48 Hr Book Challenge

This blog has languished, I have considered killing it but I still reference it from time to time.  Well, lucky for me I didn’t because I have decided to put away PhD’er guilt for the next 48 hours and read YA (which I miss )for the 48 hour challenge.  Now truth be told it isn’t like I havent been reading some YA, it isn’t all information practices in the modern age reading, but I usually just update my goodreads and not blog after because well, blogging takes time and there is this sense of why exactly am I doing this?  But give me a purpose!  Now I can blog for that.  Can’t say for sure this blog won’t languish after this but for now I am back.  (librarygrl, not cheeky reader who has obviously disappeared as well).  So I am off – promised a friend I’d finish the Hunger Games trilogy so that will be my starting point (see?!?  SEE?!? how behind I am).

Starting time Friday 7:30 am.


Holden 2010

Every now and then I hear a yuppie call to her child by the name of Holden.  This always give me pause.  Not because I am a yuppie too.  Not because I’d love to have my own mad tofu-eating toddler running around Golden Gate Park.  But because of the name.  Holden.  Really?  You named your kid after the narrator of The Catcher in the Rye?  The kid who tells his story from an insane asylum?  The kid who gets kicked out of five schools?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Holden-hater.  I like The Catcher in the Rye.  But, I am an English teacher — it’s practically a requirement. The novel is an annual favorite, and it’s on every “classics” list.  It is a holy text.  Maybe that’s why South Park decided to slaughter the sacred cow on their episode: The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs.  The no-neck boys from South Park eagerly read the novel after their teacher promises that it is racy, censored and controversial.  Grossly disappointed, they decide to write their own banned book, a book that causes readers to vomit.  Vomit a lot.  

And this brings me back to my English class.  No, the students don’t vomit excessively.  I’m sure they watch South Park, but more importantly, The Catcher in the Rye was chosen by several of them for an independent-book-report-project-make-a-poster-use-the-rubric-you’ve-had-two-months-to-work-on-this-!-!-extravaganza.  Yesterday presentations began.  (My students are AMAZING!)  Does Holden still resonate with today’s teens?  Does Holden transcend the decades of teenage angst?  According to Boy-Who-Should-Wear-a-Bike-Helmet, “Holden is a whiner and a complainer.  He needs to step up to the plate and make something of himself.”  Hmmmm…What could this mean?  Has Holden fallen from grace?  Will the next generation name their sons after Atticus, not HC?!  

Upon further questioning, Boy-Who-Should-Wear-a-Bike-Helmet revealed that he doesn’t think there are any excuses for being kicked out of school repeatedly.  He thinks Holden is spoiled.  And that, no, his relationship with Phoebe does not redeem him.  Neither does anything else. 

It makes me wonder if times have changed.  Do teens identify more with the protagonist who is not an anti-hero, but a true hero?  Maybe in uncertain times, teens want to read about people who can suck it up — stiff upper lip and all of that.  Or maybe Holden hits too close to home and what some dislike about him is that he has qualities they themselves have.

Regardless, Holden lives on.  I expect to teach him — or one or three — in a few years.  


Yo bro!

Beloved Nephew is only eight years old, but I am compiling YA fiction for him.  I like to plan ahead.  I picked up Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver for his four-years-down-the-line-collection.  It is the first of a series of six books (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) about Torak, a young boy faced with defeating a hidden enemy, one hiding in the form of a monstrous bear.  Thus, begins Torak’s quest in hunter/gatherer Europe.  Along the way he acquires a wolf cub that has also lost his family.  Torak faces different challenges — surviving in general –, meets a hostile clan and makes a new friend, a girl named Renn.  She helps him as he pieces together an offering of “brightest souls” for the World Spirit.  

For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a complete sucker for The Hero’s Journey and quests, vision or otherwise, of any kind.  Metaphors for life, all of them.  I’m not surprised that I enjoyed Wolf Brother, but what stands out to me the most is the setting of the story.  Can a genre be historical fiction-ish?  Reading a story set in pre-history appeals to me, as does a forested, wild Europe.  

While I think this is a book that both boys and girls will enjoy, it is definitely a 12-14 year old “boy book.”  It is a coming of age adventure novel that expresses a boy’s worst fear — death of father, while assuring him that with courage, self-reliance and by remembering his father’s wisdom, he too can go forth into the wilds of the unknown.  

Die hard readers might enjoy visiting or becoming part of this online community for Torak fans: http://www.torak.info/index.php?categoryid=1

In 2014, I think this is a series Beloved Nephew will enjoy.

C’mon Baby, Light My Fire

So, I know I’m supposed to be reading the book about wolves, Shiver.  And, I will finish it.  It just has not grabbed me yet.  Lots of smoldering thus far.  My Kindle assures me that I am 21% through the story.  Plus, at the insistence of one of the 8th Grade Chicas, I began The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  Of course, I couldn’t help but cheer for Katniss — a teen in post-apocalyptic former North America, now known as Panem.  She is “reaped” and has to participate with other young people in a competition reminiscent of the Running Man’s game show.  Katniss’ contest is broadcast to other folk in this dystopian nightmare in which people are controlled by hunger, violence and censorship.  But, rebellion against the Capitol is brewing and the “districts” might be going the way of  Twisted Sister.  That’s right, “we’re not gonna take it!”  

I can always tell when I’m reading a really, really good story because I don’t move from the couch, and my husband does my bidding by delivering Kleenex, snacks and drinks.  (Thanks, Honey!)  What is so great about The Hunger Games and the sequel, Catching Fire?  In the words of the Chica: “I don’t know.”  Incidentally, my boys love the books too.  There is nothing new about a plot that revolves around a rebel who inspires the downtrodden to rise against a tyrannical, blood-thirsty government.  But Katniss is an exceptionally tough cookie who has to balance family obligations, survival, love and killing with, well, growing up, not breaking hearts and being kind to her mom.  

In the words of selfsame 8th Grade Chica: “She won’t play the game. Katniss doesn’t want to conform.”  Did I have you at “won’t play the game”?  It reminds me of what 
a jaded, bitter person once told me: “high school is all about learning how to play the game.”  Is it all an elaborate game for our students?  For ourselves?  Perhaps.  Maybe that’s why we love The Hunger Games (third and final book, Mockingjay, out on 8/24).  We love the story of a person who fights to live an authentic life because we know that the struggle is heroic.  And since the beginning of story telling, human beings have loved heroes.

Vampires: A phase or eternal?

I have been waiting for today ever since I pre-ordered the final Sookie Stackhouse story to download directly to my Kindle…two months ago.  Unlike my friend, I am obsessed with vampiric fiction.  It is shamefully trendy, I know!  From Vampire Diaries to Cirque du Freak to Twilight, I am a vamphile.  I was excited to see the Eclipse trailer on a friend’s Facebook page.  That’s where I am at the moment. 

When considering this entry, I’ve racked brain: what is the metaphor?  (I was destined to be an English teacher).  What do vampires represent?  Why the vampire-mania?  In Buffy’s time, vampires were only good for slaying, but now, they are objects of desire — undead heroes that cause females to swoon and swear undying love. And yeah, the pun is intended.  Because, according to one of my 7th grade girls, some girls are just obsessed with Edward Cullen only and some are obsessed with the idea of him: the idea of true love lasting forever and forever inhabiting perfect, youthful bodies.  

And maybe that’s what they represent: youth, beauty, love and reliability.  At the moment, I think it’s fair to say times are hard and that those universally admired attributes seem to be in short supply.  Have you read CNN today? Oil slicks, teacher strikes, car bombs and the ever-present missing woman, presumed murdered by boyfriend or husband.  Unlike real life, when you snuggle into the couch with popcorn, a diet 7-Up and a novel with a dashing vampire, you know what you are going to get.  You can count on them to stick around because they never die.  Remember, the good vampires, Stefan and Edward, don’t kill humans.  They are noble and self-sacrificing.  They struggle with the moral implications of being the undead and just need a good woman to love ’em up!  

Vampire fiction is cheesy, predictable and a little embarrassing, and it gives readers the means to escape into the dream of true love forever and ever and ever.  And they lived happily ever after, forever, and never grew old. The end.

Nerds Heart YA

Judging one thing against another is always interesting, particularly when you don’t have a particular set of criteria.  It is inevitable that the personal enters into it.  I read both books (the shape of water and cracked up to be) a while ago, and blogged my original thoughts.  And then I began the process of deciding which one I thought should move on.  Truth be told I like Cracked Up to Be better, I liked the plot, it had a great hook, the character, Parker Fadley, was both at once likeable and unlikable – which is exactly how she should have been.  However I had a deep appreciation for the structure of the language of The Shape of Water. It was metaphorical, and lush with the description.  It was what I call a quiet book, a character study about grief and loss, and moving on.  I wondered if perhaps my affinity for Cracked had to do with the fact that I read it first, or a preference for the genre, and if I shouldn’t put that aside and deal with the structure and quality of the writing, but essentially when I broke it down – Cracked was in some cases tighter, maybe a little less obvious, and the strands followed through – whereas Shape lost some things – or maybe more accurately wrapped them up and headed into a new experience.  But isn’t that what grief is – so maybe in structure it does hold up.  See what I mean – this was a close call, and I have been back and forth a dozen times.  In the end I am going with what I liked more so Cracked Up to Be, congratulations – you are moving on!

Nerds Heart YA

Yesterday was the opening of the Nerds Heart YA book tournament. A while ago Renay at YA Fabulous conceived of a tournament in which the competing books (?) would be those under appreciated books of the previous years. And so it began . . .

Here is the bracket:

You’ll see I am in the first round judging Cracked up to Be against The Shape of Water.

Here are links to the other judges:

I’ve read the books, now must re-read to make a decision – lets just say it isn’t going to be easy.  Check back for reviews of both and my choice.