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Every now and then, Anthony Lane, The New Yorker movie critic, will go in for the YA kill. He did it here, in his review of the movie "If I Stay," based on the Gayle Forman novel. And he did it again, just a few weeks ago, in his review of "The Fifth Wave."
"The film is directed by J. Blakeson and adapted—though perhaps not adapted enough—from the novel by Rick Yancey. In other words, we are in the belly of young-adult fiction: a marketing wheeze dressed up as an art form...."
We have to hand it to Lane for the crisp cleverness of his phraseology. But I think we also have to ask: Is marketing wheeze how the YA category began, what it now is, what it is becoming, or simply an easy (outmoded) mode of attack?
The only way to defend this category from future Lane-isms is to write our stories unclassifiably well.
Facing illness, sexuality, family issues, and life-and-death situations, the following teen protagonists maturely and deeply explore the world around them while also looking within themselves.
Until the hospital called, asking her mother to pick up elderly Mary, seventeen-year-old Katie — star of Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming — didn’t even know she had a grandmother. Katie, her brother, and their mum bring home Mary, who is suffering from dementia. As Katie learns more about her grandmother’s and mother’s pasts, she struggles with her own secret: she is pretty certain she is gay. Told from a limited third-person perspective, the book offers implicit commentary on the historical and contemporary constraints on young women’s lives and their freedom to love freely. (Scholastic/Fickling, 14 years and up)
In Kate McGovern’s Rules for 50/50 Chances, Rose’s mom has advanced Huntington’s disease and Caleb’s mom and little sisters have sickle cell disease. The teens meet at the annual Walk for Rare Genes fundraiser, and their immediate attraction soon develops into something more meaningful. Rose spends much of the novel locked in indecision about whether or not to be tested for the Huntington’s gene, and what the results will mean for her future plans: college, a dance career, a relationship with Caleb. Rose’s realistically confused and complex anger and grief about her mother’s decline adds poignancy to the teen’s dilemma. (Farrar, 14 years and up)
In Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain, Nicole’s father is a survivalist who believes wilderness skills are the surest protection from a dangerous world. When Dad decides to leave the grid altogether, moving the family to a ramshackle forest homestead, Mom balks and runs off. Dad goes after her, leaving Nicole and her younger sister, Izzy, behind. Nicole worries about Izzy’s involvement with teens living at a nearby commune; at the same time a brooding resident there named Wolf stirs up her own rebellious yearnings. Most chapters feature multiple narrators (Nicole, Izzy, Wolf, and others), but Nicole’s voice provides a steady through line to follow her genuine and compelling struggle. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 14 years and up)
Sensory details (especially scents) evoke the physical and emotional landscape — 1970s Birch Park, Alaska — in Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses. Four distinct first-person narrative voices breathe life into the adolescent protagonists. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse, Dora finds a welcome haven in Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens leaves sixteen-year-old Ruth pregnant and alone. The characters’ engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning, are enriched by the tales’ intersections, and are grounded in emotional honesty. (Random/Lamb, 14 years and up)
The Smell of Other People’s Houses
by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Middle School, High School Lamb/Random 228 pp.
2/16 978-0-553-49778-6 $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-49779-3 $20.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-553-49780-9 $10.99
Through sensory details that viscerally evoke the story’s physical and emotional landscapes, readers are transported to 1970s Birch Park, Alaska, where hunting and fishing are both livelihood and way of life for most families. As the book’s title suggests, richly described scents are pervasive. Sixteen-year-old Ruth associates the smell of freshly cut deer meat with her happy early-childhood home, in sharp contrast to the clinical, Lemon Pledge–clean of Gran’s house, where she and her sister have been raised in rigid austerity since their father’s death. A wealthy family’s lake house smells of cedar, while the heavily trafficked Goodwill “smells like everyone’s mud room in spring…moldy and sweaty.” Four distinct first-person narrative voices — no small feat — breathe life into the adolescent protagonists, whose engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning throughout the seasons, are enriched by their intersections. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse and mother’s neglect, Dora finds a welcome haven in the bustling energy of Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens lands Ruth scared, alone, and pregnant on a bus to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, an abbey with unexpected ties to her family. While some character crossings strain credulity, all the story lines are grounded in emotional honesty.
It's June 1964 and Sara Barry, 18, has been living at the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls ever since she was a baby. But now, after a fire completely destroys the building, it is time for Sara to strike out on her own. Before she does that, Mrs. Hazelton, the home's matron, decides it is time for Sara to discover who she is. All she has to give Sara is a certificate from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, a doctor's note written in a foreign language and a small Star of David on a chain.
It seems that Sara's mother, whose name was Karen Frankel, had been in Auschwitz, had actually survived until the camp was liberated, but then succumbed to TB in a DP or displaced persons camp shortly afterwards. Sara was born in Germany soon after the war ended, and sent to the home in Canada. Her Jewish background is a complete surprise to her.
Now, armed with the $138.00 gift from Mrs. Hazelton and her own savings from her waitress job, Sara decides to go to Germany and try to find the doctor who signed the certificate that sent her to Canada. Perhaps he has some information about her mother and father.
Arriving in Germany, Sara immediately heads to Föhrenwald, site of the former DP camp and easily locates Dr. Gunther Pearlman, the doctor who had certified her healthy to travel, even though she actually had TB as well. But as soon as the doctor sees the papers she has with her, he turns on her and tells Sara to get out and go back to Canada, he has no information that would help her. Dr. Pearlman does make a one night reservation at a small inn run by an older lady named Frau Klein, and asks his helper, Peter, a boy around the same age as Sara, to escort her there.
Dr. Pearlman may want Sara to leave the next day, but Sara has other plans and with Peter's help, and Frau Klein's kindness, she decides to stay for the rest of the week. Luckily, Peter speaks perfect English (as does Dr. Pearlman), so he can translate for her. Sara quickly discovers that Föhrenwald is still home to many Jewish survivors and their children, including Frau Klein, the doctor and Peter's parents.
But uncovering information about her parents isn't easy in the country that just wants to forget about what had happened there. Yet, perseverance does pay off and while all the loose ends are neatly tied up by the end of the novel, some of what Sara discovers is difficult for her to accept, and I have to admit, I wasn't expecting the ending to twist the way it did.
I found this is a very interesting example of a post-war historical fiction novel. By setting it in the 1960s, Kathy Kacer shows the reader a world that wants to forget what happened, others who, like Sara, really don't know about what happened under Hitler's tyranny, even as racial prejudice is still openly practiced. Mrs. Hazelton didn't keep Sara's Jewish identity secret because she didn't like Jews, but because she wanted to protect her from any lingering anti-Semetism. And Luke, Sara's loser boyfriend in Canada, proves the point, with his hatred of Jews and blacks, seen in the way he goes after Sara's friend Malou.
Stone on a Grave is an emotional, insightful novel about a young woman trying to discover who she really is. It was named a 2016 Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Reader category and I am happy to say that I will be interviewing Kathy Kacer as part of the Sydney Taylor Blog Tour February 11, 2016 on my blog Randomly Reading. You can find a complete list of winners and the blog tour schedule HERE
Be sure to read the Author's Note for more information about the aftermath of the Holocaust.
In the Benevolent Home, Sara was one of a group of girls Mrs. Hazelton considered to be her "special seven." Like Sara, each girl is given whatever information Mrs. Hazelton has about who they really are, plus $138.00 she had put aside for them to start them on their way. Sara's story is part of a seven book YA series called Secrets that follows each girl on their journey towards self-discovery. Each novel is written by a different author, providing a variety of stories and insights.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was purchased for my personal library
REVENGE AND THE WILD
By Michelle Modesto
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (February 2, 2016)
Age Range: 14 up
Grade Level: 9 up
Goodreads | Amazon
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter
In 2005, the United Nations issued a declaration stating that January 27th would be designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It only seems fitting to remember the victims of the Holocaust with a new book
about the secret annex where Anne Frank, her family and four other people hid from the Nazis in the annex of her father's business at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam for more than two years.
Anne is a young girl whose short life has resonated in the lives of so many young people since her diary was first published. The Diary of a Young Girl. It is a moving account of Anne's life in the Annex, in which readers discover Anne's humorous side, her mischievous side, her budding sexuality, her hopes and dreams.
But Anne wasn't alone and although she mentions names and incidents in her diary, what do we really know about the other people in the Annex? Or the helpers on the outside? What did the people in the annex do all day? What did they eat? Where did their food and other needed items come from?
The decision to hide from the Nazis, to live in such close quarters for more than 2 years, from July 1942 to August 1944, couldn't have been an easy one to make and definitely requited a plan, detailed organization, and the help of trusted people who could provide them with food and other necessities.
Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who is a comprehensive book that brings it all together so that we may understand the risks and dangers everyone connected to Prinsengracht 263 faced on a daily basis.
The book begins with a very brief history of post WWI Germany, Adolf Hitler's rise to becoming the German chancellor in 1933, blaming the Jews for all of the country's problems. Otto Frank immediately decided to leave Germany and settle in the Netherlands. There he set up his business at Prinsengracht 263. But in 1940, after Germany invaded the Netherlands, they immediately put anti-Jewish regulations in place, making life harder and harder for all Jews living there, until, in 1942, Otto Frank moved his family once again - directly into hiding.
The book continues with description of the daily routine of the hiders, food and it distribution, and other daily discomforts, how holidays and birthdays were celebrated. Even a detailed description of the building they were hiding in.
This is followed with detailed biographies of all the people in hiding, those that helped them, other people who worked in or around Prinsengracht 263, even the cats are included. Any one of those peripheral people could have (and may have) turned in the people in the annex to the Nazis if they became aware of their presence.
Anne Frank and her diary have held the attention of readers, young and old, since it was first published, but the publication of Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? gives readers a more detailed, more rounded out picture of who each individual was, making them more human and less the shadowy people we know from the diary.
It's hard to imagine what it must have been like to be cut off from everyone and everything for more than two years, never going outside, never even breathing fresh air from an open window, and living in silence day by day. This is an ideal book to be used in conjunction with Anne's diary as a way of introducing the Holocaust to young readers.
The book also contains an abundance of photographs, some never before published of everyone and everything related to the secret annex, including photos of all the helpers. There are also maps, including one of the concentration camps that the hiders were sent to after being discovered, a Concise Timeline along with the Lifeline of helpers and hiders, and a useful Glossary, a list of Sources, and suggestions for further reading.
Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? is available only as an ebook.
And on this 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Day, please take a moment today to think about all those who were victims of this tragedy, those who didn't survive as well as those who did.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was sent to me by the publisher, Open Road Media
Curious about Anne Frank in the Secret Annex: Who Was Who? Here's an excerpt you can read:
“Daily Life in the Secret Annex”
“At a quarter to seven, the alarm clock went off in the Secret Annex. The eight occupants would get up and wash before the warehouse workers arrived at half past eight. After that, they had to keep noise to a minimum. They walked in slippers, avoided the creaking stairs, and didn’t use any running water. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, talking, or quarreling was absolutely forbidden. To kill time, the eight would spend the morning reading and studying. Some did needlework, while others prepared the next meal. Miep, working in the office on the first floor, along with Johannes, Victor, and Bep, would go upstairs to the Secret Annex to pick up the shopping list.
“It’s twelve thirty. The whole gang breathes a sigh of relief,” Anne wrote. At noon, the warehouse workers went home for lunch and the annex occupants could relax a little. The helpers from the office usually dropped in, and Jan Gies sometimes joined them. At one o’clock, they all listened to the BBC on the illegal “little baby radio” before having lunch. After the lunch break, the helpers went back downstairs and most of the occupants took naps. Anne often “used this time to write in her diary. Silence prevailed for the rest of the afternoon: Potatoes were peeled, quiet chores done for the office, and reading and studying continued, while below, the helpers worked in the office. Miep and Bep would slip out during the afternoon or after office hours to work their way through the shopping list, which usually included food, clothing, soap, and even birthday presents.
When the warehouse workers left at around half past five, Bep gave the occupants a sign. As the helpers returned to their own spouses or families, the Secret Annex came to life: Someone would grab the warehouse key and fetch the bread, typewriters were carried upstairs, potatoes were set to boil, and the cat door in the coal storage bin was opened for Peter’s cat, Mouschi. Everyone had his or her own task. After dinner, they sometimes played a game. At around nine o’clock, the occupants prepared for bed, with much shuffling of chairs and “the folding open of beds. They took turns going to the bathroom. Anne, being the youngest, went first. Fritz stayed up late studying Spanish in the office downstairs. By about midnight, all of the people in the Secret Annex would be fast asleep.
On Saturday mornings, the warehouse workers would put in half a day’s work, but in the afternoons and on Sundays, the Secret Annex occupants took time for a full sponge baths in a tub, each in his or her own favorite spot in the building. The laundry was done then, too, and the Secret Annex was scrubbed and tidied. There were businesses located in the two adjacent buildings, so during the weekends, the occupants didn’t have to be quite so cautious. But the curtains always remained closed.”
More Curious about Who Was Who?
Five anecdotes behind the faces of the Secret Annex
• While everyone was assigned chores, Peter was instructed to haul the heavy bags from the greengrocer up to the attic. On one occasion, “one of them suddenly split open and a torrent of brown beans went cascading down the stairs. It was weeks before the last beans were found, they had been wedged into every nook and cranny of the stairwell.”
• The Annex’s Romeo and Juliet: Anne Frank’s roommate and the eldest occupant of the Secret Annex, Fritz Pfeffer - the only one without family or loved one at his side - was gripped with loneliness. His evenings were filled with writing letters to his “Lotte,” his great love Charlotte Kaletta, a Catholic woman whom he was forbidden to marry due to the Nuremberg Race Laws. He relied on Miep to serve as messenger to deliver the letters where he professed that Charlotte’s love will strengthen him.
• Miep was deemed the pack mule and carrier pigeon for the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annex. “Every Saturday, she also brought along five library books, which the Secret Annex occupants eagerly looked forward to. ‘Ordinary people don’t know how much books can mean to someone who’s cooped up,’ Anne wrote.”
• After the betrayal that led to the Secret Annex’s exposure and the inhabitants’ arrest, the ladies were sent to Westerbork transit camp where they “were forced to dismantle batteries, a dirty and dangerous business. The workday began at five o’clock in the morning. Seated at long tables, the women broke open batteries in order to remove the carbon rods. Then they picked out the sticky brown mass, which contained poisonous ammonium chloride. Finally, all the components were separated for use in the arms industry.”
• When Frank Otto, Anne’s father and lone survivor, returned to the Secret Annex, he “found the rooms practically empty and abandoned. For him, that emptiness symbolized the loss of his fellow sufferers who had not returned from the camps. For this reason, Otto later decided that the Secret Annex should remain this state.”
In 2011, the year I began this blog, I took part in a month of bloggers/authors connecting with one another through a whole host of activities. As part of this, I chose to participate in the book launch for an … Continue reading →
Review by Elisa
THE GOLDEN YARN
By Cornelia Funke
Series: MirrorWorld #3
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Breathing Books (December 1, 2015)
Goodreads | Amazon
Jacob Reckless continues to travel the portal in his father's abandoned study. His name has continued to be famous on the other side of the mirror, as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. His family and
Even as late as March 1940, life in her small mountain village of Eglio, in northern Tuscany was still relatively pleasant for 11 year-old Bruna Pucci Guazzelli , despite the war in Europe and not having ever met her father, living in Brazil. Bruno is the youngest of her siblings - two brothers - Cesar, 25; Alcide, 17; and four sisters - Aurelia, 27; Eleonora, 23; Pina, 21; Mery, 15. Eglio is a village where everyone knows everyone else, and whenever hard times hit, the villagers rally to help one another.
But when Mussolini declared war on Britain that France on June 10, 1940, things all over Italy begin to change. First, all the Italian men and eldest sons were drafted into the army. For the Guazzelli family, that meant Cesar, followed by Alcide, who is sent to the Russian Front; meanwhile, for the eldest girls, it meant working away from home, either as cooks for other people, or for Eleonora, working in an orphanage.
At first, Bruna says, most Italians supported Mussolini and his alliance with Adolf Hitler, but as rationing, separation and hardship begin to take their toll on the home front, and after learning that even the Italian army fighting for Mussolini is so poorly supplied as the war escalates, people begin to turn against him. In September, 1943, Mussolini is removed from power and Italy forms a new alliance with the Allies.
These are major events, but Bruna and the rest of the people of Eglio still remain relatively isolated from the fighting in Italy and the rest of Europe, mainly because Eglio is a far removed mountain village, so no one really expects anything to happen there.
Elio, Northern Tuscany, Italy
That is until the spring of 1944, when the Nazis arrive and life for the villagers changes drastically. Elgio lay in a direct path of what was called the Gothic Line, one of the last fronts in WWII. First, all food and blankets and even houses are taken by the German soldiers, and because they know where the Germans are, it doesn't take long for Allied bombing to begin. But, when the villagers of Eglio are used as human shields in a last ditch effort by the Nazis, not everyone is lucky enough to survive the arrival of the Allies.
War in My Town is a fictionalized version of author E. Graziani's mother Bruna's true story. It is told in the first person by the young Bruna, as she recounts the events that impacted her family and her neighbors between 1940 and 1945.
Bruna's personal story is emotional and compelling, but as the title indicates, it is really more about her town and the people who lived there. That being said, I am sorry to say I found the writing style to be very dry and it was hard to stay focused. I also found the chronology of historical events to be confusing at times and found myself having to backtrack a lot.
Despite that, I would still recommend this book simply because there aren't many narratives about life in Italy during WWII and since War in My Town is based on actual experience, it gives a more realistic picture of what life was like then.
This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley
REIGN OF SHADOWS
by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 9, 2016)
Ages: 13 and Up
Goodreads | Amazon
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has
SALT TO THE SEA
by Ruta Sepetys
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Penguin Teen (February 2, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a
Woot, woot! Today is a great day, because I FINALLY get to spread all my Passenger love around! Thanks Hannah for organizing this amazing blog tour, and Disney-Hyperion! I'm so excited to be apart of it, and share ALL THE FEELS with our readers today with my review, a giveaway of Passenger, AND a super special (cough painted by me cough cough) giveaway, exclusively for
Review by Krista
by Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #3
Publisher: Scholastic Press (December 29, 2015)
Goodreads | Amazon
The remarkable third novel in Sara B. Larson's bestselling Defy series!At last, Alexa and King Damian are engaged to be married. But their lives are far from safe. The kingdom of Antion is under siege, and Rylan is a prisoner of the
Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow
by Rainbow Rowell
High School St. Martin’s Griffin 522 pp.
10/15 978-1-250-04955-1 $19.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4668-5054-5 $9.99
In Fangirl (rev. 11/13), protagonist Cath wrote fanfiction for the fictitious “Simon Snow” fantasy series. Now Rowell has written a novel set in Simon Snow’s universe and using many conventions of fanfiction, most notably “slash” (in this case non-graphic), usually defined as a wish-fulfilling relationship between two characters of the same sex who, in the original work, are not a romantic couple. Simon, the most powerful mage in centuries, uncovers secrets during his final year at Watford School of Magicks that call into question his long-held beliefs about sharp lines between good and evil. He also begins to realize that his obsession with his probably-a-vampire roommate Baz may not be purely antagonistic. The novel is longer than it needs to be — just kiss already, Simon and Baz — and the many alternating narrators are a little dense when it comes to solving several related mysteries. But there’s plenty to enjoy along the way, including clever names for spells (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” makes oddities like dragon parts on a human unnoticeable) and plenty of wit. Reading Fangirl first isn’t strictly necessary — the brief author’s note covers the basics — and the metatextual concept is somewhere on the spectrum between confusing and fascinating, depending on one’s perspective. A working knowledge of the Harry Potter books and other popular fandoms isn’t absolutely essential either, but it makes this send-up a lot more fun.
Review by Sara
by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (January 19, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson's shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite
The Survival Guide to Bullying is author and activist Aija Mayrock’s gift to young people who’ve endured bullying. At sixteen Aija began writing the self-help book for children who are being bullied. The book began as a self-published project in 2014. Eventually the project was picked up by Scholastic after Publishers Weekly covered The Survival Guide to Bullying.
Via Scholastic Aija Mayrock began writing The Survival Guide to Bullying at age sixteen after dealing with bullying in her own life for many years. She promised herself that she would publish it as her gift to the next generation of kids who are bullied. Aija is committed to giving a voice to the voiceless through writing and film.
Currently, Aija is a sophomore at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Aija has appeared on The View and written for Teen Vogue.
ABOUT THE SURVIVAL GUIDE TO BULLYING
The Survival Guide to Bullying – Written by a teenager who was bullied throughout middle school and high school, this kid-friendly book offers a fresh and relatable perspective on bullying. Along the way, the author offers guidance as well as different strategies that helped her get through even the toughest of days.
The Survival Guide to Bullying covers everything from cyber bullying to how to deal with fear and how to create the life you dream of having. From inspiring “roems” (rap poems), survival tips, personal stories, and quick quizzes, this book will light the way to a brighter future. This updated edition also features new, never-before-seen content including a chapter about how to talk to parents, an epilogue, and an exclusive Q&A with the author.
City of Halves
by Lucy Inglis
Middle School, High School Chicken House/Scholastic 361 pp.
11/15 978-0-545-82958-8 $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-83054-6 $17.99
While on reconnaissance for her lawyer father in the City of London, sixteen-year-old Lily is viciously attacked by a two-headed dog and discovers the existence of the other half of the City she thought she’d known all her life. Tall, “eerily beautiful” Regan saves her life with a transfusion of his blood, which miraculously heals her wounds. Lily is plunged into the world of the City’s unseen, inhuman inhabitants, the Eldritche, at a dangerous time when young girls are disappearing and monsters are at large; an ancient prophecy concerning Lily and Regan is coming to pass. The historically distinct City of London, surrounded by an ancient Roman wall and gates, is a perfect setting for Inglis’s credible blending of the mythological and modern and her appealingly extraordinary protagonists. A deft hacker, Lily follows leads for the missing girls into dangerous situations, from which Regan, Guardian of the Gates, rescues her more than once. Slowly unraveling mystery, fast-paced action, and preternatural romance will leave readers eager for the clearly projected sequel.
Review by Reagan
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: Embassy Row (Book 2)
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Buy the Book: Amazon
Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions--from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter.
Grace's past has come back to hunt her .
Under a Painted Sky, a debut YA novel set in 1849,, was recommended to me by an adult library customer who said his mother enjoyed it. I was happy to receive an opportunity to review this unique historical fiction, adventure, romance novel for AudioFile Magazine. A link to my review is below, as well as the official book trailer. The review contains an audio excerpt. Enjoy.
It’s never fun to listen to someone talk about all of the ways in which a movie was not like the book. And I’m not going to do that here because that is not the point. Am I sad that the personalities and import of secondary characters were lost between Mockingjay the book and Mockingjay the movies? Yes. Do I wish Prim’s final scene could have been more impactful? I do. Would it have been better to more strongly allude to Gale’s part in the bombing? Possibly.
But, surprisingly, what has most saddened me about Mockingjay, Part 2 is what was kept between book and movie: the epilogue.
People have talked and talked and talked about The Hunger Games as a feminist franchise — here we have a somewhat oblivious but totally badass heroine who sometimes responds in stereotypically feminine ways but, more often than not, breaks convention. She’s a breadwinner and protector, quick to anger, emotionally damaged, confused, and heroic. Katniss is brave and strong, skilled and smart, and, always, distinctly a teenage girl.
The feminism doesn’t stop with Katniss. Women are real people in this franchise: Effie rocks out her style no matter the situation, because it makes her feel good; Coin is ruthless and ready for power; Prim is focused on bettering herself and the world around her; Annie — as difficult as it may be — survives, thrives, and raises a child without her male partner; Cressida escapes the Capitol and becomes a leader in the rebellion; Johanna endures terrible punishment but maintains her steel and intelligence. Women, like their male counterparts (also real people who break with gender norms: Peeta as partner, Finnick’s imprisonment in the sex trade, Beetee as a maternal figure to Wiress), are agents of change. It is a beautiful thing to see this work gain such a massive following and dominate the box office.
But that last scene…
Mockingjay the book ends the same way as Mockingjay, Part 2: we flash-forward to Katniss and Peeta as the parents of two young children. Katniss lets us know that one day, when it’s time, she’ll explain to her children why the world is the way it is and her role in making it that way. She will tell her children why she has nightmares, how she survived, how she continues to survive. It is clear that she is happy, if scarred. It is clear that there is a “happy ending.” And it is clear that life goes on.
It could have been clearer in the movie that Peeta and Katniss are still broken in some ways, that the pain never really goes away, that things aren’t all meadows and chubby babies. But if you know what to look/listen for, those ideas can be found in the dialogue.
But the book makes one additional, very important thing clear: it took many, many years (“five, ten, fifteen years”) before Katniss felt safe and comfortable with the idea of motherhood. Peeta is the partner who desperately wants a family — Katniss does not acquiesce until her early 30s. She loves her children, yes, and is very happy with her life and the added role of mother, but at no point was it necessary for her to have children to be happy.
In the movie, however, we cut to a seated, loose-haired Katniss, babe in arms. She wears a pastel, floral print dress and is bathed in golden light. Gone is her signature braid, gone are her Earth-tone colors and leather vests, gone is her restless motion and active-even-at-rest stance. Gone is Katniss the Hero. All of the pain, the work, the fear, the struggle in the name of the female protagonist with agency; all of Katniss is wiped clean in this image. Here, she sits inactive, wearing clothing we have only ever associated with her mother (whose complete lack of agency is integral to the story), with husband and children as her sole focus.
This ending shows the viewer that the only way a woman can be truly happy is through motherhood — the only measure of a woman’s success is through her ability to be a mommy. It doesn’t matter that Katniss has taken down the Capitol. It doesn’t matter that she deposed what would be a new dictator. It doesn’t matter that she has finally discovered and understood herself and her loss. It doesn’t matter that she has mended relationships. It doesn’t matter that she has opened herself up to love. It doesn’t matter that it took fifteen years of relationship building and emotional mending to bring Katniss to a place where she would accept being a parent. None of this matters because the only way to give a woman a happy ending is to make her a mommy.
Four movies. Four. Of strength and wit and sacrifice and crushing defeats and women enacting world-changing events. All to bring us to one final scene: Katniss the Mother.
It devastates me that this ending was so misrepresented. Because the beauty of the book’s epilogue lies in how Katniss and Peeta keep themselves whole, how they build a life together, how they are individuals with pasts that matter, how they cannot be pigeon-holed into specific gender or relationship roles. It adds to the feminist nature of the work and continues Collins’s methodical destruction of gender stereotypes. It is hopeful and realistic and it made me cry for days.
The movie ending, though, works only to undermine all of the important work Collins’s series has done. Because, at the end of the day, who cares if you’re the Girl on Fire? You only matter if you have a girl of your own.
Don’t miss our reviews of Mockingjay, Parts 1and2. This post is part of our Hunger Games Week. Click on the tags Hunger Games Week and Hunger Games to see all posts.
Review by Andye
THE IMPOSTOR QUEEN
by Sarah FineAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 432 pagesPublisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (January 5, 2016)Goodreads | Amazon
The elders chose Elli to be queen, but they chose wrong in this beautifully crafted novel in the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard.
Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of
THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS
by Marieke Nijkamp
Hardcover: 292 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (January 5th, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
10:00 a.m.The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.10:02 a.m.The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next
Review by Sara
CONCENTR8by William SutcliffeHardcover: 256 pagesPublisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (January 19, 2016)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
In a not-so-distant future London, riots have become the norm. But when the government suddenly stops distributing Concentr8--a behavioral modification "miracle" drug akin to Ritalin--the city's residents rise up fiercer than they ever have
Review by Krista
by Mikaela Everett
Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Published September 22nd 2015
by Greenwillow Books
Goodreads | Amazon
For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.
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It's the end of the year and I had great plans of writing about all my favorite books of the year - there were so many! But there was also ALSC committee work, my fledgling freelance writing career, that five days a week thing they call work, and my family. As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of my children to arrive home for the holidays (one's flight was canceled, the other one's delayed).
For the best in dealing with sad news, I was taken by Anastasia Higginbotham's, Divorce is the Worst (for school-aged kids), and Todd Parr's, The Goodbye Book for little ones dealing with loss.
In adult books, it was Lafayette in theSomewhat United Statesby Sarah Vowell. It's no surprise. I love everything she writes. I love my well-researched history with a humorous dose of irony and sarcasm.
Whether I review a book or not, if I've read it, I log it and star it in LibraryThing. Yes, I know that Goodreads is more popular, but LibraryThing's aesthetic matches mine. I'm comfortable there. You can see my virtual library of over 1600 searchable books and 800 reviews on LibraryThing.
I may take the next week off, perhaps not, but just in case - best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.