This book has a lot going on. Eating disorders, bullying, navigating queer politics, ballet culture, musical theater culture, and it's all cobbled togThis book has a lot going on. Eating disorders, bullying, navigating queer politics, ballet culture, musical theater culture, and it's all cobbled together beneath a funny, upbeat protagonist that somehow manages to navigate all of it (even her own substantial brokenness) while remaining optimistic and true to herself. The author has achieved something remarkable in tying all of these various themes together without the whole thing coming apart.
I was not a big fan of the writing style; while the stream-of-consciousness infodumping and conversational grammar makes for a truly authentic teen protagonist voice, I found it hard to focus on the proceedings after a while. Especially after Moskowitz indulged in the thing that irks me about George R. R. Martin's writing: repeating an idiom. Everybody in this book swallows over and over and over again (written just like that) when they get anxious. Maybe that's a Thing that I'm unaware of, but it irritated me.
Still, this was a quick and incredibly fun read with a truly diverse cast of characters, and I'm inclined to like it solely on the merit of how satisfying the ending is....more
I've read a lot of YA fiction that tackles mental illness through fractured narratives and unreliable narrators in the past year. This advance reader'I've read a lot of YA fiction that tackles mental illness through fractured narratives and unreliable narrators in the past year. This advance reader's copy immediately rose to the top. It's not an easy read, for a number of reasons; the story is split between main character Caden's defiantly lucid observations of his descent into mental illness and a dreamlike interpretation of his stay at a hospital, where a sinister captain and a scheming parrot preside over a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. Tenses shift from third to second person as Caden drifts from anxious normalcy to somber nightmare to manic delusion and back again, with no warning to either himself or the reader of when the shifts will occur. Every so often, a page is adorned with a chaotic, haunting illustration from the pen of the author's son, who drew them while making a similarly harrowing journey. Outside of the format, though, the book is difficult to read because of how heartbreaking it is. There is no moralizing or dramatizing here; Caden is almost clinical when describing his increased unmooring from reality because it's the only way he can cope with it, and that makes it all the more sympathetic, especially considering that Shusterman is writing from his own son's experience.
I'm still thinking about it. Easily one of the best YA books I've read so far this year....more
This book was a challenge. Downes has written a YA book so literary that it's almost an experiment, weaving two gauzy, dreamlike accounts of two mentaThis book was a challenge. Downes has written a YA book so literary that it's almost an experiment, weaving two gauzy, dreamlike accounts of two mentally ill teenagers into a fated collision. The book is slim, and does no hand-holding; everything is in the brief, tragic words of Erik and Thorn, and the reader is left to their own conclusions about what was real and what was imagined in the lives of these two boys.
Things were so unmoored in this book that I honestly didn't feel smart enough to read it, and kept the whole thing at an intellectual arm's length. Still, the prose and form is lyrical and beautiful and disturbing, and the ending is worth the fever-dream journey. A fascinating little challenge of a book that will reward the patient, introspective reader....more
Pleasant surprise. I figured I was getting a too-witty-for-its-own-good contemporary YA, and ended up with a smart, funny, and incredibly poignant teePleasant surprise. I figured I was getting a too-witty-for-its-own-good contemporary YA, and ended up with a smart, funny, and incredibly poignant teen romance that does some very interesting things with the tried and true "coming out story." The book expertly treads the fine line between being observant and having a moral, and provides a diverse voice without being self-conscious about it.
I knocked a star off because I found it pretty easy to guess who Blue was, and underneath its trappings this is a fairly simple, light story. Still, this book is so charming I can hardly stand it, and what I figured to be a rote read ended up being one my YA highlights so far this year....more
Somber and steadily paced, but still an engaging piece of YA contemporary fiction that handles a familiar topic adeptly. The story's handling of Lex'sSomber and steadily paced, but still an engaging piece of YA contemporary fiction that handles a familiar topic adeptly. The story's handling of Lex's depression is realistic and unflinching, and describes a full, satisfying arc to the beginnings of recovery. Her brother's suicide is neither trivialized in the wake of her story nor romanticized by the notion of it being someone else's breakthrough. The hints of a ghost story add a riveting layer without being distracting.
This book didn't stay with me long after I finished it, for some reason, but it is a particularly shining example of its subgenre....more
Wow. This one was dark. The story is told through the diary of Linus, a teenage boy who is kidnapped by a mysterious assailant and wakes up in an undeWow. This one was dark. The story is told through the diary of Linus, a teenage boy who is kidnapped by a mysterious assailant and wakes up in an underground bunker, at the mercy of the kidnapper who keeps a camera and microphone on him and only communicates through items sent down in a motorized lift. As other victims appear in the bunker, Linus chronicles their struggle to survive and possibly escape, but as the days tick by in timeless spurts of fluorescent lights and pitch blackness, their situation becomes increasingly desperate.
Do not expect to get answers from this story. Brooks uses the diary format to excellent effect, and never abandons it; everything is filtered through Linus as he writes to himself, and then to his captor, and then to anyone at all who might read his words, and plot gives way to a study of the human condition and the things people will do to survive when abandoned and cornered. The ending is straight out of a Lovecraft story, and it's dark and disturbing and brilliant.
This book made me feel gross, but I can't stop thinking about it....more
This is definitely a book about a place rather than a person, and it breaks the YA mold in a number of ways, most notably by eschewing the OMG PLOT OMThis is definitely a book about a place rather than a person, and it breaks the YA mold in a number of ways, most notably by eschewing the OMG PLOT OMG LOVE TRIANGLE OMG approach in favor of a very gritty story about teens who are forced by circumstance to be adults.
Set in a version of 1930s Australia that is swarming with ghosts and the violence that creates them, Razorhurst focuses on Kelpie, an orphan who can actually see and hear the ghosts around her and has relied on them to survive alone on the streets, and Dymphna, a well-known prostitute who is both younger and smarter than she lets on, and has learned to ignore the ghosts for fear of going mad. The two of them are thrown together by a murder which portends an end to the uneasy truce between Razorhurst's two criminal factions, and they cling to one another as everything begins to unravel around them.
I had trouble staying engaged with this book in the beginning because it defied my expectations a little. Kelpie and Dymphna both know right from the beginning how high the stakes are, and march forward with a grim, almost tired determination, making for an even and occasionally plodding pace. The story takes a lot of breaks for flashback; Larbalestier has broken the book into small, quickfire chapters that alternate between characters, and each comes with a tangential 1-2 page coda that gives a little exposition and almost reads like a vignette. But once I got used to the format, I couldn't put it down. The story doesn't offer much in the way of surprise, despite a number of twists halfway through the book, but that's okay; inevitability is one of the story's major themes, and the book winds to a very bittersweet but satisfying conclusion.
Like Bone Gap, this is a book that I'm liking more and more as I ruminate on what I just read. There's a lot to take in here, and I think this would be a hard road for some readers, both because of its unconventionality and because of its realistic, unflinching portrayal of sexuality and violence. But the evocative writing, the deeply layered characters, and the deft paranormal elements make this a fierce read for those who can appreciate it....more
This is a hard one for me to rate. It's a dark, fascinating mystery steeped in faerie lore, but something about it left me vaguely unsatisfied.
The stoThis is a hard one for me to rate. It's a dark, fascinating mystery steeped in faerie lore, but something about it left me vaguely unsatisfied.
The story largely revolves around Hazel and her brother Ben, who have grown up in a small town called Fairfold. Strange things are always afoot in Fairfold; tourists come to gawk at the faerie wonders on display, including the mysterious horned boy perpetually asleep in his glass coffin, and the locals know to don their protective charms and to avoid the attention of the cruel, capricious folk of the woods. Hazel and Ben, on the other hand, have been half-wild since birth, stalking the more worrisome creatures of the woods with a found sword and christening themselves the protector knights of Fairfold. But the years go on, and Hazel and Ben leave the magic of childhood behind as they enter adolescence and try to make sense of their singularly odd lives. When the horned boy is suddenly freed, his indestructible coffin found shattered, the horrors of the trees descend on Fairfold, and Hazel and Ben are forced to reckon with a pact carelessly made with the faerie Alderking when they were still children.
Black's return to the faerie lore she loves is as rich and textured as one would expect it to be. The fae are tricksy and dangerous, and the appearances of Sorrow, the well-known and much-feared monster at the heart of the woods, are chilling enough to border on horror. There are a few tense action set-pieces that lead to a thrilling ending, but much of the story relies on Hazel desperately trying to piece together clues in order to save the town (and, of course, everyone she cares about along with it).
Something didn't sit right with me, though. Aside from a few places in the middle and the last forty or so pages, I was struggling to turn pages. Something about the characters felt a little flat and under-explored to me, and it almost felt like there are two separate threads winding through the plot: the imminent danger of Sorrow and the Alderking, and the slower-burning and more contemporary journey of what the bad things Hazel and Ben experienced as children (not all of them supernatural) have done to them. Neither thread felt fully developed or integrated with the other, so while the ending was good, I didn't get the closure I wanted.
But the book is worth reading just for the setting, and for Black's sharp, adept take on faerie lore in a contemporary setting. My qualms with the book fall largely on my personal preference for character over plot, I think. Though it has a bit of an identity crisis at times, this is a great choice for those with a weakness for dark fantasy....more
This is a quick, diverting little read that follows the standard Manic Pixie Dream Girl format, though it does a few interesting things with it. The oThis is a quick, diverting little read that follows the standard Manic Pixie Dream Girl format, though it does a few interesting things with it. The odd title revolves around the moment that upends Higgs Boson Bing’s life: his clingy girlfriend asks (through a proxy) whether he would donate a kidney to her, and he vacillates because he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t. This sets off a chain of events that sends Higgs from his pedestal as the popular, wealthy, Harvard-bound king of the school down to the universally derided and mocked target of just about everyone, including those he thought were his friends. A chance meeting with a mysterious, abrasive girl who apparently lives in the woods gives him an unlikely confidant during his worst week ever, and his newfound outsider status gives him the opportunity to question whose expectations for his life he should be meeting.
The strength in this book is in the narrative voice, which carries this slim, quirky tale through a familiar story arc. The stakes stay pretty low throughout, Ivy League acceptance pressure notwithstanding, so the book's charm rests on Higgs's sardonic observations and the predictable effect that Monarch, the girl from the woods, has on him. Yee is an adept writer that wastes no scenes and puts prose to good effect, resulting in a fun, well-paced read.
Nothing really made this one stand out from its peers, for me, but this is a great read for somebody looking for a bit of romance, a lot of humor, and a dash of affluent existential crisis....more
"Hero" has no agency, simply doing everything the mentor character tells him to do. Female characters have even less agency, with the love interest at"Hero" has no agency, simply doing everything the mentor character tells him to do. Female characters have even less agency, with the love interest at one point being literally carried out of danger by the "hero." Incredibly frustrating read....more