Tag Archives: YA

Let’s Rainbow Rowell It Up in Here

Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors, and indisputably one of the best young adult novelists out there. So have two bits of deliciousness today.

First, Buzzfeed did a great interview of her, from Ashley Ford who goes by smashfizzle on Tumblr –

“The first time Rowell wrote about the struggles of her childhood was in her column for the Omaha World Herald. Her voice lowers a bit, serious but without shame. “I was living in rural areas often without power or a phone or a car. Our water came from a well and a pump. My dad was not around and when he was around, he was not good. There was a lot of alcohol abuse and drug abuse. I feel like I need to say that I’m probably sane and alive because I had a really great mom. Eventually, when we moved to the city and we were on welfare, it was a step up. Being poor in the city was easier than being poor in the country.”

Despite their living conditions, Rowell remembers a home where her father read her The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Books were her safe haven. “My mother was very strict, there was very little on television that we were allowed to watch, there were very few movies that we were allowed to watch. But she’d let me read anything.”

And a favorite Youtube book reviewer Polesandbananas covered Landline with her usual pizzazz –

Book Review: The Selection

selection cvr

The Selection, Kiera Cass.

America Singer lives in a futuristic America in which, after a series of World Wars, society has been restructured as a class system. There are eight castes who each perform different duties. America is a 5, the artistic case, who earn their money by performing during national holidays and for the wealthier families. Intermarriage between castes is highly frowned upon and America’s mother hopes that she will raise their status and support them financially by marrying into a caste above her. America, however, has been in love with Aspen, the son of a family friend and a caste below her, for her entire life.

The country is governed by a regency and the state announces that it’s time for The Selection, an event in which 35 girls are chosen from a lottery and one of them selected by the Crown Prince to be his bride. America reluctantly enters the drawing at the pushing of her mother, and is shocked when she is chosen. Soon, she and 34 other girls are swept into the palace to live a life of luxury while getting to know the Prince.

This is a light and immensely readable book – I read it in two sittings flat. America is an immediately engaging heroine, mostly the story is told in first person and Kiera Cass makes America spunky and blunt but with believable fragilities and small selfishnesses that make her human. Oddly, however, it’s the first half of the book that’s the strongest – America, her relationships with the various members of her family, and her relationship with Aspen are all well-developed. The romance that develops in the second half, though….there’s exactly enough good romance in this book to make one compelling relationship, not too.

Cass attempts to set up a love triangle between America, Aspen, and Prince Maxon, and several of the scenes with Aspen and Maxom, respectively, are very compelling – but wholistically Aspen and Maxon each feel like half of a fully-rounded character. Aspen is too simple to be completely interesting – the two main drives of his life appear to be to survive and to be with America if he can, and he doesn’t have the complexity to grapple with the changes in America while she lives at the palace, or the broader social and political forces in the country. While Maxon adheres too closely to that “white prince/knight in shining armor” pattern – he’s painfully nice, formal, and innocent for much of the novel. Both male leads would have been more interesting if they had more bite to them, a little more of a rough edge.

Continue reading

All Rainbow Rowell Up in Here

XTINEMay aka Christine, one of the most popular book vloggers on Youtube, has a hilarious and spot-on discussion of Attachments, Rainbow Rowell’s first (and my least favorite of her books).

Speaking of Rainbow Rowell….I am very late with this but she’s writing a graphic novel!!!!

Fault in Our Stars Art

I don’t know where it’s from but this Fault in Our Stars book art is lovely.

faultinourstars

Animated Insurgent Cover

Animated cover of Veronica Roth’s Insurgent (very good YA fiction). Pure magic.

insurgentanimatedcover RT

Caffeinated Links: YA Dystopia, David Mitchell on Autism, and The Counselor is a Very Bad Film

allegiant-book-cover-high-res

 

Joan Aiken‘s website is surely one of the most gorgeously designed author websites I’ve ever seen. Like stepping straight into a fantasy land.

Celeste Ng at The Millions highlights 5 Series You Probably Missed as a Kid (But Should Read as an Adult). I’ve read half of these and HIGHLY recommend them, especially Half Magic, and am adding the other half to my to-read list.  RT

Gorgeous, heartbreaking. David Mitchell on translating an autistic Japanese teen’s memoir, and his own son’s autism. “The conclusion is that both emotional poverty and an aversion to company are not symptoms of autism but consequences of autism – its harsh lockdown on self-expression and society’s near-pristine ignorance about what’s happening inside autistic heads.” RT

The ‘verse has been ablaze with the ending of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series (which is a great series, by the way. Veronica Roth speaks out. I think she made a brave choice. But I would have hated her for it had I found out only upon reading the book. RT

More The Millions’ goodness, making me want to re-read Colm Toibin’s The Master, which I read prior to reading Henry James. “He feels love profoundly, for women and men alike, but he can’t act on it in any way that might compromise his freedom as an artist, and instead he pours out his love for them in his novels after they’re dead. That, in this case, his love for Minny Temple gave us The Portrait of a Lady may be enough for some. It isn’t for me. As much as I care about books, I think people matter more in the end.” RT

Surprisingly, according to this roundup of reviews for it via Entertainment Weekly, it appears that the star-laden The Counselor was a very bad film. RT

Book Review: Fire (Graceling Realm #2)

firekristincashorereviewThe library didn’t have #1 in the Graceling series, but as I heard they’re only very loosely linked, I went ahead with #2.

I enjoyed this immensely. The world-building is fairly similar to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and many other fantasy novels of the like, in that it’s built mostly on a medieval world of lords, ladies, courts, and stone castles, (and winter. is there some kind of rule that 70% of fantasy novels take place in winter?). Fire is the only human monster left in the world populated by humans and animal monsters. Unlike the animal monsters, she is intelligent, and she has essentially a human form, but she’s also gifted (or cursed) with two un-human qualities: an otherworldly, spellbinding beauty, and the ability to read, and influence, the minds of other living creatures (both animal and human).

This has the same emotional intensity, romantic center, and driving pace of plot as Cecilia Dart Thornton’s Bitterbynde novels, and for those I liked it very much indeed. Said plot is a little threadbare – one of the reviewers I read was completely right in saying that this oddly skirts around both young adult and adult camps without really falling into either. As far as emotional complexity and the unabashed, frequent references to very dark topics such as rape, this definitely falls in the adult camp. But the simplicity of the plot and world-building pull it back into YA, where overall it fits more comfortably I think. This is not at all an experimental or unique book, but it is BEAUTIFULLY realized and vivid and its characters leap off the page. Gripping enough that I finished it in one night. Definitely recommend for any fans of Thornton, McKinley, or Suzanne Collins.

Book Review: The Boyfriend List

theboyfriendlist

I read this YA novel in an hour flat sitting at the library. And –

Ugh. The appeal of this fantastically titled book with a quirky cover design pretty much begins and ends with said title and cover design. This is boring and frankly surprisingly ordinary given the dramatic nature of the premise, all rife with possibility and comedy. Ruby Oliver is at the end of her rope and in denial about it after a series of unfortunate (though not particularly unusual) events happen to her causing her to lose her boyfriend and her social life and become temporarily a social outcast. So her overprotective parents – volatile comedian mother and abstracted plant-obsessed father – send her off to therapy. Where her therapist instructs her to make a list of all the boys she’s ever liked and thus Ruby’s story (such as it is) unfolds over the course of 11 therapy sessions.

Couple problems: Ruby’s problems are not at unusual – her ex dumps her for another girl, she attempts to get him back, has lots of drama with her girlfriends, etc – and therefore not innately interesting, though really good writing could have covered that – and two, her “boyfriend” stories are mostly rather dull. Half the boys on the list she had a brief and pointless crush on; there’s only a handful in which the history is genuinely interesting. Her childhood friend, her high school boyfriend, and the boy she encounters toward the very end of the novel are the only three interesting ones, and none of these three is fully developed. Her relationship with her current/high school boyfriend is compelling and achingly real at times, but it’s given neither full development nor a resolution, it just sort of peters out. And while this is reflective of real life sometimes, it wasn’t replaced with any other element. She has a few brief exchanges with the interesting, sarcastic, and refreshingly grown-up Noel toward the end, but he simply fades from her life.

E Lockhart in the final act reaches toward a growing-up story of catharsis and independence with a teen girl leaving the drama of high school behind and embracing her own identity – but tells this rather than shows it, and it simply falls flat. Give this a miss – John Green writes a thousand times more tenderly and eloquently and comically about the obsessive, circular, magical period of discovery that is adolescence.

P.S. Add me on Goodreads!

%d bloggers like this: