In which we finish the week with a list of YA Creativity!
By REBECCA, May 4 2012
In part 2 of this week’s Joint Review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson (John Green and David Levithan), Tessa wrote that a major contributor to her delight in WG2 is “people creating things,” aka, Tiny Dancer: the Tiny Cooper Story (a musical).
What better way to finish out the week, then, than with a quick list of some of my favorite Young Adult books and movies in which people create things? While nothing else quite lives up to Tiny Dancer: the Tiny Cooper Story, there are some amazingly creative YA happenings out there: art, music, writing, dance, etc.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. Foxfire (1996), based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates. ART! So, Foxfire is one of my all-time favorite teen movies. It’s about friendship, female power, and rebellion (what’s not to like?). And, in addition to home-tattooing, it features a still-healthy looking and very bad-ass Angelina Jolie, Jenny Lewis (of the awesome band Rilo Kiley), the gorgeous and f’ed-up Jenny Shimizu, and Hedy Burress, who I’ve never seen in anything else. Anyhoo, Hedy’s character, Maddy, is a photographer and her whole room is covered in her art. She is trying to put together a portfolio for art school, and is a delightful mid-90s art girl. Bonus trivia: her boyfriend, whom she photographs naked for the sake of art, is Twilight doc Peter Facinelli (with his natural hair color). And did I mention the home-tattooing?
2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor. PERFORMANCE ART! PUPPETS! Karou is an artist who has, for years, rendered her monster friends as drawings, telling stories about them that her friends assume are elaborate tales spun from her imagination. They couldn’t be more wrong. Zuzana, Karou’s best friend, is a puppeteer, and she takes her art to the streets in an awesome reversal of puppet and puppeteer:
“The story Zuzana told with her body—of a discarded marionette brought out of its trunk for one last dance—was deeply moving. She started out clumsy and disjointed, like a rusty thing awakening, collapsing several times in a heap of tulle. Karou, watching the rapt faces of the audience, saw how they wanted to step forward and help the sad little dancer to her feet.
Over her the puppeteer loomed sinister, and as Zuzana twirled, its arms and fingers jittered and jumped as if it were controlling her, and not the other way around. The engineering was cunning and didn’t draw attention to itself, so that the illusion was flawless.”
The art just adds to the awesome atmosphere of the novel. You can read our three-part Joint Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone and discussion of the dreaded ANGEL-FICTION starting here.
3. Same Difference, Siobhan Vivian. ART! In the space of a summer, Emily, a shy girl from the suburbs of New Jersey, is set on fire with her passion for art! While attending a summer art school in Philadelphia, Emily draws, makes collages, and has a revelation of personal self-expression. You can read the full review here.
4. If I Stay & Where She Went, Gayle Forman. MUSIC! Mia’s family is killed in a car accident, leaving her comatose, cut off from the world but still somehow connected to her boyfriend, Adam, and the music he plays her through her headphones. Mia is a classical cellist, disciplined and called by the music, while Adam is the lead singer of an up-and-coming rock band. While this difference could mean dissonance in If I Stay (especially since Mia’s parents are more in Adam’s camp, musically) it instead shows how music can literally save our lives. In the sequel, Where She Went, set three years later (which I enjoyed even more) we see things from Adam’s perspective—in this moment, music is nearly killing him and Mia could be the one to save him this time.
5. Fame (film, 1980; tv show, 1982-1987). THEATRE! MUSIC! DANCE! “Fame costs. And right here is where you’re going to start paying. In sweat.” Hell. Yes. Both the movie and the show are so good. You’ve got your dancers, your singers, your musicians, and your actors. What does that spell? D-R-A-M-A! It also spells amazing musical numbers, monologue performances that are supposed to echo with the characters’ lives, and dancing in the streets, in the cafeteria, pretty much anywhere. And the best theme song EVER:
6. Step Up. DANCE! I love dance movies. And this one has all the components of greatness: protags from different worlds who each need something from the other; mutual enmity that turns to romance; the blending of different styles; Channing Tatum. And Nora, our dance-school darling, is legitimately hardworking and talented even while being a perfectionistic, uptight taskmaster. So, unlike many dance movies, we get to enjoy her process of choreography as well as the dancing itself.
7. Sister Mischief, Laura Goode. MUSIC! Esme, Marcy, Tess, and Rowie are Sister Mischief, the all-girl hip-hop that wants to take Holyhill (aka Holy Hell) Minnesota by storm! These lovely ladies use the power of music and words to challenge the right-wing politics of their small town, their school administration, and themselves. Check out the full review here.
8. Taming the Star Runner, S.E. Hinton. WRITING! Travis is sent from the city to live with his uncle in the country because he almost kills his mother’s boyfriend when he burns Travis’ writings in the fireplace. Um, sidebar: you know that scene in Little Women where Amy burns the manuscript of Jo’s novel in the fireplace? And then you know how Marmee is all “don’t let the sun go down upon your honor”? And Jo totally forgives her? What the hell!? I mean, sure, Amy almost dies ice skating because she’s a tagalong and a pest, but DUDE, she BURNED Jo’s manuscript! Anyway, Travis is a talented young writer, much like Hinton herself. Unbeknownst to his mother, his well-meaning uncle, or the kids at his rural high school who ignore him, Travis has sent a novel to a publisher and she wants to publish it. And then we get one of my favorite lines in all of S.E. Hinton (and I adore S.E. Hinton), from Travis’ uncle: “Sorry, kid, you haven’t given me the impression you could write a complex sentence. You wrote a book?”
9. With Or Without You, Brian Farrey. ART! Evan escapes from his uncaring parents, bullying, and gay-bashings by studying the techniques of his favorite painters. Unlike Seurat, Haring, and Van Gogh, however, Evan paints on glass, looking at the world through the windows he paints on. When he meets Erick, a nursing student and a sculptor, Evan learns to value himself for the first time in his life. When his childhood best friend gets in over his head, though, Evan sees that art is more than just technique. A wonderful novel—read the full review here!
10. Hackers. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION! It’s another bad-ass Angelina Jolie movie! Friends, this is one of the most galvanizing instances of teens working together to create something—in this instance, it’s hacking! Wrong has been done. Greed runs rampant. They’re trying to pin the blame on teen hackers—and the hackers aren’t going to take it anymore. They commit all of their not insignificant resources and energy to bringing down these greedy adults. AND I LOVE IT!
So, there you have it: some of my favorite YA People Creating Things. Did I miss your favorite teen maestro? Let me know in the comments!