Archive | January, 2011

Beastly

28 Jan

Title: Beastly

Author: Alex Finn

Genre: Fantasy

Recommended Age: 13-16

Scale: 7/10

Summary:

This is basically a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Alex, is a spoiled handsome sixteen year-old boy, who honestly believes that good looks and charm are worth more than honesty, integrity, and kindness. After being cruel to a classmate and standing her up at a school dance, he is transformed into a hideous beast and hidden away in a beautiful apartment in Brooklyn. His father hires a tutor and Alex starts to learn that he can be smart and that he does have more to offer. Through a rather complicated series of events, a young girl comes to live with Alex and his tutor. She sees beyond his looks, falls in love, and eventually lifts his curse.

Thoughts?

This was okay.

I love most versions of Beauty and the Beast, but this fell short. The lesson felt heavy-handed and there was nothing fun or funny about this particular piece. I mean, I didn’t expect the characters in the book to break into a rousing rendition of “Be Our Guest”, but I feel like if an author is going to retell a classic tale, than he or she should probably add or change something. This author really just moved the tale into modern-day New York. I think that some young adults might enjoy this. It is an easy read, the romance might be interesting to some, and the moral is healthy. I’m not a huge fan, but I would recommend it to patrons looking for modern fairy-tales.

Read Alikes

Looking For Alaska

24 Jan

Book: Looking For Alaska

Genre: Banned/ Challenged

Author: The Fantastic and Controversial John Greene

Summary:  SPOILER ALERT!

The story revolves around the young Miles Halter, a sixteen-year-old with a fascination for famous last words. Miles decides to leave Florida and attend a boarding school in Alabama. He feels trapped, depressed,  and friendless in Florida, and goes to school in search of “his great perhaps”.

His roommate at boarding school in  Chip “Colonel” Martin, a trailer-bred genius. Chip nicknames the skinny Miles “Pudge” and introduces him to Alaska Young, a very sexy, well read, and intellectually gifted teenager with a head full of elaborate pranks. His new  friends teach Miles how to drink, smoke, receive blow jobs, escape punishment, and understand people.  Most importantly, he begins to fall in love with the wonderful and frantic Alaska.

After a night of drinking, Alaska drives away from school and dies in a crash. Miles and Chip, both grieve for their lost friend and wonder if she committed suicide or was killed accidentally. They interview the cops, her college boyfriend, and anyone that might have the answers. Both boys also feel guilty because they were the last people to see her alive and did not stop her from driving drunk.

Ultimately, Alaska’s death is unsolved.

Thoughts and Opinions:  This is an excellent book.

John Green’s most infamous novel has been challenged  for containing chapters that deal with intense subjects like underage drinking, drug use, smoking, and teenage sexuality, but I think that those controversial things are tempered (and made lighter) by the sheer volume of comical dialogue and characters that are so well developed that readers actually become emotionally attached.

John Green himself as defended the book and has mentioned that all of the “sex scenes” in the novel are silly and frank. Interested readers can find out more information about John Greene at this site

http://www.youtube.com/user/vlogbrothers

On a separate note, it is extremely rare for a book to make me sob, but I cried for a good twenty minutes after the description of Alaska’s death. I cried again when I read the paragraph that John Greene wrote about the way teenagers think about death.

When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.

This book is  simultaneously  silly, comical, light, heavy, and deeply philosophical.

Read Alikes: Rats Saw God AND Thirteen Reasons Why

The Graveyard Book!

23 Jan

BOOK: The Graveyard Book

Author: The always amazing Neil Gaiman

Genre: Mystery/Award Winner

Recommended Age: 13 and up

Scale: 10/10

Ultimate Book Verdict: The Graveyard book is another example of Neil Gaiman’s genius.

Summary: The story begins when a tiny seemingly insignificant toddler escapes  his house after a mad man slaughters his entire family. The tiny child crawls out of the house and up the hill to a small old graveyard and the ghosts that live there decide to adopt the living child. The ghosts decide to adopt that baby and give him the name of  Nobody Owens. The young toddler is also granted the Freedom of the Graveyard. Silas (a mysterious man who has also been granted sanctuary) accepts the duty of providing and teaching  Nobody.

The bulk of the book is about Nobody’s (often called Bod) adventures in and out of the grave as he grows up. The inhabitants of the graveyard teach him magic and tricks, but never let him forget that he is a living boy and must one day leave the graveyard.  In later chapters the man who murdered Nobody’s family is confronted and defeated and Nobody leaves the graveyard for the great beyond.

Thoughts and Opinions:

At first I couldn’t understand what it was that made this particular piece of young adult fiction feel so real and important and compelling. Most authors of young adult fiction write books that feature an adolescent protagonist and describe challenges that the average teenager would be able to relate to. Nobody Owens spends half of the book as a toddler and small child. Similarly, his challenges are supernatural, surreal, and absurd.

I spend a few afternoons  trying to understand why I couldn’t stop thinking about this novel. Finally, I realized that  the main challenge that Nobody faces is not the problem of living in the graveyard. Nobody’s main challenge involves feeling alone and unconnected. He does not feel like he belongs.

Everyone feels alone and everyone can understand Nobody’s pain.

I also really enjoyed that the Gaiman did not shy away from the gothic and the macabre.  I would even argue that Gaiman’s descriptions of moss-covered headstones and lonely spirits are endearing and delightful. It reminds me of early Tim Burton poems, and those  delightfully horrible old moral tales that parent’s used to tell their children to scare them into good manners.

Overall, I think that the Graveyard book is a perfect read for children and young adults and older readers.

Read Alikes: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton and Stardust ( also by Neil Gaiman).

Porco Rosso

22 Jan

Title: Porco Rosso

Genre: Anime

Director: THE FANTASTIC HAYAO MIYAZAKI

Ages:  15 and up

Scale: 10/10

Summary:

Porco Rosso is the sixth anime film by the ridiculously awesome Hayao Miyazaki.

The film was released by Studio Ghibli in 1992 and re-released and (poorly) over-dubbed by Disney a few years later. The plot is almost impossible to summarize. The film is set in the early thirties and the story revolves around Porco Rosso. Porrco is an Italian Fighter Pilot turned Bounty Hunter.  Sometime during the war Porco was cursed with face of a pig (this is never really explained). He loves Gina, the owner of small club and hotel, befriends a small girl who is also a talented aircraft engineer, and has an ongoing rivalry with an American named Curtis. Porcco hates fascists, loves freedom, and ultimately acts bravely and saves everyone he knows and loves.

This is a really hard film to summarize.

Thoughts?

Some people might argue that this is not an appropriate film for young adults. The characters  smoke and drink and seem to do some serious harm to each other.  Having said that, I think that Porco Rosso is an excellent film for mature young adults. The story is fantastic and I think it would be a good idea to expose young adults to the idea that animated films can also be dramas. Characters talk and pause and respond to things with their bodies in Porco Rosso.  It is fantastic.

If you  enjoyed Porco Rosso, you might also enjoy…..

Young Adult Fiction=Super Awesome Wicked Fun

20 Jan

We might be living in the best of all possible worlds.

The existence of vintage dresses, Billy Joel records , primary colors, and Batman comics all seem to qualify as evidence that this world is sometimes fantastic and beautiful.

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man

On a separate (but related) note, Young Adult Fiction is also among the things that make me excited for the universe.

<—————   The Universe!

That might sound crazy, but hear me out.

Young Adult Fiction has several distinct attributes that separate it from adult or children’s fiction. Most stories portray an adolescent as the main character and the subject or theme usually describe challenges or problems that this age group can identify with.

Boring definitions aside, young adult fiction  reminds me of the promise of being a teenager. Most people regret or lament those years and only remember acne and bullying and embarrassing hair.

I remember being fearless and frantic and clueless. I scorned bike helmets and cut my own bangs. I went to parties constantly with sexy older boys and hitchhiked everywhere. I  was clueless about the way that the real world operated and believed that I would make a great astronaut solely because I loved watching Apollo 13 reruns on CBC.

My point is that young adult fiction is wonderful for young adults because it contains material they can relate to and it’s wonderful for older readers because it reminds older readers of a time when we felt immortal and invincible.

 

This blog is part of ongoing class project for my YA class and I’ll be reviewing approximately fifteen types and various genres of YA material.

I hope you enjoy!