Author: John Green
Genre: Young Adult/ Teen Fiction
I loved it. It seems silly to enjoy teen fiction so much, right now, in my thirties. It feels like I should be chalking it up to a pre-mid life crisis of sorts – but I have an old soul, I already had my mid-life crisis, I think. If I didn’t, I’m screwed when the real one comes around. I’m not sure my brain can handle all that drama.
But it’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s just that despite the fact that people will roll their eyes at John Green because he seems like he’s probably that typical sappy teen coming of age crap that everyone is writing – there’s a reason he’s so popular and everyone else just isn’t.
John Green is an excellent writer.
He doesn’t just write snark – he embodies snark. He has the snark on lock-down. And though people think he only writes super confident teens that we all wish we had been, he doesn’t do that either. The main character of Paper Towns is not confident. He’s nerdy and very un-self assured. He’s in love with the self assured one, and you discover that no one is as self assured as they’d like to pretend to be.
I loved how Green pulled in Walt Whitman’s themes from Leaves of Grass. So much so, that I long to make a pile of Leaves of Grass paperbacks to display next to our piles of Paper Towns at the bookstore. But I haven’t. It’s not my job to do that anymore and I’m trying desperately to only do *my* job and not be the over achiever type A that I naturally am and work my ass off outside my pay grade. I’m not used to be a “regular” employee anymore. Between my previous management experience and writing a character who owns her own bookstore, my brain wants to run things and instead I’m just running the books. Which is definitely relaxing, until I have to keep my perfectionism in check – and then it’s stressful.
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar makes a sneak appearance as well. I’m always down for a good book that recommends other good books. Margo, though I disagree with half her sentiments, appeals to me. I understand her. I’ve been her. I’m just not her anymore. Though, often, I feel pieces of her tugging at my personality from time to time. Ultimately, I chose to be more like Q. People probably see me more like Q. Although, at that age, I don’t think people really saw me at all.
So now I’m re-reading Leaves of Grass. I couldn’t leave it lingering in my brain that way without tackling it again. I haven’t perused it since high school and it’s long overdue.
Have you read John Green? Do you find him oddly relatable?
And finally, do you plan to or have you seen the movie? I have not, yet.
Title: Casey of Cranberry CoveAuthor: Susan Kotch
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Hibernian Publishing
Length: 207 pages
Ice Cream Parlours, boogie boarding, kayaking, sail boat racing, pizza, high school parties, and hunky life guards… mix some teen angsty romance in and you’ve got a cute beach read that is perfect for summer. Susan Kotch delivers the perfect one with surfer girl Casey Whitman playing the role of Gidget.
Casey of Cranberry Cove is a fun read and my only regret while reading is that I wasn’t doing it in the sand, baking on the beach. I love reading on the beach and Casey is a girl after my own heart – a sun-baking reader and go-getter who isn’t afraid to get dirty.
I’m looking forward to future adventures of Casey’s, but I’m hoping she keeps her head on straight and doesn’t turn into a ninny. I’m also hoping she doesn’t leave her beach life behind in all the excitement of growing up. Casey reminds me a bit of the Robin Jones Gunn Christy Miller series my older sister had on her shelf growing up, I think girls that like one series would enjoy the other.
As a book lover, it’s inevitable that two movies would have been on my viewing roster for 2013 – The Great Gatsby and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
As a literary snob, it’s inevitable that I’ll tell you The Great Gatsby is marvelous and rich and The Mortal Instruments are teen franchise fluff. (Teen franchise fluff that I read and re-read.)
As someone who has worked on indie film crews with family in the not-so-indie industry, I’ll tell you that The Great Gatsby was the more phenomenal film. Baz Luhrmann is incredible.
But here is my confession:
When the house is too quiet… when I need something on the television to pass the time between books… when I’m ruminating on the world at large – it’s not The Great Gatsby that I play on repeat.
I gave a review of the film when I first saw it. I was late to the party, I don’t rush to the theatres anymore. The crowds overwhelm me. I can muster up the energy to exist in a crowd, but I pick and choose those moments carefully. I need to be moving (like on a bike) or listening to an amazing band. Opening night at a theatre has to be for something really special and I’d prefer advance notice. I’ve aged into a curmudgeon, I suppose.
I’m not changing my initial review. That would be unfair. I don’t like editing much – I had those thoughts – they existed. I still agree with them even. But I’m not sure “fell flat” is how I would currently describe the movie. Not after a month of having it be my go to television time. I read 14 books in June, but when I wasn’t reading, I was watching a heck of a lot of The Mortal Instruments.
I clean my house to it. I sort through closets with it on. I have to take breaks from it to go teach ABCs and plan history lessons. But still, it’s there when I come back and I find it comforting.
I think it’s because it is a story I can half be involved in while I’m doing something else… a story that is easy to relate to not because of the angels and demons and typical boy-girl romance, but because there are some things you never grow out of. There are both beautiful and awkward memories that stay with you. There are moments I can see so clearly in my head from my own life when I hear someone say a line a certain way.
Teen franchises are so popular because – well, we’ve all been teens before.
More than the romance, the camaraderie of a group of people so devoted to their cause is what draws me to adventure stories like this one.
And yes, I like to joke a bit and say that it’s because I can’t get enough of Jamie Campbell Bower’s face. But obviously, when he’s there on screen, it’s Jace’s face. And ultimately, it takes a lot more than a face to get me to watch a movie a dozen or so times – it takes talent and a true tribute to a work of art and I think they did their best. Even if it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, I think everyone involved honored Clare’s work better than anyone else could have.
I may just go to the theatre when City of Ashes comes out.
A really awesome twelve year old and her mother came to me and asked if they could start a book club at Half Price Books Humble. Of course! Customer led clubs are definitely welcome, especially from the next generation of readers. Having a twelve year WANT to be in charge of a book club is, in my opinion, one of the coolest things ever.
So, with a little bit of guidance, the girls laid out a plan. Each month they will select a series. Book one of the series will definitely be discussed and each member can read the rest of the series if they are interested or choose to only read the one title. This gives everyone a lot of leeway to discover new things.
Our roster so far:
July’s Discussion = The Cry of the Icemark/ The Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill
August’s Discussion = Over See, Under Stone/ The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
September’s Discussion = The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe/ The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Of course, I’m reading as much as I can with these girls as though I were a full-fledged member of the club… and along with that, providing my reviews of both the book and our discussions.
Title: The Cry of the Icemark
Author: Stuart Hill
Publisher: The Chicken House
Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure
Length: 472 pages
For me, this book had a lot of promise, a great story, and not quite as much follow through in the delivery. It’s good, I would recommend it to 12-15 year old girls who love fantasy, but I kept falling asleep.
I honestly believe it is something I would have devoured in the back seat of my parents’ van on vacation had I gotten a hold of it at age 12, I would have craved more and collected the series. But my 29 year old mommy-self felt disconnected from the story and, frankly, was made tired by it. Where Susanne Collins reminded me of my younger girlish desires and dreams, and plopped me right down in the middle of a fantasy I could get lost in, with The Hunger Games – Stuart Hill and I kept playing an awkward dance of “This is awesome and now I shall remind you that you aren’t Thirrin, you’re just reading…” Mostly, I think in the internal dialogue. The characters would start telling me what they were thinking too often and it threw me off. A healthy reminder not to do that in my own writing, because I think it is something I might be guilty of. I would rather decipher a character on my own, thanks. Remembering my 12 year old brain, however, I wonder if this would have bothered me then… would I even have noticed it?
I hoped to include the girls’ reaction to this book before I posted it. But alas, on the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm, I was sitting at the table all alone. I wonder if they lost interest in the club they just started, or if some miscommunication in days occurred. We shall see next month. Either way, I AM glad I took time out of my life to read this, even if it wasn’t my favorite.
Title: The Wild Girls
Author: Pat Murphy
Publisher: Speak (an imprint of Penguin Group)
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 288 pages
Dear Publishing Companies,
Allow me to tell you something you probably already know: Take a book, add a matte finish to it, trace some swirly-like-ivy lines about, and add a garden or forest scene – I will most likely take the book home on the spot.
At least that’s what happened with Pat Murphy’s The Wild Girls. And despite having an equally girly and gardeny looking book on my night stand (The Distant Hours by Kate Morton), I started reading The Wild Girls that day.
Even if the cover had not been so fabulous, the first line is:
“I met the Queen of the Foxes in 1972, when my family moved from Connecticut to California.”
How do you pass up a first line like that?
It’s a story about twelve year old girls for twelve year old girls, but at twenty-nine I was still dying to know all about the Queen of the Foxes and how interesting a girl would have to be to have the honor of meeting her.
Joan meets Sarah in the woods behind an old orchard and immediately takes to her even though Sarah is malicious and contemplating throwing rocks at her. She can hit a kid dead on from about thirty feet away, too. Soon the girls are fast friends with woodsy aliases Newt and Fox, telling and writing stories together as they each escape their lives in the comfort and enchanting beauty of the woods and its wildlife.
In the spirit of Bridge to Terabithia (without the inevitable water works), The Secret Garden (without the invalid), and a dash of How to Buy a Love of Reading (or writing), The Wild Girls is a great coming of age story for girls harboring an inner Josephine March (Little Women).
I loved it. I read a lot of it to kiddo outside and she loved it as it served for a great book to welcome spring. I can’t wait to read it again when she is older and see what she thinks of it then.
In the mean time, I’m looking for more Pat Murphy titles, reading Kate Morton, and writing a novel.
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Young Adult/ Science Fiction
Length: 558 pages
Take the horror of Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the paranormal excitement of your favorite comic books, and put it smack in the middle of modern-day California stuck in a bubble, and that’s Gone. It’s all sorts of dark, twisty, disturbing, and pretty awesome.
My niece handed me this book, she’s in the third volume of the series, and loving it. She’s into the dark and twisty books these days, I remember being into them at that age too. And though I’m hooked on these as an adult as well, I find these a little too dark and twisty from the perspective of a parent.
Kids killing kids, babies starving to death trapped in homes without care, fires, dark demon-like creatures on the hunt, it’s a little too much when I think of it with my own kiddo in mind. It puts my obsessive crazy brain on a mission to ensure my child is a self-sufficient survivor with some mad Kung Fu skills under her belt as soon as possible. It reminds me the value of teaching my kid about God, love, and the makings of good leaders; how to recognize right from wrong and good from bad without having an adult there to tell you. In case of crisis, this is the plan…
When it comes down to it, Grant is a great writer for this genre. He is dark and twisty, but he does limit his descriptions as to leave plenty of room for the imagination. So although there is a dead baby that’s needs taken care of, a twelve-year-old is less likely to visualize the entire process of a baby being alone for eight days and then found dead. Grant addresses the smell of the house, the fact that the main character has to clean it up and take care of the child, and the emotional trauma of the situation, but he doesn’t go into a gross CSI style detail that would move me to guide a twelve-year-old away from the series. That’s what keeps the book so intriguing rather than nauseating.
Well, that and the fact that I’m a sucker for dystopian societies and coming of age stories.
My recommendation if your kid picks this up: Read it WITH them, and be ready to discuss.
Its 2010, I’m sure everyone is mentioning it, and I’m sure many have a hangover and a ton of resolutions. I don’t, on either count. I only had a bit to drink last night, not a lot, and I’ll carry on through 2010 pretty much as I did in 2009. I have goals, but they are not set because its a new year, instead because that is how I function on a regular basis – lists and goals.
So carrying on in the good old Andi fashion, I read a book today.
I re-read an old favorite from my school days, A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I remember everyone complaining about it in class and thinking that it was brilliant and amazing and wonderful. I thought reading it again over a decade later might somehow alter my views, but my ideas on the book are unchanged. I found the students at Devon just as fascinating and hurtful as before, I found Finny just as radiant, and Gene just as sad. I love their coming of age experiences every time.
Except now, I have a sequel to look forward to – something I didn’t have when I read the book for the first time twelve years ago because I was unaware of its existence. Now, I have a copy of “Peace Breaks Out” on my nightstand and cannot wait to see what life-changing stories Devon has in store for me!
What was your first book for 2010?