Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ALA Hiatus

I'll be in nearby Washington, D.C. for the ALA Annual Conference, starting Thursday evening. Since I'm in the midst of re-reading and preparing for meetings with the 2011 Printz Committee, I'm going on a short hiatus. I'll be back and blogging all about the conference and more, either at the end of next week or the beginning of July. There's definitely going to be an ARC contest in July, so mark your calendars!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Freefall

Ariela Anhalt
2010; Harcourt; ISBN 978-0-15-206567-6 (hardcover)

Summary: What happened that night on the cliff? What did Luke see? Whether his best friend Hayden just shoved Russell, or whether Hayden meant to kill Russell, Luke's not sure. He'll have to find some kind of answer by the time of the trial, but until then, Luke is a real mess. He screws up with the girl he likes, pushes away his friends, and has a horrible fight with his mom. Russell's death dredges up all of Luke's feeling about his father's suicide. Can Luke forgive his father--and will that let him forgive Hayden?

An intriguing look at the line between accident and crime, Freefall is a debut novel that focuses on friendship and self. Luke is a hard character to like, caught between passivity and self-loathing, brooding and anger. Yet his struggles to resolve his questions ring true for a teen in such a situation. Suddenly adrift when Hayden's influence is removed, Luke slowly and haltingly learns to stand on his own two feet, making his own choices instead of following Hayden's lead. Freefall could be paired with Jennifer Brown's Hate List, showing two different sides of bystander responsibility.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Opinion: Dystopian vs. Post-Apocalyptic

So did you read Laura Miller's article about dystopian YA fiction? Here's a post from YA Highway that might be helpful as you read Miller's article: just what is the difference between dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction?

I found this a really interesting point to make--and I'll definitely be thinking about this post when talking books with teens!

Review: Sorta Like a Rock Star

Sorta Like a Rock Star
Matthew Quick
2010; Little, Brown; ISBN 978-0-316-04352-6 (hardcover)

Summary: Amber Appleton is a Princess of Hope. She teaches Korean ladies English by singing Supremes songs. She volunteers at a retirement home, making mean Joan of Old smile. She tells scary people in the ghetto "Hope you're having a great day!" Whatever happens, she has faith in the big JC. Amber knows that her mom will find enough money to get them an apartment, so they can stop living in the school bus her mom drives. But when a tragic event sucks all the hope out of Amber, her friends--her boys, Donna, Father Chee, Private Jackson, and more--will come together to show her that there's always room for hope.

Sorta Like a Rock Star isn't a typical novel. It's got faith, hope, haikus, dogs, a Marketing Club, old people, Korean soul singers and a variety show. It's a fairy tale story, inspirational and heartwarming and a little bit sad. While the characters have a wealth of eccentricities, that doesn't make them feel any less real. And in Amber, Matthew Quick has created a princess worthy of this fairy tale. Not unlike My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, Sorta Like a Rock Star is an enchanting book that will sweep you away.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Opinion: YA Dystopian Fiction

There's a recent article in the New Yorker, written by Laura Miller, about YA fiction. This one, Fresh Hell, asks questions about the recent popularity in dystopian fiction such as The Hunger Games.

A few thoughts as I read this article:

--"The world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure, and therefore to adventure stories." I like the idea that the rise in dystopian fiction is due in part to helicopter parents, kindergartners having cell phones, and the whole rise in children having less freedom and more supervision.

--"The youth-centered versions of dystopia part company with their adult predecessors in some important respects. For one thing, the grownup ones are grimmer." Can you name me any adult genre that is not typically grimmer than its YA equivalent? Perhaps novels that look at the high-school experience, but even that's shaky ground.

--"The Internet plays a less important role in these novels than you might expect." That doesn't surprise me, actually. With how ubiquitous the Internet is to daily life, and given that dystopias typically offer a world very different from our current world, it makes sense that one of the easiest ways to define this future world is without the Internet. It also fits with the mood of such novels: often they're bleak and grim, people fumbling around for connections. What does the Internet do but connect people?

This is a really intriguing article. I recommend giving it a look!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Review: The Complete History of Why I Hate Her

The Complete History of Why I Hate Her
Jennifer Richard Jacobsen
2010; Richard Jackson (Atheneum); ISBN 978-0-689-87800-8 (hardcover)

Summary: Nola is hoping that her summer plans will let her find herself. She'll be working as a waitress at a Maine resort, far away from her cancer-stricken sister Song. At first, Nola manages to make new friends and learn the ropes of waitressing. Her roommate Carly is a live wire, full of excitement and charisma. There's even a potential romance with Harrison, a counselor at a nearby camp. But slowly, Nola starts to see signs that Carly is not what she appears to be. And when Carly's actions risk the health of the visiting Song, Nola quickly discovers how to be herself.

A quick read that tackles two important kinds of relationships, Jacobson's story speaks to many teen readers. Carly's attempts to take over Nola's life start small but build into actions that can't be rationalized. Nola's relationship with Song is dense and complicated, like so many sisterly bonds. While the story could have been fleshed out more, to allow both a better understanding of Nola's quest as well as Carly's plan, it is still a tense read. Pass The Complete History of Why I Hate Her to reluctant readers or those not up for the harshness of Courtney Summers' Some Girls Are.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Review: Princess of Glass

Princess of Glass
Jessica Day George
2010; Bloomsbury; ISBN 978-1-59990-478-8 (hardcover)

Summary: Three years have passed since Poppy and her sisters were freed from their dancing enchantment. Now, Poppy has traveled to the court of Breton, part of a massive goodwill exchange of young princes and princesses. In this new cultured society, Poppy is seen as somewhat strange. She doesn't mind that, as long as she doesn't have to dance. Meeting Prince Christian of the Danelaw is enough to make her reconsider, though. There's only one problem: in the household that Poppy is staying in, there's a maid who used to be the daughter of an earl. And she's set her sights on Christian, with the help of her fairy godmother. Will Poppy be able to break the spell and get her own happy ever after?

A charming follow-up to Princess of the Midnight Ball, Jessica Day George offers up an unusual twist on a classic fairy tale. By creating an "evil" Cinderella, George creates an intriguing story that lets you look at the cliches of Cinderella in a new way. The return to the imaginary Europe, with its political concerns about unstable monarchies and a lack of princes, gives the fairy tale a taste of the real world. Poppy is a savvy, smart heroine, a princess who plays cards and knits--actions that are equally shocking to society. Fans of the first novel will be clamoring for Princess of Glass.