Waiting on Wednesday: We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

Expected Release Date: May 27, 2014

Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.

When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.

(summary via Goodreads)

Dana Reinhardt’s The Summer I Learned to Fly is one of my favorite books (maybe ever), and this is another one that looks like it’s right up my alley.  A complicated look at the bonds between sisters, secrets, and an illegal and totally wrong relationship between a teacher and a student?  I’m totally there.  I can’t wait to read this one.  Reinhardt is an author to check out if you haven’t.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Salva Dut is 11 years old in 1985 when the war in Sudan tears him from his family.  One of the “lost boys” of Sudan, Salva travails the African continent in search of his family and safety.  After spending years in a refugee camp, he finally gets the chance to move to America.  Nya is 11 years old in 2008 and travels with her family as the seasons change so they can be near water.  She makes multiple trips a day to a pond hours from her house so that they can survive.  These two children’s lives with intersect in ways they never dreamed possible.

Linda Sue Park’s sparse narration makes this beautiful, hopeful novel one to remember.  The bare minimum approach to the narration makes the novel’s dual stories move along at a fast pace, perfect for readers of all ages (and especially well-suited to readers who have short attention spans).  Both Salva and Nya are compelling characters,and Park does an admirable job of allowing them to have their own unique stories and motivations.

Interweaving true-life historical details (the character of Salva is based in part on the life of a real Sudanese lost boy) with fictional ones, Park creates a novel that is grounded in history but has a timeless feel to it.  By including the more modern story of Nya, Park helps readers bridge the gap between the war-torn Sudan that Salva experienced with a more contemporary perspective.  Readers of all ages should be moved and astonished by the resilience of these character’s and the novel’s realistic yet hopeful tone.

Surprising, moving, and definitely a book that should be in libraries and classrooms all over the place.  Although the novel occasionally treads the line of providing too much context, Park’s control over the prose and the narrative keep it from ever truly intruding into the story.  This is a gem of a book.  Highly recommended.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. Clarion Books: 2010. Borrowed from Oyster.

Movie News and Randomness

It’s been a while since I talked about the movie news that’s got me all hot and bothered (or lukewarm and apathetic).  Without further ado, here are 5 movie-related things to consider this week:

1. Gone Girl Trailer

People are blowing up the internet about this trailer, the first official look at the movie, out in October.  If the girls I “know” on Facebook are to be believed, this is based on, “like, the best book ever.”  At any rate, the buzz about the film’s altered ending means that I’ll be seeing this one eventually, mostly because my curiosity is more powerful than my reticence to jump on the Gone Girl bandwagon.  Thoughts?

2. Allegiant likely to be split into two movies, because $$$$$

Not that this is surprising to anyone with two brain cells to rub together, but it looks like Veronica Roth’s Divergent series will get the same treatment The Hunger Games and Harry Potter did, and see the final book split into more than one movie.  This is silly for a number of reasons, but the thing that stands out most to me is that the third novel is by far the weakest and least interesting of the series, so why bother dragging it out?

Oh, because of money?  Right. (Deadline)

3. If I Stay Trailer

Look, I wasn’t one of the people on the If I Stay love-train.  I don’t totally get it, but I understand its significance in the YA lit world.  This is the first official trailer for the much-anticipated movie, starring Chloe Grace Moretz.   It looks…fine.

Maybe I’m a bitter old shrew, but I can’t get past Moretz’s ignorant, misguided comments about YA:

Forman’s novel might occupy a certain part of the bookstore, but Moretz doesn’t love the “young adult” designation. She thinks it diminishes the book’s value. “What’s interesting about Gayle’s novel is that it’s not really that YA. It deals with issues that are much bigger…it’s much darker than I think most YA is,” says Moretz.

LOL okay, Chloe.  What does “it’s not really YA” even mean?  Are you serious?

Sorry I’m not sorry, but that’s literally the dumbest thing she could have said about YA literature while also proving that she has no idea what she’s talking about.  Which is, you know, okay.  But then maybe don’t say anything about YA?

4. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to star in “The Nest”

The two real-life friends are set to star in a movie called The Nest, about two sisters who get kicked out of the family home when their parents buy a condo.  I’m excited about a film with two females as its leads, because we need way, way more of those. (Showbiz 411)

5. Wish I Was Here Trailer

Remember when Zach Braff begged Kickstarter backers to fund his movie and there was a lot of (justified) backlash but it got funded anyway?  Well, this is the trailer for that movie.  It’s about a dad who struggles to juggle family life or something, but the trailer is mostly just slow-motion shots scored to The Shins.  It looks about as self-indulgent as you’d expect, and based on the early reviews out of Sundance, it’s going to be kind of a shit show.

So yeah, I’m excited.

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Time for some links to the things I’m thinking about this week.  I’m also pretty active on Tumblr for the time being, and I’m linking to and reblogging other stuff there.

Expectations for Girls in YA Fiction, Misleading Reviews, and Female Sexuality (Stacked)

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever stop linking to posts by Kelly Jensen, because she’s kind of my librarian hero, but she’s also writing some pretty amazing things right now.  This post about girls in YA fiction is thought-provoking, important, and touches on a lot of the things I think about all the time when it comes to YA fiction (and, I would argue fictional stories in general, whether they’re in books or movies or TV).

At any rate, Jensen talks about some reviews she’s read about the upcoming book The F-it List by Julie Halpern, and how concerning some of the language within those reviews was.

Although I could dive into the notion that Alex performs the items on the f-it list out of guilt — an idea I disagree with entirely, as Alex begins to really embrace this as a commitment to her relationship with Becca — what I find fascinating is this line: “Both girls have casual, unprotected sex with all of their boyfriends without any thoughts of taking precautions.”

Like me, Jensen has some pretty clear thoughts about this:

This line presumes a few things in it.  The first is that it’s the responsibility of the girls to think about and carry out the actions necessary for protection during sex. While print space is limited and words have to be carefully selected in a trade review, the way this particular line is phrased, in conjunction with the line before it, casts a judgment upon the female characters in the story. They’re crass, with limited vocabulary, and they’re not taking responsibility for their own actions. These are the kinds of girls you don’t want to be role models for readers, since they’re not being “good girls.” They don’t arouse sympathy because what happens to them is all a matter of consequences and choices they make. They weren’t smart enough or thinking through things enough to protect themselves.

But what is worse in this line is that it’s factually incorrect.

I could probably quote her entire article, because it’s that good, but the quoted stuff here is what’s so important.  Jensen takes issue with the review she read not only because the language is loaded and shows the reader’s bias, but because the review got factual information about the book wrong.  What’s so alarming here is that in a review that’s only a paragraph long, the reviewer felt it was important to mention the stuff about sex and consequences but didn’t even bother to get it right.

Jensen ends her post with this thought:

I can’t help wonder, too, whether books that do similar things as Halpern’s but feature a male main character undergo the same scrutiny and character judgment.

I’m Not a Feminist, But… (Beth Revis)

I tweeted out a link to this post very late last week, but I wanted to post it here and talk about it a little, too, because I think what Beth Revis writes about in her post is super important.  Capitalizing on the commonly used, “I’m not a feminist, but…” statement that many women (and some men) make, Revis breaks down exactly what’s wrong with that statement and the thinking that goes along with it:

First, it’s wrong for me to couch my opinions with a disclaimer. Saying something like, “I’m not a feminist, but I feel like women deserve the same rights as men,” belittles not just the idea of feminism, but also the idea that what I’m saying matters. I’m dismissing my own words before I even speak them. I’m giving an excuse for why I should be allowed to say the words following the phrase, as if the only reason I would say those words is if I had such an excuse.

The second thing wrong about that phrase is the fact that it exists.

Revis’s whole post is great and won’t take you more than a few minutes to read, but the takeaway is that the more we recognize that feminism is wanting equal treatment and respect, pure and simple, the closer we’ll get to the day where that’s possible.

The Quiet Radicalism of All That (The Atlantic)

Pretty much the best thing I read all week, this article talks about how radical–and awesome–Nickelodeon’s All That was when it was on TV in the 90s.  Take this, for example:

The original cast included four girls (Denberg and Reyes, with Angelique Bates and Katrina Johnson) and three boys (Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, and Josh Server); three white performers, and four performers of color. Compare that to the concurrently running Season 20 of Saturday Night Live (1994-95), which featured a cast of 17. Only four were women, and only two were of color….Furthermore, the kids of All That were refreshingly normal-looking. Some were traditionally attractive, sure. Others were still growing into their features. Absent were the hyperactive, over-costumed Disney Channel tweens (Lizzie Maguire, et al), or the pouty, brooding 26-year-olds playing 16 on The WB (like the weirdly grown-up high schoolers of Dawson’s Creek or Popular). The cast of All That reflected the nature of its audience: They were growing up—lanky limbs, zits, and all.

So, where is a show like that today?  Where?

So You’ve Decided to Go to Library School (The Toast)

This humorous and incredibly uncomfortably spot-on essay about what library school is like probably won’t work for you if you’re not connected to the field.  But it’s worth a look at, just because the site it’s on–The Toast–is pretty awesome, run by women (who don’t work for or answer to men), and is already profitable less than a year into its run.

At any rate, this hit close to home:

Librarians have to do something with their hands while they’re bingeing on pop culture, so you should probably develop a craft. Knitting and crochet are acceptable, but cross-stitch works too. But what do you eat while you’re watching all that tv? Hopefully you’ve baked some Sorting Hat cupcakes for your Harry Potter marathon. Baking is preferable, but home-brewing is an acceptable substitute. At the very least you should love to eat.

The absolute best thing about library school is your peers. You will all have a Leslie Knope-ian intensity about something. It may be Star Wars, hockey, astrophysics, or that damn rock wall, but everyone brings some kind of obsession to the table. There is sure to be someone who will be a little too into board games. People will regularly discuss Weasleycest and Tami Taylor’s hair at parties, because if there’s one thing librarians get, it’s an enthusiast. We are all punk-ass book jockeys, and we want you to read our favorite book. And then maybe we’ll break down the Library of Congress Subject Headings afterwards.

Yikes.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

 

Some Non-Fiction Titles I’ve Been Reading

I mostly stick to fiction on the blog, and lately it’s been mostly YA fiction at that, but I wanted to highlight some of the non-fiction titles I’ve been reading this year.  Every once in a while, I go through a phase where I read some non-fiction, and right now, that’s the case.  Here are a couple titles that I thought were pretty outstanding.

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

I’ve been a Sylvia Plath fan since my misanthropic teenage days, and this micro-biography (is that a thing?) is so accessible and so fascinating I had a hard time putting it down.  Winder chooses to focus on the summer Plath spent in New York as an intern for Mademoiselle, interweaving first-hand accounts from the other women who interned with her with historical details about the time period, as well as excerpts of Plath’s work and snippets of her journal entries.  The result is incredibly successful: the fashion, the glamour, and the things we’ll never know about Sylvia’s inner-thoughts make this a standout non-fiction title.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kokler

Probably one of my favorite reads of the year, Kokler’s impeccably written and obsessively researched look at the disappearances and murders of a slew of women working as escorts through Craigslist on the East Coast a few years ago is haunting, riveting, and something that I still cannot get out of my mind.  Kokler digs into the lives of the women who disappeared and humanizes them in a way that a lesser writer would not have been able to do.  It’s accessible, well-written, and completely worthy of your time.  I loved it, inasmuch as you can love something that’s about a horrible thing that’s happened.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

In the interest of full disclosure, I picked this one up with the intent to just read the parts where Chevy Chase comes off as a complete sociopathic asshole (read: every single time he opens his mouth), because I pretty much think Chase is the worst, and after hearing the book mentioned on one of my favorite podcasts, I knew I had to check it out.  But I ended up reading the entire thing, because it totally hooked me.  I’m not a huge SNL fan in general–I can appreciate the significance of the show’s presence in the pop culture cannon, and I’ll watch an episode if I really like the host, but I haven’t considered it must-watch TV in years.  But this was a surprisingly great read.

God’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America by Hanna Rosin

Initially, I wanted to read this one because I have a love-hate thing going on with Rosin as a journalist in general.  I listen to the DoubleX podcast and am always rankled by how clueless, pompous, and generally nutso Rosin can be (not to mention her proclivity to cut people off when they are talking), but there’s no denying that she’s an intelligent person (and she would be the first to tell you so).  I knew about her book The End of Men, but I didn’t realize that she’d written this one until it was mentioned on the podcast when they were discussing sexual assault on Christian college campuses.  So I decided to check it out.

The result surprised me.  I really enjoyed reading it, but I’m not sure how much of that was Rosin (at least a little bit was, because her ability to balance snark and respectful reporting was quite good here) and how much was my complete horror that people like this exist in the world.  At any rate, I devoured this one.  And am still terrified of the fundamentalist Christian right.  Of all fundamentalists, actually.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel by Cristina Henriquez

Expected Release Date: June 3, 2014

A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she’s sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.

(summary via Goodreads)

This one is on my radar for a lot of reasons: it looks great, I love the fact that the description calls it “unsentimental,” it’s by a female author and features characters of color.  There’s been a lot of great discussion lately about diversity (read: reflecting reality) in books lately, and this is the kind of novel that’s a step in the right direction.  So I can’t wait to read this one.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Lucy and Owen live in the same apartment building in the heart of New York City, but don’t meet until their elevator loses power in a city-wide blackout in the midst of a blisteringly hot summer.  After their rescue, they spend one perfect night together, sharing secrets and falling in love.  Reality sets in before long, and the two are separated.  After that, they mostly communicate through postcards and  a few emails until they finally have a chance to meet up in person again.  Will they be able to rediscover the magic of their first meeting?

In terms of the “meet-cute” trope, this book has it down pat.  Lucy and Owen are fated to meet because of the elevator, and the result of that is a magic, kismet evening in which they discover a mutual attraction for one another.  Readers looking for plausibility should look elsewhere, because Smith’s latest offering has much of what her previous books have: romance, angst, and the most unlikely of situations.  The problem is, that what felt incredibly fresh in her first, excellent The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is starting to feel more than a little stale in this one, her third offering in as many years.

An inability to connect to either character, both of whom take turns narrating this tale, makes this a bit of slog to get through.  Lucy’s incredibly wealthy and privileged, living in a swank apartment and spending the majority of her time unsupervised, as her parents are always out of the country.  Implausible but not out of the realm of probability, this still feels more like a plot point than an actual feature of Lucy’s character and situation.  Owen’s mother is dead and he grapples with an emotionally absent grieving father, but again, this feels like a plot point rather than a whole character.

Too often, it feels as though Smith is moving the pieces around on the page to keep her characters longing for each other in a way that never fully makes sense.  It would take an extraordinary love–one which this reader did not see on the page–to make these two characters work so hard to stay in touch after they move away from each other.  The base of that relationship is never established, making this feel like a flimsy premise at best.

That’s not to say that readers won’t like this one.  There’s plenty here for readers who like their YA romance chaste and full of longing.  Armchair travelers won’t get a ton out of this one, but there are enough geographical locations mentioned to at least pique the interest of some.  Still, this is one that never fully connects with the reader and fades fast from the memory as soon as it’s done.  Disappointing all around.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith. Poppy: 2014.