Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Book Awards 2010 - Young People's Literature WINNER!



MockingbirdMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine!!


The twitter feed was engrossing, if looong...

National Book Awards Tonight!!

Oh man.  So today's the day the National Book Awards are announced, and I didn't get around to writing up little reviews of the finalists.  Not surprising.  Still, I have to make a prediction, just so I can be wrong again. 

But I'm sort of torn.  Personally I thought Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi was the best of the bunch.
If you haven't read it, it's story set in a future gulf coast where the cities are drowned and gangs of indentured servants scavenge old oil rigs.  And then a wrecked clipper shows up with a not-quite-dead rich girl aboard, and adventure ensues.  Plus there are bioengineered half-men—there's no way a story can go wrong if it's got that!   So I enjoyed reading it; it felt similar to Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion in some ways, but I also realize that I'm sort of a sucker for a good dystopia, and I might be giving it extra points just for that. 

My second fave, Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers, will probably win.  Maybe. It's about a kid in jail who gets selected for a special work program that has him cleaning rooms in a nursing home. Of course he meets a patient who has a big impact and blah-di-blah, but this book should win a thousand awards for avoiding the cheesiness that you'd expect from such a plot.  Good characters all around, good nuanced story.  Etc. etc.  Plus Myers has earned this.  It's his third nomination—just give him the award already.

So, basically, one of the other three will win.  Cause I'm always wrong. 
Go here http://nationalbook.org/nba2010.html for all the finalists and interviews with the authors.

And then tune in tonight! 
There's twitter: http://twitter.com/nationalbook
There's facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Book-Foundation-National-Book-Awards/75553539481
Or, you know, check back here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Feminist YA

You wouldn't believe how quiet it is here at my work right now.  Somewhere up front I assume people are laughing happily and sipping espressos, but I'm all alone in a cavernous back room with only the air purifier for company.  It's so quiet that I'm alternately super-focused on what I'm working on (merging several databases into one rad super-database) and finding my mind wandering in strange ways.  For instance, I suddenly looked up and realized that I had spent at least ten minutes reading online reviews of Bugaboo baby strollers.  I don't have a baby or any interest in baby-related things, so it was really quite an odd thing to find myself doing.  Fortunately, the internet is full of other, more interesting things to stumble across too.  Like this over on the Ms. Magazine blog:

How I Picked 10 Best Feminist Teen Books of All Time  Apparently there's an article that names the 10 in the current issue and this blog post is there to drum up interest.  And it totally worked on me.  But it's sort of an irritating little post, one of those ones written by someone who seems to have little familiarity with the YA world, yet is writing as some sort of authority.

She seems to think that YA is a label that happens by accident, usually to women writers, and is a derogatory comment on the literary value of the book.  Of course it's true that sometimes books get labeled YA for marketing purposes, (sometimes even books written by men), but there are also many many many wonderful YA books actually written with a teen audience in mind.  Also, apparently the only way to avoid being forcibly relegated to YA is to include some "particularly horrific sexual violence."  And then she writes, after inventing that little problem: "Should we be concerned that girls are taken seriously as subjects of “adult literature” only if they’re brutally raped?"  Oy.  (Guess what!  I know a kind of non-rape-y book that almost always gets published for adults: Books about characters who aren't teenagers, or that are written from the perspective of an adult looking back on their youth rather than through the eyes of the young person.  Duh.)

Anyway.  Being mildly annoyed by something on the internet has really killed a little time here! And as soon as I can escape from this endless afternoon, I'll be heading out to pick up a copy of Ms. so I can find out what the 10 Best Feminist Teen Books are.  Brace yourself for an upcoming rage-filled rant, if my beloved Frankie Landau-Banks isn't on it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 National Book Award Finalists!

Ok, guys: it's totally on!  The Finalists for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature are out, and I haven't read a single one of them...
Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi
Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine
Dark Water, Laura McNeal
Lockdown, Walter Dean Myers
One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia

Interesting looking list though, right?  Some newcomers and some mainstays.  Back-to-back nominations for Rita Williams-Garcia (who was a finalist last year for Jumped).  A third nod for Walter Dean Myers (who was a finalist in 1999 for Monster and 2005 for Autobiography of My Dead Brother, and according to my calculations is the third most award-winning YA author ever.)

So it's time to hit the library and/or bookstore and get these read!  The winner will be announced on November 17th.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A couple things:

First, the internet problems that have been driving me mad all summer are finally fixed.  I'm typing this from my bed (I'm home sick today) instead of from two feet away from the modem because I have a wireless connection that works 100% of the time instead of about 12% of the time.  Turns out the cable company had connected me to the wrong box when I first moved in and it took about 800 different technicians to notice... 

Also, I now have a Kindle and an account over at netgalley.com, which means I can read free ARCs (a few of them at least).  For instance, right this second I'm reading Walter Dean Myers' new book Kick, which is due out in early 2011.  So that's cool.

And, most importantly, it's fall again--i.e. book awards season.  So get ready for timely updates of all the important news.  I'm pretty sure I'm back at work on this thing.  I might even update the upcoming events over on the right there.  Cause that's just embarrassing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top 100 YA books

A while back, I wrote about Persnickety Snark's list of the top 100 YA books.  There was a poll where you could submit your own top ten (mine's here); 735 people participated, and then Adele compiled the results.  All through July and August she's been counting down the results, a few at a time starting with this post, and finally the complete list is up. 

Number 1 is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and only two of the ones on my top ten made it to the top 100:  Octavian Nothing at #91, and How I Live Now at #65.

Definitely check it all out, and click through the older posts; it's all very interesting, especially all the comments from voters and blog readers.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cemeteries; eggplants; bald spots

I haven't been reading any YA again.  Or following the news about the goings-on in the biz.  I did read Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel, which everyone seemed to be abuzz about all at the same time. It's ok I guess, but it's awfully focused on frat culture.  Mostly I'm just typing up a post to procrastinate, because there is so much else I really should be doing right now.  And to whine about stuff.

Like: Something has gone wrong with my internet, and it's driving me mad.  It doesn't work and then it does and then it resets itself and doesn't again, and the router doesn't work at all, which is unbearable.  I have to sit on the couch with my laptop hooked directly to the ethernet like its 1999 or something.  Gah! (The good part is, the other day I hiked over to the Time Warner office to trade in my modem for a shinier one, just in case.  It didn't help of course, but the office is right across the street from Greenwood Cemetery, so I got to stroll through the graves after, which was very pleasant.)

And: A couple months ago I went to the garden center with a guy who also has a garden.  We each bought an eggplant starter.  I just visited his yard, which is way sunnier than mine, and his is a giant shrub now and is covered with eggplants, some many inches long already and dark purple.  Mine is maybe a foot tall and has three sad little blossoms that don't seem to be turning into anything. Next year I will have to focus on shade-loving vegetables, cause this is frustrating.  Also, the squirrels and/or raccoons are eating all my tomatoes.

And then in alopecia news (cause I know fans of YA fiction will care about my annoying scalp disease), check out my adorable stubble!  Too bad I don't have a proper camera, but there's a bunch there now, even a bit in the parts that look bare.  I know it still looks awful, but I'll take what I can get. It's been about six weeks since my first scalp shots, and a couple weeks since the second round.  So, it's obviously good that the follicles are responding, and I'll just be cheered by that instead of being deeply unhappy about the way "the spot" is still spreading.  At least it's not so achy anymore for some reason.  I'm so tired of having to pull my hair back to cover it every day; I'm almost looking forward to the time when that stops working and I can shave it all off and get a totally realistic hair tattoo. (I actually googled that phrase after an awesomely detailed dream in which I got an elaborate librarian-bun tattooed on my head.)

Now, to work!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recent Reading and Whatnot

You know how when you read a bunch of books close together you often find unexpected synchronicities? Like I remember once being totally amazed when I read two books back to back, both of which used the exact same song lyrics as major plot points.

For the WinAnd several weeks ago I read For the Win by Cory Doctorow, which was quite a mind-blowing education about gaming economies and global labor movements—everyone should read it!—and a terrific, page-turning story besides.  Immediately afterward, I read Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci, the follow-up to Streams of Babel, where the almost-thwarted terrorists have developed an even more terrible biological weapon, and are about to deploy it.  Less of a synch, but still both spent significant time on techy hacky computery moves that are supposed to sound impressive.  It was almost a shame to have read them so close together, because Plum-Ucci's book was hard to put down and all, but Doctorow's meticulous technical details are a tough act to follow.

And then today I read two books, both grabbed almost at random from the new book rack in the library, and they both turned out to be about terribly alcoholic parents and kids hiding dark secrets.  Happyface by Stephen Emond is about an awkward lonerish art kid who moves to a new school and is determined to not let on that there's anything wrong.  So he smiles so much that he gets the nickname Happyface (this made me cringe right through to the last page—stupidest nickname ever); he makes friends surprisingly easily, but they don't who know who he really is.  Of course eventually something has to give.  It's heavily illustrated Diary of a Wimpy Kid style. 

DawnDawn, By Kevin Brooks
Completely different tone and style, but there were so many similarities I kept getting confused and forgetting which book I was reading.  Missing fathers, heavy drinking mothers, awful family secrets that take most of the book to be revealed, unlikely new friendships.  And so on.  (Also, the girl in the cover illustration looks so much like an exact mix of Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz that it's distracting.  Right??)

And—awww!—my cat is curled up against my hip making sweet little sighs in her sleep.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Alopecia Areata

So, one of the things I've been very busy with while I've not been writing in this blog is suffering from alopecia areata.  Which is to say my hair is falling out, and I've been spending most of my spare time trying to hide a rapidly growing bald spot and freaking out about it. My spot is now three inches in diameter,  right on the crown of my head, and is bruised-looking and achy.  I've been getting steroid injections in my scalp which has caused some stubble to re-sprout in the initial spot, but hasn't stopping the handfuls of hair that keep coming out every time I shower.  My bathroom sink actually got clogged from all the extra hairs getting washed down it.  It's all so upsetting I can't even tell you!

Fairest of Them AllOf course, at times like this, I turn to YA lit. Fairest of Them All, by Jan Blazanin is a problem novel about exactly this issue.  Except that the alopecia sufferer is not a regular person like me, but a girl who has been groomed from birth to be a pageant contestant, dancer and actress; her identity and her paycheck depend on her beautiful hair.  When she loses her hair she has to figure out a whole new identity for herself, and a whole new way to relate to her stage mom.  Not as cheesy as it easily could have been, and I'm sure it will be inspiring for the average reader, but the terrifying progression of her hair loss was a real downer for me at the moment.

Because of AnyaBecause of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix is a book for slightly younger readers.  Anya loses all her hair, is very upset, wears a wig, gets found out, and everyone's mean to her except for Keely who stands up to the mean girls and cuts off her own hair in solidarity.  Informative.

But why can't someone write a book about a girl with a small bald spot that goes away and then everything is fine??

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ramona and Beezus

So I went to see this new movie Ramona and Beezus.  I've been a diehard Beverly Cleary fan since I was six years old, and I had a pretty bad feeling about it. There's no way a movie could capture the awesomeness of the books' memory for me.  But I had to see.  The pleasant surprise was Joey King as Ramona.  When I saw her picture in the ads I was dismayed and immediately rejected her as a Ramona.  Way too cute and blue-eyed. But she really did a great job; she somehow became pretty much the Ramona I've pictured forever.  Selena Gomez was charming too as an older sister, but movie-Beezus wasn't really Beezus.

 The problem with the movie was the script, which cobbles together plot points and seemingly randomly selected hee-larious scenes from all the books into an aimless mess.  The thing is, what Cleary did better than most children's writers is remember and  accurately capture the actual, unsentimentalized way it feels to be a kid going through everyday situations.  It's all in the subtle details, not in the wacky antics.  Not so with the movie.  Five years of the most dramatic Quimby dramas and the most amusing visual gags get condensed into a few months of movie time, so there's no room to just be a kid.  (Also, the books of course cover several years—years when kids grow up a lot.  So when 9-year-old movie-Ramona yells "guts!" when she's frustrated, making everyone laugh at her because, you know, guts isn't really a bad word, it's just weird.  It worked a lot better when Ramona the Pest did it as a kindergartener.)  To be fair, the kids in the audience were howling with laughter at several points, so there's that.

So.  Ok, it was sweet and charming and the occasional tension/mostly love in the family was obvious and as it should be.  I'd happily take an eight-year-old to it, and they'd love it.  But still.  Not that anyone wants my opinion, but I think the Ramona books deserve the full Harry Potter treatment.  A big-budget movie for each book in the series, with all the details meticulously recreated exactly as I grew up picturing them in my head.  I mean, in the movie they were about to go to "Macaroni Joe's" for a special family dinner out, for f***'s sake!  What happened to the Whopper Burger?!  These details matter!  Gah!
p.s. I'm not even going to talk about the Beezus/Henry romance.  Can. Not. Deal.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Metal Children by Adam Rapp

Did you know that there's a new play out about the banning of a YA novel in a small town?  It's true!   
The Metal Children: A PlayThe Metal Children by Adam Rapp, who of course is himself an acclaimed and sometimes controversial YA writer (his latest, Punkzilla, was a Printz honor book this year) and also an award-winning playwright.

I picked it up at the bookstore because I tend to pick up anything with his name on it, and when I saw what it was about I naturally bought it.  And then I read it and was like man, I hope they stage it in NYC someday.  And then I googled it and found that it's opening Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theater next week! (Which explains why it was prominently displayed in the store.) 

So.  Who's coming with?!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Top 10 YA Books!

So. Persnickety Snark is busy compiling a list of the Top 100 YA Titles. Anyone can take part--submit your top ten list to the poll and watch as she compiles the results in May. But today's the last day, and I've been procrastinating as usual.
Picking just ten was hard enough, but ranking them was almost impossible. For some reason I wanted to put more than half of them in the number 3 spot—good, really good, but not the best ever. I think if I had done this yesterday or did it tomorrow my answers would be different, but there's no time to dwell on that! These are ten awesome books for various reasons and I'm standing by them:
10. Witch Baby, Francesca Lia BlockI don't feel quite the same about this one when I re-read it now as I did in high school, but I remember exactly how I felt the first time I read it, and it was like I wasn't alone, and I cried and cried.
9. Rats Saw God, Rob Thomas
One of the best, honest stories about relationships from a guy's perspective I've ever read.
8. Celine, Brock Cole
Celine is a weird artist chick with a funny, unapologetic voice, even though she's often wrong.
7. The Canning Season, Polly Horvath
I've read this so many times. I've always been a fan of the misunderstood-kid-goes-to-live-with-the-eccentric-relatives kind of books, and this one does it up right. Am I allowed to say it's better than Roald Dahl?
6. True Believer, Virginia Euwer Wolff
This one just makes me want to be a better person.
5. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, M.T. Anderson
I mean, duh.
4. Skin Hunger, Kathleen Duey
Wow. Gorgeous and meditative and dark. It's about magic on the surface, but not really.
3. Fade, Robert Cormier
Bleak look at what would happen if an ordinary person could be invisible, could see things they weren't supposed to see and do things without consequences.
2. Bloodtide, Melvin Burgess
Best ever futuristic re-imagining of legendary creatures
1. How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
I'm not totally sure about putting this as number one, but one of them had to go here, and this is about as perfect a coming-of-age/war/survival/anorexia/bad parents/forbidden relationship story there is. It throws every single possible YA theme into one book and somehow ends up being much more than the sum of its parts.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Recent Reading, and etc.

I've been taking a bit of a break from reading YA lately.  And from this blog too.  Too many adult books to read at the moment.  Actually, among other things, I've been simultaneously reading The Feminine Mystique, Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present and working my way through season three of Mad Men on DVD.  The combination has been blowing my mind.

But now it's one of those Sunday mornings.  It's raining gently, which means the stupid birds that usually start shrieking outside my windows at the crack of dawn are quiet; I'm wearing ugly sweatpants and drinking coffee; my fatter cat is curled against my hip snoring loudly and the other one is washing her crotch in my lap.  Couldn't be more effing idyllic.  Basically I have nothing better to do than try to remember the few YA-related things I finished in the last several weeks:

The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 2)The Dead-Tossed Waves, Carrie Ryan
The sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this one features more zombie fun, plus new additions to the post-apocalyptic world of the first book: zombie-worshipping cults, the possibility of immunity to infection, other towns linked by the forest paths and so on.  Plus romance and running from the law. 

Funny How Things Change, Melissa Wyatt
Sweet story about a West Virginia kid who actually likes his small mining town and doesn't want to "get out" even though everyone's telling him he should.

I Am the Wallpaper, Mark Peter Hughes
This one's for slightly younger readers, and is slightly too silly. This girl decides to become more amazing so everyone will finally notice her and then her cousin starts posting her diary online and also some racy photos of her.  So yeah, people notice.


Audrey, Wait!Audrey, Wait!, Robin Benway
When I saw this in the library I had it mixed up in my head with Love, Aubrey, which I had been hearing good things about.  But Audrey, Wait is fun, though I really doubt that some random girl would get quite so much paparazzi attention without doing anything at all.  If she were some party girl or something, then maybe.

Things Not Seen, Andrew Clements
One of my favorite YA books of all time is Robert Cormier's Fade, so I am always excited to read a new story about invisible teenagers.  Unfortunately, this one's more a relationship story than any kind  of convincing exploration of invisibility. Nothing wrong with that I guess.

Unseen Companion, Denise Gosliner Orenstein
Lyrical story about racism in a small Alaskan town.

The Lost Conspiracy, Frances Hardinge
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan

Since last time: 8
YTD: 32