Thursday, September 03, 2015


Remember when people used to say (type) "moar"?

As I look back through my notes, apparently I went through a summer/fall of YA books when the Wonder Twins were wee bairns.

Since You've Been Gone showed up on some Goodreads lists and it pops up in relation to liking Rainbow Rowell on Amazon.  This is pretty generic YA.  Mousy wallflower type has a best friend who is manic-pixie-dream girl type (think Rayanne Graff to Angela Chase), and the best friend goes missing and leaves all these "challenges" for mousy friend to fulfill over a summer.  During the course of finishing said challenges, mousy friend comes into her own, gets a man (boy), etc., etc.  It went down easy but was completely unmemorable.  

Y'all know I love me some E. Lockhart.  The Ruby Oliver series is one of my favorite YA series of all time.  OF ALL TIME.  Her other YA books (she also publishes children's fiction under a different name) have been similarly good - off-beat vaguely riot grrl-ish protagonist, theatre oddballs, etc.  This represented a radical departure in terms of tone.  This is like a YA psychological thriller with a M. Night Shyamalan twist ending.  It has all the hallmarks of things I would be into: rich, waspy family that summers on the east coast, a group of cabalistic childhood friends with secrets.  It was readable, but the tone was such a departure that I didn't like it.  It's very serious, and quite grim, and it didn't flow or read as easily as her other novels.  I get that she wants to stretch herself, and I applaud her for it, but I just didn't enjoy this.   

I LOVED this, and I've recommended it widely, even though the people I've recommended it to haven't been as into it (e.g. my sister and SMckay).  This is about a loner metal, gamer dude who meets a fairie, Nordic, manic-pixie-dreamgirl and they strike up an unlikely romance.  There's some gender-bending stuff that I quite liked, and it all builds to a suitably soapy series of events, but I think what drew me to this is that I KNOW THESE KIDS.  I was friends with these kids - I hung with a group of people who were generally referred to as "the Mansons" (as in Marilyn, not Charles, thank GOD), and a bunch of girls in my art class were vintage-wearing Kensington thrifting druid, Tori Spelling types.  I liked this book for playing with gender conventions and for celebrating true oddballs and people who don't fit in, for a change.  I tried reading Steve Brezenoff's other works, riding the high from Guy In Real Life, but I couldn't get down with them, in the end.  They are worthy books - one of them, is written entirely in the second person, with a homeless, ambiguously gendered central figure, but I felt like the thought experiments trumped the story and the writing, and so that's where they ended up losing me.

The 5th Wave series is good, good stuff.  It harkens back to the sci-fi of my earlier years in tone and writing.  It's a post-apocalyptic tale of humanity wiped out by a phased alien invasion and the a rag-tag group of human survivor's attempt to make it against impossible odds and with a Nazi-esque Moriarty-type army general as the locus of evil.  I loved the continuation of the series in The Infinite Sea.  There's a bombshell revelation - one that I feel warrants a re-reading because other people who've read it didn't pick up on it, so I want to make sure that what I read was correct.  I'm chomping at the bit for the third installment, which is coming in 2016, darn it.  

I might have saved the best for last.  Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun was pitched for people who love Rainbow Rowell (present!) and John Green (here!).  This book, as you can see above, won a Printz award and is a Stonewall book award winner, which is an award I'd never heard of before this very moment, but which I endorse (I'm assuming it's for books that are LGBT-sensitive).  This is about twins Jude and Noah who are tight as tight can be - the mirror half of the other.  Then family tragedy strikes and they drift off from each other.  It's about how they find each other again and how they grow amid grief and loss.  I loved reading this.  It's not as heavy and thinky as The Fault In Our Stars but it's not entirely light either.  It really is similar in tone to Fangirl or Eleanor and Park, but it's really about family over heterosexual love.  It had a kind of winsome, Stand By Me type vibe, in terms of how it reveals the secret banalities of young adulthood.  I immediately went out and got Nelson's previous book, The Sky Is Everywhere, but it turned out to be almost exactly like I'll Give You the Sun, but not as good.  She really dialed in the formula with this one.  I hope the formula isn't so formulaic with her next.


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