Category Archives: YA

Perilous Times Here and in Fairyland

In the UK Times, Amanda Craig considers most thoughtfully and intelligently fairyland in some recent books.

Ginia Bellafante’s “Jodi Picoult and the Anxious Parent” in today’s New York Times did not make me any more inclined to read Nineteen Minutes, but it was an interesting piece nonetheless.

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Shadow Country v. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – The Morning News

What the hell? I’m not a seasoned reader of young adult novels, and although I tended to find myself nodding along with parts of Caitlin Flanagan’s essay in December’s Atlantic, I don’t bear any involuntary grudges against the genre. YA, literary, crime, thriller—genres are merely marketing in the end. I want only to be engrossed in something well-made and complicated.

Go here to read the whole of Anthony Doerr‘s decision on the match between Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country and E. Lockhart’s  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks at The Tournament of Books and here to read the commentary and comments on that decision.  Till this year, all the contenders for TOB have been adult literary works, but this time they threw (and that probably is the operative word) a YA novel into the mix.

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Anderson’s Miscellany

While Octavian is called a novel, it is in the strictest sense of the word, a miscellany, one of the defining literary forms of the age in which it is set. Miscellany is the Renaissance and Eighteenth-Century’s period-specific version of pastiche.

Superb discussion of the first volume of M. T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing at The Millions.  Highly recommended.

via Fuse #8

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Patrick Ness’s The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking)

I found Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Nevery Letting Go remarkable, but with the worst cliff-hanging ending ever.  So, along with other fans, I was thrilled to hear Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa tell us about the sequel at their ALA preview breakfast.  What’s more, she kindly sent the jacket copy so I could post it here.

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order.

But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer?

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode. . . .

The second thrilling volume in the Chaos Walking trilogy, The Ask and the Answer is a tense, shocking, and deeply moving novel about resistance under the most extreme pressure.


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Good Old Holden

In the debate about the reading choices and habits of young people there is a fair amount of trashing of the books that at one time were considered cutting edge, but now seem to bore the pants off certain young readers.  Case in point — Catcher in the Rye.  I didn’t read it in school (would, frankly, have preferred to over the books I did read, say The Scarlet Letter), but did so on my own along with all of Salinger’s output.  In my mid-70s high school Salinger was, along with Brautigan and Vonnegut, one cool dude.

Now it seems Holden’s creator is coming up on his 90th birthday and Charles McGrath has an interesting essay about this elusive author at “Still Paging Mr. Salinger.”

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Puck and Other Four-Letter Words

Yesterday I fell in love with Jonah Takalua, the Tongan bad boy who attends Summer Heights High.   Jonah is one of three remarkable characters created and played by Australian Chris Lilley in this mock-documentary now on HBO.  The other two characters are equally notable: queen bee Ja’Mie and the grotesque drama director, Mr. G.  Lilley is spot on in his rendering of these three high school archetypes; he reminds me most of all of Tracey Ullman, but the series itself is in the tradition of the best mock documentarians, say those of Christopher Guest and Ricky Gervais.  I  haven’t seen much about this series here in the U. S., but it deserves more attention in my humble opinion.  And if you work in a middle or high school, spend time with middle and high school kids, write about them, for them, parent them, or otherwise are involved with them, this series may hit especially close to home.  I think it is brilliant.

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Is Impossible the New Twilight?

Ran into the still-floating-on-air Nancy Werlin yesterday (she just married a wonderful guy) who told me her terrific new book Impossible is appealing to Twilight fans.  You go, girl!


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Little Brown and Big Alexie at Yale

The Little Brown librarian previews are always delightful.  Now they are at the venerable Yale Club which makes them even more fun — just coming into that august place is fascinating. The food is terrific, the information interesting,  the dress code extensive*, the elevator buttons amusing (squash court, etc), and it is very entertaining to see so many of the other YC guests looking like George Plimpton.

At yesterday’s event, surprise guest Sherman Alexie pointed out that his audiences are generally filled with middle-aged white women librarians (and he made a rather telling sweep of the hand to the room at that point). Certainly, whether we were or not (and not all of us were), we did all seem to be well within the Yale Club dress code.  (Well, there are  MC Victoria Stapleton remarkable shoes, but I guess they still are “pumps” not so?)  We heard about all sorts of cool new books (and I have no doubt that Betsy Bird will blog about them before long so I won’t), saw wonderful original art, and had a grand time all around.

We were also informed that Big (in the sense of status, mind you, as I’m not making any judgment about the man’s size) Alexie had come into town to be on the Colbert Report that night and, boy, was he great! See for yourself here.

* Here is what I had to keep in mind:

For women this includes: shirts (collared) or blouses with sleeves, turtlenecks, sweaters and sweater sets, skirts or tailored pants, and flats, pumps or boots.

Inappropriate attire includes but is not limited to: denim (jeans and jackets), shorts, tee shirts (sleeveless shirts, tank tops, halter tops, crop tops), sandals (beach sandals, Birkenstocks, flip flops), athletic wear of any kind (sweatshirts, rugby shirts, sweatpants, leggings, stirrup pants, jogging suits, spandex, lycra, athletic shoes or sneakers, caps), torn clothing (clothing with holes or frayed ends), clothing with offensive or profane language, and provocative or revealing clothing.

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Holden’s Relevance

Anne Trubek, in GOOD Magazine, on Why We Shouldn’t Still Be Learning Catcher in the Rye.

Why is The Catcher in the Rye still a rite of high school English? Sure, J.D. Salinger’s novel was edgy and controversial when teachers first put it on their syllabi. But that was 50 years ago. Today, Salinger’s novel lacks the currency or shock value it once had, and has lost some of its critical cachet. But it is still ubiquitously taught even though many newer novels of adolescence are available.

Now I’m a big fan of classics, but I think she has a point.  There are many, many, many wonderful books that could be used in schools in place of this particular teen-angst book.  Don’t get me wrong; I was a huge Salinger fan in my teen years. But that was decades ago. There are so many truly terrific books that would probably resonate with larger numbers of kids than Holden’s story now does.  Trubek, at the end of her piece, recommends several worthy candidates and I can think of quite a few more.

Via bookslut.

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2008 Printz Award Speeches…

… can be heard here! (Thanks to 2008 Printz chair Lynn Rutan for the link.)

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