01.09.11

Shiver!? I Hardly Knew Her!

Posted in Complaining, Random at 8:48 pm by Janet


Hey Tarts, it’s been awhile. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. In fact I’m still stuck on my last topic, only children in teen books. See? Nothing has changed.

Grace, one of the main characters in Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, is an only child. She lives on the edge of a Minnesota forest, and ever since she was attacked by a pack of peculiar wolves, she’s been strangely fascinated by them, especially a certain gray wolf with yellow eyes. One thing leads to another, and it turns out Grace’s wolf, Sam, is a werewolf, now in his human form. As the temperature drops, and Sam and Grace fall in love, Sam struggles to stay human–and alive.

So Sam and Grace have lots of adventures running around the woods, and Grace basically hides Sam in her room for a few weeks. How does she get away with all of this canoodling? Her parents are completely preoccupied with their own work and social lives, and she’s an only child. Once her parents are out of the house and out of the way, there’s no one else to interfere in her adventures. Grace’s situation falls into Category #1 of Reasons Why Characters Are Only Children (Characters Are Intended To Be Only Children) but comes close to Category #2 (Only Child By Default). The author clearly intended for Grace’s parents to not be too into parenting (it’s easier to leave one kid on her own than several, I would imagine) and for her house to be mostly empty, but it feels just a little too convenient. You just can’t hide a werewolf in your room if you have nosy siblings. Things were just too easy for Grace. The plot would have been so much thicker if Grace had had a nosy little sister, instead of some conveniently estranged best friends. But I figure the author decided that Sam being a werewolf was enough of a barrier for Sam and Grace’s love–they didn’t need interfering parents and siblings to mess things up for Grace and Sam.

Completely apart from the only child stuff, I didn’t love Shiver. I seem to remember it getting a lot of buzz when it came out, but it just didn’t do it for me. There’s no big reason except that I think I may be over the paranormal perfect-teen-love thing. Meh. I may be ready to move on to dystopias–you know, the new vampire.

11.13.10

The Twin’s Daughter Was an Only Child

Posted in Complaining, Random at 6:37 pm by Janet

twin's daughter
I recently read the historical mystery The Twin’s Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. It got a fantastic review in one of the journals, so I put it on hold right away. It was a good read, but not as good as the review made it out to be, possibly because the review offered what turned out to be plot spoilers. I won’t tell you too much about the plot, then, just this little bit: Lucy never knew her mother had a twin, until one day a waifish woman turns up on the well-to-do Victorian family’s London doorstep, saying she’s Lucy’s Aunt Helen.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. What I really want to talk about is only children in books for teens. As both Bridget and I are only children, I think we are uniquely qualified to discuss this topic. (If we’re lucky Bridget will chime in here somewhere.) If I remember right, there are two only children in The Twin’s Daughter: Lucy and her friend/neighbor/love interest Kit. They are prime examples of the two main kinds of only children I have identified in books for teens.

1. Characters intended to be only children. Something has happened to their parents (health problems, divorce, death by Voldemort, running away, etc.). Their parents chose to have one child. Their parents hate children. They are supposed to have solitary adventures on a cold English moor. Etc. Lucy is an old child because her mother can’t have any more children. In fact, the plot hinges on her mother’s inability to have more children. One of the twins gets pregnant, raising questions about mistaken identity. Lucy is definitely an only child by the author’s design.

2. Characters who are only children by default. Perhaps the author got lazy–a sibling is an extra character to be developed. If a story focuses on one character and her friends or her adventures, siblings tend to be eliminated to streamline the story. Adding a sister and a storyline about her and the main character might weigh down the story line. Despite the fact that many Victorian families were large, Kit appears to be an only child. I can’t find a reason for Kit to be an only child, except for the sake of simplicity.

Now, I have met a few people in my lifetime. Of all the people I’ve met, I can think of six other only children, tops. As for the rest of these people, I know some of their siblings. I know some of those siblings well, some of them not so well. I don’t know some of their siblings, and that’s ok. Their siblings live somewhere else, there’s a big age difference, or maybe they’re just not close. What I’m saying is, it’s ok to have an adventure and not include siblings. Sometimes people’s brothers and sisters just aren’t involved. Instead of dropping in another character just for reality’s sake, authors leave the siblings out, for fear of reviewers complaining about undeveloped secondary characters.

But what some authors don’t realize is that a family’s size can influence family dynamics. Only children tend to get LOTS of parental attention, which, let’s face it, can cut down on adventures. I say, bring on the siblings, fleshed out or not.

So, think about this. There are a lot of teen lit only children. Lucy and Kit. Bella. Harry Potter. Thinking of books I’ve reviewed here–both Will Graysons, Rebecca in Ruined, Allie in Vinyl Princess. I could go on and on. But I’ve gone on long enough. Now I want to know what YOU think.

09.22.10

Contemporary Realistic Fiction by Bridget

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:38 pm by Bridget

I love vampires, paranormal, magical realism, Greek myths, dystopia, etc. as much as the next guy, but I’m a little concerned that this flood right now is going to create a wicked backlash. In a few years the realistic “problem novel” will be resuscitated and I will be forced to read all books about sad girls who cry.

I like having a mix of novels available–a little paranormal here, something fun and realistic there, and even an occasional book about sad girls who cry. (Note: I’m using the word “realistic” loosely to describe novels without paranormal or fantasy elements as I remember long discussions in college that lasted whole semesters on “What’s Real?’ and am not going to get into that now. Possibly a later blog post).

There are a few contemporary realistic fiction standouts right now like Will Grayson, Will Grayson that Janet mentioned earlier.¬†Another novel that’s on the realistic end of the spectrum and is super fun and most likely won’t make you cry is fabulous Portland author Suzanne Young’s The Naughty List. There are spying gadgets (which i love, more spies please!) and romance and sneaking. What more could you ask for, really?

Any other realistic fiction options out there that people recommend?

Bridget

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…

What Now?

Posted in Random at 2:49 pm by Janet

I finished Mockingjay last week. I am still having nightmares. In a good way. I won’t blog about it, because people are probably still reading it, and I would hate to spoil the end, but I do have a question for everyone. What next? What’s the next big book/series? The last few summers have brought us the end of Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, and now the Hunger Games. It seems like there has to be at least one big blockbuster series out there. But I don’t know what it is right now. Any ideas?

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