Apr 20, 2011

I miss out on so much when I'm away.

Case in point,

YALSA announced the Teen's Top Ten, Amazon made me unhappy by ceasing their Scrooge-like behavior re: downloading free eBooks and the NYTimes told me it might be time to get rid of my iPod.

What's the deal universe?

Jan 19, 2011

Vampire YA Fiction

Have any of you out there who are not the target demographic read Melissa de la Cruz's Blue Bloods series? If you have not then all I can say to you is think Gossip Girl meets True Blood.

The books are addictive to say the least. Unlike Stephanie Meyer's sparkle-vamps (who bless them still hold a love-hate place in my crotchety YA book loving heart) these are a return to the original myth of vampires being fallen angels.

I read four of the books in a week. And I wanted to know what happened next so badly that I even skipped one book that wasn't in and went on to the next. Happily I missed enough that it will be worth reading but not so much that I was completely lost from there on in the series, which is important.

Am I the only one out there who has gone completely fan-girl for Blue Bloods?

Dec 27, 2010

Welcome to the Dark Side

Now that the Christmas insanity is over, I'll be back to blogging on a more regular schedule. Today I was on the NY Times homepage when the following discussion caught my eye: The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction.

Has anyone read this yet? I found the arguments to be nothing new, nor the contributors to be anything but the regular mix of popular young adult authors and english professors who have published books/articles on the subject. Their explanations as to why 'dark fiction' has become popular made me feel like I was sitting in my young adult literature class discussing the reasons why teens read fiction let alone dark fiction. Naturally the contributors referred to classic, popular, and notorious works of young adult fiction which the standard well-read Times reader would be familiar with or at least have heard of.

Could the Times not find a young adult librarian to participate in this discussion? Who else would be better to ask than an expert in the field, the very people who are there on the front lines assisting and seeing the choices teens make in regards to what they want to read. I'm hoping someone out there who is currently a young adult librarian will respond to that discussion.

Dec 14, 2010

Crossing the Tracks

Since the William C. Morris Award shortlist was released the other week I'm currently working on trying to read the finalists. The Morris Award is an annual award given to a first-time author writing their debut young adult novel. This award is only two years old but an excellent idea, since it helps promote those new voices which might not receive as much attention as the old stand-bys or hip authors who have lots of buzz surrounding their person and their writings and no, Neil Gaiman I wasn't talking about you. Or you, Caroline B. Cooney for that matter.

The first book off the list I chose to read was Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber. At first glance you might think the book is a work of historical fiction, but it isn't. Or at least it isn't in the way that you could argue Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains or Forge are historical fiction. By that I mean the setting (both time and place) are incidental as opposed to the driving force behind the plot. It could have just as easily taken place in the present day.

I'm glad it didn't. The 1920s setting in Kansas/Missouri is excellent because it is one of those areas of history that you don't see very often. You feel as though you were soaking up historical knowledge without the book beating you over the head, "WASN'T IT SO HARD BACK THEN?! PEOPLE WERE SO DIFFERENT." You get the point.

Iris Louise Baldwin is the 15-year old protagonist who is being shipped off by her dapper, shoe-store owning, neglectful widower of a father to be hired help to a Dr. Nesbitt and his elderly mother who live in Wellsford, Missouri. Iris wouldn't care if it weren't for the fact that her mother died when she was 6 and being sent away is essentially the last straw for her as far as her relationship with her father goes.

At the Nesbitt's Iris finds understanding and companionship through her developing relationships with the doctor, his mother, and a hobo dog named Marie. The only sour note is the tenant farmer Cecil Deets who makes Iris as well as the whole town uncomfortable with his drinking and suspected abuse of his daughter Dot. As in all good books, by the end Iris has grown believably as a character and the reader is left optimistic for her future.

I flew through this book because I enjoyed being immersed in the lives of Iris and the Nesbitt's in addition to the interesting portrayal of life in a small pocket of the Mid-West. I fear that only certain female teens and librarians will love this book since it isn't a contemporary setting full of snarky or scandalous teens. Because I don't think it will garner wide popularity I don't think it will win the Morris Award, although it really is a beautifully written and highly enjoyable work of young adult fiction.

Barbara Stuber, Crossing the Tracks, 2010, Simon & Schuster.

Dec 6, 2010

Zen & Xander Undone

Amy Kathleen Ryan, Zen & Xander Undone, 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

After their mother's death Zen and Xander Vogel deal with their grief in two very different ways. Zen, a black belt in karate spends most of her days helping to teach classes at her dojo and having conversations with her dead mother. Xander, who is headed for either MIT or Caltech after graduation wears 'slutty' clothing, drinks, experiments with drugs, and starts sleeping around with random guys. The book traces their grieving process which is marked by such events as receiving letters and gifts from their deceased mother ala P.S. I Love You, finding out a 'secret' from their mother's past, and going on a road-trip to find the truth of this secret.

The trouble is, a character like Xander is seen all too often in young adult fiction where a parent dies, and this makes her character less engaging than her sister Zen, who seems to be at least attempting to work through her grief internally rather than via rebellious behavior. There is also a half-hearted love triangle between the sisters and their neighbor which is hard to care about since the neighbor is kind of a jerky teenage boy who is clearly driven by his lust for Xander. And like in many young adult books, the father is hidden away (literally in this case, as he spends most of the book in the basement) from where he will minimally parent and minimally influence much of the action of the book until the end when the author brings him out to help wrap up the plot.

Should this be in a teen library collection? Yes, if only because of Zen's character which is so very different from most fictional teens dealing with grief. It's also better than many other books which deal with the death of a parent.