i have got to stop being surprised when teen fiction is good. printz-award winning fiction (you know, the award for literary teen fiction that all the...morei have got to stop being surprised when teen fiction is good. printz-award winning fiction (you know, the award for literary teen fiction that all the grown-ups read and say "this is for teens??"). australian teen fiction. complicated, multi-layered teen fiction.
this book is all of the above, and it is remarkable.
it has sex and drugs and rock and roll, it has violence and terrible crimes, it has shock and awe and guilt and terrible secrets and it opens with a death. this is my kind of teen fiction. it is mostly about loss and being lost, and being so close to redemption but frustratingly denied. it is about the teen-girl default position of lashing out like a wild animal and of the deepest regrets.
it is astonishing - jellicoe road is sophisticated both in its subject matter and the way in which the story is told. it actually took me a little while to get into the swing of things - whose story is italicized? what is their relationship to the rest of the story?? but it was a good kind of lost - the kind of lost where you are in an interesting part of town with attractive people and cute little knickknack shops, not the kind of lost where you are late to a job interview in the wrong goddamned borough.
and toward the middle, the plot became a little predictable, but that didn't even matter, because by that point i was so enmeshed in these characters' lives - i just wanted everything to work out for them, even though i knew this was not going to be the kind of book with a tidy-sweet ending.
she created powerfully three-dimensional characters that i cared about and hated to close the book on. truly - it has been a while since i have fought sleep. i love sleep - i neeeed sleep. but i forced myself awake to keep reading this, and when i finally had to give in, it was with the deepest resentment.
this is a rich and emotionally complicated tale, and when i go to that panel next week, i may have to throw myself on her a little bit and beg her to take me with her and tell me bedtime stories every night.
for posterity, i will announce here that i did not cry. but this is definitely a crying-type of book for those of you that way inclined. i got that throat-thing that happens before a good cry, which is unusual enough for me, but i expect you people will cry like when a puppy dies on your birthday.
and you will love every minute of it.
(view spoiler)[and can i just say how my heart went out to jude, who was so like my beloved jude the obscure - who just wanted so badly to be let into christminster/the tragic bond the other kids had forged on the old jellicoe road?? i mean, he ended up better than hardy's jude, but still - the yearning!! you have my heart, jude. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
i was not expecting to five-star this. i must confess - i hate the title and i hate the cover art (although i love the internal illustrations)
aren't...morei was not expecting to five-star this. i must confess - i hate the title and i hate the cover art (although i love the internal illustrations)
aren't those much better?? something about the color palette on the cover is upsetting, the covergirl looks vapid and whorish, and the title makes it seem like some teen heartthrob novel, which is it not. what it is is a sequence of three fairy tale-ish stories.
the first one is my favorite, and this one is a first-love story, so what? a frustrated girl from an old-world gypsy family living in a regular all-american town who does not fit into the high school full of beautiful "normal" people until a handsome stranger appears. yeah, the skeleton of the story is your basic fairy tale archetype, but the language with which she structures it is perfectly modern and evolved into what comes across as a very contemporary story.
kizzy and her two friends have pitch-perfect exchanges and bantering sessions that just leap right off the page. her frustration and dissatisfaction and wanting are perfect and believable and i tore through the story, wanting to get to the end and not knowing what kind of resolution the author would choose. (the perfect one, of course!)
the supernatural elements of this story; the goblins and the fruit they try to force into the mouths of maidens - i mean, it's not a subtle metaphor, but the way this woman writes just carries the reader along in a wave of perfect phrasings.
here is an overlong passage you can either read or not.
kizzy had never met her - mairenni had stayed behind in the old country - but her grandmother said she looked like her. there was a single sepia photograph of a girl in a doorway, full-lipped, with eyes that seemed to sparkle with secrets. kizzy had always been fascinated by her - truth be told, she had always identified more with that wild girl who almost sold her soul for the taste of figs than with her grandmother who kept her lips tight shut and never hungered for forbidden things. but though she stared at that photo, and even saw the shape of her own eyes and lips mirrored back at her, kizzy just couldn't see herself in that long-ago girl, ripe and thrilling and flush with a weird species of beauty the young have no vocabulary for.
kizzy was so busy wishing she was sarah ferris or jenny glass that she could scarcely see herself at all, and she was certainly blind to her own weird beauty; her heavy, spell-casting eyes, too-wide mouth, wild hair, and hips that could be wild too, if they learned how. no one else in town looked anything like her, and if she lived to womanhood, she was the one artists would want to draw, not the sarahs and jennys. she was the one who would some day know a dozen ways to wear a silk scarf, how to read the sky for rain and coax feral animals near, how to purr throaty love songs in portuguese and basque, how to lay a vampire to rest, how to light a cigar, how to light a man's imagination on fire.
if she lived to womanhood.
the second story reads the most like a typical fairy tale, mixed with biblical and classical mythologies. the story of a woman cursed with silence, told that if she ever utters a sound, her voice will destroy all who hear it.she lives her life believing in this curse until her doubt is awakened by... a handsome stranger. the tension in this story is built up so carefully, raising questions about blind faith and trust vs. hard evidence, with some field trips to the underworld. this story, too, seems darker and sexier than most fairy tales, or at least more so than ones i would expect scholastic to publish. this is an applauding tone, not a critical one.
the third story is the longest, and reads more like a fantasy short story than a fairy tale. but that might just be my unfamiliarity with these particular themes.
most fairy tales are set in a recognizable location with some fantastical elements thrown in to make them more appealing to a younger audience, but not so fantastical that the moral or lesson is not recognized as being applicable to the real world.this one is all world-building and shapeshifting and body-snatching, with very little to anchor it in a recognizable environment. it is still great, it just didn't feel as much like a traditional fairy tale as the previous two.
this story is also a little bit creepy, and it is about possession and love and protection and selfishness and how both motherhood and romantic love relate to all of the above.
i am so grateful to ariel because when we were at the suzanne collins midnight magic party and i had to pick one hardcover book to buy to get my free mug,
she talked me into this one instead of beautiful creatures which has a beautiful cover, but is a way crappier book. she helped me dodge a bullet there because friends don't let friends buy crappy books on their birthday. plus, signed!!
so this is the handmaid's tale for kids. with some new details for the modern set. premise: world is basically over. only north america survives, but...moreso this is the handmaid's tale for kids. with some new details for the modern set. premise: world is basically over. only north america survives, but barely - like one step better than the road. due to genetic manipulation and subsequent oopses, there are considerably lower life expectancies: girls live to be twenty, boys to twenty-five. then - coughing, blood, expiration.
so, to keep the population going, and to provide new babies to experiment with, many young girls are kidnapped and sold into marriages where they are treated like goddesses, frankly, except they can't leave and they are expected to fulfill all those wifely duties with the highest bidder.
see, here is my problem. if the world was shitty enough that you had to live in the basement with only your twin brother for company, nailing shut the door to prevent thieves and murderers from breaking in and holding knives to your throats, and afraid to go outside unprotected because marauders would kidnap you and maybe sell you into prostitution, only one day you do get captured (this is all in the first couple of pages, so don't start putting your hands over your ears and going "lalalalalala") and they plop you in a mansion to be one of three brides to a wealthy man with a pool and a library and a bevvy of stylists who make dresses just for you and cooks who bring you whatever you want at any time. i mean - what's the big deal?? if you are going to die in four years anyway, why not live like this?? tolerate some fumbled caresses (that are all too easy to deter, anyway) and sit around reading and drinking hot cocoa until you cough yourself to death?
do i just not value my liberty?? is it because i technically have no siblings so i don't understand the family-pull?? am i just too soft and domesticated?
i could totally be a kept woman if the alternative was freezing and starving to death. i mean - you die when you are twenty in a world with very little left. what, are you going to have a career?? not likely.
me, i will be eating the chocolate covered strawberries on the trampoline, thank you very much. does this reflect poorly on my character?
and i didn't dislike the book, but i just couldn't relate to the character. the whole time, i'm like - come on, girl, it isn't that bad... but i will totally read the next two books in this trilogy, especially if ariel isn't mad at me for not loving it as much as she did.
i definitely think this book will be popular with the teens, but with more ambitious and less comfort-loving girls than me...
going to curl up now with netflix and pomegranate iced tea.(less)
boof - reading these quick books to cleanse the brain-palate before diving into proust4 means i get awful far behind in my reviewing!
i am really liki...moreboof - reading these quick books to cleanse the brain-palate before diving into proust4 means i get awful far behind in my reviewing!
i am really liking this series, which is fortunate because i have once again done the thing i do, which is to buy all seven before reading the first one. dumbass. (untruth: book six is in the mail on its way to me - somehow out of print and hardish to get. but i got.)
dunno - i like where this series is going, and from what i gather about twilight and some other teen books i have seen panned on this site recently, it offers up an alternative to wispy helpless female lead characters. this girl isn't superhero-badass, just believably resourceful and intelligent enough to figure out what needs to be done, and doing it without wondering what the boyfriend will think, or what will happen if her hair gets mussed. and she isn't particularly likable, which is refreshing - she does all sorts of unheroic things and thinks petty thoughts - and i think that is a good thing - too many books for youngsters have this unrealistic golden-child character - it is totally off-putting.
all of the characters are well-drawn, and i enjoy the range of skills and behaviors they exhibit; they are very realistic teens responding to a horrifying situation.there are several good plot progressions here - a couple of things i did not see coming, and the way they are becoming acclimated to their new reality is wonderful - a nice slow burn thing happening here.
sex, death, and slaughtering lambs. australia can definitely take care of itself.
this is the most boring review i have ever written. sorry if you are now asleep.(less)
allow me to be relevant for a moment: oh my god, this book is outstanding!! it is all good things; battle royale, blood of heroes (one of the best mov...moreallow me to be relevant for a moment: oh my god, this book is outstanding!! it is all good things; battle royale, blood of heroes (one of the best movies ever made - dont argue with me), and all the best elements of this survivalist gary paulsen jag i am on. it kept me up way past my bedtime last night, because i could not stop reading, even though my eyes did not want to be awake. and now we veer, as ever, into the personal. this book is my comeuppance. i suppose it is factually my second comeuppance. i used to be a sneerer at grownups reading harry potter and twilight and all the stuff that is supposed to be for the kiddies, and was disgusted by the infantilizing of our adults tastes. and then i decided to take a teen lit class this summer for my mls degree, so i could have a class with greg before he graduated. i figured it would be easy reading and not too challenging and a nice way to spend my summer; getting A pluses and hanging out with my friend. but of course, after i had read a few books from the syllabus, we realized that we had signed up for the wrong class, and all the teen books i had been reading (and for the most part enjoying) were not for our class. and the books i was actually supposed to be reading were for much much younger readers. and then i was disappointed that i wouldnt be reading all those teen books after all. first comeuppance: regretting mocking teen fiction because now i have to read actual books for babies, which is so much more infantilizing. and now, my second comeuppance, i read this book and its not on either of the reading lists, and i dont even know if i can use it for this 10-book annotated bibliography because it might be for too old of a reading age, but i dont even care. i am now an adult who reads teen fiction. i have to reevaluate everything i thought i stood for. i still wont read harry potter, because i am stubborn, but i might have to sneer a little less at others. and that,i assure you, that is going to hurt.(less)