I try to be as vague as I can when describing stories and books, but there are times when I accidentally or maybe not so accidentally ruin what happens in the book. Read on at your own risk. Spoiler gage: extreme.
So, what did I think of Weetzie Bat? I thought it was terrible.
For a while I was just going to say that…it was terrible, because it was that bad. But then I decided that maybe I should have just a little bit of information. I have no idea how it made it on the list.
I hated the narrative style. It was simplistic and childish and read exactly like a children’s book. I was even convinced for the first page and a half that it was a children’s book like Betsy-Tacy. But, in the dialogue, the characters cursed, a lot. It was pretty jarring. I didn’t like the slang and there were so many things being repeated it was distracting and again, a children’s style of narrative.
The plot moved at light speed. Seriously. Scenes lasted half a page to two pages. They go from just meeting to talking about wanting a baby within a page and a half.
My biggest problem was that this is not a YA book. The themes in this book are not young adult. The first couple of pages they are in high school, I think, I’m really not sure. Other than that there is no teen angst or anything like that.
Her best friend is gay and he finds a boyfriend and Weetzie finds a boyfriend and they all move in together, because apparently they are old enough for that now (I’m really unclear on their ages). Weetzie’s boyfriend doesn’t want a baby so Weetzie has a threesome with her gay best friend and his boyfriend to get pregnant. She does and has a baby. Afterward her boyfriend found out about it and left her then had sex with a witch (apparently there are witches in this book), and after he gets back together with Weetzie the witch drops off a baby for them to take care of. How is this a teenager’s book? But Ender’s Game is too mature to be on the list?
I don’t know what is appealing about this book. It was one of those reads where I had to keep telling myself to be patient and just keep reading and that it had to get good eventually. It didn’t.
NPR has disappointed me yet again.
I try to be as vague as I can when describing stories and books, but there are times when I accidentally or maybe not so accidentally ruin what happens in the book. Read on at your own risk.
Along for the Ride is the second book on NPR’s list that I’ve read by Sarah Dessen. The first was This Lullaby, which was a good book. It’s about a young woman, just out of high school. She’s is book smart and really good in school, but now she finds herself in the between area from high school to college. She has separated parents and a brother that used to be a bit of a loose cannon but has now begun to shape up and work a job thanks to the new woman in his life. It is a heartfelt story about change and acceptance, and it ends with her in college with her new boy toy.
Dessen out does herself in Along for the Ride, branching out and clearly reinventing her writing style. The story is about Auden, a book smart young woman that has just graduated college and she has found herself stuck in the between that unfamiliar place of having finished high school and waiting for college to begin. She has been deeply affected by her parents separation and she feels isolated and somewhat of an outcast, and it doesn’t help either that her brother is a charismatic loose cannon type that seems as though he will never settle down, until he does, of course. Once he does that he quits his wild ways and gets a job. Auden ends her transformative journey by starting college with the boy she was with during the summer.
You know what? That sounds exactly like the first. Oh wait. It is. Also, the plot is nearly identical, as far as the emotional and relationship beats go. I mean that, the types of problems and transformations made through the relationship of Auden and her boyfriend are the same. But, even despite that, it was a good book. I still think that This Lullaby was better, but this one was good too. And even despite having obvious similarities, this book stands on its own. It felt like a different story and only in the back of my mind did I notice that the situations were the same. I think it takes a talented author to do that.
This book had some great characters. Wonderful characterization. I mean, I hated the parents. I really did. I haven’t hated a character that much since Cersei from Game of Thrones (the book and I guess the show. yeah the show. I guess since I hate both of them there is no reason for this parenthesized tangent. hm. I didn’t know that parenthesized was a word until then.). Now, it’s a good thing that I was able to hate her parents. It means that the writing was excellent, because man were they shitty people. At the end of the story I had one of those “Finally!” moments when Auden actually stood up for herself and what she thought was right.
Switching to plot…this, again, was your typical love story. There were several cute moments and times that made me smile and others that made me want to cry (I wanted a Frozen clip here, but I would have had to make my own…sorry, I didn’t want to put in the time). I think it is Dessen’s skill as a writer that makes me feel the characters frustration and makes me want to cry along with the protagonist. Dessen also does a wonderful job with the transformation of her characters. It comes right when the reader wants it and needs it to happen, and I understand why Dessen seems to choose the summer before college, because this is a time of change in any normal teenager’s life. It’s all good, but best teen book ever good?
In the end, I don’t know if I feel like this book should be on the list. If it should be, it can be placed lower than it is. Maybe I just don’t feel that sense of epicness in a romance novel that I feel should qualify it to be on a best ever list. It was good. Really good, but I just feel like all published books should be good.
Wife: if you want a love story by Sarah Dessen, I recommend This Lullaby, but if you like that and want more, I say you should read this book.
Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging is the first book in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series. It is ranked number 91 on NPR top books for teens ever. I will not be continuing the series. It is about a 14 year old young woman named Georgia, and the awkward transition from girl to woman. There are some funny parts and some witty jokes thrown in by the author. I wouldn’t say the writing is very good. The story kind of just rambles as it is an epistolary novel, which means it is a sequence of journal entries by Georgia. I think that the main message of the story is that it is OK to feel awkward about your body and about becoming a woman, because no one really knows what they are doing. The problem I have with this book is that it is really boring, not particularly written well, I don’t like the set up (journal entries), and the mains character is not a good person. She is a mean to everyone, insecure about her body (which gets annoying in it’s repetition), never asks for help, holds grudges, and thinks everyone else is stupid. Her only redeeming quality is that she is an arrogant bitch. What? That’s not redeeming? Oh, well then I guess there is nothing redeeming.
I also don’t like books that try to be funny. It feels forced. It is written by an above middle age female author, and she is trying to tell jokes to young girls about how make the transition into adulthood. I guess those kids could find the things she says funny, but with every joke that is told, it felt forced, but I did see the humor that could have been in them.
Anyway, I’m glad I’m done with the book. I’m not glad I read it, but it could just be another case of it not written for people like me. But, I still stand resolute in my belief that if it is one of the best teen books ever, then it should have something that transcends the story and speaks to me, no matter how different I am from the demographic. I don’t think this book should be on the list, and I have trouble imagining that there are enough people that love this book to make sure that it made it onto NPR’s list. I get that most young girls are confused about the transition into adulthood (as are most boys) and I think that that is an universal worry, but the thing I have trouble with is realizing how many people that read books would read this book about this content. Not very many people read, and I think that even less would read a book with this set up and this content with this type of arrogant character. It’s surprising.
Leviathan is written by Scott Westerfeld, an author that has more than one book on NPR’s top 100 books for teens ever list. This book is fun and creative and fast paced, also it is part of a trilogy. It’s an alternate history steam-punk/science fiction version of world war one wherein the allies are Darwinians and use the science of evolution to create animal/machines.
So, they are living machines instead of just mechanical. The axis powers use technology and machines, like mech warriors. All in all pretty cool, but I still feel like this is an average book. Yeah, it was a fun read and yes it was creative, but nothing really lingers in my mind. This is just what I expect out of a book. It needs to be readable, creative, and have fun characters. That doesn’t mean it is a top 100 book, it just means it deserves to be published. This is also a book that I feel is barely teen oriented. The main characters are 12 years old, but I guess the themes and some of the moments in the novel are meant for an older audience. So it fits, but just barely.
There is also some great artwork in the book, and I love books with artwork. Not enough adult/teen books take advantage of great artists, and I feel like it can really add to the story. They really bring Westerfeld’s descriptions to life. The illustrations are by artist Keith Thompson.
There are two major problems I have with this book. The storyline and the blurb on the back of the book.
First, I’ll start with the storyline. Some story lines are familiar and whenever someone sees them in a movie or reads them in a book, they know what is going to happen. Some of these are OK, some are cliché, and some I just don’t like. The one found in Leviathan falls into the category of “I just don’t like.” The plot device is that the female character dresses up as a dude to fit in. Since girls aren’t allowed to serve in the military, she has to fake being a guy in order to do what she is good at. That’s fine, but the staple of this plot line is that she meets a guy and likes him, but she can’t tell him because the guy thinks that she’s a dude. The problem comes in when the two characters have cute moments that the reader thinks are romantic and so does the female character, but the guy character just thinks it’s friendly. Or maybe he doesn’t and he is gay. Or maybe he’s not gay but he feels himself experiencing emotions that he’s never had before toward another man and now he’s questioning everything. Not to mention, the setting in the book is the early 20th century, so not only are those feelings unusual to the male lead, but they are basically forbidden by society. There is a lot of psychological tension going on and it never gets addressed in these types of stories. It feels awkward and I can never enjoy these plot devices.
Now for the back blurb.
This seems to be a problem with YA books. On the back blurb it says that Alek and Deryn (the two POV characters) are thrown together aboard the mighty airship Leviathan. This is very informative and makes me intrigued to read the story…the problem? This doesn’t happen until the end of the book. It takes all of the tension away from the story. When I was reading the story I felt everything leading up to them on the ship together as the prologue. I was waiting for it to start. As the story moved along I just wondered when the hell they were going to get together on the ship. The blurb said that they were together, so obviously the story doesn’t really start until they are together (this is how my mind works). The blurb spoiled nearly all of the thrill this book could have held. And, they literally aren’t on the ship together until the final couple of chapters. Think about it. So every time the characters are in danger or the author wants you to think that they are going to give up or something, but that holds no tension for you because the back of the book has already told you what will happen. Will they survive? Will they get captured? Will they get in trouble and have to be held in a prison cell? No. They are going to meet up on the Leviathan and fight side by side, just wait until the prologue is over, you’ll see.
As I mentioned, I’m not sure this book belongs on the list. It is very creative and the world is vivid, brought out further by the artistic skill of Keith Thompson. But, this is just your typical adventure story with the characters getting into trouble and having to scrap their way out of it. It was a decent and easy read, but it’s what I think is just an average book. This book meets my standards for something I would sit down and read, but it doesn’t fit into my top books list, but judging by everything else I’ve read on NPR’s list, it definitely fits within NPR’s parameters.
Wife: meh. If you’re having a slow month with shit else to do, go ahead and pick up this book.
The House of the Scorpion is written by Nancy Farmer. It seems she is a prolific writer with a propensity for winning awards. This book, has three separate medals on the cover, one of which is the Newberry Award. As I’ve mentioned before, awards on a book make me wary of it because I know that I am going to put expectations on it that cannot be met. I tried not to, but I’m not sure I succeeded.
The story is about Matt, who is the clone of a drug lord, and his purpose in life to grow organs for the drug lord. Think of The Island.
This book feels like it was written to win awards. You know what I mean? Like when award season comes around and all of the movies seem to cover important issues and there is a lot of long silent moments where the actor just stares. Anyway, that’s what this felt like.
It has the right amount of creativity and good story telling, but it is just full of tragedy. A bit too much for my taste. I do enjoy when the character has to get through a terrible situation, but Matt goes through so much with very little payoff, and the payoff (when it eventually comes) feels as though it is something that he truly doesn’t earn.
With all of the creativity and writing skill that Farmer shows in this book, I found myself bored with most of it. There were some shining moments that really held me within the story, but those would fizzle out and the story would linger in one spot for a very long time. It lost my interest easily.
Also, for how many different characters there were, none of them really interested me. Actually, I will say that two of them, Tam Lin, the body guard, and the drug lord, seemed to be the most interesting to me and the most realistic. No one else seemed to react appropriately and every scene seemed to have someone screaming, someone crying, or someone being abused in some way (usually Matt).
The reason I think this book was written to win awards is because of the amount and the depth of the tragedies that Matt faces. It wasn’t entertaining to read. It just made me sad. One great thing that Farmer does is she cleverly takes on the question of nature vs. nurture. Since, Matt is the clone of Matteo Alacran, the drug lord, the reader sees that Matteo didn’t have to turn out the way that he did. Since Matt had people in his life that loved him, he turned out a better person, but he still did have that dark side to him. This is saying that how we are born plays a role in what person we become, but how we are raised also plays a role and maybe a more significant one. I feel it was a clever way to bring up this question. The end also looks at the perils of a communist society, and it kind of came out of nowhere, and I hated the feeling of helplessness that Matt constantly felt, especially during the communism scenes.
All and all, I see why this book would be on this list. It has a sad story which eventually ends in triumph. It has a large cast of characters, though inevitably, for me, uninteresting. Actually, now that I think about it, I didn’t find any of the dialogue between the characters interesting (anyone notice how often I’ve used the word interesting?). Nothing stood out. That is most likely just my opinion of the characters though. It is a decent science fiction with a throwback feel, and the questions of morality are pertinent for today’s generation, but could also be transferred to other generations. I see why this should be a good book, but I was just bored reading it. If anything, I see why it is toward the bottom of the list.
Wife: I’d say no. It’s not upbeat enough.
Well, I read book one of the Chrestomanci Chronicles: Charmed Life, written by Diana Wynne Jones. I was excited for this book as I’m excited to read the other books that she has on this list (Howl’s Moving Castle), and after reading this one I can say that I still am.
This book is written well and I found myself getting lost in the writing and the story. With that being said I didn’t really like it. I didn’t like the characters. They are whiny and cruel, mostly all of them. Except, the main character whom doesn’t stand up for himself or say anything out of turn.
Another thing that bothered me, and this is one of those plot devices that always bug me, is that a large majority of the plot, I’d say 95% of the plot and tension, is due to characters not telling each other things. This is rarely done well. I always feel as though there is no reason to keep the secrets that are being kept. In this book, for instance, Cat, the main character, is kept in the dark the whole book and he in turn keeps his handlers in the dark about what he is doing, and the whole time I’m thinking “why don’t they just tell each other?!” And my curiosity is never quite satiated until the end when everyone explains their motives. It was wrapped up nicely and I did get the answers I wanted, but it was too little too late. I just prefer a different type of tension in my narrative.
Also, other complaints have to do with the hokey magic system, but some people like fanciful magic with no rules or real consistency, just not me.
One other problem, and I know you want to read another problem, is the cover, the blurb on the cover, and the synopsis on the back of the book. They are all terrible. Number one, the cover is terrible. It makes me think it is a book about a cat, which it is not. The main characters name is Cat, but he is not a cat. If I had to pick a book based on its cover, I would never have chosen this book.
Now for the blurb…”Mad about Harry? Try Diana.” What does it mean? At first I wasn’t sure what it could mean because the original novel was written in 1977, but this is a reprint from 2001. So then that made me think that it was talking about Harry Potter, and maybe there hadn’t been a Harry Potter in a couple of years? Or were people upset with how the last Harry Potter book ended? It’s a fantasy having to do with wizards so it makes sense. I guess. But, why would the blurb reference a fictional character and then say to replace that fictional character with a very real author? So that makes me think that Harry is an author…but I know zero authors named Harry. No real footing there. Then I thought of Princess Diana and Prince Harry, because the author is British, but that doesn’t make since. What do they have to do with a fantasy novel? So, not the best blurb…it’s confusing and doesn’t really sell me the book.
So, just to cover what I’ve said, terrible cover art and confusing blurb. So far, I wouldn’t go anywhere near this book.
OK…maybe it is about Harry Potter http://www.usnews.com/usnews/culture/articles/991129/archive_003252.htm
Now for the synopsis on the back of the book. It gives away the plot of the story, “schemes that could destroy all the worlds of Chrestomanci.” You don’t even know that there is a scheme for anything until about ¾ of the way through the book. And you don’t know about the alternate worlds until at least halfway through it. Also, Christopher is never mentioned in the first book. So, this is just another case of me waiting through the book for it to get started and when I look up the book is already done and it finally fulfilled what the synopsis read. I imagine a good synopsis covers the feel or theme of the book, but pretty much just tells the reader the hook of the story. But, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.
Well, it’s make or break time. I think that this was a good book. I enjoyed the writing and despite everything I disliked about it, the story went along smoothly. The author allows the reader to get comfortable within the narrative. But, when it comes down to it, I just didn’t like it much. I hate to say that, since this is a readable book and those don’t come around too often on this list, but I really didn’t not like it; though, perhaps there is a place for it on this list.
Wife: Nuh uh. I won’t be reading the rest of the series…
This was a good book. Let me start with that, because it feels like I don’t very often…how about a little something about the author. Sarah Dessen is a creative writing teacher for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This makes me feel warm inside because so often I think of creative writing teachers as being those that teach because they can’t do. Now, I realize that plenty of college instructors and professors have notable publications and incredible writing abilities, but it is nice to see a teacher doing so well in the publishing world. I’ve noticed my own teachers working themselves nonstop, and they are brilliant in their own right, and it would be nice if they saw this sort of success. Sarah Dessen has several other books, all of which look to be YA romances, and there are also a few that are on NPR’s list. So, you’ll be seeing this author again.
Now onto the story…as I said, I liked it. It was fun and cute and the characters are memorable. I, of course, know nothing about what it would like being a partying, serial-dating teenage girl, but Dessen makes the idea of it relatable, and I did relate to Remy, the main character. Not with every aspect of her character, but her cynical views. I have a completely different view of love than Remy, but Dessen made Remy’s views and qualms toward love believable and I was able to enjoy Remy’s journey and transformation.
There were plenty of surprises within the story, and even a few within the main plot, though I have to say that it is just a straight up romance novel for teens. Dessen also sprinkles in some surprising characters and seems to give every relationship the attention it needs to seem real. The relationship between the band is especially good. They bicker like brothers, and each one of them seemed to have their own unique quirk which never took away from the story. The idea of the Lullaby is clever. “This Lullaby” is a song that was written for Remy by her father the day that she was born. She never met her father and he died of a heart attack when she was young (don’t worry this is found out within the first couple pages). The lullaby, though Remy claims to hate it, actually works to sooth her and eventually works in favor of her accepting love.
The writing is readable. Don’t worry, that’s a compliment. I found myself getting lost pages at a time and wondering how long I’d been reading since I looked up. It was easy to fall into the flow of the story. But, at times, the story did seem to drift and served only to make a situation feel more real, than it did to serve the plot, if that makes sense. For example, characters will continue conversations or say hello and give introductions in believable ways and talk about normal everyday things, which serves in creating round characters and making it realistic, but doesn’t necessarily serve the plot (though I guess one could argue that the whole plot of a romance novel is will they or wont they, so pretty much everything in between is just fluff). This is fine most of the time, but there were a few instances I was tempted to jump to the next page.
Even though it was a good book, I’m not sure it should be on the top 100 list. I wasn’t blown away or anything. The book didn’t make me think about love in a different way, but maybe it would make a teen think about love differently. Being the veteran with love that I am, nothing could possibly surprise me, ahem… The book was good though. Highly readable. Good story telling by the author. Good writing. Good characters. Good. Good. Good. But, should that be grounds for making it on a top 100 EVER list? I mean, that should be criteria for a publishable book, right? I do know that I can’t make the judgment right after reading the novel of whether or not it belongs on the list. I have to wait and see if the novel lingers in my mind. I have to see if images or situations or anything else sticks with me and makes me think. My first reaction is to say no, it doesn’t belong, but it should be a book read by someone that wants to read a love story. It does have a lot to say about love and the author gives several different views of it, but it doesn’t make me question my own view of love… So, I guess the real question here is, should my basis for a top 100 EVER teen books list really be based on whether or not it is actually readable?
Wife: maybe….a firm maybe.