Tag: YA fiction

Nov 02

YA State of Mind

Young Adult Fiction 2

Greetings Bookworms!

I don’t typically read a ton of YA literature, but I’ve been on something of a kick lately. When things in life don’t go the way I’d like them to, sometimes I like to remind myself that at least I’m not in high school anymore. So, without further ado, let’s talk about some great YA fiction, shall we?

ya-state-of-mind

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: This book is about a set of teenage twins going through some major teen drama… And then some. Half the story is told from Noah’s perspective and half from his sister Jude’s. Noah is a brilliant young artist, though isolated and grappling with his feelings as he falls in love with the boy next door. Jude is a bit of a daredevil running with the popular crowd. Though the twins are as different as can be, they’re close. Which is why it comes as something of a shock to the reader to find that three years hence, the two are barely speaking. I’ll admit to taking sides in a big way, and not just because of the conflict. I just liked Noah’s whole story line better and his circumstances rang more true to me than Jude’s. Still though, it was a good read and smacked me in the feelings in a big way.

The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger: Girl meets boy. Boy calls girl the DUFF (designated ugly fat friend) of her group of friends. Girl decides to use said boy as distraction from her rapidly-going-off-the-rails home life as a frenemy with benefits. As one does. While I loved most of what the book had to say about self image and romance and intimacy and life, I’m still on the fence about our dreamy jerkface turned nice guy. Ah well. It’s not like they got married at the end or anything. That would be ridiculous for a pair of teenagers in the here and now (side eyes Edward and Bella…)

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina: Piddy Sanchez flew under the radar at her old school, but when her mother moves them from their crumbling apartment to a new place, Piddy’s new school leaves something to be desired. That something being one Yacqui Delgado, who, for reasons unbeknownst to Piddy, has chosen to harass and threaten her. Because keeping up her grades, working a part time job, and working up the courage to confront her mother about her absent father isn’t enough to deal with. SUCH A POWERFUL BOOK. GAH! Bullying is the worst.

So yeah. YA books. I’m gobbling them up at the moment. It’ll pass, I’m sure, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy being reminded that I’m not 16. Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s your favorite thing about being a grown up? (If you’re a teenager, my condolences. I am giving you the Hunger Games salute right now. You’ll make it, I promise.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Aug 03

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Audio Books, Supernatural, Young Adult Fiction 8

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I’m feeling pretty accomplished today. That’s right. I finally read a Maggie Stiefvater book. I’m not opposed to YA or anything, but after so many formulaic dystopias flooded the market, I got pretty picky about what I’d read. I’ve heard from a number of reliable sources (Jenny at Reading the End and Heather at Capricious Reader in particular) that Maggie Stiefvater is the bee’s knees, so I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Thanks to my subscription to Scribd and all the audio books my brain can hold, I was able to try The Scorpio Races on for size. Side note: Maggie Stiefvater totally composed the musical accompaniment for the audio book, which is darn impressive.

thescorpioracesThe Island of Thisby is famous for two things: water horses and the annual Scorpio Races. Water horses are basically what they sound like; horses that come from the sea. To be more specific, they’re horses that come from the sea who would rather devour human flesh than oats and are nevertheless captured by islanders and ridden for sport. The Scorpio Races pit water horse against water horse in a combined horse race slash death match spectacle. Riding a water horse in this race is the ultimate extreme sport. Throats are ripped out on the regular. Sean Kendrick is 19 and a four time Scorpio Race champion. He’s got a hand with the monstrous horses that inspires admiration and envy. Puck Connelly is trying her hand in the races for the very first time. She’s also the first female ever to dare to do so. Both Sean and Puck embark on a journey they never expected, all while trying desperately to avoid being eaten by bloodthirsty horses.

The overall tone of this book felt very Neil Gaiman to me. That might be an unfair comparison drawn based on the fact that the actor who voiced Sean Kendrick sounded a bit like Neil Gaiman (which is a very, very good thing), but it was also dark and incorporated a lot of English/Irish folklore which is rather Gaiman-esque in itself. I though it was an inventive story, though I probably would have liked it more if I were a horse aficionado. Still, I’d totally read Maggie Stiefvater again. Her mind seems to be a dark and twisty place, but not in the way that makes me want to cower under the covers. I’d like to see what else she has to offer. If you’re in the mood for something different, give The Scorpio Races a whirl. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Talk to me Bookworms! Would you ever consider riding an animal you coaxed from the sea that totally wanted to eat you? (Spoiler Alert: My answer is a HELL NO. I won’t even swim in water with fish. I’ll wade in the ocean but when it comes to full immersion swimming, it’s a pool or nothing. Fish seriously freak me out. And water horses? Um, no.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Nov 19

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for my Baby Cousin

Children's Fiction, Classics, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 40

Hey Bookworms!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I participated in the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly extravaganza that is Top Ten Tuesday. Today we’ve been challenged to create a list of recommendations with a specific person in mind. I’ve got me a baby cousin. Well, okay, she’s not really a baby anymore, she’s 12… I’m not really sure when that happened. However, I was wracking my brains and I kept coming back to books I think Dana ought to read, so she wins today’s list. (Remember my post about snarky eyebrows? That was an ode to Dana’s older brother Adam. These kids, man. These kids…)

toptentuesday

 

 

1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry- This might be a little below your reading level, but if you haven’t read it, you simply must. It’s about WWII and it’s full of everyday people being brave and doing the right things. Sometimes you need to hear about that stuff when you’re 12.

2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Alice in Wonderland is for little kids. Forget what you saw in the Disney movie. I mean, I guess you can remember it, because that was pretty screwy, but still. These books are clever and full of word play. I also happen to know you and the fam are into Dr. Who and the cosplay scene- Alice should be a pre-requisite for all fantasy endeavors.

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry (my review). I was about your age the first time I read this and it kind of blew my mind. The sequels are not as good, but certainly worth a read if you enjoy this one. It’s set in a scary strange future where people can’t see in color and everyone’s life is weirdly regimented. You’ll be super stoked to not be living in their community, I promise.

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4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I know, I know. You’ve probably been there, done that. Wasn’t it awesome though?! Katniss was such a butt-kicking character! You’re a girl who shall never be a damsel in distress, so you and Katniss would probably be great friends. (If you could look past her obvious psychological damage stemming from the fact that she was forced to fight other children to the death in an arena setting…)

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (my review). You’re a pretty mature 12, so I wouldn’t worry about giving you something with some heavier themes. This is another WWII book, but it rocks. If you enjoyed Number the Stars and you’re feeling up to it, give this a shot. Did you know Grandpa fought in WWII? He did. When he went to enlist, he changed his name from “Karl” to “Charles” because it sounded “less German.” It’s a true story, Grandma told me. After you read this, you’ll understand why he didn’t want to be associated with Germany at that point in history, despite the fact that our family is largely of German ancestry. It’s a haunting and beautiful book, but have some tissues on hand.

6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (my review). Dude. Cinderella is a CYBORG. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this one. Fractured fairy tales totally seem like your vibe.

cinder

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Don’t laugh! Your parents gave me a copy of this for Christmas when I was about your age and it’s awesome. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will get all up inside your heart and make you want to buy petticoats and bloomers… And find out what a pickled lime tastes like (I still don’t know… Not sure that’s a bad thing though. The sound kind of gross, and we have pizza now, you know?)

8. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I know, I know, it’s another old fashioned book. It’s so much fun, though! Anne gets into all sorts of shenanigans. Just trust me on this one, alright? There’s hair dye and an episode of accidental underage drinking (The accidental part is key there. Drinking at your age is the WORST IDEA EVER. Promise me you won’t drink until you’re in college? I’m old and I worry.)

9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This book will make science and math seem cool, I swear. It’s really cool and full of time warps and alternate dimensions and mystery. Very Whovian, my dear.

wrinkle in time

10. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (my review). Dana, my dearest. If you are anything like I was at your age, the fact that I’m bringing up this book at all is probably making you blush furiously and feel ill. It’s okay, pumpkin. The internet doesn’t know who you are (seriously, we don’t even have the same last name anymore.) This is a REALLY good book though, about feeling awkward and all the embarrassing girl stuff that goes on (or doesn’t) at your age. If it makes you feel better, check out a copy from the library and hide it under your pillow while you read it. That’s what I did. A girl deserves her privacy, you know?

There we have it, folks. My reading list dedicated to my not-so-baby-anymore cousin Dana. Any of you bookworms have a title to add? She’s quite the reader (I’m so proud) so I’m sure she’d appreciate the suggestions. 

Have you sent your address to wordsforworms@gmail.com yet? You know you want a bookmark! You also know that I’m an affiliate for Book Depository and that if you choose to make a purchase from any of the links in this post I’ll get a tiny kickback, right? It’s all on the up and up, swearsies. 

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Sep 05

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Frightening, Young Adult Fiction 61

Hey There Bookworms,

I have been putting off reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent for quite a while now. I really enjoy a good YA dystopia, but the market has been rather saturated with them lately. After reading and not loving Ally Condie’s Matched series, I was skeptical to try again… It’s a darn good thing I did, because right now the Divergent series only ranks below The Hunger Games in my personal ranking of YA dystopias. I KNOW!

Divergent hc c(2)

Alright. We begin in what I can only assume is a post apocalyptic Chicago. Lake Michigan has dried into marshland, and a mere sliver of the city is inhabited. The rest is in ruins. (I enjoyed this book all the more because I’m familiar with the major landmarks and buildings in the Windy City. I grew up in the Chicago burbs, and while I won’t call myself a native,I know Navy Pier from Millenium Park and the Sears Tower from the Hancock building. “Willis” Tower my foot.)

Anyway. The new civilization inhabiting Chicago is split into five major factions. The factions are sort of like fraternities and sororities on steroids. They each value a different virtue above all else. I imagine that Roth named her factions specifically to expand teenage vocabularies (for which I salute her!) Erudite values knowledge, Candor values truth, Abnegation values selflessness, Amity values kindness, and Dauntless values bravery.

Beatrice Prior has just turned 16. She was raised in Abnegation, the, uh Amish equivalent in this society. Not really Amish, I guess, but they’re very modest and focus on the needs of others before themselves. They’re big on feeding the poor and service. A very nice faction, on the whole, but they are discouraged from looking in mirrors and their lives are really regimented. Beatrice, like all the the 16 year olds in the community, is on the precipice of a huge decision. She is about to choose her faction. Being born in Abnegation doesn’t mean she has to stay there. Each student is given an aptitude test to determine where they are best suited, but they have the option to choose a different faction.

The students get to choose where they will go, but they’re not guaranteed acceptance. They have to go through a training and initiation phase, and not everyone makes it. Those who don’t are cast out to live among the “factionless.” The factionless work menial jobs and live in poverty, so it behooves the students to do their best to choose wisely. The problem Beatrice is facing is that her aptitude test was inconclusive. She has to embrace ONE faction, but her test results indicate that she’s got an aptitude for THREE. She’s considered “Divergent” as a result and that is a dangerous thing to be. DUN DUN DUN!

I don’t want to talk too much about this book, because it’s hard to discuss without getting super spoiler happy. I like this book too much to spoil it! Roth does some awesome world building in this novel. Her dystopian Chicago is well drawn and disturbingly lifelike. I love the implications of the faction system. I think it offers some good lessons on the gray areas of life and the importance of seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

After having read this book, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in a faction! Much in the way I dubbed myself a Ravenclaw after reading Harry Potter, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what faction I’d have landed in. I’m so confused! They’re all so flawed, but they’ve all got good qualities too. So far, the only two I’ve been able to rule out are Dauntless (because I’m a giant chicken) and Candor (because even though I suck at lying, I think living in an environment of CONSTANT brutal honesty would be REALLY bad for my overly sensitive self.) This leaves me with Erudite, but I don’t know if I could even go there because despite my inherent bookwormy nerdiness, they’re SUPER science-y folk, and that’s never been my academic forte. I think I’d flunk at Abnegation, because I rather like mirrors and though I’d like to be selfless, I know I’m not that perfect. I suppose I’d chill in Amity, because they grow stuff (I like to garden) and they’re all about being nice to each other… Then again… Maybe I’m Divergent between Erudite, Amity, and Abnegation. I’m all kinds of complicated.

What faction do you think YOU would land in, Bookworms? Where do you see yourself fitting in?

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May 09

No One Mourns The WICKED: The Death Cure by James Dashner

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction, Zombies 33

Good Day Bookworms!

I would like to tell you a story today. It’s a story about LOST. Do you remember that show? Sawyer and Jack and Kate and all these people stranded on a crazy island? The creators kept SAYING they’d tie it all together at the end, but they pretty much just introduced a tertiary storyline that turned out to not be real and everyone re-united in the hereafter? Nobody ever explained why there was a frickin polar bear on the island other than some vague allusion to science experiments and fish biscuits? Why were they testing polar bears? For heaven’s sake, WHY POLAR BEARS?! Apparently it wasn’t important.

Sawyer. Reading. You're welcome.

Sawyer. Reading. You’re welcome.

I just finished The Death Cure by James Dashner and I feel a little bit of LOST letdown. Perhaps this is due to the fact that this is the end of a series that I really enjoyed. Perhaps it’s because I still have questions. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I don’t know. I’m just a little… ambivalent about the way things were left. But let’s back up a moment.

When we left the poor unfortunate souls from the Glade, they were being fried out in the desert and trying to complete a mysterious experiment for a mysterious entity known as WICKED. We learned in The Scorch Trials that after the earth was stricken with a devastating set of solar flares, a man made virus was somehow released that caused people to go insane. Not insane in a treatable realistic mental illness sort of way, but insane in a zombie sort of way. After victims of “the Flare” hit a certain level of brain deterioration, they begin running amok and feasting on human flesh. As it turns out, the boys and girls of the maze experiments were chosen by and large because their brains resisted the virus. They could be exposed to the air born virus all they liked and never succumb to the madness. (A few unfortunate subjects who were NOT immune were included as a control group, so the minute they were turned loose in the desert they were basically screwed. Thanks, WICKED!)

Thomas is our hero and he is one stubborn son of a gun. Once the group emerges alive from their trials in The Scorch, they’re returned to WICKED headquarters and told that the cure is nearly complete. The brilliant scientists just need to run a few more tests. By this point, Thomas and his cronies have had more than enough of this nonsense and they refuse to have their memories re-instated since they don’t trust WICKED with scalpels. All those questions I was hoping to have answered about what in the sam heck went on with Thomas before these trials started? I might know the answers to them now if THOMAS weren’t so STUBBORN!

The_Death_Cure

Thomas and his faithful crew decide they’ve had QUITE enough of WICKED’s tests and break out, jailbird style. That’s when we find out what’s become of the rest of the world. It’s not quite as dire as a full on zombie apocalypse or Captain Tripps, but it ain’t pretty. The group bounces around the remnants of a supposedly infection free Denver for a while before deciding to take a stand and destroy the entity that used them as lab rats. Even if the fate civilization is at stake. They figure that if after torturing children for 2 years WICKED didn’t get the appropriate brain wave patterns they were seeking, the search for the cure was moot. Game over, humanity! Or is it? Muahahahaha. Read the book y’all.

So. About me feeling a bit LOST. There IS a prequel. And I WILL be reading it. Don’t pull a LOST on me, Dashner, just don’t do it! My psyche is fragile! I shall keep you apprised of the happenings, my dear bookworms. Until then, tell me. These books bring up a lot of ethical questions about the rights of the few being sacrificed for the good of the many. We could totally have that discussion. OR. We could talk about why cheese is delicious and why penguins are so damn cute. Your choice, the floor is open.

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Apr 04

Eleanor & Park: It'll Take You Back Faster Than a Whiff of Unwashed Gym Suit.

Blogging, Family, Humor, Personal, Romance, Young Adult Fiction 64

Sup Bookworms?!

I say “sup” because that was the thing to say when I was in high school. During high school,  I absolutely refused to use the term on the grounds that contractions should use apostrophes. I also wrote song lyrics out on the backs of all the notes I passed between classes and pasted magazine photo collages of grunge rockers onto my notebooks. (A 16 year old girl is a 16 year old girl, no matter her taste in music.)

I know what you’re thinking. “Yes, Katie. We KNOW you were a cantankerous teenager. You wrote about it once, plus, you’re a blogger. An awkward adolescence is a prerequisite, right?” I swear I have a point. The point is, I just read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and it took me back to high school faster than whiff of unwashed gym suit.

eleanor & parkHere’s the deal. It’s 1986. Eleanor is the new girl in school. She’s on the curvy side and has wild red hair. Her first day of school, she is denied a seat on the bus by everyone (in a move of calculated cruelty that is innate to the teenage of the species) EXCEPT a half Korean kid named Park. Eleanor and Park don’t fall in love immediately. In fact, they don’t even speak. They only begin to break the ice when Park notices that Eleanor has been reading his comic books out of the corner of her eye.

Eleanor’s got a whole lot of crap going on in her home life. She and her 4 siblings live in squalor with their abusive stepfather and their once vibrant mother (who like many abused women has become a shell of her former self.) Eleanor is in no position to be starting a relationship, but as she and Park progress from friendship to hand holding, she knows she’s a goner.

THIS BOOK! It does for YA novels what Freaks and Geeks did for high school on television. My high school experience was not Gossip Girl or Friday Night Lights. My high school experience was a whirlwind of awkward encounters and intense relationships that never materialized. Where hand holding could be MAJOR. It was so refreshing to read about an imperfect heroine who wasn’t conventionally beautiful. Sure, Eleanor has her good features, but she’s not a girl who is drop-dead-gorgeous without realizing it (cough, cough, Bella Swan.) And Park? Park is a short Asian kid who experiments with guy-liner. I challenge you to find me another YA leading man who is 5’4. Even Harry Potter was tall!

No, I didn’t listen to The Cure on my walkman on the bus, mostly because I didn’t go to high school in 1986. (I listened to The Counting Crows on my discman. Very skippy, the discman.) Even though my gym suit was definitely less horrifying than Eleanor’s polyester onesie, I dreaded gym class. My junior year, I was hit in the head with EVERY SINGLE BALL we used. I only wish I were exaggerating. I was beaned with a soccer ball, basketball, volleyball, hockey puck, tennis ball, football, softball, and the absolute pinnacle of my humiliation? Badminton birdie. I wasn’t subject to intense bullying (although I still do not have good thoughts about that girl with the slicked back ponytail and sinister eyeliner who always laughed at magnetic melon…) I didn’t have a messy home life either, but this book isn’t about winning the screwed up teen experience award. This book is about capturing the essence of being 16. It’s about first love and identity crises and confusion and the occasional glimmer greatness beneath the awkward.

I chewed through this book in two days and had to let it marinate in my brain juices before I could form coherent thoughts. Katie + Eleanor & Park = Love. The soundtracks may change, but high school will always be the same. Rainbow Rowell gets that, and for that, I salute her. (Insert well timed slow clap.)

Alright bookworms. Please tell me I’m not alone here. Let’s take this opportunity to share our most horrifying gym class experiences. It’ll be like group therapy. Ready? Go!

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Mar 01

Crossed by Ally Condie: Simpsons Did It!

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Romance 26

Top O’ The Morning, Bookworms!

You knew I couldn’t read just one book of a trilogy, right? Even if it wasn’t my favorite? Sooo… Let’s talk about Crossed!

crossed

At the end of Matched, Ky is shipped off to the Outer Provinces, Cassia’s family is relocated, and Xander is left at the homestead being all brokenhearted and whatnot. Cassia finagles her way into a work camp. Her plan is to hunt Ky down in the Outer Provinces. Because, you know. Putting your life on the line for a boy you’ve kissed once is a BRILLIANT idea. (Sorry. Angry feminist moment. I’m just really OVER young girls doing stupid things for “love.”)

Persons unknown are trying to blow up The Society. Whoever this enemy is, they’ve already killed off all the real inhabitants of the Outer Provinces, and The Society is trying to pretend they’ve got a disposable population. Ky is sent here and realizes what’s going on. Fortunately, he grew up in the area and manages to escape with two compadres.

Cassia shows up in Ky’s village a few days after he’s disappeared. Not to be outdone in the “I can survive in the wild” contest, Cassia takes her new pal Indie (who seems to have developed a major crush on Xander, despite never having met him) and runs off into some geologic oddity (they refer to it as “the carving.”) Y’all remember in Son, the final book of The Giver series where Claire spends a crap ton of time scaling a cliff? Yeah. They do that too. Anyway, they all wander around and the groups connect and everybody learns a lot about The Rising (AKA The Society’s opposition.) After a lot of walking and talking and theorizing, we finally meet some members of The Rising. The reader is left to ponder whether The Rising is really any better than The Society. Dun dun dun!!!

Are any of you South Park fans? I won’t judge you one way or the other. I don’t watch regularly, but there’s an episode of South Park where every time a new plot point is introduced, someone pops up and yells, “Simpsons did it!” The whole time I was reading this I kept thinking, “The Giver did it! The Hunger Games did it!”

I’m probably being too hard on this series. It’s hard to find something truly original anymore, especially in such a prolific genre. I was chatting with my pal June about this, and we agreed that the society in Matched is a whole lot more believable than many that have been described before. Aside from having limited choices, being in the Society is pretty sweet. You get all of your meals delivered to you. You don’t have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You don’t even have to worry about finding the love of your life because the Match program sounds pretty doggone successful at putting together happy marriages. It’s a lot more believable that people would submit to this sort of a society and not riot constantly than it is to believe in a society where an oppressive regime starves its citizens and forces their children to fight to the death for sport…

What do you think, Bookworms? Am I being to much of a curmudgeon, or should I cut this series some slack?

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Feb 26

Matched by Ally Condie: It's A Little Like A Lot

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction 38

Hi Bookworms,

Remember when I promised to read Matched by Ally Condie? Let it never be said that Katie does not keep her promises! Matched is the first book of a young adult dystopian trilogy. We begin the story with Cassia, a 16 year old girl on her way to her Match Banquet. The Match Banquet is like a cross between a debutant ball and an arranged marriage ceremony (you’ll be disappointed to hear, fans of Gilmore Girls, that there was no fan dance. Not entirely a debutant ball, then.)

Yeah, so the Society in which our story is set is a bit of a mashup of those in The Giver, Brave New World, 1984,The Hunger Games and basically every dystopian novel ever. That sounds really bitchy, but let’s be realistic. The scenario laid out in this book is pretty derivative. Fortunately, I can’t get enough of this genre, so I don’t mind terribly much.

matched

Cassia wears this pretty green dress to her Match ceremony.

Our heroine Cassia is put into a tricky predicament when her Match and BFF Xander may NOT in fact be her Match. She’s given a card that shows her not Xander’s handsome mug, but the beautiful face of the mysterious Ky Markham. (Are you seeing the Hunger Games-esque love triangle forming?) It’s all so angsty and confusing!

This society also has PILLS (like The Giver) but these pills aren’t for repressing feelings and sexuality. The blue pills are a nutrition supplement to be used in case of emergency. The green pills are to calm one down (cough cough SOMA cough.) The red pills are to wake up from the Matrix a mystery. The Society not only chooses your mate, they also give you personalized meals, monitor your exercise, and determine your choice in career. You die (whether you want to or not) on your 80th birthday and you have children at the proscribed time… (You can’t have a kid after 31. You’re supposed to have them when you’re around 24. Because SCIENCE. But. Eff, you, Science. If I decide to have babies after my 31st birthday, it’s none of your beeswax, mmmkay?)

Hey Society, you and me would be having WORDS.

Hey Society, you and me would be having WORDS… for Worms. Don’t worry. I smacked myself for that one.

Pretty much the whole book revolves around Cassia’s confusion in falling for Ky in spite of her affection for Xander. Being adored by two boys is HARD. I guess. I wouldn’t know. Boys weren’t lining up to take me out when I was 16. Pfft. The further Cassia gets into her love life drama, the more the oppression of the Society begins to show. Cracks form, rules are broken, craziness happens. Oh. And they all RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT. I mean. I dig Dylan Thomas, but this poem always reminds me of Dangerous Minds, and then I get “Gangsta’s Paradise” stuck in my head, and I’m forced to rock out.

So bookworms, who’s read this? Did you find it to be a mash-up of what’s gone before, or is my inner crotchety old man coming out?

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Feb 08

Little Red Riding Hood meets Beauty and the Beast meets the Thriller Video: Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie

Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Young Adult Fiction 28

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

What’s that? You want to hear me ramble about Little Red Riding Hood again? You’re in luck because more Project Fairy Tale is coming your way! Scarlet Moon by Debbie Viguie is a young adult novel that takes Little Red Riding Hood and molds into something completely different… Not unlike the way I can model some sweet, sweet play-doh into tiny ropes of spaghetti. (Work with me here, it’s been a long week.)

scarlet moon

The book starts out with a young Little Red Riding Hood and her brother racing through the woods, a wolf in hot pursuit. The wolf gnaws on Little Red’s legs (her name is Ruth in this novel) and then her brother rescues her by stabbing the wolf. Once Ruth gets home and all stitched up, her brother Stephen decides he needs to go fight the Crusades.

Yes, the Crusades! So. Ruth is left at home for the 9 year gap in the story during which she ages enough to become a viable love interest. She works in her father’s blacksmith shop- in pants (GASP!) Eventually, her cousin Peter returns from the Crusades with grim news about Stephen (he’s killed in battle) and a SERIOUS case of PTSD.

Ruth and Peter’s grandmother was run out of town on suspicion of witchcraft once upon a time, but Ruth always assumes she’s just an eccentric healer/early scientist type. Perhaps just a bit of a hippie who likes to experiment with the mushrooms she finds in the woods. Whatever. Peter is convinced that she really knows magic so he takes to spending inordinate amounts of time with her to “train.” Much to his dismay, he learns little more than herbal remedies.

In the meantime, Hottie McHotstuff nobleman shows up in front of Ruth’s blacksmith shop after his horse throws a shoe. I know what you’re thinking. The Crusades were FOREVER ago, and horseshoes seem a wee bit on the industrial side. DO THESE DATES COINCIDE APPROPRIATELY? Have no fear, my bookworms, you sticklers for accuracy. They DO in fact work out. I googled it, baby. I now feel a little bit ignorant on the history of farriers, but I’m working on that. Horseshoes are like super ancient, believe it or not. Anyhow…

Hottie McHotstuff’s name is William. He’s got it bad for our lady in pants. Who can resist chicks who wield molten weaponry? But William also has… Dun dun dun! A SECRET! This is a young adult novel. With a supernatural twist. And a wolf. I’ll give you three guesses where the author went with this… But you’ll only need one.

WEREWOLF!

WEREWOLF! (This one wears a shirt. Most of the time. More’s the pity.)

William and Ruth are all attracted to eachother and stuff, but William can’t allow himself to marry Ruth without revealing his secret. Way back in the first Crusade (there were a bunch of them. Anybody else totally rolling their eyes at humanity’s incessant warring over religion?) William’s ancestor kills a farmer by accident and is cursed by the farmer’s witchy wife to become a werewolf. The curse becomes his legacy. Remember that wolf that tried to eat Ruth? IT WAS WILLIAM! (Seriously, I need a soap opera soundtrack in here. It would be so much more entertaining!)

So now we have Little Red Riding Hood meets Beauty and the Beast, with a dash of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video on the side. Can Ruth look past the fact that William might eat her by accident in a fit of passion? (Bella in Twilight seemed to have gotten over it effectively, but Ruth’s got more self respect. I mean, the girl rocks PANTS, y’all.)

I know I know. SPOILERS. This book was actually a really fast read. Despite being a little cheesy and predictable, it wasn’t awful. If you like paranormal YA romances, this is right up your alley. If you’re a snarky pain in the ass like myself, you might want to read it anyway. How often do you get to make play-doh spaghetti out of two fairy tales and a pop culture icon?! (I take metaphors way too far, and then I just keep on going…)

So Bookworms, I’ve got to know. Does anybody else out there fact check their historical fiction? I’m not so brilliant at history that I’ll hold authors to extreme specifics, but if something sounds wonky, I look it up. Is it just me?!

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Nov 07

Don't Kill The Messenger! (Messenger by Lois Lowry)

Children's Fiction, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction 5

Happy Wednesday, Bookworms!

I know what you’re thinking! “Messenger had better link up The Giver and Gathering Blue or I’m going to be one angry bookworm!” I know that’s what I was thinking. Well it wasn’t exactly that vitriolic, but I was pleased when I started this and recognized the characters.

We start off this story with Matty. Remember Matt from Gathering Blue? In Kira and Matty’s community they earn syllables to tack onto their names as they age. So Matt became Matty. Which is funny because, in traditional English naming convention, the addition of a Y actually makes the name sound YOUNGER. Like, your full name is Matthew but when you’re a little kid you’re Matty, and when you hit 8 you refuse to answer to the baby name and insist on Matt? In this society, you’d start out as Matt, go to Matty, then Matty-Saurus-Rex. You know. The usual progression.

Messenger takes a turn for the allegorical in this novel. We depart from the sci-fi realm and move a little more into fantasy territory. Remember how Kira’s dad showed up to see her in his blue shirt? And how Matty was the one who found him? We finally find out that this mysterious village that takes in the disabled is where Jonas and Gabe ended up!!! Cliffhanger resolved! Jonas and Gabe didn’t die, the lights they sledded to in the midst of that blizzard was this village.

A dude and an evil forest. Oooooh.

At the end of Gathering Blue, Matty decides to stay in the village with Kira’s dad, but he still visits Kira from time to time. He’s got a talent for traveling back and forth through the woods without having the trees turn on him and attack him Wizard of Oz style. Now the village in which the outcasts resides is pretty serene. They don’t euthanize their misfits or leave their injured in a field to die.

Unfortunately, things are starting to get a little weird in the village. The village starts having regular “Trade Marts” which is sort of like a marketplace, with a twist. There’s a weird peddler dude (who calls himself “Trademaster”) who is coming to the village and making “trades” for his goods. The uncorrupted village population soon begins trading the best parts of their personality for gaming machines and vanity items. The villagers’ temperment begins to change and they decide to close their borders. Since things are starting to get a little dicey, Kira decides it’s time to hurry up and join her father in the village before the borders close. (As you recall, Kira opted to stay in her home society to help them change for the better. It’s implied that she manages to make progress, but Lowry doesn’t go into much detail there. )

Matty goes into the angry forest to fetch Kira and bring her to the village safely. Along the journey, Matty begins to be rejected by the forest that once favored him. He gets stung by insects, tangled by vines, and attacked by underbrush. Are you ready to embrace allegory? Okay. Kira has a gift for weaving. We’ve covered that. Jonas has a gift, which is part of what made him attractive to become the Giver. His gift manifests itself by occasional psychic episodes. Matty also has a gift , of sorts.

Yeah, like I needed ANOTHER reason to avoid the great outdoors. Forest attacks? Clearly I won’t be camping… Ever.

Matty plays the sacrificial lamb. While in the forest, he sacrifices himself to whatever evil spirits are jacking things up. He restores the forest to a normal state, and his death chases the influence of the Trademaster from the village.

Now, I appreciate that this book gave me some closure to Jonas’s story. I was downright giddy that Jonas and Kira were woven into the same plot. However. I wasn’t crazy about the turn we took from relatively realistic science fiction to full on fantasy. In The Giver everything seemed to have a scientific explanation. In order to have a peaceful society, you have to take away certain aspects of humanity. No place for passion in a place where there is no fighting, no sexual competition, no need for individualism. Gathering Blue had hints of fantasy, but mainly felt like a society that had gone back in time after a cataclysm in the world we know. The animated evil forest and the Trademaster took me on a journey I wasn’t anticipating. I won’t say it was a terrible place to go, but I would have preferred sticking to the realistic feel of the first two books.

Does it bother anyone else when a book takes an unexpected turn? I’m not talking a plot twist, I’m talking a genre shift. Am I the only person who isn’t crazy about this?

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