Book reviews & writing tips from a wannabe YA writer
At my day job, my official title is “Sustainability Specialist.” I am the only person at my company with that title, so most of the time I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be doing.
But there’s one week out of the year where I am certain of my place in the world. And that’s Earth Week. I coordinate a week’s worth of events for more than 2,300 employees at our corporate campus.
We tried a new event this year, called Trash-to-Treasure. The idea is that you bring in items from home that you don’t want or need anymore, others do the same, and then everyone can browse the lot and take whatever they want for free.
It turns out free stuff goes over awfully well.
#1 was gone even before the event officially started, snagged by a woman who looked to be in her mid-20s. She had already read the book but didn’t own a copy. Just as I was opening my mouth to sing the praises of The Hunger Games and Graceling, she scurried off with the bane of good writing and modern womanhood clutched to her chest. Damn.
#2 and #3 didn’t find new homes, so they got boxed up with all the other leftovers and taken to the Island of Misfit Books, aka Goodwill. I don’t have high hopes for the Word 97 manual, poor thing. The thesaurus may find a new home if it’s lucky.
Many unwanted books just sit on a shelf somewhere, not getting used or read or picked up for months, even years. That depresses the heck out of me. It’s one reason that I love sites like PaperBackSwap because the book you no longer want will end up in the hands of someone who does want that specific title.
What do you do with misfit books?
And while you ponder that, I’m going to get started on the Biggest Review Backlog Ever. I hope the Earth will be okay with one less Sustainability Specialist for a while.
p.s. The Great Unsung YA 2010 Giveaway has ended, but in the craziness of Earth Week I didn’t pick the winners on Monday night. I will this weekend!
Photo by SpecialKRB.
Can you trust me? Compare our taste!
Title: Hush, Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Category: Fiction, Young Adult
Why I Read It: This review at Forever Young Adult put the book on my radar so when I saw it on the library shelf, I snagged it.
Summary: High school senior Nora and her best friend are lab partners in biology, but for some reason their teacher makes a new seating chart with only weeks left in the year. Nora gets stuck with the new guy who she feels simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by.
Review: This book was lucky to get even a 1-star rating from me. The star it did earn is based purely on the writing—which I thought was good for the most part save for some repetitive internal dialogue—and nothing to do with the actual story.
Because I hated the actual story.
Nora’s love interest, Patch, is downright abusive to her, but she keeps coming back for more. It’d be one thing if through the relationship, she learned to assert herself or learned that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way or learned anything about herself, actually. Nope.
Nora can tell he wants to hurt her, at least emotionally if not also physically. And it seems to make her want Patch all the more.
Maybe I just need to get over it. After all, it’s just a story. A bit of candy in book form. At least it gets kids to turn off the TV and read.
But…is it “just a story”? Here’s a quick snippet from a book called Influencer, which looks at behavioral science research to determine what motivates people to change their behavior.
Entertainment education helps people change how they view the world through the telling of vibrant and credible stories. Told well, these vicariously created events approximate the gold standard of change—real experiences… We can use words to persuade others to come around to our way of thinking by telling a story rather than firing of a lecture… A well-told narrative…changes people’s view of how the world works because it presents a plausible, touching, and memorable flow of cause and effect that can alter people’s view of the consequences of various actions or beliefs.
Meaning? Stories matter. Lectures from parents and teachers, not so much. Stories—and the messages they carry—break through where nagging doesn’t and make a real impact.
The impact books like this and Twilight will make—are making—scares me. Not because I imagine girls will finish the book, set it down, and think to themselves “Golly gee, I’d sure like to find me an emotionally abusive boy.” The problem is they won’t think about it. They’ll get caught up in the story, which will leave an imprint on their sensibilities.
I wish this were just an irrational fear of mine. Unfortunately, research has proven this is exactly what happens. Again, from Influencer:
Concrete and vivid stories exert extraordinary influence because they transport people out of the role of critic and into the role of participant. The more poignant, vibrant, and relevant the story, the more the listener moves from thinking about the inherent arguments to experiencing every element of the tale itself. Stories don’t merely trump verbal persuasion by disproving counterarguments; stories keep the listener from offering counterarguments in the first place.
So why did this book get my dander up? Because this is the message it mainlines to girls: A boy who abuses you is hot. The reason he abuses you is he truly loves you. If you put up with the abuse long enough, he’ll prove his love to you and it will all be worth it.
Finally, a quick sidebar: I have been working on this review since I finished the book a couple months ago, but a few recent posts on this same topic gave me the courage to say how I really felt about this book. Thank you to those bloggers for speaking up.
Your Turn: Which came first—the books that equate stalking with hotness, or the girls who want to read them?
Did You Like This Book? Try:
Can you trust me? Compare our taste!
Summary: 16-year-old Gretchen doesn’t fit in at The Manhattan School for Art and Music, something weird is going on between her parents, and her best friend seems to be avoiding her.
Review: This one was just okay for me.
I was liking the story until about halfway through when the action slowed way down. I’m not spoiling anything you can’t get from the Amazon description—and maybe I’m outing myself as a jaded old married lady—but in particular, I could have done without the pages of reflection on the male anatomy.
The pace picks up again in the last 30 pages or so. But after no real action for so long, it seemed like everything wrapped a little too neatly.
Here’s a taste so you can decide for yourself. Gretchen is talking to her best friend, Katya, about a guy named Titus:
Later that afternoon, Sanchez the gym teacher makes us play dodgeball, which leaves bruises all over my legs. I’m not that fast, and I get hit a lot. Titus hits me twice.
“Do you think it means something?” I ask Katya after gym, sitting on the locker room bench in a towel.
Katya is naked in the shower like that’s a normal way to have a conversation. She’s washing her hair like she’s just everyday naked in front of people.
Well, we are everyday naked in front of people. Gym is five days a week, shower required. But anyway, Katya is having a naked conversation like it doesn’t even bother her, which it obviously doesn’t—even though she’s not built like a model, just regular.
The locker room is so cramped and tiny that I can feel the warm spray of her shower water on my knee as I’m sitting on the bench.
“It would have meant something if we were sixth graders,” says Katya, scrunching her eyes as she rinses out the shampoo.
“Like what would it mean?”
“You want to hear me say it?” She’s laughing.
“It would have meant that he liked you back.”
“I didn’t say I liked him,” I mutter.
Your Turn: When’s the last time you were happily trucking along in a book but then you lost interest?
Did You Like This Book? Try:
A few weeks ago, more than 75 bloggers posted their Unsung YA Heroes picks—unsung books we love and think deserve more attention from the world of YA readers.
It was so much fun that we’ll make the Week of the Unsung an annual event, each day focusing on a different genre. But there was just no way I could wait another year.
So in the meantime, I’m giving away copies of 10 of the top 12 most obscure picks from Unsung YA 2010. These books haven’t been made into movies, and they haven’t sold millions of copies. But what they lack in hype, they make up for in awesomeness.
A big thank you to all the authors and publishers who made this giveaway possible!
U.S. and Canada entries only, please.
This won’t be the only Unsung YA giveaway! I’ll update this post to link to other giveaways as they’re announced. If you posted an Unsung YA list (or even if you didn’t!), please join in with your own giveaway. It can be as easy as giving away a copy of an Unsung YA title you already have lying around the house. Then just drop me a line with the link to your giveaway post so I can list your giveaway here.
Below, I list the Unsung YA 2010 titles offered up in each giveaway, but giveaways marked with +++ at the end of the titles list are also giving away additional titles. Bonus!
Just as I started to feel better, the fluey bits decided they wouldn’t be content to use my body as their own personal disco club and leave it crumpled on the floor like a dirty tissue. Oh, no. They had to leave behind a sinus infection.
But full disclosure: I don’t really know what I’m talking about because…
I’ve never been this sick for this long. So sick I’m not even interested in reading from my sick bed.
What I really want to be doing is posting about the Unsung YA giveaway I have all ready to go, but this is about the most I can bring myself to craft out of thin air. The sooner I get better, the sooner you get your fabulous giveaway.
What’s your favorite trick for getting over a cold/flu/sinus infection?
Or howzabout some tips for thanking a spouse who’s been taking care of the house plus a two-year-old all by his lonesome?
(Here endeth the whine.)
Photo by jamelah.