Natalie Sterling is a self-proclaimed good girl: she does her homework, she’s on student council, she plans ahead, and she certainly doesn’t fool around wasting time on distractions like parties and guys. She has a clearly defined comfort zone and she doesn’t stray. When she starts her senior year, though, the walls she’s set up to define her world start to crumble. She realizes that many of the things she has taken for granted aren’t necessarily so – most of all the things she believes about herself, what she’s capable of, and what she wants.
Vivian has written a novel about serious issues without falling into the Problem Novel trap. The book flies by, the story and characters moving and growing in realistic and compelling ways. The contemporary high school setting works perfectly, yet is simultaneously timeless enough that it felt authentic for an aging Gen X-er like myself.
One of the things I like best about this book is that it introduces feminism and related concepts in a completely natural way. Many of the young women I know reject the word feminism, and feel that it is some old-fashioned concept that doesn’t have any place in the current world. This is so alarming to me, as I’m sure second-wave feminism was to first-wavers, and so on. So I find it both exciting and reassuring to know that there are books like this that so deftly illustrate what feminism is and the many issues surrounding it – and do so with ease and without any cost to the story or characters.
So, this book has it all: compelling story that keeps you on the edge of the page, characters who grow realistically, subtle underlying concepts about Big Important Stuff That Matters, and just plain great writing. Highly recommended.
Want some controversy? Protagonist Stuart has found himself with an overabundance: not only is he gay and out of the closet in a small Christian town that overwhelmingly believes him to be ‘choosing’ a sinful ‘lifestyle’, now his little brother walked in on him while he was jacking off in the shower and then told everyone at their predominantly small-minded church about it. Not so coincidentally, that same morning all the Sunday school teachers were compelled to change their lesson plans to the “Sin of Onan” (spilling seed), and the whole town seems suddenly to be obsessed with the utter wrongness of masturbation.
Stuart also regularly conjures a demon he can coerce into telling him only the truth, and that demon is his source for what really is or is not a true sin (guess where masturbation falls?). Stuart realizes that there is something weird going on in town and hijinks ensue as he works it out with the help of a few friends.
This book is a bit of an oddball, but was a generally enjoyable read for me. Stuart is a likable character and the ridiculous people and events surrounding him make for humorous situations which are mostly well executed. There were a few places where the dialogue didn’t ring true to me, but only a few. The theme certainly feels familiar: the right-wing Christian fear of just about everything related to sex seems more and more prevalent in the media these days, and the inappropriate ways people have been acting lately make this book seem quite plausible. If nothing else, I learned a few new euphemisms.
I am giving away my (paperback but not ARC) copy of this book to the first person to comment here on LibrariAnne (click through if you’re reading this somewhere else) briefly describing your favorite (so-called) sin and why.
This is one of the stronger teen short story compilations I’ve read. Not only is the list of contributors like a who’s who of teen fiction, the geek stories run the gamut: LARPers, Star Trek fans, Star Wars fans, MMORPG players, Rocky Horror participators, trivia nerds, and more. There’s definitely something here to suit most everyone, and I identified at least a little with many of the stories. Interspersed between the stories are humorous one-page features and comics, which sort of serve as palate cleansers.
I’m all about owning my geekiness and it’s fun to revel in it sometimes, but the main thing that came across to me as I read this book is the universality of the characters’ experiences. We all have our own pet passions, but our experiences of uncertainty, shyness, camaraderie, and so forth transcend the specifics. Recommended.
Reviewed from ARC provided by the publisher.
Thanks to the generosity of Little, Brown and Co., I have four free ARCs of this to give away. First four people to comment on the LibrariAnne blog win! (This means that if you’re reading this on Facebook or LiveJournal or somewhere else, you’ll have to click through to comment to enter.)
First off – NO SPOILERS HERE. I’m not going to write anything that will spoil anything for you in Catching Fire. If you haven’t read the Hunger Games yet, though, come back after you’ve finished it.
Katniss is back! This hotly anticipated sequel to the Hunger Games was one of the most sought-after ARCs at this summer’s ALA. When I picked up the first book, I was not convinced that it would be awesome – I’m not really much for adventure stories on the whole, and I hadn’t heard that much about it, but I gave it a shot and ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. Damn!
Catching Fire is definitely a middle chapter in a trilogy, so there’s a lot of references to events from the first book, and a lot of build-up to the finale (Can. Not. Wait.), but there’s a whole lot of action here, too. In addition, there’s more room for thinking about the deeper ramifications of the Games and the society Katniss lives in. It’s awesome that Katniss and Peeta managed to survive, but what is the cost to them as individuals? That and many other, more specific questions, keep running through my mind. If you’ve read it and want to discuss, let’s do so in the comments (spoiler-avoiders, don’t peek!).
Free ARC to the first one to respond in comments (you won’t receive it immediately as I already have a few people who are borrowing it, but you’ll have it within a few weeks).
I’m an admitted fan of Justine Larbalestier’s previous books, and this one was no disappointment. It’s the story of Micah, who is a compulsive liar. She lies about everything, so how, as a reader, can we know if she’s telling the truth about anything? She’s in trouble a lot and has issues with her family, her semi-secret boyfriend, and her identity, all of which are tied up in the lies and truths (?) she tells. Definitely recommended.
My only issue with this book is the cover art. Obviously lying about everything is part of Micah’s character, but the description of what she looks like in the book is radically different than the cover model. I think the designer had a nice idea (mouth covered with hair, obscuring the truth of whatever she says, etc.), but it doesn’t work for me because it doesn’t fit with the character at all. The Australian cover art is much better. NOTE: Literally moments after I wrote this, the author herself posted about the cover.
My copy of this ARC free to the first person to ask for it in the comments.
It is ostensibly meant to be a call to arms, but for me it has the opposite effect. The zombies are John Green and Maureen Johnson, two of the coolest folks around! And there’s that adorable zombie baby! And the unicorns are all so lame! They’re all victims of that Barbara Walters soft-focus thing that makes me think Vaseline has been smeared all over the lens (ewww), and they’re all just standing there, doing nothing. No singing, no dancing, no awesomeness.
Lauren Myracle, you are devious! Telling us all that you’re Team Unicorn when really, you’re obviously an undercover agent for Team Zombie. I have to admit, I’m relieved to see that you’re on our side. You are so cool, I didn’t want to believe you’d go for unicorns. Hooray!
Two of the hottest celebrity librarians from Michigan, Lynn Rutan and Cindy Dobrez, have started a new blog, Bookends. They’re posting, of course, about their area of expertise: books for teens. They’ve got posts about two of my latest faves, Paper Towns by John Green and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This is definitely one to add to your feed reader.
Living Dead Girl is quite a disturbing book. I can’t argue that it’s not well-written, but I’m not sure what I can say about it. It left me feeling sort of dirty and exploited, like after watching one of those super-manipulative Lifetime TV movies. It also left me wondering how this book gets into someone’s head so that they feel they need to write it, but I really don’t want to know.
It will totally appeal to the Child Called It fans (I am not one) and it’s a quick read that I can see getting passed around certain groups of friends.