Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mystery, horror, and nostalgia for the win!

The coolest blog I've found today: Like Pike. I loved Christopher Pike when I was a teen and now with classic horror making a comeback, maybe a new generation of teens will discover his books. Hey, one can hope.

A nice idea, but you're late for the funeral

An article in today's SF Gate does quick reviews of three YA novels involving dead main characters, or those who can speak to them: Zombie Blondes, ghostgirl, and Dead Connection. It cites Twilight, of course, as a big factor in the popularity of dead characters in YA lit.

It's not a bad article, but I have to wonder: Where has this writer been for the past three years of YA lit? Dead characters have, erm, risen in popularity over the span of a few years and even if Twilight had never been written they'd still be around. One of the discussions the "Dead, Dying, and the Undead" Popular Paperbacks subcommittee had at Annual was the shaping of the list. Did vampires and zombies belong on the same list as books like Dead Connection and Looking for Alaska? Did we want books that explored how people died, or just what they did after they came back to life? How could books about vampires compare to those about losing a friend? Do we want them all on the same list? I think it's really easy to look at the genre superficially and say, "Books about the dead/undead are popular because of Twilight," but that's way oversimplified. There were, are, and will always be popular vampire books in YA. They're probably an easier sell now because of Twilight, but that's not the only factor.

In YA, teens have been dying for decades for one reason or another. Despite this article's narrow view, there's a huge range of books about dead, death, and the dying in YA fiction these days. (In fact, that will be the featured October BCCLS Book Bonanza list.) Watch for a review of one coming shortly.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Catcher in the Rye: Does it Speak to us anymore?

The children's and YA blogosphere is alive with mentions of an article in Good Magazine: Anne Trubek on Why We Shouldn't Still be Learning Catcher in the Rye. As always, I am most interested in the comments.

One of the comments says that "no other book can resonate with adolescents" as well as Catcher. Every comment in one way or another says that the list of suggested books to replace Catcher, which includes Speak and American Born Chinese, is lame and ridiculous and all the characters are completely unrelatable to today's teens because it's not relevant to the commenters or their kids or the teens they know. Of course, you all know my response to that: The plural of "anecdote" is not "evidence." Beyond all that, I have one question for all the commenters:

One would never teach history and ignore events that happened after 1955. One would never teach science and stop at discoveries made after 1955. Music history doesn't stop with John Cage. Film studies classes include Fellini and Hitchcock, but they also include the Coen brothers. Given all this, why do you deem it all right and even a best practice in education, to not teach literature with teen protagonists written after 1955?

I have never understood this need to teach classics and only classics and classics all the time. In fact, I don't think Holden Caulfield is more or less relatable than most other protagonists in literature with teen characters. I can't speak for anyone else, but I am a middle-class white girl who never saw New York until she was 17. I went to public school (I know, the horror!) and couldn't fathom having a roommate, money to travel to a big city, or a little sister who I thought was the coolest thing ever. Sure, there were parts of Catcher's narrative I liked but overall I thought Holden was making much ado about nothing.

Could I relate to Holden Caulfield? Not really.

Could I relate to Melinda Sordino, another middle-class white girl who was anything but popular and privileged? You betcha.

I went to one of the most ethnically diverse high schools in Illinois. There were students from about 55 countries that spoke as many languages. One thought nothing of walking down the halls and hearing everything except English being spoken. It was commonplace to look into the cafeteria and see Indian kids sitting with Korean kids sitting with Polish kids. My best friend from elementary school through college was fluent in English, Spanish, and Thai, and she was not unusual among my classmates in terms of languages spoken. Could many students relate to Jin Wang in American Born Chinese? Yes.

I realize that not all high schools are the same and in fact, I realize that my high school was an anomaly in terms of diversity. But that doesn't change my question of teaching modern teen literature. Why isn't English held to the same standards as history and science? Don't tell me that the world of literature doesn't change. It does, and it changes as much as history and science do, and in ways just as important. Literature is a reflection of the world we live in, and trust me, the world of teens has changed a bit since 1955. I'm not saying that Catcher is a bad book or that it shouldn't be taught, but it's not the be-all end-all of books with teen protagonists. I admire Salinger's ability to create characters and I like a good number of his books now that I'm an adult. The teen character in a high school literature classroom, though, deserves modernization. In terms of basic humanity and self-discovery, Holden does ask some of the same questions modern teens ask: Can I keep up with my changing and increasingly imperfect world? Where do I stand between childhood and adulthood? I think, however, that rather than proving that Holden needs to stand alone, above today's YA literature, his journey and self-discoveries mean that he stands among other great books that explore similar subjects, have teen protagonists, and were written after 1955.

Old books are not always bad books and new books are not always good books. As the world of literature expands every year, just like the worlds of science and history and math and the arts, it is paramount that we acknowledge its changes and encourage students to examine them. If Catcher does that for students, that's great, but that doesn't mean Speak and American Born Chinese and yes, even a (gasp) television show like Freaks and Geeks won't.

P.S. I hated Heart of Darkness in high school, and I still hate Heart of Darkness now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Best albums of the decade: What do you own?

My favorite New York radio station, 92.3 K-Rock, is holding an online battle for the best albums of the decade so far. Of course, a rock station is going to have a very different opinion on what the best albums of the decade are so far than a Top 40 or a country station would, but there's an important point here: These are albums that make up the hard rock/metal canon of 2000-2010 (with a little alternative thrown in), and the top vote-getters are probably good bets for libraries to buy if you don't already own them. As of the writing of this post there are 150 albums up for voting. If I could only buy five of them for my library, I'd pick:

Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace by the Foo Fighters
American Idiot by Green Day
Hot Fuss by the Killers
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2

Are these my personal favorites from the list? No, save for Stadium Arcadium, but they are the ones with wide appeal, good reviews, Grammy nominations and wins, and the ones with the songs the average radio listener is likely to recognize and therefore request from the library. As rock fans look back on the 1990s and remember albums like Nevermind, Metallica, Automatic for the People, Ten, and The Downward Spiral, these are five albums that I think will be remembered a decade from now.

Crossposted at Pop Goes the Library

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Janes in Love With Comics

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sandy Clawstrophobia

The reason I don't talk much about movies, in this blog or to anyone else, is because I'm not that big a movie watcher. And when you don't watch a lot of movies, you feel like you don't have an "acceptable" answer to the question of what your favorite movie is. My friends and family all have really cool favorite movies. My sister's favorite movie is Run Lola Run. My mom's favorite movie is The Day the Earth Stood Still. My husband's favorite movie is Star Wars.

My favorite movie depends on who I'm talking to. If I'm talking to someone I have to impress with my intelligence and worldliness, I tell him/her that my favorite movie is Do the Right Thing. If it's someone who I know fairly well, however, or someone that I know won't judge me for my tastes, I tell him/her that my favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Thing is, I like both these movies equally. I've enjoyed all the Spike Lee movies I've seen, and all the Tim Burton movies. I know they're about as different as one person's favorite movies can get, but they're my favorites and I'm sticking with them. When you're not sure what a person will think of you when you reveal your favorite movie to him/her, you always go with the more "intelligent" of the picks, yes? I have always found The Nightmare Before Christmas to be witty and fun, but if you tell someone you don't know that it's your favorite movie, their probable reaction will be, "Isn't that a kids' movie?" Yes, just like Harry Potter is a kids' book.

This message brought to you by my enormous happiness at the release of the 2-disc collector's edition DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Because if you can't sing your love for Tim Burton loud and proud, life is no good.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Read it like you mean it

When students have to produce an essay on a book they care nothing for, it becomes a nightmare for both the student (think "all-nighter") and the teacher, who'll spend precious weekend hours reading papers devoid of content. The upshot of this empty drill: teens increasingly resistant to great books.

This, and the rest of it, a thousand times yes.

Sometimes I think that the hardest part of being a YA librarian is not reaching teens, but reaching teachers, parents, and school administrators who don't know anything about modern YA lit, refuse to learn about it, and see no value in it. Analyzing any book to death does the reader, the writer, and the teacher no favors, but when my youngest sister raided my room for copies of her assigned English books when she was in high school, I had to sigh. She's ten years younger than I am. Also, a true story: When she was in sixth grade, her class was assigned The Dark is Rising and the class had to write an analysis of every page of the book. Every. Page. No wonder she and her friends "hated" it.

Here's another true story: When I was in high school, I was what one might refer to as a reluctant reader. I didn't mind finding books on my own at the public library, and there were books I found on my own that I loved, like What's Eating Gilbert Grape?. All through high school and into college, however, I felt endlessly frustrated by what I had to read. It wasn't that I couldn't understand it, though there was certainly some of that, it was that I always felt like I could never give the teacher the answer he or she wanted to hear. If I didn't analyze the text "correctly," I would get a lower grade. None of my teachers had books in their classrooms other than the ones their classes were assigned. No books but the ones we were assigned were ever discussed in the classroom. I'll never forget reading The Great Gatsby sophomore year. Now, this was a book I actually quite liked once I got past the first chapter. But my most distinct memory was of my teacher reading to us the passage where Daisy is upset that sometimes she misses thinking about the longest day of the year, and he looked up and said to the class, "Isn't that superficial?"

I knew then that I would never make it as an English major in college. Personally, I look forward to the longest day of the year and thought as a sophomore in high school, and still think to this day, that there are many worse things to be upset about missing. I also have distinct memories of taking quizzes on the required reading for my education classes, and getting lower grades because I read the text but interpreted it differently than my professor wanted me to. Yeah, college was hell.

Sure, there's value in analyzing a text. It teaches us to look beyond the simple words on a page and see an author's thoughts about humanity. But there is also value in not reading the same book year after year, in using age-appropriate books that will speak to teens as human beings, not just as minds to analyze a text and take a test on it. There is value in classic books, and there is value in YA lit. There is a time and a place for analysis, and a time and a place for simply enjoying a novel. Maybe one day the majority of high school classrooms will educate their students about this balance.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wizards > Vampires

I do believe this settles the Harry Potter vs. Twilight debate once and for all.

Warning labels for books: This time in Missouri

The story is nothing new to librarians:

South St. Louis County-based Citizens Against Pornography is taking steps to see that parents are informed about sexually explicit material in books targeting young-teen readers — books that can be found throughout the St. Louis County Library system.

Because we all know that librarians are never available to talk about the books, and all teens mature at the same rate, and that a book is only the sum of its parts. Etc.

I think the scariest thing there might be the idea of an "Adult Advisory Committee." Would anyone who knows anything about YA literature serve on that committee, or would it just be people who read YA books for the good parts, or...?

We lie. There IS such a thing as a dumb question.

The question every librarian is asked most often at the reference desk is not "Where's the bathroom?" but "Can I ask you a dumb question?" To this, I usually respond, "There is no such thing as a dumb question."


There is such a thing as a dumb question, and the MTV Movies blog has asked it: Team Bella or Team Hermione? Whose side are you on?

Let's look at this question.

To ask a person to take a side in an issue, you must ask them to take one side or another concerning the same issue. Clowns are scary vs. Clowns are funny. Either way, it's a question about clowns. When MTV asks "Bella or Hermione?" they're trying to get people to take "sides" on two completely dissimilar things. It was one thing to ask, "Should Harry ride off into the sunset with Hermione or Ginny," because all the characters were in the same book and Hermione vs. Ginny was two sides of one issue. That is, of course, if you only read every other word of the books and couldn't see the Ron/Hermione coming from miles away. By asking "Bella or Hermione?" MTV assumes that Bella and Hermione represent two sides of the same issue, and they don't. They're not even in the same book.

Bella is a narrator and Hermione is a secondary character, to start. I suppose they're both book-smart, but the evidence we have of that for Bella is somewhat minimal at best. The theme of Twilight is romance and the theme of Harry Potter is the battle between good and evil. Hermione is resourceful and stands up for herself. Bella cooks dinner for her father and lets other men stand up for her. Even the book's perspectives are different: Twilight is first-person and Harry Potter is limited third-person. Bella is remarkably average and Hermione is remarkable. I don't particularly like either character, and that's about all I can see they have in common.

Would someone please explain why this is even a debate? I mean, I guess the blogger wants to compare the main female characters of two bestselling YA series, but so what? Even the bestseller numbers are dissimilar: Breaking Dawn's first print run (2 million) was only 16.67% of that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (12 million). I like a spirited debate as much as the next person, but this is not a debate. This is comparing apples and pineapples.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Presentation available: Trends in YA Lit

I was born without the fear of public speaking. I may have other fears, but I fully embrace speaking to a crowd of people. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited to a multi-district librarians' workshop in eastern PA. I get to talk to a group about YA lit! I promised the librarians there that I would make my Powerpoint presentation, as visually dull as it was (I don't like Powerpoint), available online.

During my two-hour presentation, I talked about current and upcoming trends in YA lit, hot books and authors, reaching reluctant readers, and social networking. It was a lot to cram into 2 hours and I could have talked for 6, but I had a great time anyway and I think the audience did too. For those who are interested, you can view the presentation via Google Documents: Trends in YA Lit (and how to make them work for you). Anyone is welcome to use part or all of the presentation, but I would greatly appreciate your asking my permission first.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Enter Hogwarts all over again

It's hard to believe that next month will mark the 10th anniversary of the US publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I swear just yesterday it was October of 1999 and I was in Conkey's Bookstore, anxiously checking their new books tables for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I've known Harry longer than I've known my husband and some of my closest friends. Since I first met Harry I've finished my Bachelor's and my Master's and acquired driver's licenses in four different states (not all at the same time). I waited in line at release parties for four of the seven books. Ten-year-olds used to stop me in airports and ask where I got my "Gryffindor House Quidditch Team" gym bag. It's been a long, strange trip, and a great one.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of book 1, Scholastic is holding an all-day Harry Potter Readathon on September 23rd at its SoHo building. Starting at 8 a.m., each person in line will get a chance to sit in J.K. Rowling's throne and read aloud from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They have little gifts for those who read, too. For those who can't attend in person, there will be a live webcast at Scholastic's Read Harry site. I'll be there in my sparkly "Team Rowling" t-shirt.

The Latent Powers of Playing With Matches

Call it the John Green effect. Call it the Superbad effect (especially if David Krumholtz is involved. Whatever you want to call it, or if you call it nothing at all, more and more boy-centric YA romances are hitting the shelves. Last week, I read two that I enjoyed, and they get a joint review.

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie follows a boy who is trying to keep his head on straight in his increasingly dramarific life. His mother left the family for another man. His father is never home because he's always working. His brother Randy is many things Dylan wishes he could be: intelligent, a talented musician, an artist. He's also a pothead with zero interest in succeeding in school. In most other YA novels, Dylan could tell his best friend Angie about his problems. The problem here is that Dylan wants to date Angie, who would rather just be friends. Even worse, Angie is dating a guy Dylan finds pretentious. With the help of health food, basketball, and a newly-hired housekeeper who cooks German food, Dylan navigates his way through crushes, pot, jam sessions, and being the star of Angie's independent film.

It sounds like a lot to cram into one book, but Lurie balances it all. Dylan is endearing even when he tries to keep the reader at arm's length. His crushes and frustrations are totally sympathetic. Given Dylan's family it would have been easy to write him as just another spoiled New York poor little rich kid. Dylan, however, has taken on a protector role not usually seen in the Rich New York Kids subgenre. Although he's no saint, he cares deeply about those around him and in order to maintain what he believes is an even keel, puts himself on the line.

April Lurie's blog || Review at Becky's Book Reviews

Playing With Matches by Brian Katcher is a first novel about the kid in high school no one wants to be. Leon Sanders is neither hot nor popular nor particularly brilliant. His friendships are more friendships of convenience than commonality, and his high school is out in the middle of Nowheresville, Missouri. The only kid in school less popular than Leon might be Melody Hennon, who has severe facial scars from a fire earlier in her life. When Melody and Leon are matched up as locker partners, Leon finds that Melody is friendly and they have quite a lot in common. There's no way they can be more than friends, though. After all, Melody is the school outcast and Leon likes Amy, the hot girl in his chemistry class. As time passes, Leon and Melody grow closer but all along he denies that he's dating her, even taking Amy to a school dance. Leon thought he'd be the last person on earth to get a date, much less be part of a love triangle, but there it is. Amy or Melody? The girl who would raise his social status or the girl who likes him for who he is? It's an easy choice for the reader to make but for Leon, not so much.

Leon's confusion and honesty come through clearly, with a good dose of humor. While teen girls, or anyone who's ever been one, will probably roll their eyes at Leon and say, "Boys are so dumb!" it's always easy to see exactly where Leon is coming from in regards to his relationships with Melody and Amy. He doesn't mean to be a jerk. He doesn't mean to manipulate. All he's doing is following his earnest feelings, and that's what gets him in trouble and makes him look like a jerk to outsiders. Fact is, though, Leon is somewhat overwhelmed by his feelings and really not up to making the "right" decision. All he can do is go with his gut until his friends put him in his place.

I think the most interesting thing to observe about these two books, and what might be a forthcoming trend in YA, who knows? is the lack of plot. Wait! This is not a bad thing. As Stephen King pointed out, our lives don't have plots; they're mostly a series of events influenced by others. Both Dylan Fontaine and Playing With Matches capitalize on the idea that we can only take on life as it comes to us, and high school romances are complicated. I'm curious as to who will read these books, but I think those that do should enjoy them, as I did.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not on, Warner Brothers

Via The Leaky Cauldron: Release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie pushed to July 17, 2009.

So. Uncool.

At least it's after ALA?

Sorority 101: Rush to read it

Books about sororities, I thee dread. Looking at the world of fiction, one would think that college sororities are only good for instilling eating disorders and making a person buy one's friends. Having been in a sorority, I can tell you that while all fiction has some place in fact, my life in a sorority was simply not like that. Being in a sorority helped me develop leadership and social skills and introduced me to a lot of women I might not otherwise have met, even at my small liberal arts college. As an alum, I regularly meet up with my sorority alumnae association, and it's lots of fun. We have women in the group ranging in age from 23 to 85, and our dinners and parties are always full of good conversation and great food. Now that I've said this, you can probably understand why I was nervous upon picking up the first two books in the Sorority 101 series, Zeta or Omega? and The New Sisters by Kate Harmon, copies courtesy of Penguin/Speak (thank you!).

The plot: Veronica (Roni), Lora-Leigh, and Jenna are all from very different backgrounds, but they all end up attending Latimer University, a school of 2500 students in Florida. Roni is running from her rich Boston parents, who care more about how they look to the neighbors than what Roni wants to do with her life. Jenna is the oldest of four sisters and recently diagnosed as a Type I diabetic, and college is a chance for her to prove she can live independently. Stylish Lora-Leigh would rather be at FIT designing clothes and is only at Latimer to make her mother happy. All three go through sorority recruitment (formerly known as Rush, but it hasn't been called that in almost 10 years) with different expectations...or in Jenna's case, no expectations at all; she was talked into going through by her roommate, who hopes to join a sorority. As the recruitment period progresses, Roni, Jenna, and Lora-Leigh become close friends and each other's support system. They swear to remain friends, but will they be lucky enough to also become sisters?

Why you'll love it: Finally, a book about sororities gets it right. So many other books focus on the pressures of what to wear and what to say during recruitment that they forget how fun recruitment can be. I had a blast during mine, and later in my college years served as Membership (aka Recruitment) Chair in my sorority and as a Rho Chi, or Recruitment Counselor, someone who answers questions from freshmen and guides them through the recruitment process. There are skits and good conversation, and during the final parties, members of sororities get to talk about what their organization means to them. In book 2, we see the three girls going through their new member period, which is when you learn about the history and traditions of your organization and prepare for initiation. The action moves nicely and there's an appropriate amount of suspense around the girls finding the right group for them and receiving bids, or invitations to their sororities. And of course, there's romance, family drama, and a look at the perils of the college freshman-roommate-matching algorithm. With college being the new high school in both TV and YA literature, it's nice to see a book that emphasizes the positives of sorority life and doesn't play into stereotypes.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

YA authors and their messages

One of today's entries at BuzzSugar is "Should Young Adult Authors Be Careful With Their Messages?" which stems from a discussion on Jezebel about the anti-feminist messages in the Twilight series. There's a poll included with the BuzzSugar entry, and as of the writing of this post it stands at 30% yes, 60% no, and 10% other.

My answer is "no." Not because I think teens shouldn't be exposed to a wide variety of ideas, but because I don't believe YA should be held to a different standard than adult literature. An author's job is to tell a story, not to send a message. If an author wants to send a message, I say go for it, but believe me, reviewers will notice and teen readers will notice even more if the book is didactic and meant to teach a lesson rather than to tell the main character's story. If we don't hold adult lit to the It Must Teach A Lesson standard, then YA and children's lit should be treated the same way. Fact is, not everyone needs the same lessons, or wants them. And what if those YA books teach teens a lesson their parents don't want them learning? Would that change a person's answer in BuzzSugar's poll from "yes" to no?" Also, the "teach a lesson" idea assumes that all readers would take the same lesson away from a book, but we all know that no two people ever read the same book.

This message brought to you by the incredibly preachy book I read yesterday. I got done with it and threw it in the trash. Yes, it was that awful.

Happy 20th birthday, Teen Ink!

When people ask me what made me decide to become a librarian, I always tell the story of my first trip to the local public library. At least, it's the first one I can remember. I walked into the children's room and thought, "This is home."

In the twenty years that passed between the first time I checked out Dorrie and the Birthday Eggs and the time I received my MLIS, I went through a few other career ponderances. When I was five, I wanted to be a ballerina and a bus driver. I can't dance and I hate to drive, so I'm sure you can imagine how that turned out. When I was a freshman in high school, I wanted to be a writer. I'm sure if I'd known about Teen Ink then, I'd have tried my hand at submitting something. In my librarian years (which followed my professional musician years), I've encouraged my aspiring writer teen patrons to submit to this magazine, which has 100% teen-written content.

Although my passion was fiction when I was in high school, Teen Ink prints essays, poetry, short stories, visual art, and book reviews, so there's something in there for most creative teens. They also offer blogs on a variety of subjects, and teen readers can friend them via MySpace and Facebook. Most importantly -- and this IS important in an age where anyone can put up a website about anything -- Teen Ink will never charge a teen money to get published. Their content is diverse; they've published essays ranging to "Why I'm Not on Facebook" to "The Final Exam." If you haven't read it yet, pick up a copy. I think you'll be surprised in a good way.

Dewey love to shop or what?

Yesterday it was book t-shirts, today it's Dirty Librarian Chains, featured in W magazine and apparently on Gossip Girl. Their collection of necklaces includes the "Reserve," the "Call Number," and the "Database Necklace." I think my favorite is the "Chapter" pendant. Wonder if they give discounts to ALA members. Probably not, alas.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Read it or wear it!

Styledash has a fabulous new gallery: Book t-shirts. I'm waiting for them to come out with one for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or maybe The Book Thief.

Looking for great YA? Try Oprah.

I love it when reading lists get it right, and I love it even more when Oprah's Book Club list gets it right.

This might be an old link, but I'm just seeing it now so I'm blogging about it now: Kids Reading List: 12 Years and up. I always dread those "12 and up" reading lists because too much of the time they're nothing but books written for adults prior to 1950. Too much of the time, reading lists for kids over 12 consist of "the classics" and maybe, if we're really lucky, The Outsiders. Not the case here. Oprah's list for teens include books published as late as October, 2008 and it includes some of my favorite titles from recent years, including Paper Towns, You Know Where to Find Me, and The Wednesday Wars. The second page of the list includes five genre classics, including Stargirl and The Ear, The Eye and the Arm.

What I find especially heartening about the second page of this list is that it acknowledges that not only are there great YA books, but it's a genre with its own classics. Ask anyone who doesn't deal in YA literature for a living what a classic novel for teens is, and they're most likely to name books along the lines of Catcher in the Rye or A Separate Peace. There's a legitimacy to these answers, don't get me wrong, but there's still a massive failure in the media and among teachers and parents (and even some librarians) to acknowledge that YA is its own genre, it's here to stay, and it has classics of its own. You can never tell at the time what will become a YA classic, but that's half the fun of watching the genre grow over the years.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nick and Norah's infinite soundtrack

The soundtrack listing for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist As you would expect it to be, it's full of indie rock, both new and previously released. I confess I've heard of almost none of the bands because my taste in music is more Led Zeppelin, Rush, and The Who, but perhaps I shall expand my musical knowledge and check out these bands.

Soundtrack listing is available here: Vampire Weekend, Devo Dude Team for Movie Song.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

YA lit trend watch: Boys with eating disorders

It seems to me that every year there are two, maybe three books, written independently of each other and published by two separate companies, that touch on the same topic. In 2007, for example, there were two books about boys molested by their female teachers, and there were also two retellings of Hamlet. Today, I seem to have come up with two books about boys with eating disorders, which is a subject I find somewhat fascinating. So, a joint review of both.

Nothing by Robin Friedman is half verse, and half prose, in a dual first-person point of view. Parker is the older of two children. He's a super athlete, super achiever, and super pressured by his father to get into the elitest of elite colleges: HarvardYalePrinceton. Parker feels like anything short of perfection, in love, in academics, in extracurriculars, in religion, is a sign of complete and utter failure. The only thing Parker feels that he can control is his eating, or rather, his binging and purging. He knows it hurts him and he's slowly losing energy and the will to keep up with his own life, but vomiting is the only thing that makes him feel good anymore. His younger sister Danielle narrates her part in free verse. She's more the forgotten child; she has her own interests and she's smart, but it seems like she can never get out of Parker's shadow. Eventually, Parker's eating disorder catches up to him, and here Friedman effectively uses verse to show not only Parker's inability to work his brain the way he used to, but his drop in status from his family's golden child to the disappointment. Friedman manages to make both characters well-rounded and distinct, and the book doesn't read like an encyclopedia entry on eating disorders. It plays a little fast and loose with New Jersey geography, but I'm willing to forgive that in favor of the book's merits. I know teens who read about eating disorders will often read every eating disorder book they can get their hands on, and this is definitely one to give them.

Purge by Sarah Darer Littman is a semi-autobiographical novel told from the point of view of Janie, hospitalized for bulimia. In her journal, Janie chronicles her daily life and the rigor of life in a treatment center. In the center, she meets Tom, who suffers from both anorexia and bulimia. As Jenny writes about her three weeks in therapy, the reader sees the complications in her family and social life that drive her to binge and purge. Her road to recovery requires that she dredge up painful memories, but unlike Tom, Janie is lucky enough to have a family that supports her and wants to see her get better. It's readable in the same way that Lockup is watchable for me. There's something highly compelling about a book that reveals so much about a life with so few freedoms, where everything you do is controlled by someone else and all you have are your own thoughts and feelings. Readers will like Janie. She's honest in her journal the way she wouldn't be in a standard narrative. This is another one that should be popular when it comes out in spring '09.

I'm not sure if this trend of YA books involving boys with eating disorders is a trend, per se. It's not like fantasy or vampire books where you can play with the legends and genre conventions. Eating disorder books have been popular with teens for decades, anyway. What I do think is that boys with eating disorders will get more recognition, and perhaps teens with eating-disordered boy friends will help them get the help they need. Either way, it's a nice diversification of the subgenre. And of course, YA lit is doing it first.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Follow Librarilly Blonde on Twitter

Thanks to the Twitterfeed help forum, I've now set up this blog to feed to Twitter. If you'd like, follow me on Twitter and get your updates there. Also, I like having Twitter friends.

Adorable comics meta

Via Neil Gaiman's blog: What if Charles Schultz drew Sandman?

You have to know Sandman in order to "get" it, but if you've read the comics, it might be the cutest thing ever. Well, maybe not the cutest thing ever (I think that award goes to my cats), but it'll definitely make you smile.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tinhattery, happy endings, and Breaking Dawn

Tinhattery, happy endings, and Breaking Dawn

First thing to know before you read the rest of this entry: I have not read Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, nor do I plan to despite her excellent taste in naming characters. (Carlisle AND Carlie? Awesome.) My opinions on the subject of this entry are entirely speculation, based on a little fandom experience. That said...

Author Maggie Stiefvater noted in her blog today that fans of the Twilight Saga are not enjoying Breaking Dawn, with almost an equal number of 5-star and 1-star reviews. Currently there are 860 reader reviews and an average rating of three stars. Stiefvater suggests that this is due in part to the fact that Meyer ties everything up neatly at the end of the series. She compares the very neat ending of BD to the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which, despite the epilogue that I like to pretend doesn't exist, was not entirely happy. It left the readers with a mix of emotions. Not everyone got everything they always wanted and lived happily ever after. Stiefvater's conclusion is that readers like to be treated badly by an author, which made me smile in a good way. In general, Stiefvater's blog entry is made of win. The comments mostly agree and offer their own speculations as to why fans didn't like the ending, but none of them touch on one of my opinions: That Edward was taken away from female readers, and because he's living happily ever after with Bella, he can't live happily ever after with them.

Many readers of the Twilight Saga have said that Edward is the perfect boyfriend: He's hot (or cold, as the case may be), he's smart, he's rich, he's got amazing physical prowess, and he loves Bella no matter what. He does everything that he believes is in her best interest, including leaving without a trace for three months. But it's all okay, because it's all to make Bella a better person. Personally, Edward creeps me out, but there are legions of teenage girls who would disagree vehemently with me. Legions of teenage girls want a boyfriend exactly like Edward. They want to marry Edward and live happily ever after on a sunny island. They also know that the boys in their high school can't compare to Edward. How could they? So finding perfection in a boyfriend, at least at their high school is out of the question. They can, however, read about Edward and imagine being with him as described by Bella, and I think due to the book's being in first person they may even be able to imagine themselves as Bella, especially because Bella is devoid of most characteristics that would make her a normal high schooler (she has no extracurricular activities, for example). I haven't gone looking for Twilight fanfic, but I have a feeling there's quite a large number of fics in which Edward meets a new girl named Serena and he ditches Bella for her.

Are readers doing this consciously? I don't think so. They're of the same mindframe that leads fanfic writers to create Mary Sues: Often, readers want to be a part of a character's life and there's no way to do that other than fantasy. With Edward and Bella most definitely together forever and living a conflict-free life, the fact that the reader can never be with Edward is cemented. Romances work best when there's conflict, or when characters are flawed, or both. It's why Ron and Hermione's romance worked for me but Harry and Ginny's didn't. We all develop literary crushes and we all like to see romances succeed, but I think there's a degree of jealousy, small or large, on the part of the reader that spawns from not being able to have Edward.

Set your DVR for True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet

One of the coolest things that can happen to an author is that her book gets made into a movie, right? Okay, NYT bestseller status and lots of fans probably don't hurt either. I'm very excited for my friend, author Lara Zeises, who also writes as Lola Douglas, because her book True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet was made into a Lifetime movie and it premieres on August 9. Joanna Levesque (JoJo) will play Morgan Carter/Claudia Miller, and Valerie Bertinelli is playing Trudy. I was hoping they'd cast Gwyneth Paltrow as Morgan's AA group leader, Carlie, but alas, she was busy filming Iron Man. Lara's having Lola Week on her blog, so go visit and see links about the movie and its stars.

While you're waiting for the movie, you can learn more about the (very good) book and its sequel, More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Influence of YA lit

Upon reading about the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson book, Influence, on over the weekend, I noticed one thing missing from the People article: No one mentioned that Influence is being published as YA by Penguin Books for Young Readers. It was in their fall catalog, which I received last week. PW says it'll have a 200,000 first print run.

Now I have to wonder why no one mentioned it. It could be that it simply didn't fit into the article. Or the person who wrote the article doesn't know what division of Penguin is publishing it. Or they didn't care. Or they didn't mention it because YA lit is only Twilight, Harry Potter, and Gossip Girl. I can easily see why it's being published as YA: Teens are known for being especially interested in celebrity lives and fashions. Fashion design is a hot up-and-coming college major and I know if I were interested in that I'd love to read about Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano and all those other people whose clothes I can't afford. I think the idea of writing about and interviewing those who influence you is a neat idea for a book, something more interesting than the average 64-page celebrity bio that we see so much of in book catalogs. I've requested a copy and when it comes out, I'll read it. And encourage BCCLS librarians to buy it for YA.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Amazing authors: Pete Hautman

It's the time of year when I make my rounds of BCCLS libraries that are participating in Talk It Up!. This year, I went to Rutherford, Maywood, Franklin Lakes, Ridgefield Park, Ridgefield, and Nutley. They all seem to have enthusiastic participants and the leaders have chosen some excellent books, and I'm thrilled for all of them. Today's story is from Ridgefield.

This is Ridgefield's first year participating in Talk It Up!. They have an enormous group who really seem to enjoy their time at the library. When I was there, the book of the week was Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, and next week's book was Invisible by Pete Hautman. I was talking with Lisa, the children's librarian, about the book choices, acquiring copies, etc., and she told me something that nearly made me fall over: She had gone to Baker & Taylor's website to order copies of Invisible and found they were out of stock. She emailed Pete Hautman to let him know...

...and he sent a box of 20 paperback copies of Invisible, plus author pamphlets, to the Ridgefield Library.

I know not all authors can do this, for many reasons (and please don't spam authors asking for similar favors), but Pete Hautman, if you ever read this, thank you for your support of Talk It Up! and a BCCLS library. It was supremely awesome of you to do this.