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.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Picture is Unrelated

BUT I immediately thought of Amanda and her dachsunds when I saw this print, and so I'm posting it here to bring it to her attention. And also to put a post up on the site-- it's looks so lonely.

If you like it as much as I do, Amanda, you can buy it here:

I hope you guys are doing well!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Treasure Map of Boys-- FREE!

Hi misfits!!

I just wanted to post and notify you all to that E. Lockhart's publishers are offering free ARCs of The Treasure Map of Boys to YA bloggers-- all you have to do is email Emily at with your name, address, and the URL of your blog. I already snagged my copy from The Children's Bookshop (as previously mentioned) but I know others of you might not have been so blessed, and would want to take advantage of this great offer.

Now if only Maureen Johnson would make the same offer with Scarlett Fever, my life would be complete.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Reading

Hello Misfits!

My summer reading plans have been hijacked by It's a group challenge to read all 1000 pages of Infinite Jest between June 21 and September 22.

As they say:
A thousand pages1 ÷ 92 days = 75 pages a week. No sweat.

1. Plus endnotesa.
a. A lot of them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, and Charmed Thirds

Hey fellow misfits!

It's been a small lifetime since I've written anything here, but it's not because I haven't been thinking about posts. It's mostly because I'm lazy, lazy, lazy. Maybe some day I will get around to writing about my visit to the massive signing at Books of Wonder, my indignant post about how The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks fared in The Morning News Tournament of Books, or about the utter destruction of my Battle of the Books' bracket in ROUND ONE (!!!) (stupid Rachel Cohn), but not today. Today I am facing a particular dilemma, and I need advice from you wise misfit sages. Here are the details of my conundrum:

Based on your mutual enthusiasm for Meghan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, I decided to check Sloppy Firsts out on a whim. I'd obviously seen it around before, but its chick lit cover art made me hesitate, because I never have as much fun reading those books as I hope to. When I found out it had the Misfit stamp of approval though, I knew it was worthy of trying. So, of course, I loved it. For the first 50 or so pages, I was a bit put off by just how acidic Jess was-- especially in terms of her bodysnarking/slut shaming of her two unfriends. Sara and Manda were definitely unappealing characters, but Jess's judgment of them was SO cutting and SO unrelenting that it was jarring. I guess I'm used to reading books where either the protagonist is a bit more circumspect in their criticism, a bit more distant from their objects of disdain, or has more of a specific foundation for their unhappiness. Jess's situation, however, is very true to life, and I got used to it with a bit of time. Once things started developing, however, her wit wore me down, and her relationship with Marcus Flutie was just too compelling to ignore. I finished Sloppy Firsts and plunged directly into Second Helpings with relish. I loved both and thought this was a new series I'd try to pass on to all my friends. Jess was so smart and funny and her relationship with Marcus--- swoooooon is pretty much all I can say about that. I jumped right into Charmed Thirds, read the first hundred or so pages, and then just... stopped. And I haven't started up again, and it's due back soon and I'm just... not sure I feel like finishing it.

I guess somewhere in there it just felt like Jess kept learning the same lessons over and over again. Don't judge, don't assume, be more kind to people, the same general idea. Only she can't REALLY learn those lessons, because her tart tongue is part of what makes the books so funny. But the ideals of kindness have to be paid lip service to, regardless. It's just like Tibby's plots in all four of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. Authors seem to have a hard time knowing what to do with their bitingly incisive girls-- part of their charm is in off-the-cuff mean comments, but ultimately they all have to learn that Sarcasm Is Not The Way. And so their plots become repetitive cycles where they never actually learn their lesson all the way. Or, at least, that's what seems to be happening in Charmed Thirds-- but maybe I'm wrong! Maybe I, like Jess, am Judging Things Too Quickly.

And so I'm asking you, misfits, have I identified the books' weak points? Or does Charmed Thirds pick up after Jess leaves her internship at the mean hipster magazine? To renew, or not to renew-- that is the question.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Has anyone else finished Wintergirls? I read it in one sitting a few weeks back and am still thinking about it - I thought it was stunning and, if I may be so blasphemous, better than Speak. I know there has been hubbub about the book due to an article in the New York Times that argues the book is dangerous and serves as a primer for young girls who want to develop eating disorders. I couldn't disagree more. The fiction-as-catalyst never theory has never worked for me - first off, unfortunately, people who are already sick will find ways to feed their sickness no matter what they read. And where was the Rainbow Party craze that was supposed to materialize on the heels of that hideous book? Please, let's give our young readers a little more credit.

This is turning out to be more diatribe than review - sorry about that. What I really wanted to say is that I found Wintergirls to be terrifying and frustrating, but ultimately left me hopeful. I appreciated that the parents weren't perfect, but weren't villains. And I loved that the story focused on Lia and let Cassie exist as a ghost seen only through Lia's eyes.

Other thoughts?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of interest

On Bookshelves of Doom, I saw a link for Body Image Week on the blog My Favorite Author. The blog says, "We have invited bloggers from The Story Siren, Presenting Lenore, and In Bed With Books to participate and share their perspective and experience. And we are excited to also have authors Deborah Lytton, Sarah Darer Littman, Sara Zarr, Megan Frazer, Laurie Halse Anderson, Sydney Salter and Erin Dionne share their perspective, experience and advice. At the end of the week, we'll have a great giveaway for you to enter (by accepting & reporting on the Body Image Challenge) to win some of the books that we blog about this week!" Maybe it will inspire some discussion for us.

On a related topic, I will be reading Wintergirls, the new Laurie Halse Anderson, sometime next week and will blog about it then. I know others (Dawn? Kristin?) have it on their list, so maybe we'll all get around to it at the same time.

Also, I on Monday I finished reading Perfect Fifths, the new Megan McCafferty. Has anyone read it yet? (Julie? Jess?) We could talk about that, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How cool are these girls?

I saw this video linked on Bookshelves of Doom today and think it's about the coolest thing I've seen/heard in a long time. Follow the SLJ's Battle of the Books to see who wins!

Friday, March 6, 2009

YA Road Trip?

So, I just found out from E. Lockhart's blog, that David Levithan has organized a YA Book Festival in NY, in the third week of March. The events look utterly incredible-- a YA author rock show (Thursday night), authors reading things they wrote in their teens (Monday), and an EPICALLY HUGE signing festival on Sunday (the 22nd). You can find the whole list of awesomeness right here.

I'm pretty sure we don't have any Misfits in the NY area, but I for one am definitely grabbing a Chinatown bus down from Boston and attending the book signing. I can't get off work to go to the other events. I know there are a ton of Misfits here in the Boston area, and while I'm sure most of you can't get off work for something this silly, I thought it would be well worth letting everyone know. And I also wanted to offer to bring down books to get signed for anyone interested.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Testing your knowledge

Put your brains to work!

Matthew was recently talking about a book he remembers reading as a child, but can't actually remember much about it, other than he liked it (the fact that he could come up with any details about it was shocking to me, as he doesn't recall much from his childhood and he can't even remember that his third grade teacher was MY GRANDMA!). Here's what he remembers: The story was a mystery about a boy whose family goes to spend the summer somewhere. At the house they are staying in, there is the ghost of a young boy who lived 100 years or something prior to the time the story is set in. Matthew says the setting is in the country and felt like it was set in the 40s or 50s (and he would have read this in the early 80s). It is entirely possible he is misremembering all of this, but he's got me determined to track it down. I initially thought it sounded maybe John Bellairs-ish, but am not finding anything that seems to match that. Any ideas?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

march's pick

Any suggestions for a book to discuss? How about Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, out mid-March? Here's the synopsis (taken from B&N's website):

"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend's restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

I know I'll be reading that one. Or I'd be up for something by someone more obscure, or another YA classic (like when we read Dance on my Grave). Maybe for May we can read the new Sherman Alexie, Radioactive Love Song. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Any ideas for a March book?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hey, Y'all!

This is my first ever Misfit post! I've been running into fellow Misfit Margaret most Sunday evenings when we engage in the same trivia face-off (M, I have been noticing and appreciating your 30 Rock-inspired team names) and it reminds me how much I love being part of this club.

I'm wondering what everyone's reading these days? Personally I've been on a drug memoir tear, but I think I need to put that to rest for awhile - all that destruction is not good for one's soul. I also devoured Jellicoe Road, which I adored and was very happy that it won the Printz. I'm awaiting a few things on my queue at the library, but right now I'm looking for the next thing to sweep me off my feet.

Anybody got some great recommendations? Anything interesting going on in general? Hope you are all well and making the best of this long, cruel winter.

Nerd up! Dawn

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some Non-Results

Twitter has stopped working... and I can't get onto the webcast... and I think it would be slightly unethical to ask my editor to send me emails of every winner from her seat at the press conference... and I have to leave in a few minutes, anyway... so, that's all the updating I'll be able to do this morning.  Hope everyone else is having more luck!

Some Results

A Curse as Dark as Gold won the Morris -- and I must say, if I had to lose, well, I couldn't have lost to a more beautiful book!

And just saw that Melina Marchetta won the Printz for Jellicoe Road -- FANTASTIC!  Octavian Nothing #2 by Anderson, Nation by Terry Pratchett, Disreputable History of Frankie L-B by Lockhart, and Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan are Honor Books.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

the upcoming ALA awards

if anyone has time on monday, can you post the results of the ALA awards on here? i'm hoping to be able to watch them online, but we have an early morning playdate and i might not have time to type them up on here. i'm excited to see what wins and have some discussions afterwards about the awards. also, if anyone happens to be at ALA, you could give us the inside report on reactions etc. (and my fingers are crossed for kristin and the morris award!)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Picture books on adoption

Hoping people are still checking the blog every once in a while....

My friend Kelly is looking for a picture book about adoption. She would like a story that closely resembles their situation--white parents adopting white children through open adoption--to read to her son and daughter. However, most of the books she has found (and most I can think of) either depict white parents adopting an Asian child or tell the story with animals as the subjects. Does anyone have any good suggestions I'm overlooking? Of the ones she has found, I recommended The Day We Met You by Phoebe Koehler and Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. Any other thoughts?