Archive | October, 2012

Top Ten Kick Ass Heroines

30 Oct

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 Kick Ass Heroines, which is perhaps predictably very similar to our Top Ten Characters list. Turns out we at Love YA Lit love a good ol’ heavy dose of kick ass in our heroines. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are our top picks:

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Um, this girl volunteers for a death match to save her sister and then WINS with her skill and humanity while barely shedding the blood of others.

Legs Sandovsky – Foxfire
The fearless leader of a girl gang united in response to the abusive and misogynistic behavior inflicted upon them from men. Not only does Legs travel by rooftop but she doesn’t back down to bullies or boys.

Meg Murry – A Wrinkle in Time
With her 4 year old brother in tow, this homegirl travels through multiple dimensions to save her father. Totally kick ass.

Zahrah – Zahrah the Windseeker
When her best friend falls ill, Zahrah bravely goes where few men have gone, and even fewer have returned. As she seeks a cure for her friend, she explores the Forbidden Greeny Jungle and her newfound special abilities.

Princess Elizabeth – The Paper Bag Princess
When a dragon steals away with her Prince, leaving Princess Elizabeth with nothing to wear but a paper bag (because her dresses all burned up but somehow a paper bag didn’t catch fire), she sets off to save the day. She not only outsmarts the dragon, but she’s smart enough to leave her prince in the dust when he’s ungrateful and rude.

Lauren Child's imagining of Pippi
Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking – Pippy Longstocking
Ok, her full name alone is pretty kick ass, but she’s also ridiculously strong (she can lift a horse, and she does) and creative and does what she wants and she always comes out on top (but not in an annoying way). She takes care of herself, she plays tag with policemen, and she colors outside the lines and sometimes on the floor.

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter series
Hermione kicks ass in her use of magic, her commitment to her friends, and her bravery. She also loves her studies and isn’t afraid to show it, which I’ve always found inspiring.

Alex – The Mockingbirds series
By confronting her rapist and standing up for herself, Alex becomes a voice for her peers by owning her truth and figting for justice.

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Oh Buffy. What can I say. “She saved the world. A lot.” This list focuses on book characters, and while I do read Buffy comics (Seasons 8 and 9), my favorite Buffy moment, and a moment that in my mind epitomizes just how kick ass she is comes at the end of Season 2 of the television show. If you have seen the show, you’ll likely know this scene well.

Stargirl – Stargirl
A unique soul who embraces her own vulnerability and loving spirit even in the face of alienation. Staying true to yourself is by far the most kick ass way to be a heroine.

A.S. King and Ask the Passengers!

25 Oct

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King Book Cover
I am thrilled to welcome the fabulous A.S. King to Love YA Lit today in celebration of the release of her latest (and some, myself included, would say greatest) novel, Ask the Passengers. Easily one of my top reads of 2012, Ask the Passengers tells the story of Astrid Jones, a girl with a secret, who wants to confide in someone, but isn’t sure who she can trust. Her mother’s always working or doting on her sister, her father’s stoned most of the time, her sister can be pretty judgmental, (Frank) Socrates – well, he’s been dead for over 2 millenia, and she is worried what her friends will think/feel/say if they learn her secret. So instead, she sends her love and her questions to the passengers on airplanes that fly overhead. But will they be able to help her understand what it means that she is falling in love with a girl, or will she have to find those answers elsewhere?

Ask the Passengers has received several starred reviews, and while my stars aren’t quite as fancypants as those of Kirkus Reviews (“King has created an intense, fast-paced, complex and compelling novel about sexuality, politics and societal norms that will force readers outside their comfort zones.”) or Publishers Weekly (“Funny, provocative, and intelligent, King’s story celebrates love in all of its messy, modern complexity.”), I’ll be awarding 5 stars of my own and giving away a copy of Ask the Passengers this weekend when I share my review. But for now, on to the asking!
A.S. King author of Ask the Passengers and other fine books
A.S. King is the author of the highly acclaimed Everybody Sees the Ants, a 2012 ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and Andre Norton Award nominee, and the Edgar Award nominated, 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz. She is also the author of the ALA Best Books for Young Adults Dust of 100 Dogs, Ask the Passengers (2012), and the upcoming REALITY BOY (2013). After a decade living self-sufficiently and teaching literacy to adults in Ireland, she now lives deep in the Pennsylvania woods with her husband and children. She has also been a rare poultry breeder, photographer, master printer, contractor, summer camp counselor, pizza delivery driver and, for a week or two, nothing at all.

(Frank) Socrates features prominently in Ask The Passengers. I can’t help but think of Socrates [soh-kreyts] as one of the super star, time traveling, historical figures in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. If you could have any historical figure come to visit you, who would it be and where would you take them?
I have never seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I’m more of a Deer Hunter kind of moviegoer. But to answer your question: I would visit with Walt Whitman and I’d take him to the top of a mountain and we’d have a picnic and talk about how the world is a crazy place.

Astrid Jones endeavours to protect her sister from the flying monkeys. Vera Dietz (Please Ignore Vera Dietz) has angry monkeys in her head. How can we best protect ourselves from these monkeys?
I think the truth pretty much protects you from everything. And so, the truth will protect you from the flying monkeys, whether they are swooping in from the outside or whether they are hanging out on the inside. (Additional flying monkey info: Pretending to know a thing is probably the most powerful flying monkey lure in the galaxy. Know-it-alls are covered in flying monkeys.)

What would you like to ask the passengers?
First, I’d send love. (I always do that anyway.) Then, I’d ask them if they ate a nice breakfast. Breakfast is important.

Astrid realizes that she’s taking trig for all the wrong reasons and quits (hurray!). Did you ever take an unrequired class that you wished you hadn’t? Are there any classes you wish you had taken instead?
Best. Question. Ever. Yes. I did take an unrequired class or two that I wish I could have switched. I took a lot of gym classes in 11th and 12th grade because I could, and because I was simultaneously avoiding the classes I was afraid to take. There was this history teacher in our school. He was probably the best teacher I ever saw and the smartest man I ever knew. (I mean smart in all ways–especially in the way of knowing what he didn’t know.) His classes were the best classes. My sisters had taken them. But by high school, my grades were so bad and my study skills were so lame that I avoided his classes. Now, we’re pals. We eat breakfast together sometimes. (Breakfast is important.) He reads my books and tells me that he likes them and it’s like getting an A in all those classes I never had the guts to take. Except that really, I missed my chance. So: short answer: as much as I loved badminton, I wish I would have been in Mr. Fleck’s room learning history.

I once won a copy of Please Ignore Vera Dietz for describing my favorite pizza toppings (they are pretty tasty). The winner was selected by your toddler. This was two years ago. So, for A.S. King’s no-longer-a-toddler, I want to know: what is your dream pizza?
She answers: I am now five. I like plain pizza. I don’t like white pizza. I add: True story. We’re a plain (or white) pizza family. Toppings just aren’t our thing..although lately I’ve been putting broccoli sprouts on everything I eat.

Thanks A.S. King for stopping by and sharing your thoughts (and you know, in general for writing great books)! You can read more about A.S. King and her books on her website – the official hideout. Her blog is also a must read. Follow her blog. You won’t regret it.

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for inviting us to participate in the blog tour and for sending a review copy our way!

For more about A.S. King and Ask the Passengers, check out the other stops on her blog tour this week: The Book Smugglers, Mundie Moms, Forever Young Adult, and Chick Loves Lit.

Note: it took A.S. King writing a book with the word “ask” in the title for me to recognize that her name spells out “asking”. Am I the only one late to this party?

Review + Giveaway: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

21 Oct

Callie loves musical theater, but she’s a horrible singer. That doesn’t stop her from taking part in her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi though! Callie is a proud and dedicated member of the Eucalyptus Middle School stage crew. As the newest set designer, Callie strives to make this year’s production the best one yet. But with a low budget and as much drama offstage as on, will Moon Over Mississippi be the drama club’s biggest hit or their biggest flop?

Callie is such a cool protagonist. She’s incredibly enthusiastic about musical theater. The look of sheer excitement on her face after taking notes on her ideas for the staging of Moon Over Mississippi says it all. This girl loves working stage crew and isn’t scared to dream big. When the crew is told that they need to think reasonably about set design given their budget, she takes on the challenge of making things work by becoming a set designer (having previously only painted sets) and gets to work on perfecting a prop cannon complete with special effect confetti explosion. Callie knows how to surround herself with great people – from her costume designer friend Liz, to her new buds, twins Jesse and Justin, who become her constant companions and one of whom becomes her new crush. She also has very cool hair.

Drama is a fun, sweet, adorable read. The characters are diverse and memorable, there are plenty of surprises, and there is a nice balance between the fun times and the more serious moments of growing up and working as a team. While obviously targeted at middle grade readers, I think Drama will be appreciated by teens and adults as well as some mature younger readers. I read it in one sitting the second my eGalley request was granted and then read it again when my tween radio co-hosts wanted to talk about it on their show (you can listen to that show here), and I enjoyed it immensely both times. I now own a finished copy (in full color! ooooh! pretty!) so that I can read it again someday or share it with friends. Speaking of sharing with friends, see giveaway details below!

Em’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Editor: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Graphix (September 2012)
Note: eGalley received from publisher for honest review

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Perks of Being a Wallflower

10 Oct

Right now we are alive and in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.

I always think it’s exciting when books I love are turned into films because it signifies that someone else understands how powerful, beautiful, poignant and amazing this book is and they want to share it with an audience. While I realize that is not always the motivation in Hollywood, in this case I believe it to be true considering producer John Malkovich went straight to author Stephen Chbosky to adapt the screenplay and that Chbosky was hired to direct.  It isn’t frequently the norm in Hollywood that a novice director would be given the opportunity to direct a high volume project? Then again, he is a dude.

If you have no relationship to the book, or if you’re not really into movies that reflect reality, you may find this film depressing or even boring. Set in the early 90s in suburban Pittsburgh, Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman) a lonely high school freshman recovering from the suicide of his best friend and working through a lifetime of unbalanced emotions. Urged by his therapist to “participate” Charlie seeks salvation with the help of two new friends, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), the guidance of his English teacher (Paul Rudd), and, the ultimate life saving device – music.

While the film did a good job painting the picture of adolescent “outcast” culture it was a little too glossy. Having the author so involved is certainly what saved Perks from being a watered down replica of itself but the film was produced within the “Hollywood machine,” essentially sacrificing some of the creative control that may have lent to it’s authenticity. Another coming of age story set in the mid-90s, 2008’s The Wackness was a period piece that made nostalgic for the era in which it was set  and the music triggering as much of a response as the plot and performances. But, the film adaptation of Perks just made me nostalgic for the book. Oh, isn’t that always the case?  Chbosky himself admitted this was one of the most difficult projects he’s worked on:

“It was the most challenging screenplay I’ve ever written, just by the nature of what the book was — a first-person epistolary novel. To turn that into something objective with the same emotional intimacy and emotional catharsis was hard.” (Miami Herald, 9/30/12)

The music for the most part stayed true to the book except for a brief cameo by Cracker’s Low, which was never mentioned in the book and wasn’t released until 1993. This was nullified when Dear God by XTC, a staple of my freshman year in the suburbs of Philadelphia, played a narrator’s role in a significant transitional scene. A letter to God questioning the pain and sorrow in the world, I still sing the opening line to myself when I am feeling particularly hopeless. Have a listen on Spotify.

Your connection to the characters, and especially Charlie, will ultimately decide how much you enjoy the film and Lerman (Hoot) succeeds in delivering a deeply moving performance. Part of Charlie’s alienation, and woven into the subtext of the film, is the deviation from traditional male behavior. Charlie is emotional, caring, reserved. He’s not an athlete or a Casanova. He is moved by music and literature. We continuously see his admiration of admiration of and respect for women – in his support of his sister after he witness her boyfriend slap her and his unconditional love for Sam, regardless of the rumors that tarnish her reputation. And while these are both serious issues affecting teen girls – dating violence, slut shaming – the core of the film brings much needed attention to the complicated experience of boys, driven by Charlie and Patrick.

Two of my favorite young actors, Lerman and Miller both successfully deliver a unique portrayal of masculinity essential to both of their characters. Miller (City Island) infuses Patrick with a delightful fervor for life and irreverence for his tormentors. How much of it is bravado is unclear until what he is holding inside is finally given cause to break out.  In one of the most volatile scenes, both Charlie and Patrick are caught in a convolution of anger, fear, violence, aggression and survival. When Patrick is beaten and emotionally broken, it is Charlie who comes to his rescue both physically and emotionally.  The tenderness of their relationship is another powerful image for teens to receive.

Perks of Being a Wallflower is certainly not the traditional “teen romp” caliber but these are important characters to see on screen. Perks couldn’t be better timed to reflect challenges contemporary teenagers face in their everyday lives and if they only find support and solidarity on film, it’s better than nothing. Truly, the story is timeless and for many us the haunts and angst of adolescence stay with us well into adulthood. The desire to belong, to be valued, to protect the ones we love and have course, the hardest part, to just be happy.

This post was originally written for our favorite online magazine, Sadie Magazine (go check them out!), and posted on our sister site pop!goesalicia. Sharing is caring.

Tilt Review + Giveaway

4 Oct

Three teens, connected by family relationships, navigate new love and their various personal and family issues in Ellen Hopkins’s latest verse novel, Tilt. Mikayla’s love for Dylan is so strong that nothing could possibly break them apart. But how will an unexpected pregnancy affect their relationship? Shane has experience loving someone with a short life expectancy; his four year old sister Shelley has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and not much longer to live. But will learning his new crush has HIV keep him from getting close? Harley is feeling good about her new body and seeking new experiences with older boys. But when she gets herself in too deep will she figure out how to get out before its too late?

Tilt is a companion novel to Ellen Hopkins’s adult novel, Triangles, which focuses on the lives of the mothers of the three Tilt protagonists. Tilt works easily as a standalone and I’m curious how it works in companionship to Triangles. Is the plot less surprising? Or does knowing some of the basics about what happens, make the little things that much more surprising? Presumably just as the teens don’t understand everything that’s going on with their parents, the parents don’t know just how much their kids are dealing with. The story alternates between the three main characters and each section ends with a page of verse from one of the other characters – boyfriends, friends, cousins, siblings. This framework helps propel the reading forward and each page of verse at the end of a teen’s section helps transition between the three stories.

As with many of Hopkins’s novels, in Tilt she tackles serious issues that teens (and adults for that matter) deal with in today’s world – drug use/abuse, sex, molestation, HIV, death, divorce, infidelity, bullying, homophobia, sexting, teen pregnancy, etc. She doesn’t shy away from topics that most people would rather not think about let alone write about. I respect this about her. The empathy she shows for her characters shines through and her use of free verse makes a difficult story read smoothly. It is with good reason that her books, no matter how many challenges and bans, end up on bestsellers lists and in the hands of teen readers.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (September 2012)
Note: Review copy sent from publicist for honest review

Because we here at Love YA Lit believe so strongly in the freedom to read and appreciate the daring work of Ellen Hopkins, we thought we’d offer a little celebratory giveaway in honor of Banned Books Week. Enter via rafflecopter below! 13+ only please!
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