Monday, July 29, 2013

The Matched Trilogy

The Matched Trilogy is one that has been on my to-read list for a while, and since I found all three at the library, I figured that it was finally time to check them off my list. Matched, the first book is set in a future where the Society decides everything that you do; who you love, how long you go to school, where you live, what your job will be, etc. All her life, Cassia has never questioned the Society. So when she's matched with her best friend, she knows that he is the best possible match for her. Until another face appears on the microcard that she brings home...another face that she knows, Ky Markham. Even though the Society tells her that it's a glitch, Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and begins to question if the Society truly knows what's best. Will Cassia choose the path that Society thinks is right, or follow a new path that no one has taken before?

Crossed and Reached are the books that follow Matched, and they are all just as exciting as the first. Ally Condie has created an interesting future, one that explores a lot of different questions about our present society. In the Matched universe, the people believe that they are free, but how can they be when they aren't making any of their own decisions? They can't decide where they want to go, or what path their life is going to take. It is all based on data, which is composed by the society. And while it may be obvious to a reader that these people have no free will, they have been brainwashed to believe that the life they are given by the society is the life that is the best for them. But if you look underneath the surface, nothing is really as it seems. As it is with most things.

The Matched Trilogy has everything that readers want in a young adult dystopian novel, love, rebellion, strong characters, an interesting view of the future. The only complaint that I really had was the relationship between Cassia and Ky. I understand that this is what drove the whole story, the whole plot line, but I wish that Cassia's thinking behind this relationship would have been provided. It seemed a little forced to me, at least at the beginning, and since the story is told from Cassia's point of view, I wish more of her reasoning would have been provided. But other than that, I loved the story and believe that other people will too. I guess that's all for now. Until next time, happy reading. :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Reading

So it has been awhile since I've updated this, but I have been doing lots of reading, mostly along the same theme. I've been doing a lot of reading for my senior project that I will be doing in the fall, writing a young adult novel featuring a transgender character. So, all of my books in this post in some way will feature a character from the LGBTQ community.

The first is Hero by Perry Moore, which was different because it is a novel about a boy who joins a superhero league, but he has a dilemma because he is gay, and he doesn't know of any gay superheros. While the story line was somewhat predictable, a typical YA LGBTQ novel, it was different in the fact that it could be considered science fiction/fantasy. There aren't many YA novels with gay characters that are set in this genre. I also thought that the author did a good job of presenting the dilemma that many gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual teenagers have, and that is the dilemma of coming out to the friends and family, especially when they know that they might not necessarily be accepted. This is one I would definitely put on your list to read.

The next book, Roving Pack by Sassafras Lowrey, definitely opened my eyes when it comes to LGBTQ teenagers. Set in Portland, OR, it follows the story of a group of teens and young adults that come to a teen shelter especially for queer teenagers, so they have a place to stay if they're kicked out, or just a place to hang out where they can just be themselves. Because the novel was told from the point of view of a transgender teenager, Lowrey did an excellent job depicting their lives. A lot of the time, transgender teenagers have a more difficult time, just because it is harder for a lot of people to understand what they really go through. If more people were educated on this subject, life wouldn't be so difficult for these transgender teens.

The next three books, Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, Totally Joe by James Howe, and Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez, all were good in the aspect of depicting non-gender conforming characters, but they weren't necessarily stand out novels on their own, though they were entertaining reads. They do a good job in including a lot of different characters, so readers can get the whole picture while reading these books.

Through reading all of these books, it's become more clear to me that if we as a society were more accepting of people who are different than us, we wouldn't feel the need to make sure that characters like LGBTQ characters were included in literature, they already would be. In fact, in a perfect society, we wouldn't need labels at all. People are just people. I think Josh Hutcherson said it well when he said "I'm so sick of saying the words gay and lesbian. It's just people. One day I want my son to come home from school and be like 'Dad, I found this guy, and I love him.' And I'll be like 'Yes, you do, and that's okay.'" We need more people that like this in world. With thinking like that, I believe we will be able to change the world. And yes, it is slowly changing, but not for everyone. At some point, it would be wonderful if the United States could be a place where everyone felt comfortable in their own skin, comfortable enough to just be who they are and not be judged. That may be a pretty difficult goal to achieve, but someday, I think it can happen.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is a book that I picked up at the library's used book sale, because I thought that it looked interesting, and I had seen it at Barnes and Noble a few days before. It follows the story of the employees at an English language newspaper based in Rome, how their private lives interact with their professional ones.

I think what I liked most about this book was how you could see all of the different characters from each section connect, and how you could see a character from the very beginning of the book reappear at the very end. I also enjoyed the fact that the story of how the paper got started was intertwined between each chapter, so you really got the whole picture of the newspaper. Overall, The Imperfectionists was an excellent look at the journalism world, and gives people insight into the lives of journalists, something that people don't get to see very often.

The way Rachman writes also gets you engrossed in the story, it really brings you into the lives of the characters he has created. While at times, the stories could get a little dull (more toward the middle of the book), overall, they were intriguing enough to keep me reading, and that's the strongest part of the novel, in my opinion. You want to know what's going to happen to the paper, so you keep reading.

I guess that's it for now. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Robots and Lani Garver

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford follows the story of Beatrice (or Bea), a the new girl, expecting to best friends with the first person she meets at school. However, during the daily school assembly, she is forced to sit next to Jonah (or Ghost Boy), the quiet, timid boy who hasn't made a friend since third grade. Something about Jonah draws Bea to him, and as she gets closer to him, all she wants to do is to dispel the gloom that seems to surround Jonah. Are her efforts enough? Or has is always been Jonah's fate to disappear forever?

I think the main thing that I liked about this novel was that there was no forced romance between Bea and Jonah. Sure, there were hints of it throughout the story, however it didn't turn into the typical teen romance. Instead, it was just a story about two quirky teens on the outskirts of the social order and the friendship that the two of them formed. Standiford did an excellent job of characterization, especially with Bea and Jonah. They were both real and relatable characters, and many teens who are considered "not cool" would definitely be able to find themselves somewhere in How to Say Goodbye in Robot. It is a beautifully written, quirky novel that teens should definitely pick up off the shelf.

In What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci, the residents of Hackett Island don't take to new comers very well. They always have to know who they are, where they come from, what they're about. However, no one can figure out the new kid, Lani Garver. Unlike everyone else in her class, Claire McKenzie doesn't want to join in the tormenting that her fellow classmates put Lani through. Instead, she befriends him, wanting to learn more about him. Within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes, and Claire must rethink her friendships, figure out how to fight her personal demons, and consider the possibility that angels could exist on earth.

This book does an excellent job of making you feel things. There are moments of humor, moments of anger, moments of sadness, I don't think there's an emotion that the reader doesn't feel when reading this book. And similarly to Robot, Lani Garver has some very fleshed out characters who just seem to jump off the page. Having real, rounded out characters allows the reader to completely fall into the story, and throughout the whole novel, the reader really feels for Claire and Lani. And while I was expecting the ending (it's mentioned in the preface of the book, and really works to pull the reader into the story), I was still engrossed enough, and desperately wanted to know how they got there. This novel should go on everyone's to-read lists. It's absolutely beautiful.

Until next time, happy reading! :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wildthorn and Boy21

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland begins with Louisa Cosgrove, a 17-year-old girl living in 19th century England, arriving at Wildthorn Hall, where her world is completely turned around. She is told that her name is Lucy Childs, and that she is very sick. No matter how much Louisa tries to protest, the staff there believes that her ranting is because she is truly insane. However, Louisa knows the truth. Now she just has to figure out how to escape. 

While this book is interesting, and presents an interesting look at a subject that isn't touched on very often In young adult literature, it just didn't keep my interest very well. While I think that the story line had potential, I found it to be fairly unorganized, and for this reason it lost my interest about halfway through. There was also something about Louisa that seemed off. For the most part, she was your typical 19th century rebel teenage girl, but the way she was written didn't make it seem very convincing to me. Since the story was told from her point of view, I thought more work could be done on the voice. If that fit better, I thought the story could have been more convincing. And would have made the story a little more captivating.

In Boy21, basketball has always been an escape for Finley. Living in Bellmont, a small run-down town run by drugs, violence, and the Irish mob, he doesn't have much going for him. He's always forced to take care of his disabled grandfather, and there isn't much time for him to enjoy life. On the other side, Russ just moved to Bellmont, his life upturned by tragedy. While he was once a basketball star, he will no longer pick up a basketball and will only answer to the name Boy21. In their senior year of high school, the two form an unlikely friendship. A friendship neither of them really knew they needed.

Picking up this book, I didn't really have high expectations, because it was a sports book about space. However, I was completely blown away. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down until I finished. Matthew Quick created a beautiful story with characters who were complex, believable, and characters that you really cared about by the end of the story. Plus, the story had twists and turns in it that I wasn't expecting. All in all, Boy21 basically had everything that would qualify it as a good book, and definitely one that I would highly recommend. Until next time, happy reading! :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Postcards and Ghosts

Today was a day for reading, considering I finished two books. The weather wasn't very nice outside, and it was just a perfect day to stay inside, curled up with a good book or two.

Postcards From No Man's Land  by Aidan Chambers follows the story of Jacob Todd, a 17 year old boy who has traveled to Amsterdam to honor his grandfather, who passed away during World War II. However, he didn't realize that not only would he discover that there was more to his grandfather's story than he had previously believed (especially in the way of his caretaker, Geertrui), he also discovers a lot about himself, especially in the way of love and his sexuality. Told in alternating points of view between Geertrui and Jacob, Chambers spins a story that will keep readers engaged for the entire novel, always wondering what's going to happen next.

Once you get sucked into this novel, it's really difficult to put it down. Not only is Chambers an absolutely beautiful writer, he has spun a story that is unlike anything I have ever read, with characters who are intriguing, interesting, and always keep you guessing. Chambers also created such a beautiful and interesting picture of Amsterdam, which makes me want to go and visit all the more. I also wouldn't mind reading another one of his novels, if they are all as beautifully written as this one.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson is the second book in the Shades of London series, which follows the story of a girl named Rory, who has moved to London from the United States to attend boarding school. However, while in London, she gains a unique ability that allows her to see ghosts. After the ordeal she went through in the first novel, Rory must now readjust back to her old life. But, with other murders happening around her school, it might be more difficult than she first thought.

This book I couldn't put down. I bought it today, started reading it, and finished it in about 2 and a half hours. And of course, Johnson ended with a cliff hanger, which means we will be left in suspense until the next one comes out, which is never fun. But well worth it. Johnson has created such a unique story, and paints such a beautiful picture of London, that I think a lot of people will have difficulty putting this book down. Not to mention, Rory is an awesome, strong, female main character that doesn't need a boy to complete here, which doesn't seem to happen often in young adult fiction. If you're interested, the first book in the series is The Name of the Star, and I would highly recommend reading it.

Until next time, happy reading! :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Vast Fields of Ordinary

So I've been reading a lot of LGBTQ young adult literature lately because this fall, I will be writing one of my own! It'll be my senior honors project, and I'm sure it will be a very interesting experience.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd follows the story of Dade, an 18 year old boy who has just graduated high school, and isn't really looking forward to his last summer at home. He has a "boyfriend" who treats him like dirt, a boring summer job, and his parents' marriage is falling apart. However, everything changes when he meets Alex Kincaid, and they begin a summer romance. Dade's summer goes from miserable to enjoyable almost overnight. But when a tragedy strikes at the end of the summer, Dade must learn to let go of the past and look towards the future.

I first found this book on Goodreads, and it sounded interesting, so I ended up buying when I went to Powell's Bookstore back in March (the most amazing bookstore located in Portland, OR, in case you aren't familiar). I didn't regret picking it up. Dade's voice sounded so realistic throughout the novel, and he was so entertaining that I found it difficult to put it down once I picked it up. Nick Burd does an excellent job capturing the voice of a teenager, and the voice of a gay teenager at that.

I also enjoyed that the story had a few plot twists that I wasn't really expecting. I thought I had the whole story figured out from the beginning, but Nick Burd decided to prove me wrong, which is excellent, especially for an LGBTQ novel. They so often have predictable story lines (the basic coming out story, the kid who's bullied, etc.) that it is always nice to have one that doesn't follow the same story. I think this shows how far this genre has come since it was first published in the sixties, and even though it's not quite all inclusive yet, it is definitely on its way there. The Vast Fields of Ordinary definitely makes a great summer read. Until next time, happy reading! :)