camp" in The Christian Science Monitor.

Marlene Charnizon rounds up what teens are checking out from public libraries for The School Library Journal

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: These Things Hidden

Crossover: Adult-->Teen

I picked up Heather Gudenkauf's These Things Hidden on the recommendation of my mother.  Her description of the book as a mystery set in Iowa intrigued me.  Lots of "literary fiction" has been set in Iowa, but very little mystery.  Let's face it, Iowa isn't all that mysterious.

Unless you're a 21-year-old golden girl being released from prison to a halfway house in Linden Falls. (Cedar Falls?)  Allison Glenn narrates the first chapter of These Things Hidden as her lawyer takes her from prison to her new home.  We experience Allison's fear and insecurity as it becomes clear that her parents and little sister Brynn have no interest in talking to her.  Allison's crime, despite the fact that she has served only 5 years of a 10-year sentence, was just that terrible.  Allison, the reader learns, hid a pregnancy and threw her newborn baby into the river in an attempt to cover up her crime.

Four women, the youngest being Brynn, narrate These Things Hidden and the story unfolds in real time.  In addition to Brynn and Allison, two other residents of the Linden Falls area take part in the story--Claire, a woman in her early forties and bookstore owner, and Charm, a young woman caring for her dying stepfather and a frequent visitor to Claire's bookstore.  Children play an important role in the novel as Claire has an adopted son, Joshua, who was the first beneficiary of the Safe Haven law enacted in Iowa after Allison killed her baby.

These Things Hidden will appeal to teen readers; Perfectionism and "ruining your life" with one mistake play an important role in the novel.  These Things Hidden is also truly suspenseful.  Just when I thought I had the story all figured out, an aspect of the relationships between the four narrators surprised me.  I also appreciated that These Things Hidden doesn't judge its characters, doesn't put them to some ultimate moral test.   Allison Glenn did kill her baby after a pregnancy she hid from her family and peers. The reader cares about her progress, nonetheless.

These Things Hidden is highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up.
My copy of These Things Hidden was purchased as an e-book, a format I am becoming more and more fond of for many reasons--environmental and convenience (I read These Things Hidden during a fourth-grade basketball tournament) first among them.
And...These Things Hidden is another entry for Travis's Cover Curiosity: Cons-istantly Covered post!

Monday, March 7, 2011

What I Liked in 2010 (Part II)

Um, it's March 7, and I probably should be moving on...but here's the second part of my What I Liked in 2010 (the year I read only adult fiction) post.

John le Carre continues to have something new to say with each novel. Our Kind of Traitor is particularly interesting because le Carre has not missed the changes that have occurred in the former Soviet Union and beyond its borders where many of its former citizens live. The young British protagonists of Our Kind of Traitor stumble into a Russian "family" living in Switzerland and end up being hired to broker a deal with the wealthy leader of this clan on behalf of the British government. To the end of the novel it is not clear who is good and who is bad, who is moral and who is amoral, and the protagonists are both drawn to and repelled by the Russian family with whom they negotiate.

Crossover Potential? Some. This novel might appeal to the teen well versed in spy novels, but Our Kind of Traitor is a quiet spy novel, concerned more with moral ambiguity than with high-pressure negotiations and chase.

Ian McEwan's Solar was the funniest book I read in 2010. McEwan's protagonist, Michael Beard, is a Nobel prize winner in Physics and a mess. As the book opens, he's losing his fifth wife to his builder. This humiliation leads him to accept an invitation to the Arctic, where he nearly loses his penis when peeing outdoors. (Strangely enough, Solar was one of two books from 2010 featuring grave penile injury.) After his return home, Beard accidentally kills someone, steals his scientific work (on purpose), and heads out on a series of misadventures, one of which involves a solar energy project in Arizona. Other women, a child, and disastrous business deals ensue. Beard is a loathsome character, but one absolutely worth following to the bitter end.

Crossover Potential? Not really. But if you're an adult, don't miss Solar.

Lionel Shriver's So Much for That is one brutal book. Shriver takes an unflinching, merciless look at health care in the U.S. through the lives of two couples--Shep and Glynis Knacker and Jackson and Carol Burdina. Shep dreams of escaping the U.S. with the money he made from selling his business when he learns that his wife has mesothelioma. The novel marks time by the shrinking of Shep's escape fund, dollar by dollar, as he cares for his "insured" wife. Jackson and Carol parent a chronically ill and disabled daughter, whose care takes up all their resources and time. This is not the stuff of happy marriages, happy families, and happy novels. (So Much for That is the second novel of 2010 in which penile injury plays a significant role.) Despite, or perhaps because of, the trauma it inflicts, So Much for That is a novel that makes you think. I loved its brutality and its honesty.

Crossover Potential? Honestly? I don't think anyone younger than 40 should read this book.

My favorite novel of 2010 was Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. Set in the near future, when everything about one's life (cholesterol levels, weight, credit score) is available for the world to see and when immortality is nearly achievable, Super Sad True Love Story is narrated by hapless lovers Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park. Abramov is the 39-year-old son of Russian-Jewish immigrants who works for an international corporation in the business of keeping people young. Park is in her early 20s, and after a stint in Italy is not sure what she is going to do with her life. Park and Abramov end up together, Abramov more invested in the relationship than Park. Super Sad True Love Story is indeed a sad story about the collapse of America, the futility of clinging to youth, the emptiness of consumerism, and the weight of an endless stream of information. But it is, in the end, a love story narrated by two compelling individuals unable to overcome body, history, generation, and time.***

Crossover Potential? Some. Shteyngart gets Eunice Park's voice just right. She sounds like a young adult and lives as a young adult might a few decades into the future.

Everyone loved Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. Heck, Judy Blume tweeted her appreciation for Egan's innovative novel just today. Told in a variety of voices and from different points in time, A Visit from the Goon Squad has its genesis in the 1970s music scene in San Francisco. It's difficult to describe Egan's novel, as the story and the storytellers shift locations, relationships, and places in time. Time, ultimately, is the center of Goon Squad--a center that can't be fixed.

Crossover Potential? Some. I think teens will appreciate Egan's approach to telling a story. In particular, I think they will find the concluding power point presentation intriguing.
*** I listened to Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. This is a good choice for audio; Voice is the strength of the novel. However...bad accents in audio books drive me crazy. I really only know Russian well enough to be annoyed by how badly it is rendered in an audiobook, but if the Russian drives me crazy, I can only guess how badly Chinese, or German, or any other language is spoken in audio. Why don't publishers hire people to read who actually speak the other language present in the book? Why? Why don't they?
Okay, I am truly done with 2010. Time to move on. This week I will finally get to the mission of this blog and review YA fiction from Mal Peet that adults should read and two adult novels by Heather Gudenkauf teens will love.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend News

Here's the news for the first week of March. As might be expected a lot of it relates to the launch of the Guardian's kids- (and teens-) only site.

First up: A note to parents and guardians, by Michelle Pauli, on how to sign up and use the new site.

More on World Book Day from the Guardian:
Here's a fun article in The Daily Texan about Sarah Pitre and Jenny Bragdon, the bloggers behind Forever Young Adult.

And here's an interesting piece: 10th-grader Yadi Angeles asks "Why are Teen Novels so Dark?" in The Philly Post. Yadi writes, "Teen novels seem so dark these days because as we grow and mature, the need to relate grows within us, and so we see ourselves in others."

Here's a fascinating article about teen fiction in India: Madhusree Chatterjee writes for Sify: India News Portal, "After decades of publishing books for adults and children, publishers are now targeting the young adults segment, which is through with its quota of Enid Blytons. On offer is a quaint mix ranging from thrillers to vampire romance."

Weekend Reviews

Welcome to the first Weekend Reviews of March. I hope spring has sprung where you live; We in Smalltown remain hopeful, as 30s and 40s with "wintry mix" isn't bad for this time of year.

For young teens (tweens): Karen MacPherson reviews Amy Ignatow's The Popularity Papers for Scripps Howard News Service (linked here to The Seattle Times).

Kelly Keaton's Darkness Becomes Her is reviewed in The Delta News Star. ("The setting is 13 years into the future, after devastating hurricanes strip New Orleans, and the federal government gives up on the city. A group of nine families within New Orleans 'buy' the Crescent City and develop the French Quarter for tourism, calling the city 'New 2'" But New Orleans remains outside the United States boundaries, what Ari and others call 'The Rim.')

Barbara Bell reviews Siobhan Vivian's Not That Kind of Girl for the San Jose Examiner. (I definitely want to read this one, having liked Vivian's work before and because of this article.)

Susan Carpenter reviews Cris Beam's I am J for the "Not Just for Kids" column in the Los Angeles Times. ("Beam's deep understanding of the emotional truths of transsexualism is clear. She writes with such intimacy and affection for the subject that, on some levels, reading 'I Am J' feels voyeuristic.")