Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dance on my Grave

Skip this post if you haven't finished the March pick yet....

I spent yesterday afternoon reading Dance on my Grave. I thought it was fantastic. It was funny, sad, honest, and awkward. I sometimes found Hal and Barry's banter so obtuse (the unknown to me Britishisms didn't help) that I would lose the thread of what they were even talking about, but that didn't detract from my interest in them. I feel like Chambers really captured that initial whirlwind-like feeling of dating (especially as a young adult) so well. This book feels so distinctive to me, so unlike almost anything I've ever read before.

Beyond really just loving the book and the unique characters, I don't have much to say. What I did find myself looking at as I read were little details about being a gay teen in a YA novel written in 1982. We all know that most gay teens ended up dead (or suffering some other awful fate) in YA written many years ago. For a great article summing up GLBTQ books for young adults, see Michael Cart's piece "What a Wonderful World: Notes on the Evolution of GLBTQ Literature for Young Adults." Some things that stood out to me: Barry has a slight lisp; Barry's mother tells Hal that he killed him--that she knows about his crimes against her son; Hal is stereotypically "arty"--his guidance counselor talks about him avoiding sports at school, writing "twitty" stuff for the literary magazine, etc. I'm sure there were other little details that made me nearly raise an eyebrow. If this book were written in 2008 and included little details like that (and, you know, one of the main characters had to die because he was gay), I wouldn't be having it. But, as it is, especially for a book published more than 25 years ago, I think Chambers created a very complex, honest relationship that didn't judge, moralize, or preach. It almost felt like the fact that Hal and Barry were gay was incidental. They were two boys caught up in a crazy, adventurous relationship, just happy to have found a kindred soul.

Now, my few questions. Do you think this book would appeal at all to modern teens? Did you, like me, feel there was something particularly unique about the book (tone, characters, setting, humor, etc)? What do you make of Barry (his larger than life mother, the fact that he slept with Kari, and so on)? I think there is probably a lot more to talk about, but I just wanted to post my initial reaction and get the ball rolling.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dance on My Grave -- partway through

So, I'm not done reading yet, but I've got to ask, why couldn't this have won the Printz Award? I mean, besides the fact that it was published in 1982 and written by a Brit?

Loving this hysterical and sad book....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

April pick

Here we are again, needing to choose a book for next month before we've even talked about this month's book (it's now at the top of my library pile, so there's hope I'll get to it soon). I keep hearing about A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. It's a Rumpelstiltskin retelling. It's also nearly 400 pages long. Too long? It sounds interesting, and I know people wanted to read more than just realistic fiction. Any other suggestions? Anything else going on, YA-wise, that you want to post about, discuss, rant about?

Friday, March 14, 2008

A marketing question

Here's a question for y'all, which (1) kind of involves me hijacking the blog for personal reasons and (2) won't surprise those of you familiar with my personal psychoses. I apologize in advance for (1) and (2).

Does anyone have an opinion about how much the tendency to appear at events / signings / etc. affects a YA writer's career?

As a debut YA writer I am approaching the scary "marketing months" and trying to figure out the best way for a painfully shy person to respond to her publisher's requests for attending events without losing the plot (no pun intended)...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

i don't wanna have to shout it out

Who said this?

"Whatever whoever chooses to read is their business, of course, but adults whose taste in recreational reading ends with the YA novel need to grow up."

Would you believe this came from Roger Sutton's blog? I like that he often writes sort of off-the-cuff things that create lots of discussion on his blog. This sentiment, however, raised my hackles. Yes, I do read adult literature, but for the most part, my recreational reading absolutely stops at the YA novel. And I have no intention of outgrowing that/growing up/etc. From the looks of many of the comments to his post, there were many other people who took issue with this statement. What do you think? Are you surprised to hear this sentence from the mouth (well, from the hands-typing-on-the-keyboard) of the Horn Book's editor?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


As some of you know, my mother teaches junior high English classes. She is looking to add a new book to her syllabus, one for 8th graders that would appeal to both boys and girls. She is considering the Alexie book, and I recommended The Trap by John Smelcer (another Native American title). She wants something that would hold the kids' interest and have a wide appeal. Does anyone have any great suggestions?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Voice in YA

After reading The White Darkness, I started thinking a bit about narrator voice in young adult literature. I think Sym had a pretty distinctive voice...and I think the world of YA is full of distinctive, unique voices. Some are funny, some are angry, or depressed, or completely unreliable. I remembered Elvin in Slot Machine, Harriet in Harriet the Spy (not quite YA, but definitely distinctive), all the way back to Holden in The Catcher in the Rye. Just for fun, what are some of your favorite YA narrators (or "voices")? Which ones don't you like? I'd have to think some more before I could decide my favorite and least favorite, but I'm interested in what you all love (and maybe hate)!