June was another big reading month. I tweeted most things and reviewed a few things too. Here’s the run down with a few other thoughts, particularly about smoking in YA lit.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky,
Tweet: PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Stephen Chbosky – compelling read. Charlie felt ynger than 16 but I guess that makes sense. Demerits for smoking
Look, I get that teens smoke, take drugs, have sex and generally carry on in various obnoxious ways. The thing about smoking is that it cannot be paid off in a YA book. While you are a teenager, there are no consequences to smoking, apart from it costing money and making you stink. With drugs or alcohol it is easy, and dramatically, narratively possible to show a realistic portrayal of some of the negative consequences in a YA book. These don’t need to be dire (although they can be) but every teen has that time they puked, or passed out, or let a guy fondle them or shagged the wrong girl, or were stupid and stoned in front of people they respect. That’s real. That’s balanced. It doesn’t have to be a message, but it should be real. I rarely come across a well written YA book that doesn’t take a balanced approach to drugs or alcohol. I have never seen it depicted as only glamorous or mystical.
The problem with tobacco smoking is that it is, in this book (and in LOOKING FOR ALASKA), depicted positively as something an awkward teen can share with his cool new friends, and also something that relaxes his crippling anxiety. Look, that IS what tobacco does. That’s real. The problem is that the negative consequences of tobacco smoking can be (and are in 1/3 to ½ of smokers) death. That’s right, death. But unfortunately for us YA authors, those consequences don’t materialize until the 30’s or 40’s. So we can hardly show poor Charlie coughing his lungs out with cancer at the age of 16 can we? We can’t show him leaving behind a wife and kids. So all we’re left with is glamor and relaxation.
I’m not in favor of censoring, but I think as YA authors we should take a look at this tricky issue. I would hate to think that some horribly anxious and awkward kid took up smoking because it seemed to help Charlie and nothing bad came of it. The fictional Charlie, who was 16 in 1991 would now be 37. One of my best friends died of mouth cancer at 39. Two cousins died in their early 40s. Did Charlie keep smoking? How long does he have?
But bonus points for the abortion. I’ll concede that.
PINNED by Sharon G. Flake
Tweet: PINNED by @sharonflake is both sweet and complex with two unpredictable characters, tons of voice and a lot of adorable awkward teen love.
Sharon Flake agreed to be interviewed about PINNED so I’ll be blogging more about this book later I the year.
UNWHOLLY (Unwind, #2) by Neal Shusterman
Tweet: So UNWHOLLY by @NealShusterman is totally AWESOME!! Reread UNWIND yesterday and read UNWHOLLY today. Cross-eyed now but delighted.#amreading
I’ve ranted about UNWIND many times on this blog and made getting an ARC of UNWHOLLY one of my main goals for ALA12. I only had to stalk Neal Shusterman and Simon and Shuster for two days to get it too! And it was so worth it. I love this series more than ever.
GOING UNDERGROUND, by Susan Vaught
Tweet: GOING UNDEGROUND by @susan_vaught is a funny, moving, disturbing read.
I’ve been doing some research about juvenile justice and how the law treats juvenile sex offenders lately. This book popped up in a search and I tracked it down at the library the same day. Apart from being a well written and moving story, the injustice is reveals about how children who make completely normal adolescent mistakes is horrifying. Everyone with a teenager or preteen should read this. Teachers should read this. Prosecutors, lawmakers and defenders should read this.
THE FREEDOM MAZE: A Novel by Delia Sherman,
I reviewed this excellent book earlier this month.
JUMPING OFF SWINGS by Jo Knowles
Didn’t bother finishing this one. If you want to know why look up my Goodreads review.
I KNOW IT’S OVER by C.K. Kelly Martin
I actually enjoyed this book, but I had some problems with the subject matter. Check Goodreads for my review on this one too.
HARLEM SUMMER by Walter Dean Myers
This novel was a little didactic, especially about the history of Harlem during the prohibition years. But I still rather enjoyed it. I think it’s a great introduction to Jazz and black history as well as being a good, suspenseful story about a kid who feels very contemporary, despite the historical setting.
BOOK OF RHYMES: THE POETICS OF HIP HOP by Adam Bradley
A great rundown on how hip hop lyrics evolve, the techniques that are used, how it relates to “poetry”. I’m hopelessly ignorant about hip hop so it was hard to relate since I hadn’t ehrd of most of the artists and tracks, but nevertheless this is a scholarly and interesting review.
GOTH GIRL RISING (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, #2) by Barry Lyga
Tweet: Loved GOTH GIRL RISING by @barrylyga . Poor Kyra, she’s hard to like but I saw a lot if high school me (punk not goth) in her.
This is a great example of how to do the smoking thing. Kyra smokes. She’s messed up, yeah so she smokes. Her friend questions the irony of her smoking when her mother died of cancer. Kyra gets it. She doesn’t quit or anything, but we know she gets it. That’s enough. That’s real.
EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL, by Simmone Howell
Tweet: Stayed up to 4am reading EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL by @postteen. So excited by real-size heroine, I guess. #realgirlsrule
I loved this Australian set book A LOT. Loved the messed up heroine and loved that she’s a big girl. HOWEVER why is the girl on the cover so slim? I was disappointed with this. Very disappointed. Badly done Bloomsbury USA. Badly done.
TILT by Alan Cumyn
Tweet: Very much enjoyed TILT by @acumyn. Great book for boys and people who like boys! #amreading
This was a very fun and sweet book with one of the most hilarious “consequences of teen sex” scenes I’ve ever read. But it had depth too, and plenty of angst. My only complaint is that it was trying a bit too hard to be a sports book – the basketball felt tacked on.
THE RELUCTANT JOURNAL OF HENRY K. LARSEN Susin Nielsen
Tweet: really enjoyed the reluctant journey of henry k larsen by @susinnielsen. visceral yet innocent somehow. an odd mix but it works
I reviewed this book earlier this month.
MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, Francisco X. Stork
Tweet: MARCELLO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco Stork.. Complex, deep and poignant. 4/5 stars
I loved this “neuro-atypical” protagonist, though I was a little uncomfortable with his robotic speech. I’ve never really heard and kids on the autism spectrum speak like this. Apart from that, this was a really great book which I strongly recommend.
THE BEST AND HARDEST THING by Pat Brisson
See my review on Goodreads to get my thoughts.