Monday, February 23, 2009

not reading

A sort of common phenomenon among people who live in small apartments (or at least among several I know) is having dreams in which one's apartment is suddenly bigger in one way or another. I used to have a boring but constantly recurring dream of a very specific better apartment that was exactly like mine except every time I dreamt it I would notice something new I'd not seen before, and then go about opening new drawers and marveling at how strange it was that I'd never noticed I had two bathrooms, or a downstairs. Waking up in the real space was always a disappointment.

And now I live in a new apartment, even smaller than the one before, but with a charming little garden in which I'll be planting things in a few months. And so last night I had a dream about the garden—first I came across a little patch of strawberries I hadn't realized were there, and then the more I looked the more there were and eventually I was pushing back overgrown bamboo leaves to reveal berries the size of footballs. Sadly, they were rotten, but what can you do?

The point is, I've obviously been thinking about garden-related things a little too much. I've been reading gardening books and browsing heirloom seed websites, and I found all these amazing pictures of creepy terrariums, and I've been drawing little plans of what goes where when. Honeysuckle along the back fence! And so on. Thus, I haven't finished, or even started, a single YA book all week.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NYC Teen Author Festival

Why am I just hearing about this? Why is the internet in general just hearing about this?? It's only a month away, and people are going to need time to tune up their bikes and/or get their plane, bus or train tickets—no one's going to want to miss this! And even us locals need some advance warning so we can think up good excuses for taking the week off work.

It's all happening March 16 - 22, the first-ever New York City Teen Author Festival. Loads of YA writers will be showing up at various locales all over town to read, sign books, talk about books and, um, perform in bands. Here's the schedule, and I assume you should refer to the facebook page for any updates. So, NYC-ers, who's coming with??

Juvenalia Smackdown
Monday, 3/16, 4-6pm, Tompkins Square Park branch of the NYPL, 331 E. 10th Street
Join Holly Black, Alaya Johnson, Justine Larbalestier, David Levithan, Diana Peterfruend, Scott Westerfeld as they read some of their (ahem) less accomplished work from their middle school and high school years. Hosted by Libba Bray.

I Have Seen the Future…and It Sounds Like This
Wednesday, 3/18, Mulberry Street Branch of the NYPL
Teen authors are notoriously stingy about reading from their works-in-progress. But for Guest of Honor Joe Monti, authors Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn, Eireann Corrigan, Justine Larbalestier, Barry Lyga, and Scott Westerfeld are willing to share a little bit from their future books. Hosted by David Levithan.

The Five-Borough Read
Thursday, 3/19
Click for all the details, but basically groups of YA writers will be doing readings at various public libraries in all five boroughs

Rock Out with TIGER BEAT!
Thursday, 3/19, 6pm at Books of Wonder
By day, Libba Bray, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Barney Miller, and Natalie Standiford are upstanding authors. But by night, they turn into … TIGER BEAT, the first ever YA author rock band. Tonight is their debut public performance … and it’s sure to go down in legend. With opening act The Infinite Playlists (Rachel Cohn and David Levithan reading a litany of musical references, but mercifully not singing).

I Love You, New York: Teen Lit in the City
Friday, 3/20, 6pm, NYPL, 42nd Street, Court Room
Join authors Coe Booth, Paul Griffin, Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Rita Williams-Garcia in a spirited reading and discussion about teen novels set in New York City – from the glamour of the gossip girls to the grit of the Bronx projects, from the everyday battles of the high school halls to the extraordinary events of 9/11.

Stuff for the Teen Age Ceremony
Saturday, 3/21, 1pm, NYPL, 42nd Street, Celeste Bartos Forum
This new list only has the best of the best, and includes books, music, movies, and video games. Featuring a keynote by Walter Dean Myers

Teen Authors Celebrate Teen Readers
Sunday, 3/22, NYPL, 42nd Street, Trustees Room, 1pm
Over a dozen authors salute teen readers and teen advisory board members from around the city, including Blake Nelson, reading from his upcoming novel Destroy All Cars.

The Biggest Teen Author Signing EVER
Sunday, 3/22, Books of Wonder, 4pm
Join over 40 authors for a signing extravaganza as they take over Books of Wonder, sign books, and converse with fans new and old. An incredible event that is sure to go down in book-signing history.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
Lovely reimagining of the fairy tale Snow-White and Rose-Red, brutal and gentle at the same time. I can see why so many people were calling this their favorite book last year.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary Pearson
I didn't know a thing about this book before I read it, except that lots of people were gushing about how much they liked it. And now I'm not going to give anything away, I'll just say that it was unexpectedly sci-fi-ish, which is rarely a bad thing. A girl wakes up after spending more than a year in a coma with few memories and the feeling that something is not quite right about her new life. And then she gradually figures out what's wrong and how to live with it.

This Full House, Virginia Euwer Wolff
I couldn't stop myself from writing about this one already.

Week's total: 3
YTD total: 18 new, 2 re-reads

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This Full House by Virginia Euwer Wolff (part 2)

Last week I just about hyperventilated when I learned that the final book in Virginia Euwer Wolff's Make Lemonade trilogy was out. And now I've read it, in a single bathtub sitting that lasted long enough to make my feet itch painfully after I eventually got out.

The plot gist: LaVaughn is a high school senior and gets into a rigorous program for underprivileged girls interested in medicine. She memorizes lots and lots of scientific things that are arranged poetically enough on the pages that I'm kicking myself for picking art over science way back when; Patrick (the old lab partner, remember?) is at a special science school himself and has access to fancy equipment at the university. Jolly is studying for her GED and cooking soup from scratch; Jeremy's in kindergarten and is already reading big words and announcing facts about insects. Then LaVaughn meddles a bit and figures out something that maybe she shouldn't know, or maybe she should, and it goes from there.

There was a little part of my brain that was thinking oh come on, this plot twist is just a smidge unlikely, but that didn't stop me from practically weeping several times, and mostly it doesn't matter anyway because these aren't plot-driven books. There are a lot more interesting and important things going on than whatever the characters happen to be doing.

It's really about how you have to be wrong before you're right, and how knowledge is power, and how if you stop and look at the things that no one else is paying attention to you could discover something important, and about how every sentence one utters must be understood as a question. And it's about how a woman's body knows how to give birth all by itself if it has to—literally, and as a metaphor that works for just about anything. Which sounds like it would be awfully preachy, but it's just so beautiful and lyrical that it's not; it's actually quite inspiring. A very satisfying ending for the trilogy. The whole thing left me wanting to be a better person.

**If you haven't read Make Lemonade and True Believer, by all means do. Immediately. But you could start with this one if you wanted to. I think it would stand perfectly well on its own.

Award-winners on video

Here's a charming video the ALA (that's the American Library Assocation, of course) made of their phone calls notifying the winner's of the recent youth media awards.

And did you know that the ALA has a youtube page filled with loads of other videos (some more interesting than others)? Because I didn't.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

2009 Cybils

The 2009 Cybils (that award given to children's and YA lit by childrens-and-YA-lit bloggers) have been announced. Here are the young adult winners from the various categories:

Fantasy and Science Fiction
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (and the middle grade winner was The Graveyard Book)

Graphic Novel
Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki (author) and Steve Ralston (illustrator)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
There's a nice review of The Graveyard Book in the New York Times that doesn't use the word creepy a single time.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I've been without internet access at home since Thursday. If this spotty service keeps up, I might have to start paying for my own connection again. Or I could just hang out in the local coffee shops like the real writers do. But real quick (because I'm at work) here's what I read last week:

Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson
I got an advance copy because I said I'd post a review on the book's myspace blog, so more on this one later.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
You already know this is awesome. I have to say I was expecting a little more creepiness though, just based on what I had heard from others. Hurry up and read it if you haven't yet, Rebecca!

Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta
Took me forever to get into it, and then it was all worth it.

Nation, Terry Pratchett
My preliminary and very rough calculations (more on whatever that means in a future post) show that this is the award-winningest book of 2008. I can't promise that'll still be true when all the data is tabulated, but if it is, it deserves it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Full House, Virginia Euwer Wolff

Oh my god. ohmigodohmigodohmidog. !!

The final book in Virginia Euwer Wolff's Make Lemonade trilogy is finally here: This Full House! The second book in the series, True Believer, won the National Book Award back in 2002, and some of us have been waiting impatiently ever since for the final chapter.

(True Believer was actually one of the first YA books I read as a grown woman whilst starting to come to terms with the fact that I'd rather read books intended for fifteen year olds than for adults. At first I was skeptical of the quote on the cover that called it "transcendent," because how transcendent can a book for kids really be? But it turns out that it is, in fact, rather transcendent. So I stood corrected, and quickly read all the other NBA winners and finalists, thus leading straight to my current/endless project that involves obsessively cataloguing and ranking award-winning YA books.)

Anyway. To me, this is exciting enough that I'm writing about it before I've read it, or have even seen it in an actual bookstore. I'm not even going to look at reviews, because I want to find out for myself.