Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Some YA books I've read lately

(Whenever we spend summers abroad I end up reading classics because they're free online, or random books that other expats are passing around. So these books are not from this summer. But I realized that since I joined Goodreads, I haven't been posting as many book reviews on my blog.)

Here's a round-up of YA books I've read in the last couple of months. Apparently I end up doing this in June sometimes.

Slob, by Ellen Potter. You know a book is good when you find yourself happily identifying with the obese 12-year-old male protagonist. Yeah. Like Hattie Big Sky, this is a YA book in the tradition of those I read when I was a kid.

Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater. Hmm. What to say about this book. For starters, I think there should be a new sub-genre of YA lit called "Twilight derivative," but maybe that's not fair. (But if there were such a genre, The Hourglass Door and Wings would belong to it, along with Graceling and City of Bones, kind of.) So I'll try to review this book on its own merits.

The main feeling I had coming away from this book was that it should have been so much better than it was. The characters are pretty well drawn and the story is compelling. The setting is just spooky enough. And yet. In the end, it just wasn't...delicious. I read it, and it was interesting enough, but I wasn't sucked into it like I hoped I would be.

Part of the problem is that what bothered me the most about Twilight (sorry, couldn't resist mentioning it) is even worse in this book - all the sappy teenage romance stuff. Ugh. Just kill me now before I have to read one more sentence about Grace checking out Sam's butt. I'd get all interested in the mysterious story and then every other page be abruptly jerked out of it when the characters kept wanting to kiss each other.

I guess the real test is whether I'm going to read the next book in the series (OF COURSE there's a next book). I think the answer is no. Make of that what you will.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. This book was extraordinarily clever. I appreciated that the mystery was not so difficult that I couldn't figure it out myself by the end of the book. That made me feel good. This book is absolutely appropriate for younger readers - I recommended it to my 9-year-old niece and she loved it (and let me tell you, I love having a captive little audience to recommend books to).

Fire, by Kristin Cashore. I think I liked this one nearly as much as Graceling. Archer's character was fascinating to me, as was the way Fire dealt with him. I haven't seen a relationship like that portrayed so honestly in a book, maybe ever. Sometimes the startling revelations about people's parentage got a little tiresome, though.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart. Gah! I loved this book! I loved the high school universe it created. I want to be friends with these people. No - I feel like I was friends with these people, back when I was in high school.

Plus, this book made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions, so much so that I had to put the book down for a few moments to recover myself. I was smiling for a long time after finishing it.

My favorite passage from the book, describing the group of main characters:

"They did not need to impress anyone and were therefore remarkably free from snarkiness, anxiety, and irksome aspirational behaviors, such as competition over grades and evaluation of one another's clothing...They were free. They were silly. They were secure."

Don't you want to hang out with them? Them, and the kids from Enthusiasm.

(PS, not to scare anyone off, but this book would be a great read for a budding righteousFeminist. I conflate the two terms on purpose because using the one word alone doesn't portray the idea I want. I mean that this is a book that could have a place in teaching high school girls how to be their own strong selves and not rely on stupid boys. I'm sure we can all agree that's a good thing.)

How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff. Wow. I hated pretty much everything about this book. It was morbid, disturbing, and stupid. How did this book get the Printz Award?? I ask you, HOW?

On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta. Umm, I'm not sure how I felt about this book. Heck, I couldn't even understand what was going on for the entire first half. It seemed like a bad dream I couldn't quite wake up from - there were occasional welcome scenes of lightheartedness and then it was back to the weird, disturbing stuff. Shudder.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This book deserves its own post so let's just say that upon a second reading, The Book Thief earned a spot on my all-time favorites list. Note to self: blog about this book soon.

Does anyone else have any good recommendations for some good YA books? I'll put them on a list for when I have access to the public library again.


Amanda said...

*Sigh* a lot of these books were on my Summer Reading List and then I had to go and take a stupid online class that sucks all my time, energy, and will to live.

Liz Johnson said...

Could somebody please tell me the difference between YA books and a normal novel? I swear I can't tell the difference half of the time.

I am still on the fence about "The Book Thief." I feel like I SHOULD have liked it more than I did. But I think the actual style of the writing (with short choppy sentences) really bugged me and affected the way I read the book. The story was great... but I just had trouble really getting immersed because of the choppiness of the writing.

My book club recently read "The Elegance of the Hedgehog." I have no idea if it's YA or not (I never got a chance to read it), but they all seemed to love it. That said, after I got home from the discussion, I found myself thinking, "Wow, I think I would have really hated that book. It seems like it was stuffy and pretentious." So I'd be curious to hear your opinion on it, since most of my like-minded friends really loved it. Maybe I should actually give it a chance.

Bridget said...

If my friend Sarah (not the one you know) comments here she can point us to an article in the NYT that talks about the distinction between YA and regular lit. Basically, it's whatever the publicist or publishing company or agent decides. The Book Thief, for example, was released as a regular fiction book in its native Australia, but as YA here. Though I can't think why. Aside from a few of the main characters being young, that book is about as far from YA as can be.

Shannan said...

The Percy Jackson series books were fun to read at the same time as my fourth grade son. I enjoyed it as much as he did. Not as good as Harry Potter, but enjoyable enough

Susanne said...

I enjoyed your reviews. Thanks for sharing!

Jen said...

Do you have a kindle (or some other e-Reader?)

Bridget said...

No, I just read them on my computer. It's not exactly cosy, but it's free.

Jen said...

So did you get one of the free apps for Mac to read eBooks? (Through Kindle or Sony or your library or wherever?)

Bridget said...

First, let it be known that I am a PC person. Second, no - I just download the txt or html files from Gutenberg. If we had reliable internet access, some old books are available to read while connected to the internet in more pleasing interfaces.

Kristen said...

Why did I think you were a Mac person? Probably because Lisa Simpson reminds me so much of you. Take it as a compliment, please.


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