Drawing from the same perspectival material as Sofia Coppola's 2006 film, this treatment of Marie Antoinette's life paints a sympathetic picture of Fr...moreDrawing from the same perspectival material as Sofia Coppola's 2006 film, this treatment of Marie Antoinette's life paints a sympathetic picture of France's girl queen. Unfortunately, it's also a boring one. Since Naslund's take is almost identical to Coppola's (sometimes eerily so), I recommend skipping the 600-page snoozefest and going with the two-hour movie, which at least features pretty dresses and New Wave tunes.(less)
I had high expectations for Thomas’s first novel because I’m a fan of Veronica Mars, the teen noir television show he created. Ultimately, I ended up...moreI had high expectations for Thomas’s first novel because I’m a fan of Veronica Mars, the teen noir television show he created. Ultimately, I ended up being thankful that he found his voice on the small screen, because he was a bit disappointing as a novelist.
Even so, despite long passages that seemed to serve no purpose in advancing the plot (although they were interesting to read for their own sake), Rats Saw God stands out as a teen classic because of Thomas’s signature wise-cracking, pop-culture-referencing style. The descriptions of Steve’s all-consuming headrush of first love – and the fall-out in his male friendships – are spot-on, and most teens would probably be intrigued by the somewhat graphic but faithful (and funny) descriptions of Steve and Dub’s first forays out of virgin territory: "We undressed each other as if the process would later be described in sonnets. ... Okay, the part involving shoe removal would have best been described as a limerick."(less)
I somehow managed not to read this Judy Blume classic as a kid. Surprising, because as for every white, middle-class pre-teen girl in the 80s, her nov...moreI somehow managed not to read this Judy Blume classic as a kid. Surprising, because as for every white, middle-class pre-teen girl in the 80s, her novels were my direct line to straight talk about sexuality.
It's too bad, really, because I think I would've gotten more out of Forever if I were part of its intended audience. Although I like Blume's simple, straightforward prose and her deliberately non-judgmental perspective, I didn't feel connected to the narrator, Katherine, and her boyfriend seemed like a bit of a pushy drip. But then, I'm an old prune at age 27, so what do I know. More than anything I appreciated the strong relationship between Katherine and her family; unlike many teenagers, she had a strong, trusting bond with her parents, her grandparents, and even her little sister. Forever is a keeper for any future daughters I may have.(less)
how i live now has been called a modern-day Jane Eyre – which I can dig, had Bronte’s novel been set during a terrorist occupation and featured incest...morehow i live now has been called a modern-day Jane Eyre – which I can dig, had Bronte’s novel been set during a terrorist occupation and featured incestuous teenage romance. (St John Rivers doesn't count.) Fleeing a disinterested father, a wicked stepmother, and an eating disorder, 15-year-old Daisy moves to England to live with her cousins on a farm. Their idyllic adventures are interrupted by a war with an unnamed, unseen enemy, and the children are forced to go on the run as food, water, and eventually hope begin to run out.
how i live now is excellent on a number of levels. The plot is well-constructed, with Daisy retelling her story from the future by dropping ominous hints through foreshadowing. Some critics complain about Daisy’s unique brand of grammar, erratic sentence structure, and Random Capitalization, but I believe the style Rosoff selected for her anti-heroine reinforces the confusion in Daisy’s own mind as well as the chaos of the war. The circumstances surrounding the war are eerily relevant to the type of unstructured, viral attacks facing the world today, and the cousins’ initially blase attitude towards the seemingly distant enemy is realistic. Although I was disoriented by the narrative jump forward from Daisy’s rescue to six years after the war, I found the conclusion satisfying and powerful – even though I knew I would miss the family as soon as I turned that last page.
Damn, what a great book! An Abundance of Katherines represents the best kind of young adult fiction - the kind that even my regular, non-YA-fic-geeky...moreDamn, what a great book! An Abundance of Katherines represents the best kind of young adult fiction - the kind that even my regular, non-YA-fic-geeky grown-up friends might like to read, because it's just a fantastic, universal, well-crafted story.
The characters in this book are uniformly likeable, but not in a bland way; in particular, the friendship between protagonist Colin, a washed-up child prodigy, and his buddy Hassan, a wise-cracking Muslim, is dead-on about the way guys communicate with and care for each other. Also, about 20 per cent of the novel involves math equations and graphs, and I didn't get bored once. (I actually have no idea if 20% is a good estimate for the amount of math in this book, which is why it's amazing that I didn't fling it across the room in disgust at the first sign of cosines. Little math humor for ya, there.)
One of the best things about Katherines is what happened after I finished it: I found John Green's website. Which led me to a project he's working on with his brother, Hank Green, proprietor of EcoGeek.org:
For the entirety of 2007, John Green and Hank Green (both of whom are almost always, I am certain, referred to by their first and last names - it just feels right) have eschewed text-based communication and will communicate with one another by exchanging videos for all the world to see. There are also video visits from some of their "secret siblings," which led me to a really funny YA writer named Maureen Johnson which led me to about ten other YA authors whose books are now on my hold list. (Apparently there's like a whole YA cool kids posse out there, but they all pride themselves on being nerds, which, fair enough, you're a YA author.) Anyway, Brotherhood 2.0, as the project is known, is very funny, and I'm completely addicted and smitten with the brothers Green and their gaggle of Nerd Fighters. Start with January 1, and let the procrastination begin.(less)
I wanted to love this book, but I only liked it. Having read John Green's latest novel, An Abundance of Katherines, last month, his first book was a b...moreI wanted to love this book, but I only liked it. Having read John Green's latest novel, An Abundance of Katherines, last month, his first book was a bit of a letdown, especially considering that Alaska won the Printz Award. (Katherines came in second for the Printz this year.)
At the same time, Alaska is a glimpse of John Green's future genius. I mean, for God's sake, he was 27 when he wrote this novel, and he won the Printz. I hate that/love that. The characters in Alaska are complicated but likeable, especially the central female (the titular Alaska), and just weird enough to draw in young people who feel like semi-outsiders. I also appreciated how the book was organized into "before" and "after" portions around the central tragedy, which is a heavy one indeed. The grief of the friends affected by the crisis and the unexpected swiftness with which it occurs is one of the most well-crafted elements of the story, although that makes it difficult to read at times.
Overall, however, Alaska lacked the spark that made me love Katherines. I'm positive I would've adored this book as a teenager, but there were parts that seemed overwrought or simply unlikely to me as an adult. It's no "Catcher in the Rye for a new generation," as some critics have called it, but it's a solid read nonetheless. Could I travel back in time to my sophomore year of high school, I would recommend it to the brainy literary freaks I was friends with, all of us seeking the Great Perhaps.(less)
Levithan's utopian vision for a world in which no teenager is forced to "come out of the closet" - because he or she never has to hide in the first pl...moreLevithan's utopian vision for a world in which no teenager is forced to "come out of the closet" - because he or she never has to hide in the first place - is inspiring. The normalization of same-sex first love, drag-queen quarterbacks, and all-around positive weirdness makes comment on today's less than inclusive reality by portraying a more accepting environment.
However, many of the gay adults I've talked with and read reviews from have a very different reaction to Boy Meets Boy - usually along the lines of, "This bears no resemblance to the crap I had to deal with growing up." That's a more than fair point, and something to consider when recommending, reading, or talking about this book to a gay or questioning teenager.
However, on a seemingly minor note, I noticed that Levithan namechecks Patty Griffin's song "Tony" on the acknowledgments page. Apparently, whenever he needed inspiration, he listened to it on repeat. To me, this speaks volumes about Levithan's intent: Patty Griffin's Tony ends up committing suicide, which she relates to his being harassed about his sexuality in high school. In that light - and considering that the book's only character who experiences discrimination shares that name - Boy Meets Boy seems to be an expression of defiant hope that, eventually, no one will have to endure Tony's particular kind of hurt.
**spoiler alert** Post-high school and pre-college, Bridget mourns her best friend Benji, who died in a car crash following the pair's short-lived lov...more**spoiler alert** Post-high school and pre-college, Bridget mourns her best friend Benji, who died in a car crash following the pair's short-lived love affair. After a one night stand, Bridget’s fling with new guy Jasper morphs into a substantial relationship – but her emotional instability in the wake of Benji’s death puts the fledgling romance at risk.
I was intrigued from the start by the thesis that Benji had been a reluctant participant in the romance with Bridget. So many teen novels rely on a formula that climaxes with best friends realizing that they’ve been in love all along. Zeises puts a clever twist on the convention by examining what happens in the aftermath of an unrequited best friend break-up; Bridget’s concern that she coerced Benji into the romance is parsed as realistically as her unhealthily fervent love for him. Throwing a new boyfriend into the mix is an excellent device to expose the complicated mechanisms of grief, as Bridget struggles with feelings of disloyalty.
My only bone of contention is the book’s conclusion, when Bridget leaves Jasper in a decision that, to me, seemed frivolous. Though I support a storyline that affirms a young woman’s autonomy (rather than granting her happiness solely through romance), Bridget’s ultimate characterization of her relationship with Jasper ("Restaurants – we’ve spent half our relationship in restaurants") seemed dishonest and left me frustrated at the end of an otherwise frank, truthful novel.(less)
Gawky Kate Bjorkman has a rapier wit, genius IQ, and coke-bottle glasses. She’s been in love with Richard, her former neighbor and brother’s best frie...moreGawky Kate Bjorkman has a rapier wit, genius IQ, and coke-bottle glasses. She’s been in love with Richard, her former neighbor and brother’s best friend, since they were kids, and she describes their budding romance by poking fun at Harlequin novel conventions, which take the lovers into bliss, betrayal, and back again.
I was completely charmed by this intelligent, witty, romantic anti-romance and wish I had discovered it in high school, as I share not only the narrator’s name but her geeky non-heroine qualities. If only I had been able to see that my quirks and smarts were cause for confidence as clearly as my doppelganger does!
I think many young women who are off the beaten track of teenage expectations but still yearn (there's one of those romance novel words) for stories about connection will find a kindred spirit in Kate and comfort in her family and friends, especially Fleur. I also enjoyed how the book was constructed as an "unedited" work in progress, with Kate’s revision notes serving as supplemental information about her life and inner workings. (less)
This didn't live up to Sarah Dessen's other glowing teen romances for me. Maybe it's just because I read the ARC, which wasn't cleaned up, but the sto...moreThis didn't live up to Sarah Dessen's other glowing teen romances for me. Maybe it's just because I read the ARC, which wasn't cleaned up, but the story seemed to jump around and I didn't find much depth to the characters. I was also put off by the hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-2x4 symbolism, which I never noticed in Dessen's other books, I guess. Eh.(less)