Something that 18-year-olds and potheads have in common (if they're not one in the same) is that they think everything they say is so DEEP and PROFOUNSomething that 18-year-olds and potheads have in common (if they're not one in the same) is that they think everything they say is so DEEP and PROFOUND. The problem is that I don't belong to either group.
The Disenchantments is the story of four friends and bandmates who hit the road after three of them (Colby, Bev, and Meg) graduate from high school. Colby, the lone boy, is our narrator and manager of the Disenchantments. On the eve of the trip, Bev tells Colby that despite their plans to visit Colby's mom in Paris and then backpack around Europe for the year, she's going to college instead. To further complicate matters, Colby has been in love with Bev since they were kids. Nothing like awkward tension and feelings of betrayal to kick off a trip.
Needless to say, this wasn't the light, fun road trip book I was expecting. It was my own fault because I saw the cover, read "road trip" in the summary, and assumed it would be FUN in the SUN! Still, throw France in a story in any shape or form and I'm usually appeased. Unfortunately, I didn't feel engaged in the story until page 246 -- of a 307-page book. For the majority of the book, I felt little connection to the characters. Colby's DEEP 18-year-old thoughts just made me roll my eyes. For example:
We drive past a lumberyard, full of a forest's worth of felled trees. I slow as we pass it. It's almost too big to comprehend.
Okay, homie. He's not the only one emo-ing out, although he does have the best reasons. Alexa, the band member with a year of high school left, gets a splinter in her foot. But to a 17-year-old, a splinter is not just a splinter.
She says, "The world is against me."
Inevitably, when you put 18-year-olds in a room or car together, they come to MEANINGFUL and PROFOUND realizations.
"It's hard." "What's hard?" I ask. Bev shakes her head, as if the answer is too big to put into words. Finally she says, "Growing up." And there is nothing any of us can say to that. It feels too true for a response.
I was mid-eye roll until I thought back to 2am conversations with my roommates freshman year. Let she who is without self-importance cast the first stone, right? As insufferable as some of the Disenchantments' musings were, they are the typical musings of the age group. The story took a Graffiti Moon-esque turn on page 252 and my interest raised tenfold. The 50 pages that end the book are where the story should've started. That story, and the story that begins at the end of the book, is one I would've loved reading. There is an audience for this book and these characters, but unfortunately it wasn't me.
This was a book I was ready to hate. Actually, if I'm being honest, this was a book I wanted to hate. What? German foosball players aren't the only onThis was a book I was ready to hate. Actually, if I'm being honest, this was a book I wanted to hate. What? German foosball players aren't the only ones capable of schadenfreude.
Plus, this was a story about horses, those vicious, four-legged beasts that naive children are tricked into riding at summer camp before they're brutally thrown off. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Yet I found myself drawn into this story, this mythic tale of savage water horses in a barbaric race created by all too real people, and I found myself hoping it was all real. Because that would mean Sean, Corr, Puck, and Dove exist. I loved these characters, never mind that Corr and Dove are two of those four-legged beasts I despised not too long ago.
Maggie Stiefvater's mythic capaill uisce are wild water horses that come ashore the island of Thisby once a year. Those capaill that have been captured are raced in the island's famous Scorpio Races, a tradition similar to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, but with far more deadly results. It attracts crowds from all over, people drawn to the thrilling and terrible spectacle. The Scorpio Races are so dangerous that fatalities occur before the race even starts. Capaill are controlled by two things: the call of the ocean and their bloodlust. Despite months or even years of training by the capall whisperer, Sean Kendrick, capaill can never fully be trusted. Their natural instinct to kill is too strong. It can only be temporarily curbed. However, the tremendous risk of the races comes with even greater reward. The races are Thisby's main attraction, so most islanders just manage to eke out a living. Winning the races comes with an enormous, irresistible purse. All residents of Thisby have lost a person, or more often persons, to capaill. And if the horses don't get them, Thisby gets to them and they end up leaving. For Kate "Puck" Connolly, one has already happened and the other is about to happen. Her parents were killed by capaill while out fishing, and her older brother, the main breadwinner, is about to leave the island. (Raise your hand if you just pictured Matthew Fox as both Charlie Salinger and Jack Shephard.) Puck impulsively says she's going to race to get her brother to stay, or at least delay him, but when she finds out they are about to lose their house, she realizes she has to race. Sean, the whisperer, lost his father to capaill and his mother to the mainland, but he's won the races 4 times. That enormous purse and the gorgeous horse he rode on, though, belong to his boss. He races because it's his job, and he can't imagine anyone else on Corr. Puck and Sean are literally on a collision course.
This is usually the part of the story where a rich and handsome 3rd party enters the picture, but The Scorpio Races isn't a love story. It's a survival story. The only love triangle here is between a capall, his rider, and the ocean -- and it's beautiful and heartbreaking.
This is a book I saw in my head. Maggie Stiefvater crafts such a visual story I could picture every scene. For Thisby, I pictured Jersey in the Channel Islands. The dual points of view of Sean and Puck allowed me to get into their heads. When I started this book, I figured I'd just read it and rate it and be done with it. After all, why spend my time writing a review for an author who doesn't really value them? In this case, it's because what the author put out is that good. It's the same debate I go through whenever I think about buying Kanye's latest album. Yeah, he says shit that irritates the hell out of me, but damn, does he know how to make music. Maggie Stiefvater? She knows how to make music.
Every four years, I turn into this crazed figure skating fan. I remember the 2002 Winter Olympics in particular because I lived and died with MichelleEvery four years, I turn into this crazed figure skating fan. I remember the 2002 Winter Olympics in particular because I lived and died with Michelle Kwan four years earlier and 2002 was going to be HER year. In the long program, Sarah Hughes (aka Sarah Who?) skated first and threw down a flawless performance. Triple toe loop-triple loop, triple salchow-triple loop -- technically and stylistically, it was pretty damn perfect. However, with Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya still waiting to skate, I figured Hughes's performance was just the beginning and I was waiting to be blown away by something even greater.
I read The Year of Secret Assignments, aka Finding Cassie Crazy, last year and immediately placed it on my I Have Just Read You and I Love You shelf. This was before Noelle and I started blogging so I rated it 4 stars and moved on to my next read. However, after revisiting Feeling Sorry for Celia last week, I decided to reread and review Secret Assignments. Well, knock me over with a Sarah Hughes triple salchow because not only did it hold up on reread, it was even better than I remembered. I knew it was good, but after a year of blogging and reading too many Sasha Cohens, this time I let myself be blown away by the skill and artistry of Jaclyn Moriarty's writing.
As with Celia, Secret Assignments is written in epistolary form. Mr. Botherit is back spreading the Joy of the Envelope between rival schools Ashbury and Brookfield. Emily, Lydia, and Cassie are Ashfield girls and best friends. Emily, daughter of two lawyers, wants to be a lawyer herself even though she regularly butchers the English language. I nearly spit out my coffee when she wrote, in all seriousness, that something was "non d' scrip." Lydia wants to be a writer and often uses her creative energy on her friends. She's the instigator behind their secret assignments, tasks that they must complete no matter the peril or potential for punishment. Cassie wants to sing, though her stage fright prevents her from singing in front of anyone other than Em and Lyd. She also lost her father last year and she doesn't know why people keep saying "lost" as if he's been misplaced. Em, Lyd, and Cass have been best friends since elementary school and it shows -- learning about one means learning about them all.
I'll get to the Brookfield boys in a minute but first, how much do you love that the girls are characterized by their goals?? The book starts off with an entry from Lydia's notebook. The Notebook™ is supposed to help aspiring writers achieve their dreams. It is so patronizing and ridiculous. It reminded me of all the mind-numbingly tedious assignments I had to do in high school that were supposed to either get me into a good college or prepare me for adult blah blah blah. Lydia gives The Notebook™ the respect it deserves.
Second, I adored the portrayal of the parents, especially Emily's dad and Cassie's mom. The girls all have at least one lawyer parent who is friendly with the others because they attended law school together. Emily's dad routinely calls her down to dinner via a summons delivered by her younger brother. Em's parents are away a lot for work, which she resents, but whenever they are present, they are so clueless but with good intentions that they never fail to crack me up. The memories of Cassie's dad though will squeeze your heart. ("Now you're cooking with gas!")
Are you ready to meet Charlie Taylor and Seb Mantegna? I love good banter and the letters between Charlie and Emily and Seb and Lydia are so witty and fun. The chapters are set up perfectly so you get some scenes with Charlie and Em, then Seb and Lydia, and then Matthew Dunlop and Cass. I put the Charlie and Seb section of my notes above. Considering the notes I usually take, it shows how much I loved them. They are both such decent guys. There's no brooding loner bullshit with them. You will be charmed before you can say VERSHOOM.
There are six different letter writers and six different points of view and each one has an individual voice. I could always tell who was doing the talking/writing without having to flip back. On technical merit, Moriarty is solid.
Presentation is where Moriarty really shines. The letters are such an original and fun way to tell this story. There's so much energy in the story and the characters. She captures the indignities that come with being underaged as well as all the potential for mischief. There is a lot of humor in this book but like the relationship between Emily, Lydia, and Cassie, it is based on heart. You don't need to read Feeling Sorry for Celia to read this book, although Celia is worth a read. The Year of Secret Assignments, though, is a perfectly executed triple-triple combination.
Do not be alarmed by how accessible this book is to people living in the States. This does not diminish the awesomeness that we've comDear US readers,
Do not be alarmed by how accessible this book is to people living in the States. This does not diminish the awesomeness that we've come to expect from Australian authors. Nor do you have to jump through hoops or swim through the rings of Fishpond hell to get it!
This book is a series of letters to and from Elizabeth Clarry. Her new English teacher decides to revive the Lost Art of Letter Writing and has his students write letters to the rival high school. Elizabeth's penpal ends up being Christina Kratovac. Through the letters between Elizabeth and Christina, Elizabeth and her mum (THE HILARIOUS ALL CAPS OVER-EXCLAMATION POINTER!!!!), and various unsolicited letters, we get a look into the lives of our characters. The Celia in the title refers to Elizabeth's lifelong best friend and potential missing person -- potential because she often chooses to go missing.
This book was first published in 2000 so there are some dated references, like Walkmans. Remember those? But in this age of Twitter, Goodreads, and blogs, where we (or at least I) spend a good portion of my day chatting, tweeting, and emailing people I've never met but formed solid relationships with, this book is actually rather timely. I totally related to how Elizabeth and Christina's friendship began and grew, how you can feel like you know someone without being able to recognize them on the street. Sometimes I find it's easier to share things with someone you don't have to see everyday. You can also find people who share your very specific interests (Melina Marchetta + San Antonio Spurs + Friday Night Lights + Graffiti Moon + GIFs of waving bears + Tom Hardy's ass), which is an instant basis for friendship.
Basically, I really enjoyed this book. And you can too! Really available, not Fishpond available, at IndieBound, B&N, and Amazon.
Yours sincerely, A dues-paying member of the We ♥ Aussie YA Association
This book starts with 16-year-old Chloe Camden willingly and cheerfully dressed in a burrito costume so, naturally, this book started with me rollingThis book starts with 16-year-old Chloe Camden willingly and cheerfully dressed in a burrito costume so, naturally, this book started with me rolling my eyes at Chloe Camden. I'm not the only one as Chloe's best friends are freezing her out for reasons unknown to her. She figures this will blow over and returns to more pressing concerns, namely her Brad Pitt-loving grandmother dealing with the onset of Parkinson's and her Junior Independent Study Project (JISP) being rejected by the new school counselor. Chloe, though, Pollyannas through and says things like,
"Fun is everywhere. You just have to find it. Or make it."
What is her deal, right? Is this really a book about the effects of uppers on high school students?
When the counselor hands her a new JISP focused on the school's failing radio station, Chloe uses her experience as a burrito for Dos Hermanas Mexican restaurant to come up with a plan to possibly save the radio station.
Insufferable, optimistic cow!
Now Clementine, the nose ringed girl with an attitude who runs the radio station, is someone I can get behind. She loves the station and dreams of someday owning one. For the sake of the station, and the fact that she is outvoted 5 to 1, she agrees to a call in show hosted by Chloe called -- wait for it -- Chloe, Queen of the Universe.
Chloe isn't oblivious to her ridiculous over-the-topness though. It's just who she is -- someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and her mouth. She loves to talk and she loves people regardless if they love her back, which she's just now realizing may be the case with more people than she thought. Somewhere along the way though, I realized that my cold, black heart was actually (willingly and cheerfully, no less!) Team Chloe. She called to mind another redhead and his farewell speech on The Tonight Show:
I encounter people when I walk on the street now, who just give me sort of a sad look; I have had more good fortune than anybody I know. And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we will find a way to make it fun, we really will, I will have no problems. I don't want to do it in a 7-Eleven parking lot, but whatever.
Finally, I have something to say to our fans... Here's what all of you have done: you made a sad situation joyous and inspirational. So to all the people watching, I can never, ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life, and all I ask is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch:
Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, it's just true!
I rag on rappers who put on a hard, tough persona even though they're really from the suburbs (of Canada!), but by that token, I couldn't fault Chloe for being who she so effervescently was. Her personality, which annoyed me at first, was a reflection of the charmed life she's lived. I decided to put on my skates and go along with her for the ride.
This book touches on subjects like bullying, Parkinson's, addiction, and poverty, and it may be said that it glides blithely right over them. I agree to a certain extent and would refer you to books like Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler if you want something with more depth. However, what this book does well is show a positive approach to those situations -- even if it means gliding over them. I'd recommend this book to the younger end of the YA spectrum (junior high school), but I think older fans will like it as well. Before you know it, you'll be on Team Chloe too!
A few years ago, I watched a delightfully odd Japanese movie that followed a normal young couple until the girl turned into a chair. (A quick Google sA few years ago, I watched a delightfully odd Japanese movie that followed a normal young couple until the girl turned into a chair. (A quick Google search of "Japanese movie where a girl turned into a chair" tells me the movie was Tokyo! Their exclamation.)
There is no human-to-chair transformation in This is Shyness, but it reminded me of Tokyo! in that it starts off like a typical YA story, with an underage girl trying to sneak into a bar with some friends who then spots a broody, hot guy at the end of the bar. And then he howls. This begins a madcap, all night adventure involving tarsiers and kids hopped up on sugar. Oh, and it takes place in a town where the sun doesn't rise.
This is Shyness felt like Graffiti Moon + Before Sunrise after Miyazaki has run it through whatever magic machines they have at Studio Ghibli. It is delightfully odd and surreal, yet grounded in the very real emotions of Wolfboy and Wildgirl. I loved Wolfboy, by the way. I expected the brooding, howling hot guy in black to be a stereotypical alpha male who pulls the tabs off his Foster's with his teeth. Instead, he's the guy who thinks "I'm not sure if I'm looking at her too much or too little" while grasping his beer glass. I cannot wait to read Queen of the (Before Sunset) Night!
First, you have Gracie. Kickass soccer superstar on an all boys team. The problem isn't that she knows this, the problem is she knows it and lords her supremacy on the field over her teammates. (Like Ladybugs in reverse without the cross dressing, Catie!) There's a "No I in team" speech here but Cath Crowley is too talented for that. Instead she gives us Martin Knight.
Martin Knight is the captain and Gracie's sole supporter on the team. The first time a timid, young Gracie approaches the team, he tells her, "Stick with me, Faltrain." Me: a puddle of goo. Every time Martin says something, I turn into goo but Gracie, of course, rolls her eyes and then averts them to another guy who may be a jerk.
Nick. As if.
It wouldn't be a Crowley book without kooky, slight-to-moderately dysfunctional parents. Gracie's parents have the most awesome meet-cute ever, but Gracie's dad has been away on business for awhile, longer than necessary now that she thinks about it, and things don't seem so cute anymore.
Then, in addition to team and family tension, Gracie's BFF is moving to London. She's without her support system as she has the most hilariously horrible date ever.
It involves a tongue in the ear.
I loved Gracie & co and I really liked this book. I wouldn't say it's on the same level as Graffiti Moon, and earlier on I wanted less points of view (and I could do without the definitions that start each chapter), but overall it was a solid, enjoyable, funny read, let alone a debut! I just adore the way Cath Crowley writes. Some of my favorite quotes:
He looks like he wants to stuff what he's just said back in his mouth and swallow. I catch a tiny glimpse of his home life, scattered around us like little crumbs of sadness.
I've got a fist in my stomach; whenever I open my mouth it punches out at anyone who gets in my way.
The two best quotes are at the end, but they're a little spoilery so I didn't include them. It may involve a tongue in the ear.
Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived thrArt is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them. —The other Leo, Leo Tolstoy
You know, if my high school teacher had just handed me Graffiti Moon to explain aesthetics, Tolstoy and Kant would've made so much more sense. And been so much more enjoyable.
What can I say about Cath Crowley and this book that Tolstoy hasn't? How about I show you how people have been infected by her feelings and experienced them.
Noelle did a painting inspired by Graffiti Moon after reading it. Click on the picture to see a larger version in her review. I'm still harasking (not a typo) her to make prints.
Graffiti Moon is art. It takes you along as it follows Lucy and Ed on the last night of high school, but it's also about their relationship with Ed's secret alter ego, Shadow, the guy who paints in the dark. Lucy doesn't know who he is, but she knows enough about him from the pieces of himself he leaves around the city via his paintings. Ed is... lost. Except when he's Shadow. As Ed, he's just lost his job, his boss/mentor/confidant, his girlfriend, and his direction. One thing Lucy and Ed have in common, aside from Shadow, is their art. Lucy is learning to be a glass blower from her own boss/mentor/confidant, and she's as good in her art as Shadow is in his. Through their friends, Lucy and Ed end up thrown together despite their mutual reluctance. The reason for that reluctance is classic Crowley. (See Faltrain, Gracie.)
I knew I loved Lucy from the moment she tells off a guy with, "You don't do that on a first date. Atticus Finch would never have done that." My girl! And she has parents who say things like,
Mum laughs. “We raised a very conservative daughter. Too much Pride and Prejudice.”
“That could change,” Dad says. “There’s still time to get her onto Margaret Atwood.”
How is it that I simultaneously want to be the daughter and the parent in this situation?
Leo/Poet is right there too. Lucy's description of Leo in the Australian edition nearly, very nearly, made me forget about Ed for a second.
I once saw him from a distance and thought a tree was strolling towards me. An oak tree with a shaved head, soft eyes, and a tattoo.
Perhaps that's why they chose to leave that little snippet out of the US edition, which brings me to my next topic.
Cultural Differences Between Australians and Americans as Evidenced in YA LiteratureClass to be taught by Professor Crowley at the University of In Our Dreams at a date TBD
Catie does a brilliant job of breaking down the Aussie vs US editions in her post at The Readventurer. To piggyback on her discussion, the main thing I noticed based on what was cut vs what was added in the US version is that Australians are rock 'n roll and Americans are emo. Rolling Stones "I can't get no..." references cut! Alanis Morissette reference added. My notes had a giant "MEH!" here. Also, the noble single mother goes down very well with an American audience. Whereas Ed's mum was a figure in the Aussie edition, she is now a PRESENCE in the US edition. Ed's absentee father also gets a bigger role in the US edition with his absence. Ed wonders about what kind of legacy his father has left for him by leaving. These things don't detract from the story at all. In fact, I think most audiences would embrace Ed's struggles. However, having read the Aussie edition first and loving that story as it was presented, it felt unnecessary to me.
Still, I can't hate on the US edition when one of the added lines is one I absolutely love:
“I know that,” I say, trying to act like I’m not embarrassed for thinking love and sex are the same thing. I know they’re not, but I want them to be close enough to at least brush each other as they pass.
The US edition also has two new poems by Leo, which is a nice bonus.
Regardless of which edition you have, you're good. If George Lucas can come out with 125 editions of Star Wars, Cath Crowley can have 2 editions of her books. Like the Star Wars geeks I can never make fun of again, I found myself ordering the Australian version, the US version, and today, the audiobook version. I may not be able to express my love for this book by painting, but I can do it by shopping! ...more
You know the term "helicopter parent"? I'm a helicopter reader. I am ridiculously protective of my books and the characters that come to life throughYou know the term "helicopter parent"? I'm a helicopter reader. I am ridiculously protective of my books and the characters that come to life through them. Film adaptations always make me nervous because empirical data suggests a high rate of illiteracy amongst Hollywood executives. When I found out The Hunger Games, or MY FAVORITE SERIES, was getting adapted to the big screen, I put on my aviator cap and goggles and started hovering. I had already mentally cast my Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, and Cinna, so I was obsessed with any and all casting news and how the real cast matched up to my mental cast. Aside from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, EVERYONE else made me nervous. Miley Cyrus's boyfriend? Gale would never! Woody Harrelson?? Haymitch is a drunk, not a stoner! Josh Hutcherson? His name is longer than he is! Lenny Kravitz? Being married to Denise Huxtable does not an actor make! I analyzed every trailer and tried to tamp down my expectations. I decided to re-read the books instead so the story would be fresh in my mind for the premiere -- because obviously I was going to a midnight showing.
I really liked the movie, but the standouts were undoubtedly Katniss, Cinna, Rue, and Prim. Those actors nailed their roles. They exceeded every expectation and brought these characters to life as Suzanne Collins wrote. Lenny Kravitz WAS Cinna. Rue and Prim were even more impressive, not only because they're so young, but also because they're the emotional centers -- Prim is Katniss's heart in District 12 and Rue is Katniss's heart in the Arena. Amandla Stenberg and Willow Shields had more of a performance burden on them than, say, Liam Hemsworth because if they didn't deliver, it would've undermined Katniss's journey. At least, that's how I saw it. But those girls, those actors, delivered. I had to stop myself from bawling at the Reaping and bawling during that scene in the Games. I can't even imagine the emotional and professional high those girls feel right now, knowing all the pressure that was on them from crazy helicopter fans like myself.
And then I saw the article on Jezebel. Disgusted doesn't even cover it. Pissed isn't strong enough. When I saw Amandla Stenberg's tweet, "#spreadlove", I just got so sad that this 13, THIRTEEN year old girl had to be subject to this when she should be ecstatic. Since I don't condone meeting stupidity and ignorance with violence, let's have a chat. People who don't agree with Amandla Stenberg's casting but claim to be fans of the book: let's talk reader to reader. WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU READ?? What part of "dark brown skin" is difficult to understand, imagine, and see? I'm truly flummoxed. If you missed the description the first time around or it went over your head, I urge you to read the book again. You're not only missing the words, you're missing the point....more