Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff

Tags: YA, middle grade, contemporary, theatre, grief, friendship, romance


High school sophomore Adam Ziegler is content with his behind-the-scenes role as a lighting man for his high school’s theatre company. Ever since his dad died in a car crash two years ago, Adam has stayed out of the spotlight, but this begins to be really difficult as he falls for the new actress, Summer, and gets on the bad side of Derek, the student director. Everyone knows that actors and techies don’t mix…but has Adam finally found the motivation he needs to make his stand?


Allen Zadoff remains a contemporary charmer with his second novel for young adults, MY LIFE, THE THEATER, AND OTHER TRAGEDIES.

As he did in Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, Zadoff breathes life into subjectively overdone themes like high school isolation and grief with his winningly empathic characters and humorous dialogue. Adam is endearingly geeky and shy. Sometimes his inability to stick up for himself made me want to give him a good hard (well-intentioned) slap, but then watching him grow throughout the book was extremely rewarding. Supporting characters, from Derek the Evil Student Dictator to Reach, Adam’s best friend, are entertaining. And the girls are no Manic Pixie Dream Girls, which can happen sometimes in books with geeky males as main characters: these girls are legit, and they’re nice, but they’re also pretty. Furthermore, MY LIFE, THE THEATER, AND OTHER TRAGEDIES has a dead father, but the grieving process happily does not dominate the plot.

MY LIFE, THE THEATER, AND OTHER TRAGEDIES will appeal to both the seasoned and amateur reader. For a quick and funny yet heartfelt look into the awkward teenage boy’s life, you can’t go wrong with Allen Zadoff.

Cover discussion: Disappointingly ordinary and uninspiring.

EgmontUSA / May 10, 2011 / Hardcover / 288pp. / $16.99

Sent by publisher for review.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Shades of London, Book 1

Tags: YA, paranormal, ghosts, murder, mystery, boarding school, London


Rory thought that the most difficult part of transferring to a fancy boarding school in London would be adjusting to the British culture and making friends. But it turns out that that autumn, her school’s neighborhood is the setting for a series of murders that almost exactly follow the Jack the Ripper murders from over a century ago. The murders gain international notoriety. Why hasn’t the murderer been caught on London’s extensive CCTV security camera system?

It turns out that Rory sees a murderer suspect whom no one else seems to be able to see. And then Rory gets recruited by a secret police group who explain to her the truth about the existence of ghosts…and the handful of people who can see and talk to them. Rory’s skills might help them catch the killer…but it’s a dangerous game they play with a murderer who can’t be killed—again.


I thought that I was done with stories about boarding schools, ghosts, and/or secret societies. But it turns out that all I needed was the expert hands of a talented author. THE NAME OF THE STAR introduces a freakishly delicious creepfest of a new series that had me gasping, shuddering, and turning pages almost faster than I could read them.

At first glance it seems like THE NAME OF THE STAR has the odds stacked against it. Rory’s a decent protagonist, though she doesn’t quite stand out; the plot doesn’t drag, but it does move languidly; and secondary characters can feel a little, well, secondary. But it’s a testament to Maureen Johnson’s skill that she can take all of these average-sounding elements and spin them together into a tight and suspenseful story.

I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not much of a horror fan. But THE NAME OF THE STAR is just so creepy in its deliberate slowness that I found myself simultaneously wanting to squeeze my eyes shut and devour the book in one sitting. The person behind the murders is a true villain, very, very scary. I was biting my nails through the last two-thirds of this novel, and couldn’t even relax when Rory and her friends discovered the killer’s identity, that’s how dangerous this killer is.

If you’re a fan of horror, this is a must-read. If you enjoy Maureen Johnson’s novels, this is a must-read. Don’t miss out on this creepiest of creepy reads this fall.

Similar Authors
Lee Nichols (Deception)
Rosemary Clement-Moore
Carolyn McCullough (Once a Witch)

Cover discussion: Initially, I thought that this cover was simply mediocre, a tad too Photoshopped for my taste. After having read the book, however, this just creeps me out in a very good way. *grins*

Putnam Juvenile / Sept. 29, 2011 / Hardcover / 384pp. / $16.99

Won on LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, sent by publisher.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (116)

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life.... [summary from Goodreads]
Maria Snyder is an incredible storyteller, and I LOVE the premise of Touch of Power! This is the kind of stuff that runs through my head all too often, haha. A new book by Maria is always welcome. I also know that you can check out the first chapter of Touch of Power floating somewhere around teh internetz, but, uh, I have zero brainpower right now and can't recall where.

Touch of Power will be published by MIRA on December 20, 2011.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so. [summary from Goodreads]
What YA dystopian fan isn't dying for this book? I thought that Veronica's first book, and the first book in this series, Divergent, was one of the strongest dystopian books published this year, and I can't wait to get lost in Tris' absorbing narration again.

Insurgent will be published in hardcover by HarperCollins on May 28, 2012.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Into the Parallel by Robin Brande

The Parallel Series, Book 1

Tags: YA, sci-fi, astrophysics, string theory


Budding astrophysicist Audie Masters makes the greatest discovery of her time when she figures out how to jump into a parallel universe…and meets her other half! In this other universe, Hallie Markham is a famous world traveler, and Audie has a serious inferiority complex as she unravels the extent of her physics discovery…


Robin Brande takes readers into a new dimension—literally—with her YA sci-fi, INTO THE PARALLEL. While various elements of the story, such as plot and characters, don’t feel as tight as her YA contemporary novels, INTO THE PARALLEL is nevertheless an enjoyable story that draws only lightly on advanced scientific concepts.

The majority of INTO THE PARALLEL unfolds through dialogue: Audie talking to Hallie and trying to figure out what’s going on, Audie talking to the professor, Audie lying to her mom…really, the amount of information that’s revealed through stationary dialogue is rather disconcerting, as you realize that there’s not much going on in terms of plot. Due to the talky nature of the story, little seems to be at stake: about halfway through the story, I found myself wondering, okay, so are we ever going to get to the gritty conflict? Alas, I felt like no such thing ever appeared—INTO THE PARALLEL was really just an exploration of a new situation, with little else driving the story.

The characters all seem to suffer from various symptoms of character flatness. Audie is a pretty straightforward protagonist, but sometimes she bugged me because her thoughts and behavior were at odds with her supposed intelligence. Honestly? This is one girl who will not be getting into Columbia, her dream school—and if she does, I will be tempted to chalk it up to fictional wish fulfillment (sigh). Hallie’s unwillingness to draw attention to herself and her accomplishments is at least consistent and admirable, if a little boring. As for Audie’s love interests, well, not much distinguishes them either. I feel like the character development relied too much on dialogue, at the expense of actually allowing readers’ connections to the characters, and the characters’ connections to one another, to unfold more naturally.

INTO THE PARALLEL tackles the fascinating possibilities that quantum mechanics and string theory offer, but it does so in a way that is rather elementary: in fact, the story could’ve done without the astrophysics element and still worked. Therefore, I’d say that it is a less sci-fi and more just a series of events that unfolds in parallel universes. Nevertheless, I give Robin Brande credit for all her research into this fascinating topic, and for writing a killer of a cliffhanger ending that, fortunately, can be immediately remedied, as the sequel is now out online. Will I be reading it? Hmm. Perhaps. INTO THE PARALLEL was lacking in a number of elements that are important to me in an enjoyable and well-written story, but everyone has those few authors they make exceptions for, and Robin’s one of them for me.

Similar Authors
Myra McEntire

Cover discussion: Well, uh, thankfully I don't have to look at it too often because I have an e-copy?

Ryer Publishing / July 9, 2011 / Paperback / 392pp. / $15.99

Received for e-review from the author.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cover Lust (31)

Breadcrumbs by Anna Ursu
(Walden Pond Press / Sept. 27, 2011)

Not only is this cover one that I would LOVE to own in poster-size, framed up on my wall, but I've also heard lovely things about this middle-grade fairy tale retelling. (Also, does the cover's illustrated style remind anyone else of Kate Messner's covers? Anyone know if it's the same illustrator??)

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
(HarperCollins / April 6, 2010)

HarperCollins seems to be on a roll with its covers that have caught my eye recently. The bright colors of this cover, plus the more subtle details upon closer inspection, make this something I would've picked up off the shelf randomly in elementary and middle school. DWJ's name on the cover doesn't hurt, either.

The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison
(EgmontUSA / Feb. 14, 2012)

Anyone else reminded of the iconic creepiness of The Silence of the Lambs? Sometimes the most straightforward cover presentation can be the most jaw-dropping. I like the font type and the blood spatter (at least I'm assuming it's blood spatter, but I may be influenced by my Silence of the Lambs reference), but my favorite part is probably how the butterfly image seems to "chop up" the reddish lines that form a margin around the edge of the cover. One of my favorite things to do when creating banners on PhotoShop (heehee).

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
(Doubleday / Sept. 13, 2011)

Arguably the most unique cover of this batch. I love how this kind of has a touch of the surreal, of the fashion-forward artistic. I think I could stare at it for the better part of a night.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates
(Tor / March 13, 2012)


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson

Tags: YA, paranormal, sci-fi, synesthesia, mental hospitals


Alison Jeffries is a synesthete—a person whose senses are “crossed” so that she experiences multiple sensory experiences whereas most people just experience one—but she doesn’t know this. All she knows is that she’s been this way her whole life, and has to hide her ability, and that this condition may or may not have killed her classmate, Tori Beaugrand. Locked in a mental institute, Alison struggles to understand who she is and what she’s done, but it’s not until the arrival of a sympathetic researcher that she finally begins to understand…and, in doing so, has her world turned upside-down.


R. J. Anderson steps away from faeries and tackles an entirely new genre and writing style in her latest novel, ULTRAVIOLET. ULTRAVIOLET is weird and crazy, but surprisingly, this genre-defying novel is an enjoyable success.

The less you know about ULTRAVIOLET before you read it, the better your reading experience will most likely be. ULTRAVIOLET’s plot doesn’t quite twist and turn, per se, but reader engagement is primarily predicated on unexpected revelations. This means that the characters feel somewhat lacking. Alison doesn’t stand out as a protagonist, though she is, fortunately, not a damsel-in-distress. Supporting characters take on rather one-dimensional roles: you’ve got yourself a plethora of fairly stereotypical mental patients, and the lifelong tension between Alison and her mother feels undeveloped.

Fortunately, the odd appeal of the story makes up for lackluster characters. While the writing is elementary, the story inexplicably sucks you in: you’re right there alongside Alison, having your mind blown and trying desperately to figure out where in this new version of the world you fit. Just when you thought the story couldn’t get any stranger, R. J. Anderson throws you another curveball. It’s pretty incredible, actually, how far she manages to stretch the story while still making everything fit together logically!

Overall, ULTRAVIOLET is not a masterpiece, but it was an entertainingly crazy read. Definitely recommended to readers who look more for originality in their reads.

Similar Authors
Myra McEntire
Robin Brande

Cover discussion: I am, apparently, shallow and love all photographic covers that are extremely detailed and play intriguingly with light and shadow. Tee.

Carolrhoda Books / Sept. 1, 2011 / Hardcover / 306pp. / $17.95

Received for review from NetGalley.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Readers (Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011)

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!
I know that this was yesterday's topic, but I wasn't by a computer yesterday, and I think I'll have more to say about yesterday's topic than today's topic, which is about tips and techniques of blogging. (Hah! My appalling lack of perspective ability prevents me from ever writing coherent "how to" guides.) The reading-related topic I want to discuss is:

Can blogging improve critical reading and thinking skills?

Reading is great. Read whatever--literary classics, magazines, graphic novels, manga--just read. Studies have preliminary findings that show that reading while young is correlated to eventual career success. Reading broadens minds and stretches our ability to think innovatively... but I'm going to go one step further and say that blogging about books actually further increases our critical reading skills.

Back in high school, before I started blogging, I considered myself a fairly well-read person, and my grades and writing skills seemed to reflect that. I had been writing reviews before I started blogging as well. But not long after I started blogging, I could already see the definite improvement in my ability to write about books and book-related topics. My reviews went from summary-heavy to now covering a broader range of concerns that I, as a reader and aspiring writer, care about. As I kept on blogging, I found that I had more and more to say about book-related topics that I never even knew I had thoughts about, from accurate representation of diversity on book covers to financially successful but overdone YA characteristics.

Blogging increased my reading quantity only slightly, but it was, in fact, this constant and prolonged "critical distance" from books I had once devoured purely for escapist entertainment that improved my critical reading skills. I can now articulate why I liked or didn't like a book. I can better talk about books with others, and am thus more convincing as I try to persuade acquaintances to pick up certain books that I loved.

I'm thinking about this mostly because I have vague but determined plans to start a book club for my students at my job after the college application season, and the more that I think about it, the more I truly believe that blogging--having a public outlet for talking about books--can be extremely important to the development of one's critical reading skills. At my job, I work with some of China's smartest students: they effortlessly score 800s on the Math section of the SAT but struggle heavily with Critical Reading, a fact that is unsurprising for international students. My hope is that if I can introduce a consistent blogging habit among my students that they will be able to practice their critical reading skills and therefore improve not only their SAT scores but also their academic successes. Of course, this doesn't just apply to Chinese students: I'd be curious to see if blogging and other similar forms of new and more informal written literacy can benefit all sorts of students who are considered weaker in their reading and writing abilities.

Hmm... dissertation ideas, dissertation ideas... :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blogger Interviews (Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011)

It's interview time for BBAW 2011! This year I had the honor of swapping interviews with Amanda from Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf, who is an elementary school ELL teacher. Our reading tastes don't overlap much, so it was fun to get to interview her. Welcome, Amanda, to Steph Su Reads!

1. Tell us about your blog. When did you start blogging, and why? Where did the name come from? What special features can readers find on your blog?

I started my book blog in January (I had a flowboarding blog that I really never updated---Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf, or That Book Lady, as it was called then, was the first blog I had that I really really tried keeping up with). Like I said, it was initially called "That Book Lady" because thats what a friend's 5-year-old called me, whenever my husband and I went to visit, we'd bring books. But, then about Valentine's Day, I realized that "Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf" was more "me". Maestra Amanda was what my first group of students called me when I taught pre-k, and I've just always liked it.

I started the blog with the thought that I would review books my students would and could read (they are grades 3-5 English Language Learners), but then it kind of became a YA blog (which is fine, I love YA, but my kiddos don't read that), and when I recently realized this, I decided to shift my focus back. Yes, I can read YA and feature some on my blog, but I should really be using my resources to find and read books that I can either use in the classroom or give to my students to enjoy. I don't know about any special features besides that I really am trying to review more books that I can see being used in an elementary school classroom. I do participate in several meme's---Shelf Candy from Five Alarm Book Reviews, Book Blogger Bingo from The Slowest Bookworm and In My Mailbox from The Story Siren (I'm working on one right now that I'd love to host...I just need to get up the courage to add a few more posts on it to my archive so its not like "what is she doing?" )

2. What is your favorite thing about your job?

My kids, especially the first time I see them after a break. I got the biggest hug today! It must have lasted 5 minutes! The next best part is connecting a student with a book. We took a mini-tour of my classroom today, and the first thing the group noticed was my shelf of new books. They were fighting over who got to read which and "calling" books before I was even finished with my book talk!

3. What are 2 books that you'd recommend to your students and their parents for a joint read?

I just found a great series called "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You"---they have all sorts, scary stories, fairy tales, fables, Mother Goose Rhymes, etc. Its really cute in that you learn the story (for example, The Princess and the Pea) by taking turns reading a 2-page story. Each partner's part is color coded, is usually a doublet (2 lines) at a time and you just take turns reading the page. But really, any book that a parent could read with their child is great. This year, all of my students are Hispanic, and many of my parents can't read English. I don't care! Read with your child in Spanish! Reading is reading! Instill that love regardless of the language. It transcends.

4. You've been selected to participate in an outer-space colonization project and can only bring 3 "nostalgia" objects with you (people and animals don't count). Which 3 objects would you bring, and why?

1) Charlie MaSheen (my iPad)----cause I would load it full of books before I Angry Birds.
2) Photo albums, so I could remember all the people and places
3) Pepsi....all the pepsi I could stuff in my bag. Heck, I might even bring an EXTRA bag just for my pepsi! I love Pepsi.

5. What upcoming book releases are you looking forward to?

Any of Rick Riordan's books (Kane Chronicles, The Lost Hero series)---my kiddos (ok, me too) love him! Also, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.


Thanks, Amanda! Be sure to check out her blog at Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf to learn more about Amanda, and to see the answers to the interview questions she asked me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Community (Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2011)

Monday September 12th: Community

While the awards are a fun part of BBAW, they can never accurately represent the depth and breadth of diversity in the book blogging community. Today you are encouraged to highlight a couple of bloggers that have made book blogging a unique experience for you. They can be your mentors, a blogger that encouraged you to try a different kind of book, opened your eyes to a new issue, made you laugh when you needed it, or left the first comment you ever got on your blog. Stay positive and give back to the people who make the community work for you!
This past year of blogging has been pretty rough for me, due to real-life upheavals. I entered my senior year of college, wrote a 140-page thesis, graduated college, and moved to the other side of the world to start my first full-time job. In the meantime, my blogging has fallen by the wayside. I don't read as much as I once did. I find it harder to write reviews now. Some days, I don't even have the energy to check my email or go on Twitter. And I admit that I haven't read blogs in months. Sometimes it seems like the only connection I have remaining to the YA world is through my hourly perusals of Goodreads (can't stay away, love that site) and the review books that my parents tell me still show up for me at their home back in the States.

I'll admit: many days I wonder if I should even continue blogging. I don't have as much energy as I once did, nor, unfortunately, the motivation. There are a lot of things going through my mind right now that I'm struggling to fit into my understanding of myself and my identity. Some days I wake up and feel like I've completely lost the part of me that knew how to read and talk about books and maybe even write. I don't feel much like myself right now, and I don't know if it's because my new experiences have yet to have worked their way into my identity, or if it's because I'm really changing, and letting some things in my past go.

Anyway, it needed to be said. It's why I haven't been around, and why participating this week will be really hard for me. I'm going to try, because BBAW is such a wonderful way of recognizing the strength of the book blogging community. But it's a community that I find harder and harder to be a part of, and at the moment I have no solution or inkling of how things will turn out.

This past year, the bloggers who have mattered the most to me are the ones with whom I've formed friendships outside of blogging, those who have become more than just a blog name or Twitter profile pic. Those who know me halfway well know that I don't make friends easily. I can do the acquaintance or stranger thing, but the friend thing is a whole different story. That being said, once I make a friend, I typically keep a friend. I feel fortunate that I count the following incredible people as friends, despite the distance, or the scarcity of contact, or whatever other things may separate us:

Totally taken from Jamie.
Jamie of The Perpetual Page-Turner: fellow blogger turned in-real-life blogging acquaintance turned precious and lovely friend, whom I was devastated to have to leave behind when I left the Philly area. Somehow, Jamie cuts through all of the nonsense and overthinking that usually surrounds me like a shroud and took me under her gorgeous wings as a friend. She might say that I am the senior blogger and the one whom she looks up to, but she is the one who has the blessed ability to turn online relationships into real-life ones. In short, she represents all that is important about blogging and community-building.

Capillya of That Cover Girl: another blogger with the knack of making lasting connections with bloggers. Not only is her blog unique, smart, and sassy, but Capillya is also a lovely person, always willing to say something that makes me smile.

Adele of Persnickety Snark: I guess I technically met up with Adele in person for the first time last summer, during the previous year's round of BBAW, but I have a feeling that that won't be the only time I see her. I have so much respect for this accomplished and intelligent woman, what with her seemingly single-handedly running the YA librarian/blogging bizness down in Australia. Adele, I'm closer to you now, so I'm planning to visit you soon!

And these ladies here:
Lenore, for being pretty much the first blogger to comment on my blog back when it was shiny and brand new over two and a half years ago. I will never forget. And Frankie, who is cool and talented and brings the sun with her wherever she goes. Other Philly book-loving people who have bonded over the past year because all the cool kids seem to be in NYC and we made our own parties in the Philly area.

And my friends on Goodreads, for making me feel like I'm still in the loop in terms of YA talk, and for accepting what little I can give in terms of comments, status updates, and reviews. Including but not limited to: Nomes, Nic, oliviasbooks, Gabrielle Carolina, John, Aleeza, ohgodmybrainisshuttingdownandIcan'tremember.

Author friend who has become a role model for me not just in terms of literary talent: Beth.

To people in my life who were friends first and then bookish connections second. I love having friends who also love to talk YA books with me. Never stop being you.

And... just, everyone else that I forgot and shouldn't have. Basically everyone and anyone who talks to me on Twitter and makes me still feel like a normal, fully functioning person. Thank you; I need to go back to my cave now.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Tags: middle grade, dystopian, fantasy, magic, creativity


In the land of Quill, all thirteen-year-olds are sorted into one of three categories: Wanteds, Necessaries, and Unwanteds. Wanteds and Necessaries remain in Quill to keep the land running, and the Unwanteds are disposed to their deaths for their violations of creative expression.

Twins Aaron and Alex get separated when Aaron is chosen as a Wanted and Alex is Unwanted. But “Death” is not at all what Alex and the other Unwanteds expected. Instead, they are transported to the magical world of Artime, run by Mr. Today, who teaches the Unwanteds how to use their creativity in magical battle. For Artime is in danger of being exposed, and the Unwanteds will need all of their creativity and magic to overcome Quill’s armies.


A book being touted as the next Harry Potter certainly has a lot to live up to, and while Lisa McMann’s first middle-grade fantasy THE UNWANTEDS doesn’t quite have the immortal boy with the lightning bolt scar’s charm and uniqueness, it nevertheless will be an enjoyable read for the younger reader.

Reading THE UNWANTEDS felt as if I were carrying out my childhood dreams. When you were little, did you ever daydream of living away from home in a magical mansion where every one of your whimsies was right at the tip of your thoughts? Yeah, that was probably the number one thing I thought about during my free time. In that sense, then, reading THE UNWANTEDS was almost a literal return to my childhood. The youthful delight of having near-complete control over your own life; of having magic at your command; of attending an eternal summer camp…that’s part of what you get, reading THE UNWANTEDS.

But not all of it. THE UNWANTEDS contains distinctly dark themes of creativity versus logic, imagination versus asceticism, that make it darker than your usual magical children’s tale. This is part dystopia, after all. More sophisticated readers might find the literal impending war between creativity and pragmatism in the book a little too literal in terms of the book’s themes, but younger readers will probably get a kick out of the minimalization of gray areas.

My biggest problem with THE UNWANTEDS, the one that made me unable to finish the book, was that I simply didn’t connect with or care for any of the characters. Alex and his Unwanted friends tended to blend indistinguishably into one another, and were being pretty snippy and immature pre-teens for the most part. That’s not the problem—after all, Harry Potter was pretty unbearable for many of his adventures; it was more the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to feel bad for the characters or to care about how they ended up.

It is unfortunate that the power of such a magical premise was diminished by bland and unsympathetic characters. This won’t deter all people from reading and enjoying THE UNWANTEDS, but as far as I’m concerned, my lack of connection to the characters draws me away from this adventure and towards more character-driven fantasies.

Similar Authors
J. K. Rowling
Margaret Peterson Haddix

Cover discussion: Quite cool. It's hand-drawn, but with a hint of computer animation. Will probably appeal to video game lovers.

Aladdin / Aug. 30, 2011 / Hardcover / 400pp. / $16.99

Review copy sent by publisher.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why New Adult Lit is the Next Cool Thing

Awesome bloggers Nic from Irresistible Reads and Linds from Bibliophile Brouhaha have teamed together to host Kirsty Eagar Week, in which a bunch of bloggers, of which I am one, are posting to promote this lovely Australian author. Check out Nic's introductory post here! I had the fortune of reading Raw Blue a while ago and it was stunning, so I'm honored to be a part of this week. My post is on older YA--or, as it has been referred to, New Adult Literature.

"Why New Adult Lit is the Next Cool Thing"

Recently I reread Anne of the Island, the third book in L. M. Montgomery's eternally lovely series. This is the book in which WONDERFULLY ROMANTIC THINGS happen because hey, guess what? Anne is old enough to go through those emotions. She finally realizes that she's actually in love with her best friend, Gilbert Blythe, and things that we were desperately waiting for three books to happen finally happen. Life is well in Anne's (and my) romantic dreams.

Anne of the Island spans Anne's college years, where she blossoms from a poised but still emotionally young 18-year-old to a 22-year-old woman with a much better understanding of her emotions. The entire Anne series is generally considered children's literature, but, age-wise, Anne in this installment fits neatly into the infant literary sub-genre some are calling "New Adult Literature."

It’s not quite an officially recognized genre just yet, always faltering in shelf placement between the YA or adult sections, but I think it’s only a matter of time before New Adult Lit takes off. Just like teens benefit emotionally, mentally, and intellectually from having their own literary genre, so can real-life young adults benefit from books that feature people their own age, who are going through what they are going through. I am a recent college graduate and distinctly feel that my reading tastes have shifted from primarily YA to…what? Thus far, there is no “other” where I feel like I belong. I want stories of growth and discovery in the college years. I want adventures of recent college graduates, stressing out over the instability of the job market or being overwhelmed by the newness of their first fulltime job. Much like how, 40 years ago, teens demanded literature that represented what life was really like for them, I want the same for my newly minted “young adult” status!

Pragmatically, new adult lit is a definite potential market. Many of the age groups we now take for granted, such as toddlers, were actually coined by companies to launch a new line of products for their new age groups as recently as 50 years ago. Why couldn’t, or shouldn’t, the same apply to book publishing? Ten years ago you would be hard-pressed to find a YA section in a bookstore. Now, a bookstore without a YA section feels almost out-of-date. As the generation of teenagers who coincided with this most recent explosion of YA literature graduate high school and enter college, what will there be for them to read? A separate bookstore section for New Adult Lit might be difficult to imagine now, but I predict that by 2020 there will be more than a handful of stores featuring a distinct shelf for a burgeoning genre nestled between YA and adult fiction.

Hopefully, within the next few years, authors will not be asked to lower the ages of their protagonists to better fit the established YA lit parameters. Publishers will take the leap and tap into the overdue potential of stories featuring college-age characters and the unique arena of freedom and fear that coexist during these years. Readers are already clamoring for stories set in college—and, as we know, the customer is always (okay: mostly, usually) right.

So why shouldn't there be a New Adult genre?

Be sure to check out the Kirsty Eagar Week schedule on Nic's blog to hear what other bloggers have to say about Kirsty, Kirsty's books, older YA lit, and more. There are also giveaways, so go go go! :)

(Oh, and also, pick up Kirsty's books if you have the opportunity. You won't be sorry.)


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