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...have been announced.
The YA gold medal winner is:
Morgan Matson, for Second Chance Summer.
The YA silver medal winner is:
Marissa Moss, for A Soldier’s Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero.
The other YA fiction finalists are:
Carrie Arcos, for Out of Reach.
Robin LaFevers, for Grave Mercy.
Lemony Snicket, for Who Could That Be at This Hour? All the Wrong Questions, Book One.
Click on through for the rest of the winners and finalists!
...have been announced, and the YA winner is: CODE NAME VERITY!
See this post for the other finalists, and click on through to see the other winners.
Ludania is ruled by a powerful, magic-wielding queen who enforces a strict language-based caste system. She's dying, though, and there isn't an heir capable of taking the throne.
Due to discontent with the severity of the system—simply failing to lower one's eyes when someone speaks a language associated with one of the higher castes is punishable by death—as well as unrest within the broader political landscape, a revolution is brewing.
Our heroine, seventeen-year-old Charlie (short for Charlaina) isn't particularly interested in being involved in a revolution. She's got enough on her plate, what with having to hide her magical ability—despite her lowly Vendor status, she can understand any language; written, visual, or verbal—and hiding the even-more powerful power of her younger sister.
Unfortunately for Charlie, her years of insuring her family's safety by keeping her head down and getting through life without attracting attention are at an end: her ability is far more significant than she could have ever imagined, and is of huge interest to both the queen and to the people who want to bring about the end of her rule.
For the first fifty or so pages, The Pledge had me. Like, REALLY, REALLY had me. Derting dropped me into Ludania and Charlie's life without much explanation or exposition, which is always a storytelling technique that I appreciate, as it makes the world and characters and dialogue more believable (none of that "Dean, we were RAISED as WARRIORS" stuff*) and suggests confidence and faith in the reader's abilities. It was refreshing that the culture was so matriarchal that there was never even a discussion about the feasibility of coronating a male heir; the idea of a caste system being based in language appealed to my language-loving self as did Charlie's non-flashy-but-extremely-cool ability; and I enjoyed that the focus shifted from character to character and from first-person to third and back again.
Where it lost me—and sadly, this isn't much of a surprise given the other recent dystopians I've read—was in the love story. Not only was it a case of instalove—Max meets Charlie and, like, five minutes later, pretty much swears fealty to her—but Max is also a hero in the Edward Cullen vein, in that he romanticizes danger (he makes Charlie feel unsafe, but her attraction to him is Not To Be Denied) and that he is so protective that he keeps making decisions for her, and so, despite the whole matriarchal society thing, her agency is lessened. Both of those issues can, of course, be chalked up to personal taste, so it's likely that The Pledge will be a good pick for Twilight fans who enjoy dystopians.
BONUS ISSUE: The book wraps up really, REALLY quickly. So quickly, given the pacing of the first 7/8s of the book, that it feels like the author threw her pen across the room with a big, Willow-esque "BORED NOW", and then had to get up, get her pen, and force herself to finish the book off with a couple of brief chapters and an epilogue.
BONUS HAPPY DANCE MATERIAL: THERE ISN'T A LOVE TRIANGLE. There's plenty of potential, but it never actual pans out. So YAY FOR THAT!
BONUS SECONDARY HAPPY DANCE MATERIAL, BUT IT INVOLVES TWO MAJOR SPOILERS: I loved that in the epilogue, Charlie mentions that she'd taken Max into her bed. No mention of marriage, that it was a thing that would last forever and ever, or that he had instigated their sexual relationship. Although it came on the very last page, that one short line did a lot to assuage my concerns about his Cullen-y nature, and it got me curious about the sequel: I want to know if Charlie's new-found confidence is truly her own, or if it is a byproduct of having melded with the Queen...
*In the first few episodes of Supernatural, the brothers Winchester spout a lot of clunky dialogue that served purely to explain their situation to new viewers. It was annoying because they A) repeated the same information every episode, information that they B) were both well-versed in, which made the dialogue unnecessary and unlikely, all of which served to C) weaken the world-building and character development and D) deal regular blows to my suspension of disbelief by constantly bringing the screenwriters to my attention.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
I have such a soft spot for the Bloodlines books. Unless I'm spacing on something, I think that it is—at the moment—the only vampire series that has me CONSTANTLY YEARNING for the next installment. (I really should go back and read the Vampire Academy books: Bloodlines is a spin-off series.)
Anyway, so if you haven't read Bloodlines and The Golden Lily, this is the basic set-up going into The Indigo Spell:
Most people know Sydney Sage as a quiet, somewhat socially-awkward, khaki-clad, extremely studious student at Amberwood Prep in Palm Springs, California. A select few know her secret: she is ACTUALLY an Alchemist, a member of a secret organization that works to keep the fact that vampires exist a secret from humans who aren't In The Know. Like all Alchemists, Sydney grew up believing that all vampires are bad news—even the non-murderous "good" ones—but her work (and her friendship-slash-ongoing-case-of-red-bottomosity with Adrian Ivashkov, a snarky, smoldering, artistic vampire royal) with vampires in the field has led her to distrust those long-held beliefs... but only secretly, since Questioning Protocol doesn't go over well in the Alchemist camp.
In this installment, she works on tracking down the mysterious Marcus Finch, a possibly-mythical Alchemist who A) is rumored to have quit the fold without getting forced into getting Re-educated, and B) supposedly Knows Things about the Alchemists that they Don't Want Known. She also goes to a vampire wedding; gets involved in a covert search for a powerful witch who's been draining young magic users of their life essence; and actively uses her magic... in the last place that she'd ever have expected herself to use it. Oh! There's also a DRAGON. A PIE-EATING DRAGON.
Here's what I love about this series:
- Sydney. Although she has strong emotional ties to the Alchemist way of life, her intelligence, her logic, and her critical-thinking skills have led her to start to question what she's been taught... but it's always clear that she's got understandably mixed feelings about it all; in the first two books, she was teetering on the brink of an eating disorder, and her struggles with and thoughts about that have been realistic, believable, and relatable. She's reserved and careful about who she trusts; she can be oblivious to the feelings of others; she's difficult and sometimes bossy; really type-A, and not always in a particularly attractive way; basically, she's wonderfully imperfect and I definitely see what Adrian sees in her.
- Adrian. My favorite thing about him—beyond the handsome, talented, smart stuff, which is par for the course with vampire love interests—is that he has faith in Sydney's abilities. When she decides to risk her freedom (not to mention her life) by going off to St. Louis and infiltrating the Alchemist compound and stealing some vital information, he isn't particularly keen on the idea, but not only does he NOT try to talk her out of it, but he also sets his own jealousy aside and even offers up pointers on how to use her feminine wiles to further her mission. Also, he's very open and frank and non-brooding about the fact that he's in lurrrve with her, which makes for some moments that are both hilarious (for the reader) and annoying (for Sydney).
Also good: the books are smart and funny, the secondary characters are likable (well, not the villains, duh), and Mead weaves in real-life issues without being preachy or condescending or didactic. If you like paranormals and you HAVEN'T started this series, they'll make for perfect beach reads this summer.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
Pretty Little Liars,
the first book in Sara Shepard's totally addictive* series, is $2.99 today. I've already read it, so I'm not going to buy that one, but I'm considering buying Andrew Fukuda's The Hunt, which is also $2.99 today.
*I read the first five in one weekend because I just. couldn't. stop. They don't have much staying power—I burned out on them after that weekend—but if you're looking for a cotton candy read**, it's a good bet.
**Cotton candy as in there's no real substance, not cotton candy as in it's sweet. Vinegar-flavored cotton candy? No, that's too strong in the other direction. Bacon? No, bacon has too much depth. BAC-OS. BAC-OS-FLAVORED COTTON CANDY. Phew! I'm glad I figured that out.
Have you ever seen the original Ocean's Eleven? The one from 1960, I mean, with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra? You'd think, what with it being a Rat Pack movie, and with that cool cast and cool premise and all that good stuff, that it would be a FABULOUSLY ENTERTAINING movie.
Well, it isn't. I suspect that the guys had a great time MAKING the movie, but WATCHING it is another story. It's one of the rare cases in which the remake is a huge improvement on the original.
Anyway, my experience in reading Who Done It? was kind of like my experience with Ocean's Eleven: I appreciated the idea of the project more than the actual result. Who Done It? is a compilation of pieces by, like, 3/4a of the Who's-Who of the kidlit and YA world, edited by Jon Scieszka, and benefiting 826NYC. Which SOUNDS awesome: great people writing, awesome guy editing, super-deserving beneficiary.
But, like Ocean's Eleven, I suspect that reading the finished product might be more fun for the parties involved in Who Done It?'s creation than it is for the general reading public. The basic premise—a much-despised editor is murdered at a party and all of the authors in attendance have to provide their alibis—sounds fun, but for the most part, the contributions read like A) jokes that the majority of the book's readership aren't likely to be in on (lots of them are about the publishing industry, and some are in-jokes between authors), or B) in a few cases, just plain phoned in.
That isn't to say that there aren't some gems—I especially liked the pieces by Mac Barnett, Gayle Forman, Adam Gidwitz, Adele Griffin & Lisa Brown, Lev Grossman, David Levithan, Sarah Mlynowski & Courtney Sheinmel, Lauren Myracle, Joy Preble, Margo Rabb, Jennifer E. Smith, and Adrienne Maria Vrettos—but as there are 70ish pieces, that's a lot to wade through for a few pages of fun.
Anyway, like I said, the proceeds go to a great cause. So I feel like kind of a jerk for not being more excited about the book. But... eh.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
As I'm sure you've already heard, E.L. Konigsburg died this weekend.
Which is a huge loss.
She's one of the very few authors on my personal Doesn't Know How To Write A Bad Book list, and even though I haven't picked up one of her books in a few years—I'm planning on digging them out this evening—the news of her death was a punch in the gut.
Here are a few links to obituaries and remembrances from around the kitlitosphere and beyond:
At Educating Alice:
I was fortunate enough to meet Mrs. Konigsburg a few times. My favorite memory of these was at a late evening drinks reception where I sat with her and a handful of others on bar stools around a small high table, quite starry-eyed to be included. She was definitely one of the classiest and smartest people I have ever read or met and I hope that her books will continue to provide the same intellectual and aesthetic pleasure for others that they have for me
From the AP:
In 2004, she told The Dallas Morning News that she built her characters and plots by imagining situations what-if situations with her children, grandchildren and students.
"I think most of us are outsiders," she said. "And I think that's good because it makes you question things. I think it makes you see things outside yourself."
At the Dallas News:
She also found it funny that for many years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art refused to sell From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler because, she speculated, they feared the book would encourage kids to do what her characters did and and sleep on an exhibit bed and bathe in the water fountain when the museum was closed.
Eventually the museum not only relented, but they allowed a movie adaptation of the book to be filmed on its premises.
At the BBC:
Her first book, Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, was given a special Newbery honour the same year she won her first Newbery medal, making her the only author to win two Newbery prizes in the same year.
At Cynsations (lots of other links here, too):
In my new purchased copy of Mixed-up Files (not the only one I own), she wrote: "Thank you for loving this book so much for so many years."
I'm the one who's grateful. I can only imagine how many times she scribbled that sentiment, or one very much like it, for readers who were starstruck, too.
For years, The View from Saturday was read, re-read and re-read yet again until it fell apart, then I’d run out and find a new one. She touched my life and my heart with her books and she lives on in them. My granddaughter now reads and re-reads From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler much as I did The View from Saturday. I am positive, because her books are so enduring that my granddaughter’s grandchildren will one day be lying in a window seat with a well-loved, almost falling apart book by Ms. Konisburg in their hands.
At the Children's Literature Network:
Reading A View from Saturday touched my heart. I had grown up with kids like this. The notion of an Academic Bowl was so appealing that I wanted to slip back to my childhood, go to that school, and be on the team. Elaine Lobl Konigsburg told stories about real children, kids that many of us could side with, laugh with, cry with, and not feel alone.
From Mindy Klasky:
Along with books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Ruth M. Arthur, the stories of E.L. Konigsburg were some of the very first that sparked my imagination, that taught me about secret worlds where I could explore very far away from the suburban streets of North Dallas. (And I’m a bit astonished to realize that virtually all of Konigsburg’s books are set in the real world — historic world sometimes, but not in made-up secondary venues. I’m surprised because those books carried a sense of wonder, a vision of different-ness, that flavors my speculative fiction today.)
From Diana Peterfreund:
It’s about independence and New York and art and Michelangelo, and I was more than a little like Claudia at that age, and I used to try to figure out how long I’d last in that place and what I’d spend money on (I tell you, I’d not be as obsessed with baths as she was) and to this day, whenever I’m in a restroom at a museum, I think about the whole “standing on the toilet seat and ducking” trick.
Lastly, here are the links to the personal obituary (as opposed to industry and press ones) and the online guestbook.
I'm sure there are lots of others—if you've run across any especially nice pieces, let me know in the comments. Or, if you feel like it, tell me which of her books is your favorite. (Mine continues to be Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.)
...have been announced, and the YA prize was awarded to Nothing Special, by Geoff Herbach. (Which happens to be the sequel to Stupid Fast, which won the YA award in the 2011 Cybils.)
Sonya Sones' What My Mother Doesn't Know is a measly 99¢ today!
So, if you haven't read it*, you should take advantage of that.
It's one I wish I could read again for the first time.
*FOR REALS? How have you not read it?
That's what I thought: here you go.
In this case, though, as I thought that Forgetting Sarah Marshall was really decent (he wrote it), even knowing that Script-to-Novel Adaptations Don't Always Go Well, I'm inclined to give him a Wait-and-See Pass.
Anyway, the details are at VH1 of all places:
While not giving away too much, the proud Apatow associate exuded genuine excitement when talking about the project. “It’s about kids facing their biggest fears, that’s about all I can tell you,” he explained, adding we should expect a release later this year. There was no talk of title or character names, but Demme made a point to add that the forthcoming series is the subject of a “bidding war” among publishing houses vying to get him under their imprint.
Unfamiliar with BACA? Here you go
Strike that: NEED.
And when you see what it is, you will WANT/NEED it, too.
From an essay by David Levithan at Out magazine:
We wrote the books for ourselves, and we wrote the books for the teenagers who came after us, the teenagers we would never get to be again. There’s a great line in “Canon,” a poem in Talking in the Dark, where the narrator says of a trip to the library, “You pace by the aisle until it’s empty, read that anthology in a safe corner, embarrassed by the cover, though there’s really nothing threatening about it. And then there are those first loves: Auden, Doty, Whitman. They say, Here is the world. Here. It’s yours and it’s all right.” We had each, in our way, found this sustenance, but we had largely done it in secret. Now it was time to do it with everybody watching.
It's a lovely piece, and a must read.
...have been announced.
The winner of the Leslie Bradshaw Award for YA Literature is:
Ruth Tenzer Feldman, for Blue Thread (I'm planning to read it on the basis of the cover art alone! Though the blurb from Karen Cushman doesn't hurt.)
The finalists were:
Brian Doyle, for Cat’s Foot
Katie Kacvinsky, for First Comes Love
Click on through for the rest of the winners and finalists.
At PW, a piece about Lizzie Skurnick's imprint:
The imprint, explained Ig publisher Robert Lasner, will “bring back the very best in young adult literature, from the classics of the 1930s and 1940s, to the thrillers and social novels of the 1970s and 1980s.”
Jealous? HECK YEAH!
(But also SUPER excited!)
From the Journal Tribune:
It all started with Baileigh McGoon and Hannah Miller, who were among 10 members of a literature circle within their language arts class, reading the book “Skinny,” by Donna Cooner that addresses themes of self esteem and beauty being more than skin deep. The two girls, along with friend Chelsey Smith, who will be reading the book in an upcoming literature circle, discussed the themes and then borrowed an idea they’d heard about from a friend in the Yarmouth school district.
A couple of months ago, they started posting messages on the mirror of the girl’s bathroom in the junior high school wing of the elementary school – messages like “your eyes are beautiful,” “you’re having a good hair day” and “keep your head up.” Those messages weren’t aimed at anyone specifically, they were general notes of encouragement.
The notes were so well-received, the girls decided to expand the project, this time using students’ first names.
Good stuff. And probably easily tweaked and/or implemented in a library setting, yes?
As I always get a giggle out of Travis Jonker's One Star Review Guess Who posts, I figured I'd swipe the idea and post the occasional one-star Amazon review of a much-lauded YA title.
So, can you guess what book this disappointed reader is reviewing?:
Our bookclub selected this book for last month. I think some-one confused it with another book of the same title by Peter Jenkins. So, I believe we read it by mistake. Besides, it is intended for "Young Adult" readers
I tried reading it, only to find there were too many words: the thin pointless plot does not justify more than 50. Got halfway through and stopped. Had to force myself to read that much. Would much rather have that time back. Inane, juvenile story about teenagers going to private school in Alabama. Meandering, silly, vapid, pointless, etc.
I also don't think it's particularly suitable for kids.
(Did you catch the HUGE clue in there?) If not, the answer is here
I love this cover. I love that the dog is smiling, but I find it especially hilarious that the canine model got the same no-eyes treatment that the girls on so many other YA books get. (Sometimes it really doesn't take much to get me going. Small minds, simple pleasures, I guess.)
Sixteen-year-old Jimmer "JD" Dobbs gets back to town after spending the summer "upstate" with "his aunt", and walks into to house only to discover that his mother has introduced a new member to the family: an abused Rottweiler she rescued from death row at the animal shelter. Due to supremely bad treatment from his previous owner, Jon-Jon (now named Johnny Rotten, JR for short) is especially skittish around men, but JD uses JR's new-found love of pizza rolls (and long walks) to win his trust, and eventually they begin to get into a comfortable groove.
Shortly thereafter, though, their new relationship is threatened, and JR's life—not to mention the entire Dobbs household—is suddenly in jeopardy again.
Things I loved about Rotten:
1. As in Gentlemen, Northrop focuses on a subset of boys not often depicted in YA: bright, but not necessarily academically inclined; more likely to spend a day playing videogames or watching crap tv or trying to get their hands on alcohol than, like, doing an art project or planning an elaborate date to win over a girl or volunteering at a soup kitchen or working on the school paper; working class rather than affluent; more metalhead than hipster.
2. He does an especially nice job with the characterization and backstory of Mars: interestingly, despite his pivotal role, he actually doesn't get a whole lot of screen time. In another book, he could have just come off simply as a villain or a dirtbag. He's from a... shall we say, litigious family (every small town has at least one), and he's portrayed fairly, but empathetically.
3. The descriptions of JR are fabulous. JD's voice is flawless, and never falters—it's clear that he's never had a dog, and doesn't know much about them—but his descriptions of JR's behavior and facial expressions are TIP-TOP PERFECT.
4. I loved JD's friendship with Rudy, and I loved Aaron's take on Mars. I also loved that, as in Chris Crutcher's Whale Talk, there is a romance subplot, but that while it's very important to JD, it's totally secondary to the main storyline, and so it never feels extraneous or shoehorned in. (See this post for the other end of the spectrum.)
5. The dialogue. Is killer. Real, believable, and at some points, so funny that I had to reenact bits of it for Josh. (The scene where JD finally explains where he was over the summer—and why—had us in tears.)
More easily accessible and not quite as gritty as Gentleman, but still realistic and truthful. But I know that the burning question in your mind—it was the one in mine, at any rate—is probably this: IS THIS A CRYING BOOK? Well, that's a pretty major spoiler. So I shall leave the answer to that question in the comments section.
Full disclosure: I talked beer with the author at Kidlit Drink Night at the most recent Kidlitcon. I'm pretty sure that conversation didn't affect my ability to be impartial—though it's very true that my love of Gentlemen probably already makes me a fangirl—but it's worth a mention.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.
At the Guardian:
J was a character tapping at the edges of my mind for several years before I wrote the book. He was singular and specific, a complicated person I wanted to sort through on the page. I think a lot of authors feel like this – drawn to write out of both love and a need to resolve something confusing, painful or just out of reach. But once the character's complete and the book is on the shelves, he's no longer your baby. He becomes a symbol, a representative and, in the worst cases, a tool.
The two books in Kim Askew and Amy Helmes' Twisted Lit series, Exposure and Tempestuous, are $1.99 today, as are The Girl in the Wall and Louder Than Words.
I read Exposure earlier this year, and liked it enough that I bought a copy of Tempestuous. I haven't actually gotten around to reading it, though, so I can't speak for it. I've been eyeing The Girl in the Wall for a while now, so I took advantage of today's sale and bought that one.
Anyone know anything about Louder Than Words?
...I wrote about Jane Nickerson's Strands of Bronze and Gold, which I'd been really, really excited to read... but which ultimately left me cold, cold, cold:
Historical fiction fans are likely to be bothered that Sophia’s language
and diction—as well as the rest of the dialogue spoken by the white
characters—is anachronistic, in that it sounds more 2013 than 1855: I smashed a mosquito against my neck and my own blood spurted out. Because of that modern feel, the dialect spoken by the black characters—He been beat before. He tougher’n he looks.—is
somewhat jarring. Sophia also has a tendency to tell us how she feels,
rather than letting us feel it through her...which is what ultimately
leads me to what this book is missing.
Stefan Bachmann's The Peculiar is $1.99 today, and it has me tempted.
Those of you who have read it: should I give in to my less-than-thrifty nature and buy YET ANOTHER BOOK?
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I don't remember going to sleep. All I remember is waking up here—a place as familiar as my own face.
At least, it should be.
Fiona Tarsis wakes up in her bedroom, but it isn't like she remembers it: it's bleached and dusty, unused and mostly-empty. And it's in slightly better shape than the rest of the house, which looks like it was looted and abandoned years ago.
She has an unfamiliar tattoo on her hand.
When she looks in a mirror, she realizes that she's lost even more time than she imagined: one of her last memories is of her thirteenth birthday, and she's clearly years older than that now.
Also, her science-geek twin brother seems to have turned into a musclebound, possibly-cannibalistic, ragey-monster type. After narrowly escaping sororicide, Fiona heads out into this new, dead world, in search of safety... and answers.
While I liked the basic premise of Stung—bees die out, which basically causes the apocalypse (no bees, no food; no food, people freak out; scientists try to save the bees and accidentally create a rage virus; the haves create a governmental structure that is focused on their own survival, and to hell with the have-nots)—I couldn't get over my issues with the main character. The issues, though, are somewhat spoilery, so if you're planning on reading it, I'd suggest skipping the rest of the post.
Fiona is more of a MacGuffin
than a person, more an object acted upon by the other characters than a actor in her own right. She doesn't know it until three-quarters through the book
—she doesn't know much of anything, actually, and she doesn't show a lot of interest in learning more
—but she's being hunted by two groups of people: those in the medical community, who believe that she's the key to ending the rage-plague, and those in the governor's employ, who want to preserve the status quo by killing her.
Some of the plotting was hard to buy, in that it seems completely crazy to me that the scientists, in order to SAVE HER LIFE, would chuck her out into an unfamiliar world with no supplies, no training, no information, and no protector. THEY LITERALLY WAKE HER UP FROM A FOUR-YEAR LONG COMA, SHOVE HER INTO A LAUNDRY BASKET, AND DUMP HER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL. Their reasoning is that she'll be safer from the governor there, but... wowza. Also, I thought it was weird that she was up and running around so quickly after such a long-term coma, but there was some hand-waving about the regenerative properties of the bee serum stuff, so I guess (?) that dealt with any muscle atrophy issues?
But back to Fiona—who, by the way, is affectionately called 'Fotard' by her former neighbor-turned-militia-man—as I said, in almost every situation, she reacts rather than acts. Which, honestly, might be a good thing: because in almost every case, when she acts, she does something that puts her life (or someone else's life) at risk. Some of that inanity, I guess, could be chalked up to her brain being coma-fuzzy, to her lack of life experience over the last few years, or to the instalove she's enjoying with the aforementioned militia-man... but that didn't make it any easier to read about.
TL;DR: My favorite thing about this book was the cover.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.