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 bI 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....more
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-geekyDamn, 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....more
After reading a fascinating study of library services to GLBTQ teens for one of my classes ([http://www.slais.ubc.ca/RESEARCH/curr...]), I started reaAfter reading a fascinating study of library services to GLBTQ teens for one of my classes ([http://www.slais.ubc.ca/RESEARCH/curr...]), I started reading more of the literature being written for this young adult population. Far from Xanadu is one of the most recent and possibly my favorite so far, largely owing to the unique voice of its narrator, Mike Szabo - a 16-year-old girl.
Nee Mary Elizabeth - but don't call her that unless you want a knuckle sandwich - Mike and her best friend, Jamie, have always been different from other kids in Coalton, Kansas. But unlike many small-town populations in GLBTQ teen fic, Coalton's residents don't take much notice of Mike and Jamie's gender-bending ways (Mike works out to look more like a guy; Jamie is a cross-dressing male cheerleader), nor the implications for their sexuality. Mike makes it clear that she's accepted, if not completely understood, and that she's never felt like an outcast - one of only a few details that ring true about rural Midwestern life as seen through the eyes of a hometown girl.
But Coalton isn't utopia, and Mike isn't completely comfortable in her own skin. She struggles to make sense of her beloved father's suicide, make decisions about the failing family business and her future as a softball star, and deal with falling in love with someone who couldn't be worse for her - a new girl in town, Xanadu, beautiful and worldly but impossibly straight.
Mike's matter-of-fact attitude about her sexuality is refreshing, as is the portrayal of small-town middle America, for once cast as close-knit (if insular) rather than simply closed-minded. Mike's coming of age crisis of identity and unrequited love story is relatable for gay young adults, but will also be appealing to any teen looking for a straight-shooting heroine and a down-home yarn....more
I was attracted to this book because it's set in Rhode Island (where my family owns a home) and narrated by a librarian (I'm training to be one). AlthI was attracted to this book because it's set in Rhode Island (where my family owns a home) and narrated by a librarian (I'm training to be one). Although the book starts out as a bit of a slow burn, it quickly turns into a page-turner. One of those books that draws you in with its weirdo characters, chilling turns of events, and unusual style and pace....more