Saturday, May 1, 2010

A good read

Hello, sleepy blog and whomever is still lurking aroud here.

This afternoon, I finished reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. This was one of those books I kept setting down and walking away from because, as much as I wanted to race through it, I also just didn't want it to be over. Both Green and Levithan can do no wrong, and deciding to write a book together was genius. As I always do with books by both authors, I laughed out loud a million times. I also cried my eyes out at the ending, not just because it was really moving, but because I kinda wish real life would actually be that way (I don't want to spoil anything--but the ending is pretty implausible). Here are some of my favorite bits:

"It's hard to believe in coincidence, but it's even harder to believe in anything else." (114)

"when things break, it's not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together. it's because a little piece gets lost--the two remaining ends couldn't fit together even if they wanted to. the whole shape has changed." (174)

"it is so hard to accept that life is falling. falling and landing and falling and landing. i agree it's not ideal. i agree ... but there is the word that phil wrayson taught me once: weltzschmerz. it's the depression you feel when the world as it is does not line up with the world as you think it should be. i live in a big goddamned weltzschmerz ocean, you know? and so do you. and so does everyone. because everyone thinks it should be possible just to keep falling and falling forever, to feel the rush of air on your face as you fall, that air pulling your face into a brilliant goddamned smile. and that should be possible. you should be able to fall forever." (302)

Has anyone else read this? What else is everyone reading these days?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 2010 ALA Youth Media Awards

Well, everyone, they are finally up! I was, in fact, far far FAR too lazy to get up at six in the godforsaken morning to haul myself out of bed to be down there in person-- hell, I was even too tired to watch them IN BED on my laptop-- but I couldn't be happier with the results!

When You Reach Me winning the Newbery comes as a surprise to no one and is so wonderfully well deserved. I really adored this book and I feel immediately confident that kids who pick it up because of this medal will simply fall in love with it.

Likewise, I am absolutely thrilled for Libba Bray! It's a bit of a switch-up for me to have a horse I'm rooting for in the Newbery race, but no idea what's going to win the Printz, but that's definitely how it was this year. Going Bovine's win is entirely unexpected-- and I'm not the only one surprised. According to the compendium made over at Youth Services Corner blog, it made it onto 3 Mock Printz lists, and it won honors in none of them. Marcelo in the Real World, on the other hand, was considered in 15 different mock competitions, and received honors in many of them, but didn't even get an honor from the ALA. Meanwhile, I don't know that I've heard of any of the other books that were awarded. Selfishly, I find this very exciting-- it means I can still get Marcelo from the lirbary easily, and it means maybe I have even more YA books to check out. In an especially lucky turn of events, I even OWN an ARC of Going Bovine and can start it immediately. By which I mean right after I finish Will Grayson, Will Grayson :)

Beyond these two major awards, I found a host of smaller things to be excited about. Primary among them was the inclusion of Soulless by Gail Carriger as one of the 10 best books published for adults with teen audience appeal. As I am essentially a teen myself in my reading habits, I thoroughly enjoyed this particular book published for adults and think many other teens will as well.

What about you guys? What do you think of the major awards? Were there any smaller wins that you're excited about? Anything overlooked that you're heartbroken by?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Question for ALA Locals!

Hi lovely people! So, I'm a little vague about the part of Boston ALA is in, and am not having much luck with the ALA website or the MBTA website. You know how when you look up how to get places on the MBTA website, it tells you how to get practically to the *door*, when actually it might, at times, be easier to take the subway to the closest stop and then walk for 10 minutes? So I'm wondering if anyone has a sense of what T stops might be closest to the convention center.

I'll be on the floor on Saturday, I believe, but that will probably be the sum of my involvement. Hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


The American Library Association 2010 Youth Media Awards will be announced on Monday, January 18th, at 7:45 a.m Eastern time. You can stream the awards live here or see them posted on ALA's Twitter. I also read somewhere that they (ALA) should have the winners posted on their website by 9:30 a.m Eastern time.

Who will be at ALA?

Any predictions for winners?

Going Bovine

I just finished reading Libba Bray's Going Bovine. It was an absolutely spectacular read. It was hilarious and thoughtful and brilliant and absurd. I don't really want to write anything about it, because I don't want to spoil anything, but I highly recommend picking it up when you feel like reading something really mind-bendingly out there. If Tom Robbins and Douglas Adams collaborated on a novel, I think this would be the result. Here's one small paragraph from the book that sort of sums up a bit of what it's about:

As a kid, I imagined lots of different scenarios for my life. I would be an astronaut. Maybe a cartoonist. A famous explorer or rock star. Never once did I see myself standing under the window of a house belonging to some druggie named Carbine, waiting for his yard gnome to steal his stash so I could get a cab back to a cheap motel where my friend, a neurotic, death-obsessed dwarf, was waiting for me so we could get on the road to an undefined place and a mysterious Dr. X, who would cure me of mad cow disease and stop a band of dark energy from destroying the universe. (pg 257)

What a unique and engrossing read this was. Has anyone else read it?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

January 2010 pick

The official book club pick for January 2010 is Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me. Hopefully this will generate some good discussions, as I know many of us have already read it and are looking forward to a reread. Also, it may be a very timely choice as, I think, it's definitely got a good shot at the Newbery.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Beautiful the Ordinary

A quick plug for the wonderful book I read over the past few days, How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, edited by Michael Cart. The contributors all tell stories of gay, lesbian, and transgender characters, all different ages and at different stages of life, using many different formats. Stand out stories for me include Jacqueline Woodson's "Trev," about a 6-year-old girl who understands from early on that she is really a boy. Trev's family cannot accept this truth, despite Trev's doctor saying, "Trev is Trev. Let him be so." His father leaves, his brother thinks Trev is a freak, and his mother sort of wearily accepts this new reality. Transgender characters also take center stage in Francesca Lia Block's "My Virtual World" (FTM) and "The Missing Person" by Jennifer Finney Boylan (MTF). The stories are often about older teens, or adults reflecting back on life or dealing with some element of their past. Other contributors include David Levithan, Gregory Maguire, Margo Lanagan, Emma Donoghue, William Sleator, Eric Shanower, Ron Koertge, Ariel Schrag, and Julie Anne Peters. I highly recommend picking this up, as most of the stories were really well done. Also, I was really surprised to see so many trans characters included in this collection. I can only think of a few YA books about transgender teens (Luna, Parrotfish.... um... yeah, really, only two? With transgender teens as main characters?). Michael Cart sure knows how to put a collection together.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jumping Off Swings

Apparently I am into reading books on pregnant teens lately, because I just finished Jumping Off Swings, by Jo Knowles (Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College, 1995). Told from four points of view (the pregnant teen girl, the father of the baby, her best friend, and his best friend), the story revolves around Ellie's pregnancy, her struggle to decide what to do about it, and everyone's reactions to the news. Ellie has a reputation at school for giving it up easily, and Josh's friends, many of whom have slept with Ellie, encourage him to lose his virginity with her. "Told ya she was a sure thing," one of the guys says. Ellie, who feels unloved at home, can't understand why these boys just hook up with her and then leave her. Ellie admits she feels empty most of the time and hopes these encounters will fill her life, will make her loveable. After her one night stand with Josh, she ends up pregnant. She tells her best friend Corrine, who reaches out to Caleb (Josh's best friend and a boy who's nurtured a life-long crush on Ellie). As the girls spend more and more time at Caleb's house, Liz, his liberal and warm mother (who I love for saying, "Since when does having sex make someone less special?" when Caleb tells her how Ellie will hook up with anyone, and he thought she was different, special) suspects Ellie's pregnancy and Ellie leans on Liz for support, as her own parents can hardly look her in the eyes.

Overall, I felt the novel was uneven. Caleb (who, I guess because of his description of having curly hair and his particular way of speaking and his quiet crush, reminded me of Brian Krakow from My So-Called Life--an image I couldn't shake through the whole book) and Corrine are strong, thoughtful characters. Sad-sack Ellie seems to have almost no personality, and Josh's reaction and thoughts are interesting, but under-represented. The novel does manage to elicit emotion thanks to the characters' honest and varied reactions, but the emotional pull comes from all of the other characters, and not Ellie herself. It's a quick read, so if anyone else picks this one up, chime in with your thoughts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

When You Reach Me

Hey everyone--

I just got Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me out of the BPL-- there was no wait list or anything! If I bump it to the top of my to-read pile, would you guys be up for discussing it here? It's the subject of a lot of buzz for the Newbury, so I definitely want to read it before ALA Midwinter this January.

This reminds me: how many Boston area Misfits are going to Midwinter? Would any of you be interested in making a special Misfit outing to the ALA award announcement ceremony? I'm definitely going to be there, and I think it could be a fun opportunity for us to hang out face to face.

Ruby Oliver, Faceless No More

As everyone on this blog is well aware, I am a *huge* E. Lockhart fan. I spent most of 2008 utterly obsessed with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and this year, I think I've come to appreciate her Ruby Oliver books (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book and, The Treasure Map of Boys) just as much-- possibly even more. Their brilliance is quieter than The Disreputable History's (where Lockhart wears her PhD on her sleeve) but they are no less accomplished for it. All this is a long way of saying: I have a major interest in these books. So naturally, when I heard they were going to get new cover art this September, I was interested. And now, three months later, the covers are finally being shown to the public, and I (shockingly) have some opinions about them.1

Here's the new cover for The Boyfriend List, and links to the others can be found in the first footnote on this post.

Now, for my thoughts on these covers. First, to be fair, the small bits of good. These covers are very pretty. I can imagine them having serious shelf appeal.2 I don't totally hate the model, and the design aesthetic is definitely right on. The clothes they've picked out are cute, and somewhat Roo-appropriate. I'm not even going to complain that only one of the four covers features Ruby's glasses, and even in that cover she's not wearing them.3 Um. I like that they kept the font the same too? I guess? Also: they refrained from chopping off the top of Ruby's head or changing her race, so many worse things could have happened.

That stated, I still don't like these covers. It's not just because I thought the old covers were adorable, and perfectly suited to the books. It's not just because I already have a *matched set* of the first three books in hardcover-- a set that will now be RUINED because the fourth book won't match. It's that these are photo covers, and for the Ruby Oliver books photo covers are ALL WRONG.

In general, I dislike photo covers. Like every other literacy advocate I worry that they hamper readers' imaginations and generally limit the text in ways they don't need to. I especially dislike when books targeted at teenage girls feature models, as this one does, because honestly, don't girls have to see enough models already? And yet the publishing industry keeps putting them out, because apparently Photo Covers Sell.4 My dislike of these particular covers, however, goes deeper than my general dislike of photo covers. These ones are especially frustrating because they undermine one of the strongest choices E. Lockhart made when she wrote these books: the choice NOT to tell us what Ruby looks like. In The Boyfriend List, Ruby breaks the fourth wall and explicitly addresses the subject and, in the process, made one of my favorite observations about books written for girls:
I'm not telling you what I look like in any detail. I hate those endless descriptions of a heroine's physical attributes: "She had piercing blue eyes and a heaving milk-white bosom blah blah" or "She hated her frizzy hair and fat ankles blah blah, blah blah." First of all, it's boring. You should be able to imagine me without all the gory details of my hairstyle or the size of my thighs. And second, it really bothers me how in books it seems like the only two choices are perfection or self-hatred. As if readers will only like a character who's ideal-- or completely shattered.

Then, in a footnote on this statement, Ruby/Lockhart relents a tiny bit and satisfies her readers' curiosity by making a list of Ruby Oliver's "five perfect, ideal qualities" (ex. "long, dark eyelashes") and five which she justifiably hates (ex. "bad eyesight and an inability to wear contacts, so glasses always obscure eyelashes anyway, effectively negating them.") Throughout the books, other things about Ruby's looks are mentioned-- she likes her legs, for example-- but never once does Lockhart describe her in more detail than she does here. I think this love/hate method of description is just about perfect. This is exactly how I tend to think and speak of myself. I have certain aspects of my appearance I like, and other parts that I loathe in minute detail. I'll bet you anything that most of E. Lockhart's teen readers do as well.

And I'd also bet that, for those girls who managed to find Ruby, it was a relief to come across someone who they didn't have to compare themselves against physically. They don't have to think "Oh, Ruby may say such and such about her looks, but I know that *really* she's stunning, and nothing like me." Instead, they could pay attention to Lockhart's stellar writing, and feel like they were in the company of a girl who was as real as one of their friends. They could think of a 15 year-old girl who actually looked 15. While these photo covers can't change the words inside of the book, by choosing this model pretty girl to represent Ruby, the publisher is undermining Lockhart's artistic vision. They are changing Ruby from the normal-looking but intensely lovable girl of Lockhart's text into a girl who could sell you lip gloss-- and probably has. Lockhart has very deliberately written about a girl who is somewhere between perfectly ideal and completely shattered, and she stresses in no uncertain terms how important that choice is. So it's depressing that Delacorte decided that girls will only buy her books if they are marketed with yet another impossibly ideal face.5

Along with the publisher, I genuinely hope these new covers achieve their goal of roping in new readers. The more books E. Lockhart sells, the happier I'll be, no matter what their covers look like. But I do feel like these ones miss the point, thematically, and I'm sad that Delacorte thought this change was necessary. Come December 2010, don't be surprised if you find me sitting around with Photoshop, putting together a Real Live Boyfriends cover featuring a toy meerkat. After all, I'm going to need a matching set.

[1] Lockhart has been premiering the new covers during a week long blog tour, all five stops of which I highly recommend you check out. All the interviews/guest posts Lockhart has contributed are a lot of fun to read, and give some great insights into her books. Listed in sequential order-- with links-- the blog tour went as follows: Little Willow's Bildungsroman (where I got the image I used in this post), The Story Siren (where you can see the cover for The Boy Book), The Page Flipper (where you can see the cover for The Treasure Map of Boys-- my least favorite of the four), Cheryl Rainfield's blog (where you can see the cover for Real Live Boyfriends), Sharon Loves Cats and Books, and (eventually) over at Park Avenue Princess.

[2] Not that the original covers lacked shelf appeal. In fact, the high cute quotient of The Boyfriend List was one of the reasons I picked it up in the first place.

[3]Because mentioning it here obviously doesn't count as complaining about it at all.

[4] Although it's worth noting that the best selling YA books of recent memory, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga, feature covers that could be the gothic siblings of the original Roo covers, what with their choice to focus on thematically important things rather than a picture of any one character

[5] My unverified rumors proved to be false, as unverified rumors frequently are. You should still shop independent when you can, but to keep money in your local economy, not because of my misinformation. See Amanda's comment for more information!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


In the latest issue of Voice of Youth Advocates, it says that they are looking for more reviewers. You can find their reviewer application kit here.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Well, we never did pick an official book, but I just finished After by Amy Efaw and thought I'd write a bit about it. If you've read something interesting lately, fill us in, okay?

After is a story about a 15-year-old girl, Devon, who gives birth to a baby in her bathroom at home and then ditches the baby in a trashcan in the alley. Devon goes through the entire pregnancy in denial--claiming she truly did not know she was pregnant, though as her story unfolds, she can see that she realized there were clues, but she chose to ignore them. The story mainly takes place in the juvenile detention center Devon is now in as she awaits trial. Through talking with her lawyer and a therapist, the truth behind Devon's story comes out. Together, they help the reader understand how such a perfect, hard-working, GOOD girl can hide a pregnancy and have it end in such a desperate, disastrous way.

As Devon finally allows herself to relive the baby's birth and what she did after that (she initially claims she can't remember it happening), the gruesome details are almost too much to read. Efaw makes it feel like the reader is right there with Devon, watching in horror as a girl gives birth alone and in a bathroom. I think it was especially hard for me to read because I know what it's like to have a baby, and even in the best of circumstances (in a hospital, with the proper care, knowing what was happening) it can be terrifying. To see her do this all alone, and how she handles the baby, and what she does after, was heartbreaking. I don't know of any other books that cover this subject. Devon's choices and how she deals with them make for a very interesting book.

All of that said, here's what bothered me (and Dawn, I bet you can see this coming): Devon had sex once. One time. And look at the HUGE punishment she was saddled with. Not only did she get pregnant, but she went through an absolute nightmare, made desperate and terrible choices, and now is facing jail time. Some of you know this is one of my major issues with YA books--this whole idea of a girl needing some form of punishment for having sex. I obviously understand that a larger story is being told here, but I just could not get over that she had sex once and this is the result. And the boy? She never contacted him again (because she was so ashamed that she had sex), so he knew nothing about what she was going through, and, by extension, did not have to suffer a punishment like she did. While I didn't see the book as having a heavy-handed lesson to not have sex, there is enough talk of shame and a horrible enough consequence that it certainly comes across as a good warning to girls.

Friday, October 2, 2009

let's pick a book!

okay, so it's been forever since we've chosen a book to read. is anyone up for picking something to read and discuss soon? my to-read list consists of: hate list by jennifer brown; hold still by nina lacour; after by amy efaw; the vast fields of ordinary by nick burd; stitches: a memoir by david small; andromeda klein by frank portman; and jumping off swings by jo knowles. is anyone else reading any of those soon? or does anyone have any suggestions? i miss there being activity on the blog!

Monday, August 3, 2009

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

In a post this past weekend, Roger Sutton talks about selecting the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Currently, it's John Scieszka. Roger's post has a ton of comments with suggestions for the new ambassador (any suggestions, Misfits?), but one asks a great question, which is what exactly did Scieszka DO in this post this past year? I know what he hoped to do and achieve--he lists these goals on the website linked above--but I'm wondering what he really did as an advocate for children's literature and the importance of reading. Anyone know?

Fun book alert!

Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading

I saw this book mentioned in Entertainment Weekly and immediately put it on my list. It looks like something others in this group will like, too.