Sunday, April 24, 2011

In My Mailbox (19)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren with inspiration from Pop Culture Junkie.

This is a great event where we share all the great books we've picked up to read for the week! Please join us in getting to know one another and sharing great reads!  Here's what I got this week . . .

Good Oil
by Laura Buzo

A wonderful, coming-of-age love story from a fresh new voice in YA fiction.

'Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I'm open to all kinds of bribery.'

From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost...head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he's 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes? For ages 15+. 

by Gae Polisner

While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.

Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.

by Jon Skovron
Jael Thompson has never really fit in. She’s changed schools too many times to count. The only family she’s ever known is her father, a bitter ex-priest who never lets her date and insists she attend the strictest Catholic school in Seattle. And her mother—well, she was a five thousand year old demon. That doesn’t exactly help.

But on her sixteenth birthday, her father gives her a present that brings about some unexpected changes. Some of the changes, like strange and wonderful powers and the cute skater boy with a knack for science, are awesome. But others, like the homicidal demon seeking revenge on her family? Not so much.

Steeped in mythology, this is an epic tale of a heroine who balances old world with new, science with magic, and the terrifying depths of the underworld with the ordinary halls of high school.

by Amalie Howard

The spell was simple …  Cruentus Protectum. Defend the Blood.

But what do you do if your blood is your enemy?

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds—much less one that reveals she’s a witch with unimaginable power.

What’s more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own …

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood’s deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?

by Julie Halpern

On the first day of Lillian’s summer-before-college, she gets a message on her cell from her sort-of friend, Penny. Not only has Penny faked her own kidnapping, but Lil is the only one who figures it out. She knows that Penny’s home life has been rough, and that her boyfriend may be abusive. Soon, Penny’s family, the local police, and even the FBI are grilling Lil, and she decides to head out to Oregon, where Penny has mentioned an acquaintance. And who better to road-trip across the country with than Lil’s BFF, Josh. But here’s the thing: Lil loves Josh. And Josh doesn’t want to “ruin” their amazing friendship.

Josh has a car and his dad’s credit card. Lil has her cellphone and a hunch about where Penny is hiding. There’s something else she needs to find: Are she and Josh meant to be together?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Author Interview: Gae Polisner, Author of The Pull of Gravity

So, how flipping excited am I to read The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner?  It sounds like a book that hits home and has a lot of the elements that I look for in a good story.  So when I saw a blog tour announced for it from the Teen Book Scene, I pounced! I am so thrilled to have Gae on here today and love what she has to say about her upcoming book, her writing and her life when she's not an author.  Welcome, Gae!

While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.

Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.
(from GoodReads).  Releases on 05.10.2011.

When I first read the synopsis for The Pull of Gravity, I instantly thought it will be a novel that I am going to have a lot in common with (Yoda, Steinbeck, family dysfunction and a roadtrip - love it).  What made you want to write this?

I have always loved YA, read voraciously as a kid, and read MG and YA aloud to my two boys from the time they were little until just a few years ago (okay, my younger one STILL lets me read aloud with him if it’s a great YA I want to read too!) Anyway, I was already writing women’s fiction and decided I wanted to write a book for them. A character-driven piece with a male main character, like the great character-driven fiction I loved as a kid.  

From the synopsis, it sounds like Nick has it rough right now.  Can you give us an idea of what Nick is like and what he is going through at the beginning of the story for our readers?

Nick’s life is a bit of a mess. He’s about to start high school and breaks his leg (it involves a water tower, a fever, and a machete-wielding cherry cola). His older brother is a jerk to him which drives him crazy. His parents are fighting and his father, who used to be a happy, gregarious journalist in NYC, is now an obese, depressed “Jabba the Hutt” on the couch. Oh yeah, and his sort of best friend is dying of a freak, rare disease.

Who is your favorite character from The Pull of Gravity and why? 

Oh man, I love Nick, Jaycee and the Scoot for different reasons, but Jaycee is truly it. She’s funny and a bit of a wise-ass, and totally who I wish I could have been as a teen. Plus, she can read minds.

What do you want readers to take away from The Pull of Gravity?

More than anything, I hope the characters stick with them. And the small moments that feel real and poignant in the book. 

Can you share with us a favorite, short excerpt from The Pull of Gravity? 

Yes, sure. I wonder if out of context it will resonate? But it’s when Nick and Jaycee first get on the bus to Rochester to sneak away and try to find  the Scoot’s dad:

 On the bus to Rochester, Jaycee announces she’s reading Of Mice and Men to me.
“Seriously, Nick,” she says, slipping the book from its purple pouch and resting it in her lap, “it’s the saddest, most beautiful story. Poor Lennie, wait till you see.” I nod. “You’ll have to read it in English Lit next year anyway,” she adds, “so, I’m just saving you the trouble.” 

I don’t argue, even though having a $15,000 book out in the open on a crowded bus makes me nervous. Plus, I’m not really in the mood for sad. She wants to do it, so I don’t say that either.   

We’ve been on the bus for a half hour. Neither of us has said too much since the Trailways station, so I’m cool with her reading. She turns to the first page and says, “Okay, here we go,” and starts from the beginning. While she reads, I watch scenery go by out my window. 

“‘A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside banks and runs deep and green.’” She pauses, says, “Soledad – that’s in California. It’s like the 1930’s during the time of the Great Depression.” She swats at my back. “You’re not even listening to me, Nick.” 

“Yes, I am,” I answer. “The banks are deep and green.” 

“Ok, well, then you are, sort of. So let me give you a little background. Lennie and George, the main characters, are these poor, migrant farm workers. They’re looking for work on a ranch. They’re on the road, like us.” She perks up and adds, “And Lennie’s retarded, like you are.”  She laughs at her own joke.

I smile despite myself. I love Jaycee. I’m glad to be with her. I mean this in mostly a friendly way. What I really mean is, I’m not so happy at the moment, but I’m happier to be here with Jaycee.

I love the fact that you say you love character-driven fiction in your bio.  What makes a character-driven story appeal to you more than a plot-driven story?

Stories don’t make people interesting, people make stories interesting. At least to me.  For me, it’s never been enough to keep me hooked just by telling some crazy big story about spaceships or the future, or murders and mayhem; my eyes glaze over if I don’t care about the people IN the story. For me, it’s the other way around. Give me a few quirky, funny, interesting people and let them all describe eating an apple to me, and I’ll hang on the edge of my seat. Okay, maybe not an apple story, but you get my point?

To this day, I remember Pony Boy and Johnny and Soda Pop (The Outsiders), Meg and Charles Wallace (A Wrinkle In Time), Teddy and his brother (Don’t Take Teddy) though not exactly what happened to any of them. I remember the characters, and I miss them, and they’ve stayed with me as if they were real. In fact, just listing their names makes me want to go back and read about them all over again. I hope one day someone will say that about the characters in my book.

Tell us a little about your writing journey.  When did the writing itch hit, and how did you sojourn into the YA realm?

I wrote a ton when I was little straight through college. In fact, have recently found my totally awesome creative writing professor from Boston University on facebook! And look, this is what my fourth grade teacher wrote in my report card (come on, I was 9): 

“This maturity carries over into Gae’s descriptive writing as well. She’s able to develop ideas and concepts in such a manner that you feel as though you’re reading adult material.”

(And, no, she did not mean porn…)

Then I went to law school and it sucked the creativity right out of me. It took me years and years to get back to my creative writing and basically a decade from starting my first manuscript (women’s fiction) to getting that ever-elusive book deal.

I noticed you are a practicing family law attorney/mediator.  That's one tough job.  Did your experiences there have any hand in your writing?  If so, how?

Yes, in fact I’ve noticed lately that the issues of marriage, divorce and infidelity seem to pop up in all my manuscripts, even YA, so I guess, yes, maybe they have. 

The hardest cases I see in my practice, btw, are not the ones where the couples hate one another, but the ones where they have just sort of grown apart. There is heartache in their decision to split, but an overriding desire to seek happiness in the one life they have, and I think the concept that we can make mistakes, be flawed, but still be good and worthy of being loved (a concept which shows up in all my novels) stems in great part from my work in this regard.

What do you do when you are not working or writing?

I love watching my boys, 15, and 13, do their things, whatever those things might be (at the moment, tennis/kendo and baseball/basketball, respectively. I love listening to my husband sing (which he does semi-professionally with a local performance group) or my older son play guitar. And I am an avid open-water swimmer. The open water – well, any water – is pure bliss.

What are some books which you feel everyone should read in their life, but particularly as a young adult? 

Well, certainly the ones I named above. Also, my hands-down favorite of the year and one of the most beautiful of all time IMHO: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Tween-wise, Liberation of Gabriel King was one of my all-time favorites as well as The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (seriously, you’re NEVER too old to read this one). I’m now reading some amazing YA’s from the others in the Class of 2K11. You should check them out. Some SERIOUS talent in this group.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Gae!  It was a pleasure having you!  Best of luck with the release - I look forward to reading it!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mind the Gap: College-Aged YA Lit & Beyond

The end of series, but a great i.e.
A couple if months ago, I sent out some feelers over Twitter about wanting to post about the lack of post-high school young adult literature.  I love my high schoolies, but I find a particular resonance with the older set of young adult lit.  I was so gung ho on writing a post.  I even went so far as to ask a few publishers (by 'few' I mean 'many') for their opinions.  Unfortunately, I only got back one response, and it didn't really address the main questions of post-HS YA lit.

Features 19-year old, college dropout..
So, I was thrilled to see Nic from Irresistible Reads recent listopia on GoodReads for 'Favourite Older YA Reads - Contemp fiction'.  And then there was this wonderful post from Kristin Briana Otts over at YA Highway, "New Adult: The Misfit Genre".  In it, she talk about how she beta read a new, amazing manuscript with a freshman-in-college protagonist, but that publishers were telling the author that they can't sell YA with college students.

A top post- HS pick.
Personally, I am begging for older YA!   How many of you love reminiscing about your college years?  I think a person can certainly make the argument that one's character and life go through the MOST development during your late teens through your mid-twenties.  Plus, there's that whole 'boomerang generation' phenomenon going on (see article links below).  The kids in their 20s, either during college, post-college, or no college, are moving back in with mom and pops.  A lot of us can't get a job that affords us to live on our own, pay our school loans, pay our car loan, etc.  Being scared and unsure of your future, traversing the hazardous dating world, going through friendship shifts and dealing with the family?  Ummm, any of this sound familiar?  Trust me, feeling like that particular brand of loser is a very lonely place to be in, mentally speaking, regardless of whether you are 16 or 25.

Rare male protag in his early 20s.
Your audience is already here, dear publishers.  We just need you to sell the product.

I conferred with a few cohorts, and here's what they had to say:

"I would definitely like to see more books with college-aged protagonists and subject matter. In college I noticed that there was a severe lack of books with protagonists my age: I could either read about high school girls or twenty-something girls who always seemed to live in a city and had crazy hijinks with boys. I don't think I ever found a book in college that described what I was going through. . . .  I think that there's a pretty big market for books with college-aged protagonists because college is a time when everything begins to change. My life changed dramatically in college and I made some huge decisions about what I was going to do with my life. I think 18 to 22 year-olds are looking for guidance during the college years (or post-high school years) but not in the form of parents, advisors or self-help books, and I believe that novels geared toward that age group would be awesome.

I'm not exactly sure why we don't see much college-aged YA lit. I think that part of it is a lot of people want to read about characters in the next stage of life than they are in and so people think that college-aged people want to read about adults beginning their professional lives. That may be true to some extent, but what about high schoolers who want to read about college life? There often seems to be a huge disconnect in expectations people have for teenagers: we don't want them to read about drugs, sex and alcohol because that might harm them in some way, but then we send them off to college where they will likely encounter those things very regularly. Personally, my parents kept a pretty strict eye on the books I was reading and in high school, they would not have wanted me to read about college goings-on even though I went off to college several months later and saw them all firsthand. There's also the expectation of college students to act like adults, which includes reading adult books and other literary materials. That age group seems to have been left out of books and I'm really not quite sure why."
 -Katie Cooper, English teacher
Adam & Mia in their 20s

"I almost feel bad for those at the "in between stage" of life.  Not a teenager anymore, but not quite an adult yet either.  It's a crucial time in anyone's life & I think it's important for authors to touch upon this.  I would like to see more books written during that time frame.  I know for myself, I would be able to read it & still get a reaction from it.  There are a lot of readers going through that stage right now that do read YA & I am sure they could benefit from some of these stories too.  It's always important to connect with your characters."
The Infamous Gap Year . . 
-Ginger, GReads!

Boomerang Generation articles - Check'em out: 
 *New York Times' The Opinion Pages, "Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated" by Matthew Klein
*Newsworks, "Adolescence, now twice as long" by Maiken Scott
*The Fiscal Times, "The Boomerang Generation: More Reasons to Move Back Home" by Michelle Hirsch
*Reuters, "More young U.S. adults live with parents: study" Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Patricia Reaney

So, what's your take?  Would you like to see more post-HS young adult literature?  Do you have some suggestions that you would like to share?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday (18)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. I highly encourage you to get to know your fellow bloggers and see what's new and upcoming in the book world!

Here's what I'm waiting on:

Releases on 06.7.2011

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. 
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

So, what are you waiting on?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

REVIEW: Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia

Dreams of Significant Girls
by Cristina Garcia
Releases on 07.12.2011
256 pages
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC via book blog tour

Brought together each summer at a boarding school in Switzerland, three girls learn a lot more than just French and European culture. Shirin, an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom, are thrown into eachother's lives when they become roommates. This is a story of 3 paths slowly beginning to cross and merge as they spend the year apart, but the summers together. Through navigating the social-cultural shoals of the school, developing their adolescence, and learning the confusing and conflicting legacies of their families' past, Shirin, Ingrid, and Vivien form an unbreakable bond.

This story takes readers on a journey into the lives of very different girls and the bonds that keep them friends  (from GoodReads).

REVIEW: This is not a book. Dreams of Significant Girls is a finely crafted vessel, and the story beautifully braids together three different narratives into a single, strong anchor. I didn't want to put it down.

As the synopsis says, the three girls are sent by their families to a premier Swiss boarding school for a summer session. Each girl is sent for a different reason, and each has her own goals and gripes associated with the trip. The three are placed in the same dorm room together, and each fills the space with her personality, culture, interests, and insecurities. The story starts in the summer of 1971, continues into the two summers, with correspondence in between. Each girl takes first-person narration in turn, adding a multi-layered viewpoint and forming a comprehensive coming-of-age picture from three people with very different, but surprisingly relatable, backgrounds.

Shirin: she's deceptively passionate. At first, you would think she is a perfect snob and devoid of personality, but later unfolds with her own strong character, only to be undone when she has to weigh actions done against and by her with her family's culture and expectations. Her life is one of privilege, but privilege isn't protection.

"She turned on her tape deck as loud as it would go.  The ear-splitting music filled the room - a fast, grinding guitar accompanied by a voice so low and growling that it was impossible to decipher the words.  I immediately thought of my brother Cyrus, unstoppable in his fighter jet, streaking across the sky. Forget the couture party dresses.  Forget my matchmaking society mother.  Forget teaching math to fidgeting schoolgirls. . . I wanted desperately to fly alongside Cyrus, screaming across the empty blue skies."
-Shirin, Day One

Ingrid: at first, I had her pegged as a poseur, a small town girl who liked to talk big.  Then she backed up her talk with action, and I was dumbfounded.  She's boy crazy, not always fair, often selfish, and occasionally, tempts her crueler nature.  She also has natural streaks of eccentricity and artistry.  She has trouble dealing with her own family and personal issues, but glares unflinchingly at atrocities committed by others.  No one lives in the moment and deliberately snuffs out inhibitions quite like she does.  She is deeply insecure, and struggles particularly with her feelings over her father's PTSD from his time as a German soldier.

"Why the big separation? Just because we were old enough to get pregnant didn't mean we should be kept apart from the XY chromosomes. Boys made up half the human race, so what was the big fucking deal? To act like they were kryptonite only made things worse. Everyone back home was sure I'd had sex already. I hadn't, but I was determined to that summer. In my experience, grown-ups always kept the best stuff for themselves."
-Ingrid, Day One

Vivien: the one I felt closest to. Gentle, but with a solid, stoic character.  She bears hardship the best of the three. At the time of their arrival, she had the most struggle in her past, yet she is the least cynical and most optimistic of the three.  Her family is earmarked by her father's past as a Holocaust survivor, her mother's richly loving Cuban family, their exodus from Miami after being labeled fascist sympathizers, and father's current position as a jeweler who deals specifically with South African diamonds.

"Sometimes when a phrase in English doesn't make sense to me, I translate it into Spanish. Fiesta de jardin. For me, it's a way of pulling words and meanings apart into their constituent elements, giving them a new context and rhythm. Growing up speaking two languages has come in handy. Not just for whispering secrets, but for cultivating perspective, a certain distance between you and what you're observing. It's like sitting on a stone wall between two countries, two cultures, two gardens, but not fully participating in either."
-Vivien, Day Fourteen

When the book begins, the girls are nowhere close to becoming best of friends. Shirin and Ingrid in particular are hostile towards each other. These two are yin and yang to each other, with Vivien often acting as subtle peacemaker and bridge. Then, something salacious happens with Ingrid, and something despicable to Shirin. Especially in Shirin's case, this sets off a series of events and reflections that solidifies their friendship. If that sounds convenient, trust me, the friendship is anything but one of convenience; but, as J.K. Rowling wrote in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone, there are some things that you can't walk away from without becoming friends. In that trio's case, it was troll. In this trio's case, it's being witness and a pillar of support to one another's personal demons and heartaches.  

I absolutely love the quiet way Garcia makes history present in this story. It's not the story, but it's there as background and context. The characters will mention a current event from those years in passing, and it gives a subtle point-of-reference. Sometimes it's the most casual mention, i.e. at one point, a character mentions the 1972 Olympics in Munich. You know the major event from that event hasn't happened yet by the way she mentions it, but you, the reader, does. It gives the story this tone that the characters themselves aren't aware of yet. It gave me the chills, like I was the seeing the future of their world, but it's the past of our own. It creates a marvelous sense of connection and tension. I think Garcia picked the time and setting of her story with especial care. Each girl comes from family that has been historically displaced or is facing upheaval, both politically and personally. Their personal family histories also give them connections through connections to world history. Each girl comes from a background that forces them to live in a duality, a double-consciousness: Jewish-Cuban-New Yorker, German-Canadian-Small town Girl, and a mixed-heritage-very upper-crust, Iranian Princess. In particular, I feel like I had an advantage with understanding Shirin, since I have several friends and acquaintances who were born and grew up in the States as a direct result of the Iranian Revolution. Knowing their families' histories gave me context for Shirin's character.  

It's a fine irony that they all three are put out of their comfort zone in Switzerland, the land of neutrality. For them, it was the Land of Opportunity, a place where they learned what they were made of as individuals. There definitely are moments of, "yeah, right", when reading about the extraordinary opportunities and events that come their ways. At times, it feels like they should be part of fairy tale. I still loved the story, even then - it felt like this is what happens when you take the risk if being true to your own ambitions and sense-of-self. Of course, each girl comes from a well-to-do background, but that was not always the case for two of the girls' families, and will not long be true for the third.  

This is the beautiful part of the story: it shows that history is context. It influences your life and gives it background, but what you do with what you are given and the choices you make is your own narrative. We are a part of a world wide diaspora that has always and will always be in motion. These three girls are proof that there are no little neat boxes you can check yourself into in life; you have to create your own world, the one that is significant to you.  

The story, setting, everything - it's exquisitely written. You feel like the girls are confiding in you, letting you know about the summers that they count as the most important of their lives. I wish I could articulate all the complexities of this book, but I will say it ranks as one the most intelligent young adult novels I have ever had the pleasure and privilege of reading. When I am lucky enough to read an ARC for tour, it's not often that I feel compelled to own. This absolutely is a book that I will buy once it's released. I want to experience it again. One week was not enough. Dreams of Significant Girls is an unflinching look at the life long process of building who you are and want to be amid the people you share life with. You will be enveloped and captivated by this book. You may not be friends with these three, but you will feel honored to witness their coming-of-age. I highly recommend it. 

Extra: Cristina Garcia is prolific writer and had many works. Dreams of Significant Girls is her first young adult novel. Check out her other books and writing at her website

If you want to get a good sense of Garcia's writing style before this book releases, please pick up her Dreaming in Cuban (GoodReads/Amazon). I read it college 10 years ago and still own my copy. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992. 

Please note: I don't normally warn about this, but Garcia is absolutely bare bones honest about each girl's curiosity about sex. This is different in each girl's case, but I did want to make a note that there are some descriptions of sexual acts (and their consequences). If you prefer your YA without mention of sex, this book is not for you. However, I will say that this is a small, but significant part of the total story and encourage you to read this book regardless.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Second Open Letter to Gayle Forman, Author of Where She Went

Where She Went
by Gayle Forman
Releases on 04.05.2011
264 pages
Dutton Juvenile
Source: ARC from the publisher

It's been three years since the devastating accident ... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance (from GoodReads).

 Dear Ms. Forman,

Can I call you Gayle?  After all, you've reduced me to a snotty, hiccuping mess twice now.  That ought to put us on a first name basis.  The last time I wrote you was right after I finished If I Stay.   Nothing makes me feel quite as raw as something that rips the lid off my fear of death, and did that book ever pick my shaking little bones clean.  But it's okay.  Going through that once, it's all good.  That's what a good book is supposed to do to you, right?  Great books evoke emotional responses.  Crying is a barometer for your empathy, for your soul.  And who wouldn't cry for Mia, after what she went through?  Losing your entire family in one swoop, and then deciding to keep on keepin' on despite the horrific loss. .. I can't imagine that Mia's bravery and resolve wouldn't affect a person.  I didn't think I'd cry like that again for quite some time.

I guess somewhere in there I did kind of forget about Adam. . . Again, you and your setups.  

I don't know how, but you did it again, but this time it was with a pill popping, emo dripping, reclusive, self-loather.  I was in tears by page 100, and you managed to do it with a type I normally despise.  I kept thinking the same thing in awed wonder:"Oh, that wench.  She's killing me again."  I mean that without ire and with a certain kind of admiration.  I don't name call unless I care.

Honestly, it was easier when it was the girl breaking my heart.  Oh, but Adam, you can't hate the guy who got Mia to come back.  It's not possible.  If love can do that, it can do anything right?  His voice and promise were the Lorenzo's Oil of young adult tragedy.  

I guess somewhere along the line, we've become something of a Kim to Mia in our minds, and we admired Adam for his devotion to her.  I guess somewhere we figured that Adam was fine being a shelf of support for Mia, and we forgot that he might need one, too.  I guess we kind of forgot that her whole family had become his.  

Adam's feelings of loss are tough in this one.  I think it's always tough when you are the secondary mourner, the one who doesn't have any right to treat the loss as your own.  When someone close to you loses a blood relative whom you also loved, there in something in you that feels like you don't have the right to treat the loss as your own.  Sometimes all you have left is the one you have to be there for.  And when that person chooses to leave you. .  .Christ, what the hell are you worth then?  I see why Adam has issues.

There might have been flaws in Where She Went.  I wouldn't know.  I was too busy being in the moment with them, crossing my fingers and wanting/hoping/praying they left with closure.  So, if there were any, they didn't matter - they were overpowered by the emotion.  Adam's flashbacks, his internal monologue and their conversation, their reckoning . . . I didn't think you could do it again, but you did.  You left me without the ability to write an actual review.  I think it was actually tougher (and better) this time because we already know them both.  I mean, I'm writing this thing on a Monday during my lunch break, but I finished it last Thursday.  I thought the distance would give me insight, but here I am, tearing up again.

You nailed it again, Gayle.  I doubt we'll ever see Adam and Mia in any more books, but I do hope you will continue to bring your brand of evocative and emotional writing to the table again and again.

As for making me cry, I am going to steal a line and say, "So, dude.  Bygones."


Friday, April 1, 2011

The "Thursday" Literary News Roundup (18)

The Thursday Friday Literary News Roundup
(just this Friday)

In Memoriam:

From The New York Times: "Diana Wynne Jones, Children’s Author, Dies at 76".  From it: "Diana Wynne Jones, whose critically admired stories and novels for children and teenage readers imagined fantastical worlds inhabited by wizards, witches, magicians and ordinary boys and girls, died on Saturday in Bristol, England. She was 76."

Articles to Read:

I'm sure you've heard, but in case you didn't, self-published author Amanda Hocking has gone to the majors with her new, upcoming four-book series. She's signed with St. Martin's Press.  Here's more from the lit blogs on Forbes and The New York Times.

The Washington Post had a fantastic article here: "Sarah Pekkanen on the gender divide in children’s books".

Great article and interview on Carrie Ryan from the Deseret News, "Ryan hopes her books help teens deal with fears".

From USAToday: "'Twilight' fans are on Team Meyer"

I absolutely lovedLovedLOVED this article featuring Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, "A.S. King Channels Her Weird Young Adult Side".  It's a very informative insight into her views on writing.  It also mentions and names her works-in-progress.

From The New York Review of Books: "Six Reasons Google Books Failed". Pretty decent opinion piece.

Love this from The Guardian - it's a preview of an audio book (article includes both the audio and the transcript), but the subject is fascinating: "Preview: authors reveal the secrets of their craft".

CNNMoney posted, "How Amazon will lead the way to cheaper tablets".  Hey, it was bound to happen.  How are we going to recycle all this techno stuff??

Haha, loves.  Some cheek and balls about some classics from The Guardian: "Not the 50 books you must read before you die".  I don't agree on all of them, but it's snickering good fun to read!

Aww, have you seen this?  From The Atlantic: "Etsy and Books Collide: Penguin's New Hand-Sewn Covers."  I'm not sure about the Emma one, but I think The Secret Garden one is to die for! has moxie, don't you think: "10 Movies That Were Better Than The Book"

Hello, Memory Lane.  Remember those cheapo Scholastic book order forms you got in grade school (I was in the 'Troll' era)?  Feast your eyes: "28 Vintage Book Club Mailers".

Okay, loved this, also from Flavorwire: "Literary Mixtape: Elizabeth Bennet"

Nice opinion piece from The Telegraph: "Commentary: literary classics are a window on today's world: Michael Gove has complained that GCSE English students are not reading enough Victorian literature"and a corresponding article from The Daily Mail: "The final chapter for classic literature as only a handful of pupils study time-honoured novels"

VERY interesting and thorough opinion post on i09: "Stop Writing Young Adult Science Fiction"  From the post, "If we really want to open science fiction up to new readers, we won't do it by dividing our audience up into smaller and smaller groups. Nor will we expand the minds of young people by telling them that they should only read specially-designated novels for young people."

Muhahahahaha, from The National Post's blog, The Afterword, "Confessions of a book hoarder".  This guy laments over his inability to let go of the books he owns, even the crap ones.  Sound familiar?  BTW - he is asking for submissions on your own book hoarding stories.

Buzz: Books and Otherwise

Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater revealed a fourth book in the series:

Remember A Modest Proposal?  Check out this recent purchase by S&S UK and St. Martin's (USA): "Simon And Schuster Hunts Down Terrifying YA Trilogy"

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "'The Hunger Games': popular, violent ... and rated PG-13?:Can the young adult books become a movie fit for young teens?"  Local teens and David Leviathan weigh in.

Rutrow, Scoobs.  The tweeners will be crushed!  From iVilliage: "Robert Pattison: I Can't See HowBreaking Dawn' Will Be PG-13 '..."

From MTV: "Which Hot Blond Guy Would Cassandra Clare Cast As Jace In 'Mortal Instruments'?"

From Variety: "Young Hollywood lines up for 'Seventh Son'"  and this from Up and Comers - not sure if this is confirmed: "The Seventh Son” casts Sam Claflin and Alicia Vikander"

I thought this was a fun article from The Columbus Dispatch on the enduring quality of making Jane Eyre into a movie: "Bronte character keeps showing up in film after film after film".  One of my favorite lines, "Jane Austen is like Gossip Girl, and Charlotte and Emily were like goth twins," he said. "It's a totally different sensibility. The emotional world that Charlotte inhabited is much darker and more dangerous."

That's it for this week, kids! More news and fun stuff to come next week!

If you have any thoughts or suggestions for The Thursday Literary New Roundup, feel free to comment or email me at

REVIEW: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

Memento Nora
By Angie Smibert
Releases on 04.01.2011
192 pages
Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books
Source: Book Blog ARC Tour

Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

REVIEW: I can say with certainty that this book had me from the first sentence:

“I’m about to forget everything I'm going to tell you.”

I adore this book.  It’s different from anything else out there right now.  Everything in it is something that we’ve possibly seen before, but the way Angie Smibert has put the different elements together felt completely fresh and wonderfully thought-provoking.  It’s unusual for me to really enjoy a mostly plot-driven book, but that’s what Memento Nora is: a fast drive through contrivance, compliance, choice and consequence.  It’s a thin book of only 192 pages, and not a single word is wasted.

The setting takes place about 40 to 50 years in the future from what I can estimate.  9/11, the London Underground attack, the Madrid bombing, and a fourth fictional tragedy are defining moments that have shaped the world Nora lives in.  Car bombings, curfews and armored escort vehicles are the norm.  Consumerism is considered a right and civic responsibility, and Therapeutic Forgetting Clinics (TFCs) truly are the opiate of the masses.  See something horrible?  Hop over to your neighborhood TFC, pop a pill, and you will never have to remember it again.

Nora is the main protagonist of the book, and she has a dream life as the beloved, spoiled, petted princess of her mother and father.  In particular, her father concentrates on success and social status.  The book opens with her and her mother on a shopping trip.  During the outing, Nora witnesses a bombing and sees the body of person who died as a result of it.  Hence, her trip to a TFC. 

Nora eventually meets Micah and Winter, the other two main characters in the story.  Micah’s personal and economic situation is the exact opposite of Nora’s. He and his mother previously have lived out of a car, and they now essentially squat in a makeshift home in a commune, and by that I do not a Manson family-style commune, but more like a like urban food co-op/DIY/artesian community.  Living there means you have no where else to go, but you wouldn’t mind sampling their kool-aid from time-to-time.  However, the sense of community he has there is far preferable to the personal home situation Nora faces.  Winter, on the other hand, is a rad, burgeoning artist who loves her best friend, Micah, and is wary of Nora.  Her family has a past and a whole lot of pain that they carry on their backs and in their hearts.  She has a very tight relationship with her grandfather, who appears to be one of those rare people who encompass both high personal standards and a warm and open mind.  After everything she has lost and under her grandfather’s love, Winter’s art gives her something creative and useful to channel her emotions through.  Winter also makes the best connections out the trio, and she’s the one who knows that junked, forgotten things sometimes offer the best solutions.

The story is told through the eyes and ears of these three, and they take turns telling the narrative through alternating first-person points-of-view.  Together, they write and distribute a comic book that changes everything.  They have chosen to retain their memories and then record and distribute them so that they become a part of everyone else’s collective memory.  Doing so exposes some people and entities whose actions would otherwise be wiped from memory.  In a world where forgetting keeps the machine smoothly moving, such a step is not an act of rebellion so much as a call for revolution. 

Memento Nora is fascinating.  It takes the premise that those who forget history are doomed to repeat to an extreme and very personal level.  It mixes that with the idea of government-sanctioned, corporate control over the populace.  I wouldn’t exactly call this book dystopian.  Usually in dystopian novels, an author presents us with a seemingly perfect and well-ordered world and deconstructs it as we read.  Smibert does the opposite and shows us that chaos can be as carefully constructed and controlled as perfection - an inverted dystopia.  She also pays homage to the book’s literary predecessors throughout the story, so be on the lookout for these nods (my personal favorite was the Jonas Defense Fund).  In conclusion, Memento Nora is one those rare books that takes old ideas and reinvents them in a fresh, new way so that we may see their importance and relevance again.  It’s savvy, political, intelligent and controversial – a mesmerizing what-if tale that hits way too close to home and already has seeds planted in the present.  I highly recommend it.

(please note that these quotes are from an ARC and may be changed in a final copy - page numbers are not provided for this reason)

“Ten minutes later the kid came out trailing his mother.  She hurried out the door.  He stuck out his tongue at me.  Loser, I thought, until I saw the white pill sitting on his pink tongue.  He coughed into his hand, then mouthed the word remember, tapping his cast, and tossed the pill into the trash can.
I watched him leave.  He wasn’t glossy.  He wasn’t dreary, either.  He was something else.
He was all there.”

“The Coalition was like some supervillain syndicate or terrorist Legion of Doom, but no Justice League had arisen from the chaos to combat the baddies.  No, it was like the superheroes had abandoned Gotham, and we citizens were supposed to just pop a pill and forget all about it, until the next time villains struck our fair land.”

“I’d pulled gears out of every piece of junk I could lay my hands on, and it still wasn’t enough.  Most things now only have ones and zeros spinning around in a hunk of plastic.  No metal teeth gnashing, turning each other, making things work.  Like clockwork.  In a digital system, all you have to do is erase the bad digit and go on like nothing ever happened.”


Scenes from the film Children of Men echoed a lot in my mind as I read.  In particular, the modern advertising had the same feeing to me – found this great video on YouTube and wanted to share:

Also, living in gated communities complete with their shopping and schools are the status symbol in Memento Nora.  You virtually never have to leave.  This is beyond what we've seen in the Real Housewives of the O.C., and it already happens today.  Here's an example.

You can read the first chapter of Memento Nora at the author’s website.  The book also has its own website, where you can learn more about the characters and see how Memento Nora is being used in the classroom.

FTC: I received this ARC book on loan from a Book Blog Tour organizer (Banned Books Tours) to read and give my honest opinion.  In no way was I compensated for my review.