This book just landed itself at the top of my favorite reads of 2012. Kat Zhang’s debut novel about an alternative world where individuals are hybrids – 2 souls existing in one body – except in America, where hybrids are outcast and “othered.” In this “America” the hybrid souls eventually divide, with one personality becoming dominant while the other recedes. If it doesn’t happen naturally, the government makes it happen.
The novel tells the story of Addie and Eva, a 13-year-old hybrid resisting and pretending to be only one soul. But when another classmate introduces them to a way of letting Eva inhabit the body, the girls are faced with an onslaught of choices and challenges leading to their own destruction or a cultural revolution.
Zhang takes very complicated and fascinating subject matter and explores it through the lens of adolescence – an already volatile time of change and confusion. The emotions that arise between Addie and Eva are so common to typical sibling struggles with identity and individuality that I had to keep reminding myself of the fact that they shared a body. Though Addie’s dominance is an effect of Eva’s inability to exist in the physical realm it gives her power nonetheless. And, though Eva may appear to be the one who is trapped, Addie carries the weight of both her and Eva’s actions and desires as well as the responsibility of keeping Eva from being exposed. Both girls struggle with the guilt of their choice, Eva with her resistance to “fade” and Addie with the privilege of being dominant.
The commentary on mental illness, specifically schizophrenia is undeniable, especially when Addie is sent for special tests to a facility I imagined to be its own hybrid of the patients of Girl, Interrupted and the grotto of hidden children from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What’s Left of Me also invites a dialogue around the the complicated relationships that affect social change. The spaces where the personal is the political and the ones you love most are on the opposite side of the battlefield. I feel like I read a pro-life subtext around the abortion issue in this country specifically the debate around who has the right to exist and who has the power to decide. But ultimately what came through, and what I hope the rest of the series explores, is the overwhelming drive to preserve freedom and never giving up your right to your own life.
Alicia’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars Author:Kat Zhang Publisher:HarperTeen (September 2012)
Note: ARC received from publisher for honest review
After the wars left the world ravaged and deprived of magic, Ainsley Lark’s home city keeps its citizens protected from the outside world by harvesting children each year. This process involves stripping the children of their innate power (magic) and adding it to the Resource which then powers the city and, perhaps most importantly, the protective Wall. Lark has been waiting 15 years to finally be selected for harvesting – to contribute to her city’s well-being and start the next phase of her life as a real member of society. Everyone thinks she’s a dud, not worthy of harvesting, and this year she’s not on the list of lucky kids either. When she is summoned by the city’s Architects, she fears that she may be facing punishment for using the Resource, but she is surprised to find out that it is in fact her turn. With the harvesting seemingly never-ending, Lark soon realizes that the Architects have no intention of sending her home. Why would they, when they’ve found the renewable power supply they need in her? So Lark escapes, leaving behind all she has ever known, and venturing out into a world that the walls of her city have always protected her from, in search of something called the Iron Wood.
Skylark is a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel with a steady dose of fantasy and a good ol’ Hero’s Journey. The story is broken up into three parts with three distinctly different settings and the world building with each scene change is vividly realized without being excessively detailed. Part 2 of Skylark follows Lark as she ventures out into the unknown, a world filled with magical pockets that are always filled with surprises (not necessarily pleasant ones). This section of the novel is particularly imaginative and incredibly visual. As little as I want to visit any of the worlds in Skylark, I immensely enjoyed taking in the views from the safety of my home.
My main critique of Skylark is that Lark’s choice to leave the city doesn’t seem like a very tough one, despite the rumors of wolf-men on the other side of the Wall and her having family back home. Her brother Basil has been missing for years, her brother Caesar lacks in loyalty and kindness, and her parents are seemingly absent (they are mentioned as living with her, but we never cross paths with them in the storyline nor in her memories). We never hear of friends or favorite places or hobbies. Her ties to her home city are unclear to me as a reader. But in the end it doesn’t matter, because not having any pull to stay/return home helps propel the story forward.
Lark is a believable character who is incredibly loyal and brave. With as many twists and turns as the plot takes, Lark similarly changes with each step. She’s not always predictable, and I like this about her. I also enjoyed her mechanical pixie sidekick Nix and how the two come to understand each other. As one might expect from a YA dystopian novel, there is a potential love triangle in the works as well, but it’s not one that distracts from the real story nor that makes me want to gag. With Skylark being the first book in a trilogy, there are plenty of questions left unanswered and more to learn about the various characters and the history of their world. While there isn’t a cliffhanger ending, the build up in the final chapters is exciting and I think most readers will find themselves wanting to continue on with the series. I know I will.
Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars Author:Meagan Spooner Publisher:Carolrhoda Lab (August 2012)
Note: Review copy received from author for honest review
Thanks to Meagan Spooner and Carolrhoda Lab, we have a copy of Skylark to give away! Just enter below between now and October 5! US entries only (though we love you all)!
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature created at the fabulous The Broke and the Bookish, featuring weekly top ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This Tuesday’s topic is Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished. While there are a handful of series that I have started, loved, and for some reason not gotten around to finishing (e.g. Kristin Cashore’s Seven Kingdoms Series, Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle), there are far more series that I want to read but haven’t gotten around to starting yet. So here are my Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished, Let Alone Begun (sad but true):
1. The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
Like many of the series in this list, the first book of this series sits on my shelf, eyeing me every week, wondering when I’m going to give it a chance (or so I imagine). The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Book 1 of The Inheritance Trilogy) was nominated for a Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Award and reviews have noted Jemisin’s complex world building, strong and engaging heroine, and thought-provoking and emotional storyline. Why I haven’t dived into this series yet is beyond me.
2. Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty
I know. I know. Every time someone in the interwebs confesses their love for Marcus Flutie I feel so alone. (my blog buddy Alicia was smart enough to start the series off last year, back when she was a guest on the blog rather than a regular – how times flies. You can read her review here.)
3. Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart
I own every single book in this series. They look really lovely sitting on my shelf, but looking lovely isn’t really what they were born to do. Me reading this series is a no-brainer, which makes me worry about the condition of my brain.
4. Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead
I like to pretend I’m not into smooching vampire stories because I’m not a Twilight fan, but let’s face it, my favorite TV show of all time is Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Buffy, among other things, is a big ol’ vampire smoocher. Perhaps someday I’ll finally get around to reading this series and perhaps I’ll even love it as much as Anna.
5. Unwind Trilogy by Neal Shusterman
This sci-fi dystopian novel sounds downright creepy…and exciting. With the third book in the trilogy scheduled for release in Fall 2013, I have a good year to catch up!
6. Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray
Here is another series where I own the first book, but have yet to crack open the cover and start reading. I think Libba Bray is fabulous and I’ll likely enjoy anything I ever read by her. I’m also intrigued by this story because of the time span it covers, not just the time and place in history, but the fact that only one year of time passes between the start and end of the trilogy. Love that.
7. Crank Series by Ellen Hopkins
I have yet to read Ellen Hopkins’s debut novel Crank and the following books in the series. I admire Hopkins’s empathy for her characters and all they are dealing with. That this series is based on her daughter’s meth addiction, makes it that much more personal and emotional. I’m currently reading Hopkins’s latest novel, Tilt, which is (unsurprisingly) fabulous.
8. The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Oh, Alanna, I’ve heard so much about you. We need to meet. Full stop.
9. The Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
While the covers for this series often make it look like the books are based on a tween-friendly television sitcom, I hear it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I’m intrigued by these books in large part because of how often they are banned (or challenged) for sexual content, offensive language, and being unsuitable for the age group. With Banned Books Week coming up, it may be time to check this series out.
10. Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
This is one of Nora’s all time favorite series and I love the TV show, which is sadly (though sensibly) coming to an end. Perhaps it is time to give the books a shot?
Are any of these your absolute favorites? Which series should I check off my TBR list first?
Whenever I view book trailers, I’m brought back to the days when I curated the youth section of a film festival. While young filmmakers were not submitting trailers back then, many submitted video poems, which are similar to trailers in many ways – sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Though I’m a lifelong optimist, when I hit the play button for my first viewing of a new book trailer, I always expect the worst. But, more and more, I’m finding myself pleasantly surprised at what I see, and so I have decided to start highlighting trailers that I think get it right. Here’s a selection of trailers for YA books released today (happy release day y’all!):
Adaptation by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Ok, so it definitely helps a trailer when you are dying to read the book, as it did for me with the trailer for Adaptation by Malinda Lo. This video is a perfect example of why these trailers often remind me of video poems – the seemingly random (or are they metaphoric?) shots, the serious and lyrical voiceover, and the range of movement, color, and focus, etc. All of this works for me here, though it may not have for just any book.
What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang (HarperTeen)
Remember when that fan video of Katniss and Rue came out and we all cried our eyes out? Need a reminder? And then there was the whole Haymitch Second Quarter Quell fan video that followed? The same production company that brought those scenes to life, created this stellar book trailer. These guys know what they’re doing and it shows. While the happy fields of flowers and bike-riding shots mixed with the sad-face mirror shots give this video a slight pharmaceutical ad feel, it still works (just like how those ads can make herpes, depression, you name it, look kind of awesome). Bonus points for anyone who recognized that Eva and Addie are performed by the same actress who played Maysilee in the Haymitch fan video. She’s also the lead in the short film they made based on Neal Shusterman’s Unwind – this production company is so YA.
The Diviners by Libba Bray (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Love it! The music is perfect, the switch from cutesy to creepy is effective, and the fashion is fabulous (I want that hat!). If I hadn’t already wanted to read this book, I would have after viewing this trailer.
While the videos above are my favorites of the week, here are some honorable mentions (because it never hurts to spread the love):
Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
Maggie gets an honorable mention for her beautiful artwork, the tireless hours that go into animation, for creating original music, and in general for making her own trailers. How awesome is that?!
Seconds Away by Harlan Coben (Putnam Juvenile)
I don’t know why, but I’ve never been drawn to Harlan Coben’s work no matter how many good things I’ve heard. But I have to give props to this trailer! It’s a good sell for a seemingly exciting read and I appreciate that they never show the face of the main character, allowing readers to imagine what he looks like on their own.
Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin (Farrar Straus Giroux BYR)
Sometimes I like a “simple” computer animated trailer made up of words and still images and with this video it does work…visually at least. Unfortunately, the song and sound effects feel a bit amateur for my liking (sorry!).
Ten by Gretchen McNeil (Balzer + Bray)
Ok, first I’ll get “the bad” out of the way: typewriter sound effect with typewriter text in videos is a major pet peeve of mine! Aside from that, I think this trailer gets the job done! I love the crossed-out countdown and creepy text and the opera (presumably sung by Ms. McNeil) is a perfect accompaniment.
Which of these are your favorites? What makes a trailer work (or not work) for you?
Miss Moses LoBeau, rising sixth grader, lives in Tupelo Landing NC (population: 148) with the Colonel and Miss Lana, owner and hostess of the local cafe. Like her namesake, Mo was separated from her mother as a baby and sent downstream during a hurricane. Mo hopes to someday solve the mystery of just who her “upstream mother” is, but this summer she has another mystery to solve: a murder mystery. When a lawman comes to town on a murder investigation, and a local man turns up dead in his boat, the same boat that her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, “borrowed” from the now dead man just a few days earlier, Mo LoBeau throws her detective hat on and sets out to uncover the truth.
I rarely read middle grade fiction, but when I received this audiobook in the mail and saw that it was read by the late Michal Friedman, I knew it was time to put the YA on hold and try something for the younger crowd. Friedman was a fabulous vocal talent – one of those performers who portrayed child characters so well that it was hard to believe an adult was reading to you. Just as she did with little Max in Emma Donoghue’s Room, Friedman brings Mo to life in the best possible of ways. Mo LoBeau is absolutely charming as a narrator and not just because of Friedman’s performance, though that certainly helps. In this impressive debut, Sheila Turnage creates a highly memorable, and enjoyable, protagonist who is loyal, courageous, smart, sassy, and resourceful. She and her friend Dale are an adorable duo, especially when they begin work together (though Mo is certainly in charge) as the Desperado Detectives. While overall, this book is very light in feel, there are moments of seriousness, from Mo’s letters to her “upstream mother” to Dale’s abusive father to the kidnapping of a loved one. The mystery element is exciting and surprising at times, but what really carried me through was Mo LoBeau and Turnage’s fun, often quirky, dialogue.
It’s September, which means it’s time for another Mixtape Mashup! September is looking to be an exciting month for books and albums, so we’ve gone ahead and made some pairings for your reading and listening enjoyment.
1. The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano
Scholastic, September 1, 2012
14 year old Rosa “call me Evelyn” Serrano is embarrassed by her mother and detached from her Puerto Rican heritage but when her Abuelita (Grandmother) comes to town Evelyn’s world and attitude are rocked to the core. I didn’t like Evelyn much at first and thought that would make the book hard to read but her transformation comes quick. Witness to the political movement that is being sparked in her neighborhood, Evelyn soon begins to understand the fragile relationships that connect family, politics and her own personal identity.
Kreayshawn – Somethin’ Bout Kreay
Sony UK, September 25, 2012
I don’t know a lot about Kreayshawn but I know she is a white female rapper, arguably a minority in the wolrd of Hip Hop, and I’m curious to see how her career develops. Rosa-call-me-Evelyn could use a peer who isn’t afraid disrupt the norm and inspires her to color outside the lines. This is the track that put her on the map:
Lupe Fiasco – Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1
Atlantic, September 25, 2012
Lupe is great listening for this book because of his strong loyalties to his city, Chicago, and the relationship Hip Hop as a form of expression has with revolutions of people, places and institutions. This album may be especially poignant as he recently suggested it might be his last when speaking out about the current climate of Hip Hop music and the epidemic of violence in his native Chicago. Check it. This is the opening track from his second album, The Cool:
2. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub
Riverhead, September 4, 2012
It is the late 30s and Elsa Emerson marries off her family’s farm in Door County, Wisconsin to follow her dreams in Hollywood via her young husband. Barely 21 and pregnant with her second child she is discovered by studio head Irving Green and her life is forever changed. Emma Straub’s debut novel is lyrical anthology of one girl’s struggle to fit between two different worlds and a beautiful story of the relationships between sisters, mothers, and girlfriends.
The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
Universal Republic, September 11, 2012
Two brothers from North Carolina who toe the line between citizen and celebrity, country and city, artist and carpenter. Since making acquaintances with them in Charlotte, NC (from where they hail) their music has inspired and excited me especially their self-reflection and sweet respect for the ladies. They have received more mainstream success in the last few years, split like Laura between their past and their future, but I trust they know where home is. Here’s a song off their new album:
3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
GRAPHIX, September 1, 2012
Em and I are both excited for the new graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier. Just the cover conjures my nostalgia for Daria. Like Callie, I also loved theater but was a terrible singer, and never really found my place in the “drama” clique. Good Reads describes Drama as “another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama.” Sweet.
Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is Evil
8ft. records, September 11, 2012
Amanda Fucking Palmer, as she is also known, releases her third solo album today and it is EPIC! There are so many reasons I love her, one being that on her Wikipedia page there is a “Controversies” section. Trivia moment! Palmer is an independent artist who funded her album on Kickstarter and became the first musician to pass the million-dollar mark on the site by raising 1.2 million. Extra Credit – her album is being released with a companion book of art!!! This new video from her new album is sure to have people talking and I love the way she blends visual art and music to create her vision:
No Doubt – Push and Shove
Interscope Records, September 25, 2012
Em is more excited about this release than I am but I have always liked and respected No Doubt. Formed by High School friends the current members have been playing together since 1989 – basically their entire careers and lives. Having never broken up and continuously putting out top selling albums is quite the feat in the music industry. I appreciate that Stefani’s drama manifests only in her style and stage presence. You can download the first single “Settle Down” on iTunes but this is still the JAM!
4. The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanangan
Knopf Books for Young Readers, September 11, 2012
First of all, Rollrock Island? If going purely by name alone I would totally want to live there. But after reading the first line of the book’s description “On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings–and to catch their wives,” I think I’ll stay on the mainland. Apparently, there are witches and women empowered in other ways and the result sounds like a fascinating tale of men and women and the cruel beauty of human relationships.
Calexico – Algiers
Anti- Records, September 11, 2012
I discovered Calexico via their 2005 collaboration with Iron & Wine, In the Reins, and have since been a fan. You can listen to two tracks from Algiers on Spotify but I have to offer this track as a listening companion for The Brides of Rollrock Island:
5. What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
HarperCollins, September 18, 2012
This novel is the first of a new series: The Hybrid Chronicles. I am 5 chapters in to this book and it is super freaking interesting. Granted, I am not an avid “sci-fi” reader but the idea of two souls existing in one body is something I can relate to, as is Addie and Eva’s complicated relationship to each other as sisters. Both want to take care of the other, make the other happy; both think the other deserves freedom but the power is ultimately beyond them. Or is it? I think there is an interesting subtext here around pregnancy and the abortion issue – as Goodreads puts it: “What’s Left of Me tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl fighting for her right to survive…”.
Cat Power – Sun
Matador Records, September 4, 2012
Cat Power aka Chan Marshall has always appeared to struggle with her public and private personas. Seems like everyone I know has a story about her erratic behavior. Known for her sad, simple songs on piano her 9th album Sun is definitely a brighter spot in the Cat Power catalogue. Listen to the first single – Ruin – here
David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
4AD, September 11, 2012
Another hybrid, this is the first collaborative effort by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and St. Vincent (Annie Erin Clark). It’s a surprising pairing considering their genre and generational differences, which is why I am curious to hear it. Here’s the first video, and first track, off Love This Giant:
You may have noticed a lull in posts this week. Let’s just say my absence has been for the best of reasons! This week was full of fabulous events!
Neil Gaiman was here.
Wednesday I was lucky enough to be one of 700 some-odd people in attendance at a reading by Neil Gaiman at the Fisher Center (Bard College’s eye-catching theater). In an announcement on the Fisher Center site, Neil said, “I just finished a new short story—I suppose it’s a way of looking at some fairy tales from a different direction—and wanted to read it to an audience, to find out whether it works.” And work it did! Neil received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end of his reading (he asked the audience if we were standing because we liked the story or because after sitting so long we needed a stretch). I won’t give away too much of the story because it was a delight to hear it unfold, but there are some familiar fairy tale folks (a sleeping beauty, 7 or so dwarves) and a Queen who puts her wedding day on hold in pursuit of adventure and world saving. Neil also read two poems: “The Day the Saucers Came” and “The Isle of Iona” and offered another special treat – a ukulele performance by his wife and fellow artist Amanda Palmer. The entire event left me utterly charmed by both Gaiman and Palmer, so I couldn’t have been happier when Neil announced that the two of them will be back in April for “An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer”! Hurray!
The following night I returned to Bard for Amanda Palmer’s show, which was easily the most fun and creative live music event I have attended in years (possibly ever). For her upcoming album, Theatre is Evil (releasing Tuesday), she is joined by the Grand Theft Orchestra. I’m not sure how these four artists came together, but I’m sure glad they did! They played a mix of Amanda Palmer hits (Astronaut, Missed Me) and songs off the new album (The Killing Type, Want It Back), and even sneaked in a fun cover of George Michael/Wham’s Careless Whisper which left me wondering whether or not the college students in the crowd knew this 80s pop hit (there was surprisingly little audience sing along). Sometimes it’s hard being a child of the 90s.
Speaking of tough times, my concert companion was suffering from a migraine (which sadly, in the end cut short her night and made her miss Amanda’s set). While sitting out in the lobby with her during one of the opening acts, I happened to make eye-contact with Neil Gaiman who was briskly walking through the lobby (man on a mission: writing another Doctor Who episode in a backstage office during the show) and managed to get out the words “I really loved your story last night” to which he thanked me and smiled and I thanked him and smiled right back. My hopes and dreams are that someday (perhaps when he returns in April?) my radio tweens and I will have the opportunity to interview him for our show. For now, a brief expression of appreciation (and a smile in return) is enough for me.
Anyway, be sure to check out Amanda’s new album when it releases Tuesday, or if you are one of her many kickstarter supporters lucky enough to have the album feeding your ears already, enjoy and thanks for helping make this happen!
And then Saturday was our library system’s Battle of the Books where teams from five counties came together for some friendly but fierce, book trivia competition. The kids read the same eight books over the summer and then have to answer questions like “In which book does a character have a food-related nickname?” This year’s books were Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, Matched by Ally Condie, Heist Society by Ally Carter, The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Our team didn’t win, but we had a fabulous time and I couldn’t be prouder of the girls for their hard work all summer and for how well they worked together as a team. It was also Maddie’s last day with us before her move across the state, so was a little bittersweet, though we sweetened things up with a stop for bubble tea on the way home – craving inspired by Raina Telgemeier’s fabulous Drama.
Hope you all had a fabulous week as well! What were some of the highlights of your week?!
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature created at the fabulous The Broke and the Bookish, featuring weekly top ten lists on a variety of bookish topics. This Tuesday’s topic is Top Ten Books on Our Fall TBR! September alone has an overwhelming amount of exciting releases, so I decided to limit my list to the top books on my TBR with release dates in the next two months…and it was still ridiculously hard to narrow down the list! But here is a sampling of the books at the top of my TBR list:
Tilt by Ellen Hopkins (September 11, 2012, Margaret K. McElderry Books): I haven’t read a verse novel in quite a while and Ellen Hopkins is a favorite when it comes to this form!
The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen (September 17, 2012, W.W. Norton & Company): Intro to Philosophy was my least favorite course in college (and it showed in my grade – ouch!) and so the Descartes aspect of this novel worries me a little, but the setting and mysterious and magical-sounding plot are enough to pull me in.
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (September 18, 2012, Thomas Dunne Books): Japanese-inspired Steampunk dystopian fantasy – is a book allowed to be all these things? I sure hope so!
Adaptation by Malinda Lo (September 18, 2012 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers): I will read, and likely love, anything Malinda Lo writes. I’m excited to see her take on science fiction with this new series.
Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel (October 2, 2012, First Second): As a graphic novel lover and Hudson River-side dweller, I’m excited to see mermaids and life on the Hudson River explored with Siegel’s charcoal drawings.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (October 8, 2012, Flux): A teenage transboy with a public access radio show, struggles with the usual teen stuff while also trying to come out as transgender. I’m still waiting for the perfect YA read involving radio and I’m willing to bet that this will be the one!
All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin (October 9, 2012, Knopf Books for Young Readers): Sibling rivalry, secrets, truth-spinning, and crying wolf told in the alternating voices of two sisters. I’m excited to read more from the fabulous Adele Griffin!
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (October 23, 2012, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers): Oh, A.S. King. I will read anything you write. A story about a girl with a secret and a lot of love to give.
The Twelve by Justin Cronin (October 16, 2012, Ballantine Books): The Passage was my favorite read of 2011 and is in the running for my favorite book of all time, so I’m excited (to say the least) for this follow-up. I have a copy on my shelf, but am trying to be patient and wait until closer to the release date. Temptation hasn’t gotten the best of me yet! (this title is not YA, but leaving it off the list felt wrong)
Are any of these titles on your TBR? What books are you most excited for this fall?!
Every day A wakes up in a new body. It has been like this since A was born. Every morning A must adjust to a new life, a new body, new friends, new family, new issues. A has established some guidelines for these “visits”: avoid notice, don’t interfere, and don’t get attached. But then one day, everything changes. A falls in love with a girl named Rhiannon, while inhabiting the body of Rhiannon’s boyfriend Justin. And now it’s harder for A to follow the guidelines, because A wants to be noticed, wants to interfere, and wants to get attached. Can someone who changes bodies every day find love and hope to get it in return?
This was my first solo David Levithan read. (I know. I really need to read Boy Meets Boy among others). I was drawn to Every Day by the premise of a genderless body-hopping teen who falls in love. I was concerned going in that I was going to get too wrapped up in doubting the technical workings of the body-hopping and thus have trouble getting pulled into the story. But I need not have worried, as Levithan found a nice balance between A letting the reader in on what they have pieced together over the years about how their body-hopping works and leaving room for the reader (and A) to imagine some of the details. Because A has been more or less alone their whole life, they never had someone sit them down and let them know how/what/why they hop to a new body every day. This lack of support, along with A’s memories about being a little kid (in several other kids’ bodies) crying themselves to sleep at night knowing they wouldn’t see their “parents” again the following day, broke my heart a little. It is fascinating how easy it is to connect with A as a character, without having any mental image of what A looks like (aside from the people whose bodies A inhabits).
With a character whose socially/medically-assigned gender switches day to day, Levithan is able to talk about love and desire that transcends gender with extra impact. As A expresses, “In my experience, desire is desire, love is love. I have never fallen in love with a gender. I have fallen for individuals. I know this is hard for people to do, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard, when it’s so obvious.” (142) And the question is, will Rhiannon feel the same? Will she be able to love A for who A is, regardless of the body A is inhabiting? And even when love-wise things seem to be looking up for A, complicated questions arise with regards to intimacy and A’s use of other people’s bodies. All in all, A’s situation is quite a lot to wrap one’s mind around and I liked it!
The only thing that didn’t work quite as well for me was a twist in the end with a particular character (I’m avoiding spoilers here). The twist made it seem like a set-up for a sequel because it made for a drastic change in A’s situation that is left unresolved in the end. Still, I was happy with the ending and happy all the way through. I am glad I spent some time with A and I think you will too.