02.08.11

Bridget Gets Caught in the Trappings

Posted in Favorite Books at 4:45 pm by Bridget

I just finished Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by the dynamic duo of Rachel Cohn and David Levithan and loved it. Lily leaves a notebook at The Strand next to one of her favorite books with clues that take the finder of the notebook around the store to other clues in other books. There are, of course, restrictions that pop up in the clues like, “If you are not a teenage boy, put the notebook back where you found it.” Luckily for Lily, it’s found by Dash who not only plays along, but sends her clue hunts right back.

Some of the things I love about this book:

–It’s refreshing to read a book with New York teens who are completely unique and not your run-of-the-mill hipsters.

–Both main characters are crush-worthy.

–The clue hunts take them to all sorts of interesting places.

–Side characters are GREAT.

–Both main characters grow and change in a believable, organic way.

AND

–It has a kick-ass title.

I know that a kick-ass title shouldn’t rank on my list, but as soon as I heard the title I wanted to read the book. Great character names, plus the fabulousness and intrigue of a whole book of dares. The title leads to the great concept of two characters using a book of dares to get to know one another and explore the world in a non-digital way.

The title is intriguing much like the duo’s first book Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. With N&NIJ you want to know more about this couple and their playlist. At least I did. And then to actually have a playlist for the book on the web that you could put together yourself? I loved it. The book didn’t disappoint either.

This has made me question whether or not I’m just a sucker for a great hook–seduced by a concept or a great title.

But in both cases I ended up really loving the book. Why not let yourself be seduced by the ribbons and bows when the substance of the book lives up to it?

On the other hand, I have to admit, I never read Cohn and Levithan’s second book.

Because of the title.

I know, they’re fabulous writers, I love two of their other books, I would probably love their second one too.

But Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List? Really? There’s NO kissing right in the title!

Bridget

01.12.11

Children of the Revolution

Posted in Favorite Books, Random at 10:55 pm by Janet


Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly features some of my favorite things: France, Radiohead, the Smiths, and an accurate depiction of an archivist! (I’m looking at you, Mr. Archives Cowboy.) Ahem. “My job, here at the Abelard Library, is to get information. And Yves Bonnard’s job is to stop me. Yves G. Bonnard, head archivist, aka the Great and Powerful Oz, aka the Grand Inquisitor, aka the Antichrist.” Angsty American teen Andi is doing research in Paris, and she’s running up against every roadblock an archivist has in his acid-free bag of tricks: demanding an archives pass that’s available only with a very specific photo id, closing for lunch, an insistence on filling out call slips properly, shushing, scolding for not wearing the white cotton gloves, and ejection for cell phone use. Dead on. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why archives should not be mentioned in the same breath as libraries. They are not for people. Their holdings are not meant for actual use. They are run by crazy hoarders. What is the point of having a bunch of stuff if no one is allowed to look at it? If a tree falls alone in the forest, does anyone hear it? Set the historical documents freeeeee!!!!

Whoa, my intention was not to rail against archives, although I’m always happy to do that. I really meant to talk about Revolution. Andi is a rich hipster girl half-assedly attending a private school in Brooklyn. Since the death of her younger brother a few years before, Andi and her family have been falling apart. Her mother has disappeared in her painting, her father is immersed in his new marriage and his duties as a world-famous geneticist, and Andi is in a drug-addled funk. Then Andi’s father insists that Andi accompany him to Paris for winter break. There, Andi finds the diary of Alexandrine, a Parisian actress once entrusted with entertaining Louis-Charles, the dauphin. While she’s supposed to be doing research for her senior project about a French classical musician (hence the trips to the archives), Andi gets sucked into Alex’s world. Somehow Andi’s obsession with Alex’s quest to save the dauphin, Andi’s love of classical and rock music (Radiohead, the Smiths, etc.), and her new relationship with a French musician all intertwine to help Andi move forward with her life, leaving some of her grief behind.

Donnelly’s done a great deal of research about France and about music. Andi is a compelling, smart, and witty character whose pain is all too real. I’m still trying to figure out how all the pieces of the story fit together, but whatever the answer, all the story lines are vivid and made me want to keep reading. This is one Revolution that should not be put down.

Oh, hey, did you notice that Andi is an only child? It’s a huge part of the story. The author definitely intended for her to be an only child, what with the dead brother. No authorial laziness there. Andi is grappling with a tragedy that has left her as an only child. Of course that gets into images of families with only one child–is the only child a sign of a family’s tragedy, pain, or loneliness? I’d say no, not necessarily, but that’s a topic for another post and another time. You all have a Revolution to start.

09.06.10

Nice Place to Visit, But…

Posted in Favorite Books at 3:47 pm by Janet

I’ve really enjoyed the Carbon Diaries books by Saci Lloyd. I like to think of them as the British answer to Life as We Knew It. Or maybe it’s just another dystopia series (because dystopia is the new vampire). I don’t know. But long story short, it’s just a few short years in the future and the UK is rationing carbon usage due to climate change gone out of control. Laura is a London-area teenager and she’s doing regular teenage stuff–going off to university, trying to decide what she wants to do with her life, dating, playing in a band. But all of this is made way more complicated by the fact that survival is not a given. How’s she supposed to study when her home is flooded, or when the government is beating student protesters? The books raise important questions about our energy use, the role of government, and citizens’ role in changing their situation. It’s so near in the future, I could actually see this happening if people don’t manage to cut back energy use now.

The funny thing is, Laura and her friends, despite the bad situation they’re in, are really cool. They play in a punk rock band, they do guerrilla art projects, and they speak in pithy British slang. I would totally have wanted to hang out with them. Except for the drought. And the floods. And the shortages. And… Eh. I think it’s better just to read about them.

One more thing…not sure if a third book is in the works, but if there is, Laura has a love triangle on her hands at the close of 2017. I would just like to state now that I am on Team Sam.

OK, must go turn out all the lights and sell my car to reduce carbon footprint. Goodbye…

08.15.10

Evanston and Authenticity, an Update

Posted in Favorite Books, Geography at 3:25 pm by Janet

Now that we’ve had a book discussion at the library about Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I can report on the reactions of some actual teen readers. First of all, this group of girls really liked the book. They definitely preferred Will Grayson to grumpy will grayson. They thought Jane was awesome. They liked Tiny but found him a little over the top. Some of them even said the book made them want to join their school’s Gay-Straight alliance.

Since the issue of geographical/Evanston/Chicagoland authenticity was stuck in my craw, I brought it up to the group. The kids told me that it was important to them that geographical details ring true–they make the book seem authentic and grounded. They said the Chicago stuff seemed real, for the most part. Some of them wanted to figure out if Frenchy’s really does exist and where exactly it is (!). Then I asked them about Evanston’s high school. They were all pretty much convinced that the events in the book could not have taken place at ETHS because it’s full of gangsters and thugs. Now, it should be stated that ETHS and their high school are rivals, and that as a result certain stereotypes about ETHS may exist in their minds. I have to take their comments with a grain of salt. I’m still waiting to hear from someone who actually did go to ETHS to get a second opinion on that one. Bottom line, geographical authenticity does matter to teen readers (at least on Chicago’s North Shore). Writers, keep doing your homework.

A last word: although ETHS’s mascot really is Willy the Wildkit, there are no murals at ETHS, the girls in my group reported. So here’s my virtual mural:

wildkits

wildkits

06.22.10

Evanston and Authenticity

Posted in Favorite Books, Geography at 7:24 am by Janet

Even though I no longer have a crush on John Green, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson as soon as I could get my hands on it. I loved it. I was particularly excited that the book is set in the Chicago area and that the Will Grayson parts of the story are set in my town, Evanston.

In library school and on various listservs, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of authenticity in multicultural literature for children.  What I hear over and over is  that it is important to be sure you’re depicting a people from a particular culture or place fairly and accurately. But now I wonder…do you have to represent a town accurately? Does geographical authenticity matter?

Does Evanston’s high school really have lots of murals of its mascot? Does Jane’s house at 1712 Wesley exist and does it really have a porch? Am I being too obsessive? I mean, I live here and I don’t know. Then again, I’m not really the audience the author had in mind, given that I’m, you know, not a teenager. (I do know, however, that Will and Tiny and Jane drove home from the Hideout way quicker than is actually possible, at least when I’m driving. )

I’m still undecided (maybe you people out there can help me decide), but here’s how I’m leaning on this question. In this case, geographical authenticity matters when it shapes the story. It matters that Will Grayson and Tiny live in Evanston because it’s far away from will grayson, who I think is supposed to live over in the southwest suburb of Naperville. It also matters matters because Tiny and Will Grayson are Evanston rich kids, and will grayson is not a rich kid (although I’ve heard there are plenty of rich kids in Naperville). These are things that might pull the characters apart, but various events and strong feelings conspire to bring them together. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter because a story can be, well, just a story. The murals on the wall at ETHS don’t push the story forward, nor do they hold it back. Sometimes fiction is fiction, in that it’s made up,  but it sure is neat when the details correspond with reality.

I’m hoping to give WGWG to a recent ETHS grad, and we’re also going to do a book discussion at my library (one suburb north) on it later this summer. Perhaps some of those teens can tell me if it is authentic, and whether or not it matters to them. I’ll get back to you on that.

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