Book reviews & writing tips from a wannabe YA writer
I decided to write the craziest sentence I could think of without judging it too much.
It’s such a simple idea, but the more I think about it, it’s frickin’ BRILLIANT.
Because when you sit down to write—after you’ve killed time on Facebook and used a toothpick to flick, flick, flick out the crumbs between the keys on your keyboard—what’s the biggest obstacle to getting words on the page? That pesky internal critic, right?
So if you start out by writing the craziest sentence you can think of, you’ve given yourself permission to let the craziness continue. You’ve set the crazy bar. That internal critic will still be there, of course, but that first sentence can be the shiny object you distract her with. Make it so crazy she’ll go on about it for days and days before she gets around to noticing what you’re writing after that.
Let’s try it. To start us off, here’s the first sentence of Savvy:
When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.
I’ll go first, but I know you can be crazier than this:
Okay, now go crazy! And please share your craziness in comment form!
Photo by barefootinfla1.
It’s happened to us all. You love a book and sing its praises to everyone who will listen. To your utter surprise, somebody actually heeds your advice and reads the book. But they don’t like it as much as you did. Or worse, they hate it and suggest you reimburse them financially for their wasted time.
How you respond in that moment could make or break your friendship. So I’ve put together a few tips to help you escape this sticky situation unscathed.
Example: “Oh, you thought I recommended that book? No, what I said was don’t read that book! Oh, haha! What a funny misunderstanding…”
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to update any online reviews you posted.
Example: “You didn’t like the book? Hmm. You didn’t happen to read the English version did you? Because that translation is absolute crap compared to the original written in 15th century French. Unfortunately, that version is out of print and I sent my only copy off to the Louvre, but I’ll be sure to let you know if I spy it at a library sale.”
This friend of yours is apparently viewing the world through upside-down glasses. Next time they give you some advice, be sure to do the opposite. Note that this tip doesn’t just apply to the world of books.
Example: Say you find yourself driving while your friend is navigating. If they say to go left, go right.
How close could you ever be to someone who is so obviously deluded about what makes for a good book? You might as well cut your losses now, before you end up taking one of their recommendations.
Photo by tinou bao.
Summary: Nick’s girlfriend just dumped him. So when he sees her walk into the club with another guy, he grabs the closest girl—a complete stranger—and asks her to be his girlfriend for the next 5 minutes.
Review: This is a smart, funny, intense love story. The intensity makes for some steamy encounters, which I didn’t mind, no I did not.
The chapters alternate between Nick and Norah narrating. Levithan and Cohn wrote Nick and Norah’s parts, respectively. I was a little nervous that each chapter would be too different because of that, but they pulled this off perfectly. Nick and Norah are separate people, but they also exist in the same world and speak the same language.
Here’s a little sample for you from the start of one of Norah’s chapters, where she’s nervous and trying to make conversation:
“So say we’re at the Motel 6 on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel and we’re having that threeway with E.T. Who gets to be the top and who gets to be the bottom?”
This question has actually escaped my mouth. Perhaps it’s not that I’m frigid—it’s that once I decide I like a guy, I turn into a raging idiot, unfit for public appearances…
Nick answers, “No-brainer. E.T. can’t take the heat and goes off to the motel vending machine for some Reese’s Pieces, and hopefully doesn’t get caught in the crossfire of some crack deal gone bad while he’s out there. Couldn’t we class it up a little? Wouldn’t the devirginization of E.T. merit at least a Radisson, at least Paramus?”
Summary: Emmaline lives in a tidy town, but she can’t manage to stay tidy herself. That can make a girl feel very alone. And the thing Emmaline wants most is a bunny to be her friend, but bunnies—a very untidy bunch—have been banished from her town.
Review: Such a sweet little story. I loved the language and repetition—it would make for a great read-aloud. This is from the first chapter:
Emmaline wanted a bunny.
She’d seen them on TV and in books.
She liked how they hop, hop, hopped. She liked how they dug holes and scoot-skedaddled under bushes. She liked how they huddled, cuddled, snuggled together.
And then from the third chapter:
Emmaline was not tidy.
Dirt she dug.
Shrubs she scoot-skedaddled under.
Puddles she hop, hop, splash, splash, hopped through.
Emmaline yelled, “Hoopalala!” and “Dinglederrydee!” when she was happy.
She huddled, cuddled, snuggled people wrinkly.
This is the sort of book that makes me anxious for my daughter to get a little older so I can read it to her.
Summary: Jill McTeague is a typical senior girl. Except for the tiny issue of how four days out of every month, she turns into a boy named Jack—in both mind and body.
Review: The premise of a cycling hermaphrodite made me think the book would be cheesy and induce frequent eye-rolling. But it was a great read.
This book made it fun to explore the themes of sexuality and homophobia without being hit over the head with a “message.” At first, the non-politically-correct language about non-straight characters bothered me. But then I realized that duh, this is how a lot of teens talk about and deal with issues of sexuality. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a teen myself, after all.
My only criticism of the book is that one of Jill’s linguistic quirks—mal—got to be a little much sometimes. I wonder what the “magic” frequency is for using a linguistic quirk but not overusing it. (If you have a Kindle, does it let you search the text? I can see myself buying it primarily for reasons like this!)
One final note to those of you considering reading this: A sequel is planned, so the conclusion is of the open-ended variety. I didn’t mind it in this case, but I just wanted to let you know in case you prefer to wait until an entire series it out.