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….. not to let Glee take over this blog but here is some news.

Haven’t read any blow me away books lately – but Joshilyn Jackson’s new book is coming out so I think I will reread Gods in Alabama and then her latest, which focuses on a Gods character.

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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.  

WWJDD?

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.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts,

Can’t even finish the game????  I love this show but this episode was just painful, every freaking moment was bleak.  Well except Tami and the coin toss, and I was so grateful for that little moment.  Please, please, I need some light.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

The nice thing about younger narrators is the innocence and naivete they bring to the story, it makes it light-hearted even if it really isn’t.

The Book: A Crooked Kind of Perfect

Zoe, age 11, wants to be a piano prodigy to someday play at Carnegie Hall. Instead her father brings home an organ, a Perfectone D-60, complete with lessons from Maybelline Person who drinks Vernor’s Ginger Ale (my favorite) and well, seems bored (until she sees some talent in Zoe who ends up playing Neil Diamond’s FOrever in Blue Jeans on the organ – can you imagine?!?).  The real thing going on here despite Zoe’s focus on being a piano prodigy is the reason why her dad brought home the organ – he seems to have agoraphobia, a fear of being in an open or crowded space. He gets distracted and uncomfortable by noise and crowds.  He stays home and takes living room university courses.  He can’t drive Zoe places because he gets lost, lie really lost.  Like most 11 year old narrators Zoe takes this in stride and with good humor, despite the disappointments it can lead to.  But when she gets involved in Perform – o – rama she needs him to step up.  Particularly since her mom is always working.  Zoe’s life isn’t perfect, but she approaches it with good humor, and makes a few unexpected friends, particularly with Wheeler, who also befriends her dad (he needs one himself).

I liked Zoe – she was funny, and the innocence and lack of teenage angst was refreshing.

Becky liked it too.

So did Fuse 8 – you should really read this review!

The Unwritten Rule

Boy was I grumpy last night and this book is to blame….. I will explain but let me give you the set up first.

You know what the unwritten rule between girls is right?  You do not, I mean do not, steal your best friend’s boyfriend (yes connections to recent read – 6 Rules of Maybe).  You don’t crush on him, and you most certainly do not KISS him when he is still with your best friend, and maybe not even after.  Now we can debate this rule – and I suppose it has been, but it is the unwritten rule, at least of this title.

Sarah has a crush on Ryan, she has since the 8th grade, but no one really knows that, not even her best friend, Brianna.  Which might be why when Ryan turns up totally hot at the end of the summer Brianna turns her full wattage on him and now they are dating.  And since a) Sarah never said anything its not like Brianna broke that unwritten rule and b) since Sarah assumes no boy would like her over Brianna she just accepts this fact.  But it isn’t that easy, because there is something there – between Sarah and Ryan, and Ryan and Brianna may not be working out.

So grumpitude….. here is the thing about the story.  Brianna is both casually mean and totally fragile.  She has pretty much destroyed Sarah’s self esteem over the years, although Sarah’s personality allowed that to happen.  And it wasn’t on purpose.  The situation with Brianna’s parents (bitter divorce, working all the time, and casually and not so casually mean themselves) has left her self esteem pretty f’ed up too.  Sarah has the loving family that Brianna has slowly become a part of, but Brianna has all the attention.  The constant “brush your hair” or “we can find you a freshman to date” are what I mean by ‘casually mean’.  So you hate Brianna just a bit, but you also feel sorry for her.  And while the inevitablity of the ending is obvious to the reader, it is going to hit Brianna like a freight train, and because ultimately she is fragile you feel a little sorry for her.

I had this friend.  She could make you feel like the coolest, most important person in the world one minute, and like nothing the next.  She had unwritten rules she wasn’t afraid to break, but Lord, you didn’t want to be the one to break them.  And the thing is for a vast lot of people I don’t have an identity separate from that relationship, and frankly we haven’t talked in 20 years but I am still guilty/angry/sad/insecure about all of that.  So reading this book just dredged a whole lot of crap up – hence, grumpitude.

I am not sure what this book is – romance? well sort of.  friendship? yes that too.  Finding yourself? yep.  Families in all their glory and horror?  Oh yeah.  I’ve been reading mean girls lately (here for example) so it was interesting to read a mean girl who wasn’t intentional, at least at first.

I really like Elizabeth Scott, and in some way this reminded me of The Boyfriend List in similar theme.  The casual meanness, the girl relationship, etc. but boy was I grumpy.

Others thoughts:

The Bookologist liked it.

So did Insanity of Writerhood

An interview: