We Love, We Love!: A Joint Review of Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Welcome to another Joint Review and Discussion! Last time, we discussed Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone and our thoughts on angel literature and overly-attractive characters.  This week we’re discussing Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson John Green David Levithan              Will Grayson, Will Grayson John Green David Levithan

Dutton Juvenile, 2012


I’m so excited to make you talk to me about Will Grayson, Will Grayson. John Green and David Levithan collaborated on it, each writing alternating chapters, so I feel like a joint review is the most apt mode of review.

image: michiganawesome.org

I started re-reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson in the Philadelphia train station on my way to New York. I had about 30 minutes to kill, so of course I got an Auntie Anne’s pretzel and lemonade (a combination I’ve loved ever since it was the only edible option at the mall where I once worked at a Waldenbooks in Ann Arbor). So, I’m sitting at this wobbly table, trying not to leave greasy finger prints at the top corner of every page and just laughing my face off, pitying the gormless masses streaming past who were not reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson and feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Dawson's CreekOf course, I was feeling quite sheepish about 20 minutes later when I was holding the book right in front of my face so that none of the adjacent Au Bon Pain customers could see me crying into my lemonade. Now, Tessa, as you know, I’m not much of a crier in real life (even though it seems like every book I’ve reviewed lately has involved me crying on a train), and it takes quite a book to make me both crack up and tear up! And I LOVE books that make me cry.

This is all to say: I have been trying to figure out how I would describe what makes the book so affecting for me. I mean, the writing from both authors is great, the characters rich and unique, and the story totally fun and charming. But what finally stands out for me (and makes me appear like a bipolar mess in public spaces) is Will Grayson Will Grayson’s mood.

I would think that because it’s written by two different authors and concerns two very different sets of characters, the two story lines would have different moods. But, even though Will Grayson the first (capital WG) is a go-with-the-flow, anti-drama sidekick type to Tiny, a falls-in-love-every-day, sings loudly, gay football player, and will grayson the second (lowercase wg) is a depressive malcontent who is “constantly torn between killing [him]self and killing everyone around [him],” the mood feels strikingly consistent between the two story lines (22).

Borg Cat

“We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” From: fivecats.wordpress.com

It was like somehow the Will Grayson, Will Grayson mood, henceforth known as the WG2M, was so strong that it permeated the entire book, sucking everything into it (including me) like the borg. In a good way. No, a great way. Of course, the writing and the characters contribute to the mood and they are delightful.

From capital WG:

“I turn around and Tiny Cooper is crying huge tears. One of Tiny Cooper’s tears could drown a kitten. And I mouth WHAT’S WRONG? because Ashland Avenue is sucking too loudly for him to hear me, and Tiny Cooper just hands me his phone and walks away. It’s showing me Tiny’s Facebook feed, zoomed in on a status update.

Zach is like the more i think about it the more i think y ruin a gr8 frendship? i still think tiny’s awesum tho.

I push my way through a couple people to Tiny, and I pull down his shoulder and scream into his ear, ‘THAT’S PRETTY FUCKING BAD,’ and Tiny shouts back, ‘I GOT DUMPED BY A STATUS UPDATE,’ and I answer, ‘YEAH, I NOTICED.’ . . .

‘WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?’ Tiny shouts in my ear, and I want to say, ‘Hopefully, go find a guy who knows there is no u in awesome’ (15-16).


From lowercase wg:

“every morning i pray that the school bus will crash and we’ll all die in a fiery wreck. then my mom will be able to sue the school bus company for never making school buses with seat belts, and she’ll be able to get more money for my tragic death than i would’ve ever made in my tragic life. unless the lawyers from the school bus company can prove to the jury that i was guaranteed to be a fuckup. then they’d get away with buying my mom a used ford fiesta and calling it even” (23-4).

And when the two story lines come together delightfully in a porn shop, as these things always must, it feels, like, inevitable.

Frenchy’s Adult Book Store is real

So, T, what about you? Did you find Will Grayson, Will Grayson as delightful as I did?  What did you think of the mood? Who was your favorite character? Who do you think could play the characters if they ever made a movie, &c. Tell me EVERYTHING!


Spotted: 10 Reasons You Should Watch Gossip Girl

By REBECCA, April 27, 2012

Gossip Girl

Okay, so I came super late to Gossip Girl. Yeah, I had a friend or two who watched it. And I knew what it was, sure: a superficial show about a bunch of privileged kids with nothing better to do than talk about each other and swap lip gloss colors. Right? Right! And yet, so very, very WRONG! I stand before you humbled by the power. The power of Gossip Girl.

So, I have compiled the following list of reasons you should watch Gossip Girl if, like me, you have either a.) operated under the assumption that it wasn’t worth your time, or b.) have had it on your list and just needed a little shove into the upper East Side.

Or, for those of you who were on it from go, maybe this list will remind you that, oh, look, global climate change likely has us in for a hellish summer—what better way to spend it than inside with air conditioning, a frozen cocktail, and Gossip Girl?

Without further ado, here are 10 Reasons You Should Watch Gossip Girl!

Veronica Mars Kristen Bell1. Kristen Bell. I wouldn’t necessarily say that everything is better with Kristen Bell’s presence. Nope, I just double-checked on IMDb and I can confirm: Everything Is Better With the Presence of Kristen Bell. It’s like, actually, all the times when I thought to myself, “self, this show Gossip Girl is probably crap,” myself should have said, “shutup, RP-G—it has Kristen Bell in it.” Even though she’s only voice-over, she manages to seem like she knows everything and yet could be anyone. That, my friends, is talent.

[Sidebar: once, my friend A— tricked me into seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall (ok, she didn’t trick me; I was writing my dissertation and she basically had me at “want to go to the mov—”). When we got there and I realized that it was a romantic comedy in which I was going to have to watch people be laughed at for humiliating themselves I was un-pleased. However! Within like 14 seconds of Kristen Bell coming on camera, I was laughing. (Well, and then there was that thing with the puppet musical of Dracula that just slayed me.)]

Sugar Cookies xoxo

Image: Whipped Bake Shop, Philadelphia

2. Relatedly, the signoff “xoxo, Gossip Girl.” This is one of the most addictive and delightful inventions of the information age. The “xoxo, —” provides an email salutation that is simultaneously warm and suggests a shared cultural milieu,  but isn’t overly intimate and can always be explained away as a GG citation were the recipient to feel it intrusively intimate. Besides, Kristen Bell’s snarkly little “you know you love me. Xoxo, Gossip Girl” is about the best ending to a tv episode ever. It works no matter what the state of the cliffhanger. Because we do love her!

3. Incestuousness. Among the core cast, that is. I love when even the cast photos make it clear that a show is going to have all the cast members sleep together.

Gossip Girl Queer as Folk The L Word 90210

America's Next Top Model


Seriously, though, sometimes it’s infuriating to see a show where the couple combos just keep flip-flopping: it’s like, what, show, do you not have the budget for a new character—go to a coffee shop and meet someone. But in Gossip Girl, with the familial expectations of marriage, the incredible elitism, and the suspicion of people being after them for their money, the inter-relating actually makes sense. And it’s kind of cool to see a model of how a small group of people can be friendly after dating, rather than the character having to leave the show.

Blair Waldorf

Image credit: Colormecourtney.com

4. Fashion, of course. Unlike many teen shows where fashion isn’t mentioned and the designer clothes, coiffed hair, and high heels are supposed to just be naturally occurring, in Gossip Girl fashion is talked about, aspired to, and expected. This is so much more realistic (narratively), and it actually acknowledges the time, money, and effort that it takes to look put together, much less stylish. My particular favorites in the fashion department are Blair and her school cronies. Blair’s gowns are stunning, and her school clothes (dictatorially echoed on her ladies in waiting) are like British school boy uniform + Godard waif + Marie Antoinette + money.

Gossip Girl Blair Waldorf Gossip Girl Serena Van der Woodsen Blair Waldorf

5. Champagne. It’s as effervescent as the nightlife and as fizzy as the fashion. The folks of Gossip Girl remind us that it doesn’t have to be New Year’s Eve or a wedding to pop the cork on some bubbly. And, especially with summer coming, Gossip Girl has inspired me to pair my YA with a bit of the Brut, thank you very much. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go get a bellini.

6. What I called the Random Appeal Factor in my list of 10 Reasons You Should Be Watching Make It Or Break It.  I’ll just be honest. I’m really not the intended audience of Gossip Girl. I mean, I’m like the anti-Gossip Girl. But I LOVE it. And then one night my sister was hanging out, and we were all, what should we watch while sipping whiskey, petting the cat, and brainstorming how to topple capitalism? Well, Gossip Girl, obviously. I was in the middle of season 2, and I just popped it on, telling my sister we’d change it if she didn’t like it. By three minutes in, she was like, “wait, pause it and tell me EVERYTHING about EVERYONE.” And I did. And then she kept calling me after work and after hanging out with her friends, all, “oh, yeah, hey, um, I’ve got like 48 minutes before my next thing—you wanna watch an episode of Gossip Girl?” Yes. Yes, I do.

7. Blair. Sure, it’s “Serena” that gets whispered in the opening credits; sure, it’s Serena’s return that whips the upper East Side into a tizzy in the first episode; sure, dudes seem to find her irresistible. But who cares about Serena when the HILARIOUS Blair Waldorf is in a scene? Oh, Blair, you are so crazy. You’re insecure, entitled, uncompromising, spiteful, vindictive, petty, and dictatorial. And HILARIOUS.

I have discussed my love for monomaniacal characters here and here, and Blair definitely makes the list. And that’s why I actually love her; because despite her many, many horrible qualities, she is a hella hard worker who goes after what she wants and is willing to appear ridiculous to get it. And, as Chuck remarks to Blair, “you don’t get nearly enough credit for your wit.”

8. Chuck. Chuck Bass. Chuck Basstard. Mother Chucker. Speaking of monomaniacs with extremely questionable ethics! Ok, Chuck, I hated you in the beginning of the show because I have a soul and you treat women like disposable party favors. And yet, despite finding every element of your politics despicable, with each passing 42 minutes I found myself more and more delighted by you. Dude, you are fucked up. And hilarious, ambitious, smart, and resourceful. Plus, you can say things that would sound ridiculous coming from any other character/actor. (In response to why he should be chosen for a position: “Because I’m Chuck Bass.”) Chuck Bass, you diabolical, screwed-up fiend.

Chuck Bass Evil Genius

9. Chuck and Blair! If you look up “synergy” in the dictionary, you will find the equation “Chuck+Blair.” Okay, you won’t; you will find something like “the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements” (dictionary.com). Or, as George Orwell would put it, 2+2=5. These two superpowers are each formidable on their own. But whenever they join forces, it’s seismic. Their scenes are far and away the best written scenes on the show, and it’s worth the price of admission just to see them glower at each other, admire their own and each other’s craftiness, and dress impeccably.

[slight spoiler for Season 1:]

“Blair: Do you . . . ‘like’ me?
Chuck: Define like.
Blair: You have got to be kidding me.
Chuck: How do you think I feel? I can’t sleep! I feel sick, like there’s something in my stomach . . . fluttering.
Blair: Butterflies? Oh no, no, no, no no.
This is not happening!
Chuck Bass: Believe me no one is more surprised or ashamed than I am.
Blair Waldorf: Chuck, you know that I adore all of God’s creatures and the metaphors that they inspire, but those butterflies have got to be murdered”

Image: January Jones Prints on etsy

10. Scheming, Plotting, and General Mischief Making via Gossip Girl. Okay, so ordinarily, I’m not a fan of lying and scheming on shows—it so often feels like the writers couldn’t create drama without a convenient “misunderstanding” that leads to plotting, etc. But, in Gossip Girl, the scheming seems so much a part of the characters and the world they’ve been raised in that it all makes sense (we even see how Upper-East-Side-itis can be contagious . . .). Despite all their money and connections, there is so little that these teenagers have control over in their worlds that they seem to crave the tiny pops of control that they get when they reveal something via Gossip Girl or use it to punish someone else, even if they know they’re inviting retribution.

Image: Blue Ribbon General Store

These people use Gossip Girl to measure their social cachet, perpetrate retribution on one another via truth and lies alike, and air confessions and grievances. And they variously describe Gossip Girl as ally and threat. As Gossip Girl points out at one point, though, it is only through the very active participation of each person who sends tips to Gossip Girl or acts in accordance with her tips that she has any power to destroy their lives or tell their secrets. As my sister astutely pointed out: even though they would be better off if they simply didn’t play the game, it’s like a very well-orchestrated self-destruction that they all participate in because they believe momentary notoriety and the upper-hand are the only forms of capital they have.

And so, the scheming, lying, vicious truth-telling, innocent acts caught on camera from the wrong angle, incidents of omission, and flat out manipulation creates drama, yes, but it’s a dynamic and dangerous drama, even when it’s based on lies and misunderstandings.

So, there you have it. Have I missed your favorite (or most hated) thing about Gossip Girl? Your favorite Chuck- or Blair-ism? Let me know in the comments!

Sharing Our Snacks: The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston


Welcome to another edition of Sharing Our Snacks, in which Rebecca and I each recommend YA brain food that they think the other would enjoy crunching and munching! Rebecca recommended this book to me with no explanation as to why.  She just knows I like pictures of internal organs, I guess.  Check out our other shared snacks here.

You can recommend books to us, too—contact us!



The Freak Observer
Blythe Woolston
Carolrhoda Lab, 2010

review by Tessa

Loa Lindgren: has a lot on her plate, and even more on her mind
Corey: Loa’s absent friend, in more ways than one.
Esther: Loa’s accidentally (?) dead friend
Asta: Loa’s formerly ill, now dead sister
Jack: successfully friendly with Loa, has found therapy in the ceramics department.
The Bony Guy: Death. Haunts Loa.

What does it feel like before things gets better? That’s where Loa Lindgren is now. Luckily for us, her inner narrative is bleakly funny and sprinkled with observant details, even as she wades through a swamp of grief, depression, and PTSD.


one interpretation of The Bony Guy

The Freak Observer starts with Loa’s recounting of the accident that kills her friend Esther. Esther runs out into the road along a curve and gets hit by a truck. Loa’s parents, in a cold and almost practical reaction, are mad at her for missing work because of it. Now Loa won’t get more hours at the Cozy Pines retirement home. They need the money because her father is out of work.

But this isn’t the worst of Loa’s problems.  Her sister Asta recently died from a genetic disease that left her unable to care for herself, and this is what really broke up Loa’s world.  She has terrible nightmares where Death haunts her, and crippling attacks of panic from her PTSD, but no money for therapy.

A third layer of the book concerns Corey, a boy who functioned as Loa’s friend, escape from the rest of the world, debate partner and sometime sex buddy.  He is gone, abruptly leaving for school in Europe.

Loa is left alone to trudge through each day.

What was the book’s intention? Was it achieved?
The description on The Freak Observer’s jacket simply says that it’s “about death, life, astrophysics, and finding beauty in chaos.” And that’s a smart move on their part. Because writing out all those things that are going on in Loa’s life during the course of the book make it sound like a total slog to read.  And it’s the opposite of a slog. It’s a fast ride through a tunnel, bursting out on a view of a city lit up at night.

a chicken!

Blythe Woolston has given Loa Angela Chase levels of introspection, but a darker sense of humor, and more poetic observational skills. For example, one of the first ways we learn about Esther is through a story about the first time Loa saw her as a kid, ending with this statement: “Esther is dead now. She was a defender of puppies and whacker of pigs, and now she is dead.” (4). And she watches everything in her life in that way, with a little detachment, but with care.  She takes the time to mention that “Chickens don’t always cluck…. When they are happy, they sort of hum–they chirp–they purr. The chickens are all around my mother waiting for her to make them happy. They are singing to her in their chicken way.” (19).  

Reading The Freak Observer is visceral in that it’s like looking at something’s insides.  It’s fascinating and vulnerable and bloody.  It’s for good reason that the (kickass) cover features a large photograph of a (human?) heart.  And the first person narration is used to full effect. Since Loa is narrating, the reader sees the world that Loa sees, and interprets people according to her views of them.  It also serves to stretch out terrible moments, like this one:

“…I didn’t see the rest of the picture right away.
Then I saw Esther.
My first thought was
Her heart has fallen out of her body.
I didn’t know that could happen. I didn’t know what to do. So I just froze there on the cutbank.
I don’t know how to put a heart back into a body.
It was the only thought I had, and it wasn’t very useful.
It seemed like a long time, but it wasn’t really, because Abel was right behind me, and he pushed me out of the way. I slid down the bank in the loose dirt and rocks. Then I just sat there where I fell. I watched Abel while he grabbed his sister and tried to make her be alive.
I could see that her heart hadn’t fallen out. The muscle on her arm had been torn away from the bone. It was just a lump of muscle. Her heart was safe inside her, but she was still dead.” (12-13).

Most wonderfully, this is a book about living with loneliness, done undramatically, as when Loa observes that:

“I’ve known a lot of people, grown up with people, and done stuff with people. I know what color their bedrooms are and if they like to eat a dill pickle before they go to sleep. I watched people outgrow sweatshirts. …But friendship is something more than breathing the same air or touching the same basketball.  Not much more, maybe, but something.” (74).

or when she remembers her dead dog Ket, saying: “I still miss Ket and the way he used to look at me like he wanted to know what I wanted him to know. It is the sort of look that can easily be mistaken for love.” (191).

But this isn’t a good book just because it describes those feelings and realizations so perfectly.  It’s a great book because it lets Loa grow and gives her a little relief and it does it naturally. None of the bad things about Loa’s life feel overwrought, and none of the better things feel like plot devices.That’s what good realistic fiction should be. I’m so glad that Rebecca recommended this little gem for me.


If I Stay
Gayle Forman
First person narration, heartwrenching subject matter. This one’s a little more forced in tone and execution but I didn’t care because I was too busy gulping it down and trying not to weep.  Mia narrates her days of trying to decide whether to stay in her broken body or die, after a car crash kills her parents.

Looking for Alaska
John Green
There’s something about the truthfulness of Loa’s voice that reminded me of John Green narration.  And they both have black covers with one lone photographic element. And there’s death in this one too.

Andromeda Klein
Frank Portman
I won’t lie, this book is hard to get into.  I almost stopped reading it. So in that way it’s nothing like The Freak Observer. But what it does have in common is a complex, loner girl protagonist who is rewarding to get to know and who feels real.

Disclosures & Digressions

Digression: Can I just say how impressed I was with Woolston’s dream descriptions? Usually dreams in fiction are such bald allegorical crap. Not so here.  Let me quote:

“The Bony Guy likes disguises.
I am watching a late-night show. There is a guest who tried to pay for a cruise with a  glossy photograph of the host. The host declares that it ought to be as good as money. It is a picture of him. people like him better than any of the guys on the money,don’t they? The audience applauds wildly. Then he has a quiz for all of us. Question 1: Would you watch a bunny rabbit eat some lettuce? Question 2: Would you watch a bird peck something dead by the side of the road? Question 3: would you watch dogs eat a live donkey? The audience applauds wildly.” (92-93)

Disclosure: Blythe Woolston sat at a table with me and other librarians at ALA last summer for 5 minutes to shill her books, and she was very personable.

Procured from: the library

Hell Yeah, Perry Palomino!: Darkhouse

Sam Winchester Supernatural

Review of Darkhouse: An Experiment in Terror #1

Metal Blonde Books, 2011

By REBECCA, April 23, 2012

Darkhouse An Experiment in Terror Karina Halle  Darkhouse An Experiment in Terror Karina Halle


Perry Palomino: A kick-ass (no, really, she knows martial arts) lady with a lonely heart and a yen for adventure

Dex Foray: Mustachioed ghost hunter and all-around delightfully infuriating enigma

Ada Palomino: Perry’s fashionista little sister with questionable taste in boys

Matt & Tony: Perry’s dude-brah cousins

Uncle Al: Perry’s uncle and owner of the darkhouse who believes it’s evil


John Henry Fuseli The NightmareTwenty-two year old Perry Palomino is marking time as a receptionist, unsure what she wants to do with her life, and preoccupied by horrific nightmares. When she meets mysterious, camera-wielding Dex in her uncle’s abandoned lighthouse one night, she senses that things might start to change. But when she joins forces with Dex and returns to the lighthouse as a ghost hunter, she doesn’t imagine that she will find herself living her own nightmares . . . while she’s awake.


Portland Oregon White Stag signPerry’s had a rough time: her self-esteem is shot because she was heavy in high school and people are horrible, she has a history of depression and drugs, she can’t decide what she wants to do with her life, she’s currently living back home with her parents in Portland, and she’s a crap receptionist. Oh, and she may or may not be able to communicate with the dead. We’ve all been there, right?

But, is Darkhouse realism + ghosts? Or an unreliable narrator? One of the things I most enjoyed about the book is that Halle sets up the fact that Perry has used a lot of drugs and that Dex struggles with mental health, which allows for the possibility that this is a world in which ghosts are real. But it also keeps open the possibility that Perry and Dex are engaged in a tense folie à deux that could break open at any moment.

Pike Place Market SeattleSpeaking of Perry and Dex! Dex has a girlfriend in Seattle, but he’s obviously into Perry, and rightly so: she’s a brave, smart, sexy smartass. Perry isn’t sure what to think about Dex. It isn’t that she likes him, precisely . . . right? But she feels drawn to him even as she finds him infuriatingly private and a bit patronizing. Add a generous helping of terror, the dark, feeling like you might be going insane, and a shared taste in music, and, well, cue the tension, folks!

what was the book’s intention? did it live up to that intention?

Supernatural Dean Winchester scaredDarkhouse is legit scary, y’all. Not unpleasantly scary, but like one of the scarier episodes of Supernatural scary. Like, maybe that episode in the abandoned mental institution. What I like so much about the scary-factor, though, is that it isn’t all the time. (I was a bit creeped out when, at one point, I googled “Darkhouse” and what came up was a SPEARING supply store.)

“As I stood there on the cold, hard tiles, I felt the presence of someone behind me. Strange, I didn’t see anyone when I came in, nor did I hear the door open or close behind me.

A creepy feeling swept over me. I remembered the dream I had. Suddenly, I felt inexplicably afraid.

I hesitated at turning around. In my ‘overactive imagination’ I thought I would see something horrible, but I did it anyway.

There actually was someone there sitting on the white lobby couch. It was an old lady who looked like she was trying disastrously hard to be a young lady. She must have been about eighty, wearing a red taffeta dress adorned with tiny pom poms and outlandish makeup smeared across her face. . . . and most disturbing of all, red lipstick that was half on her lips and half on her teeth. She sat there smiling broadly at me. Frozen, it seemed, or locked in time. . . .

I walked quickly inside [the elevator] and hit the close button before anything else. I looked up at her as the doors closed. She was as still as ever, the wide, maniacal-looking grin still stretched across her face. Her eyes, white and unblinking, did not match her smile” (10-11).

The scary scenes are scary, but then there are other scenes—family scenes, twentysomething angsty scenes, funny scenes—that are the meat of the character-development and world building. This makes for such an enjoyable read because you can really sink into the different moods of each scene without white-knuckling the book and holding your breath during the humor because you’re convinced that the book is about to go “gotcha!” and do something terrifying, like in real life a horror movie.

My favorite scene takes place early in the novel, in a gas station as Perry and Dex are driving to the lighthouse to shoot the first episode of their ghost hunting show (which is called “Experiment in Terror”). Perry runs into a friend from college and a boy she knew in high school who make her feel like shit. It’s a short scene, but it establishes both Perry and Dex’s characters so well, and gives us a glimpse into the extent of the damage that Perry sustained due to the fact that a large number of people are nasty jerkfaces.

The writing is cinematic, particularly in the action sequences, and the dialogue is funny and snarky, immersing you in the story from the first scene.

Red Fox Experiment in Terror Karina HalleDarkhouse is a great read and an awesome start to a series—I was forced to immediately buy the second book because it was addictive (see my full review here). I love that Perry is in her early twenties and Dex his early thirties. It’s definitely YA, but it’s a really nice change to have characters with different options and a bit more life under their stylish nineties belts. And, of course, I love a good scary story. I can’t wait to read what happens next! (Here are the reviews of books 3 and 4 here and here.)


Dream Catcher Trilogy Wake Lisa McMann  Fade Dream Catcher trilogy Lisa McMann  Gone Dream Catcher trilogy Lisa McMann

Dream Catcher trilogy by Lisa McMann (Wake, 2008; Fade, 2009; Gone, 2010). Janie can’t help it: she gets sucked into other people’s dreams. When she falls into a different kind of terrifying nightmare, Janie isn’t just an observer—now she has a part to play.

The Marbury Lens Andrew Smith

The Marbury Lens (The Marbury Lens #1) by Andrew Smith (2010). When California teenager Jack dons the strange glasses given to him by a stranger in a London pub, he is transported to Marbury, a war-torn land where he must fight for his life and the lives of his friends. Love, love, love—my review is here.

Draw the Dark Ilsa J. Bick

Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick (2010). Christian’s parents disappeared when he was young, and ever since he has sketched obsessively, trying to remember his mother. But Christian has a nasty habit of drawing the thoughts of the people close to him. When Christian finds himself near an old man whose thoughts contain terrifying secrets, Christian’s drawings threaten to uncover an unsavory chapter in the story of his small town.

personal disclosure

Karina Halle is a music journalist as well as a novelist (Metal Blonde Books, ya know?)—indeed, the title of the series, “Experiment in Terror,” is from a track by Mike Patton’s (other) band, Fantômas (taken from the title of an early 1960s horror movie). Karina has interviewed Chris Cornell and Liz Phair and hung out with Slayer, which automatically makes her likely to be quite awesome (and like maybe she would appreciate the story of how I almost died at a Slayer concert in Detroit). In fact, you can check out a (super good) playlist for the Experiment in Terror series here. The point, dear friends, is that although there isn’t much explicit music-talk in Darkhouse—we know that Perry is into music from her Bad Religion and Alice in Chains t-shirts, etc.—the book still evoked a really musical feeling to me, almost as if the mood it set spun a soundtrack in my mind. And I love that. So, without further ado, the song that Darkhouse most evoked for me? Pantera’s “Cemetery Gates”:

Procured from: birthday present (thanks mom and dad!)

The God Eaters, A Western Sci-Fi Romance Adventure

A review of The God Eaters by Jesse Hajicek

Self-published by Lulu Books, 2006

By REBECCA, April 20, 2012

God Eaters Jesse Hajicek


Ashleigh Trine: Supersmart Empath Ash is imprisoned for “inflammatory writings” and meets Kieran, whose “gravel and honey” voice he can’t resist, but whose unpredictable temper frightens him. Especially since they’re stuck in a cell together.

Kieran Trevarde: Abused and taken advantage of his whole childhood, Kieran quickly learned to take care of himself, which means being able to kick anyone’s ass and never appearing vulnerable. When he meets Ash, who can do neither, Kieran learns his true capacity for power, and he learns it through love.


Imprisoned because the corrupt government wants to study their “talents” (powers), Ash and Kieran manage an elaborate prison break, evade their captors, survive for days in the desert, hop a train back to the city, and start to fall in love . . . and that’s only the first third of the novel. As the book blurb declares: when “shy intellectual” Ash meets Kieran, “a hard-hearted gunslinger with a dark magic lurking in his blood, Ash finds that necessity makes strange heroes . . . and love can change the world.” Through multiple shootouts, a run-in with creepy priest, some R&R at a friend’s brothel, and a true dream or two, Ash and Kieran both realize that together they are stronger than they ever imagined.


The setting of The God Eaters is a heavily policed theocratic society that reminds me of a kind of late 19th or early 20th century American West in which those of Kieran’s ethnicity, the Iavaians, are persecuted, forced onto reservations and into drugs and prostitution. Individuals have talents that the government fears and (of course) wants to control. Kieran’s rare talent is the most threatening of all: the ability to kill with his mind. Ash is an Empath (he can sense the feelings of those around him), but as the story continues we learn that perhaps Ash has a power that the government would care about even more than Kieran’s: the power to access and use the magic that the government uses to control the public.

The God Eaters is a delightful genre mash-up: it has the setting and adventure of an old Western, some cool science fiction elements that merge with magic, a mythic quality that I won’t spoil, but which has to do with the gods of the title, and the grand love story of a romance. The genre mixing makes for a truly unique story that satisfies all the genres. Also, Jesse Hajicek’s writing is spot on. In places it’s really beautiful and in others it’s snappy and moves the plot along.

“Icy, alien thoughts like blunt metal instruments battered at [Kieran’s] defenses, tearing his thoughts apart. The agony was nothing physical, but something worse; a pain like grief, like shame. Then the probing penetrated below the level of thought to a place in the mind that Kieran knew was never meant to be groped like this. The cold manipulation of a stranger’s thoughts dissected his selfhood; peeled apart layers, poked and squeezed, cut and bruised” (39).

Hajicek has created an amazingly rich world, complete with a full back story that reveals the history of the governmental regime and its persecutions, and an awesome sense of geography and regionality. And all of this is done without any infodumping or contrived exposition, which anyone who reads alt-reality knows is supremely rare. The God Eaters’ setting is kick-ass: it’s a dangerous world, with violence, drugs, and poverty, as well as complex political machinations of both the above- and below-board variety. My favorite thing about the setting, though, is that we get to be in urban spaces and deserted ones; on trains and on horses; in brothels and in caves; in shootouts and talking politics.

what was the book’s intention? did it live up to that intention?

The God Eaters is one of those books where everything works for me. As I mentioned, it’s like a delightful genre buffet. One of the things that makes it work so well, I think, is that while there are many well-sketched secondary characters, it’s a really small cast of main characters—indeed, for much of the book it’s only Ash and Kieran. This makes the story truly about the development of the relationship between two complicated and interesting people.

Storms play a big role in The God Eaters

On Goodreads and Amazon, The God Eaters has been almost exclusively shelved as a gay romance, which I think has kept it off the radar of all its other genre readers. But it really is a great romance, especially for a reader like me, who likes stories about complicated relationships, but doesn’t want to read a story that is only characters angsting out about their crushes. Ash and Kieran’s relationship—from partnership against a shared enemy, to tentative friendship, to romance—unfurls through their  adventures and reactions to all the messed up shit that they have to battle to stay safe after breaking out of prison, and, eventually, taking on a god. Plus, personally, I always like a romance where one half of the relationship is, for whatever reason, incapable of acknowledging it (within reason) because it ups the tension and keeps the sappy conversations to a minimum.

“‘I want to leave,’ Kieran said. He heard sullenness in the words, the useless petulance, and perspective opened for him. He’d known it forever: nothing matters when you’re going to die anyway. Why were they bothering to talk at all?

He reached, despite everything surprised that Ash didn’t flinch, and brushed a tendril of dirty hair away from Ash’s lips, which moved under his fingertips as Ash turned to chase the touch, eyes flicking closed. A hitch in Ash’s breath caught Kieran in the chest like a bullet. He swallowed hard, heart suddenly hammering. He bent and covered Ash’s mouth with his own” (128).

Original cover art by Sarah Cloutier

The God Eaters is a self-published book, which Hajicek first posted, chapter by chapter, on his website. This means that he clearly took a great deal of time working the book over; thus, it has none of the weaknesses that sometimes inhere to self-publication, like typos, un-edited repetition, or draftiness. In fact, Hajicek still has the whole novel posted, so you can read it all online, if you wish, or read the beginning to see if you want to buy it. The real problem with it being self-published is that a lot of libraries don’t carry it—although I was delighted to see that the Bloomington (where I used to live) public library has a copy (quick, Bloomington friends, get on it—there’s only one copy and I demand fisticuffs!).

Anyhoo, The God Eaters is a total must-read if you like genre fiction of any stripe or enjoy a good romance in the desert. There is sex in this book, so perhaps very young readers should know that? (Whether they would view that as a positive or a negative, I have no idea.) And everyone else should know that it’s a positive. Because it’s hot.

personal disclosure

You know how when there is a book that’s super unique and yet every single element is totally to your taste then you feel like the author should maybe be your best friend? And by “you” I mean “I.” And by that I mean, Jesse Hajicek, I wish you were my friend!


Turnskin Nicole Kimberling

Turnskin by Nicole Kimberling (2008). Tom Fletcher is a Shifter who wants to escape his small farming town and find others of his kind. One dangerous boyfriend and a murder later, though, Tom finds himself in the Turnskin Theatre, where he can display his Shifting under the bright lights—that is, if he can keep clear of those who are after him long enough.

Santa Olivia Jacqeline Carey

Santa Olivia (Santa Olivia #1) by Jacqueline Carey (2009). After Loup Garrou’s mother dies, she lives with a group of orphaned malcontents, chafing under the exploitation of the nearby military base that controls them. They form a vigilante fighting group to avenge the town, and Loup learns of the powers that her father, a Wolf-Man genetically engineered by the government as a weapon, passed on to her.

Iron Council New Crobuzon 3 China Miéville

Iron Council (New Crobuzon #3) by China Miéville (2005). Western setting, trains, a revolution led by sex workers, golems, lovers + dust.

procured from: bought

Adorable, homeless, angsty Justice: Shadoweyes, Vol. 1

Shadoweyes, Vol. 1
Ross Campbell
SLG Publishing, June 2010

Review by Tessa

Scout, aka Shadoweyes – a surprise shapeshifter
Kyisha, BFF of Scout, but not putting up with her shit.
Sparkle, upbeat and unlucky Pony Master
Noah, Kyisha’s boyf, with his own opinions about how to be a vigilante

It’s the year 200X. Humanity lives in a giant, cobbled together trash heap.  Scout finds herself suddenly able to transform into a bulbous-headed, harpoon-tailed, adorable blue creature: Shadoweyes.  Finally she can fight injustice the way she was meant to.

Shadoweyes opens with a long view through deep space, past an asteroid and broken satellites orbiting a planet with a barren surface, towards a buried bridge, leading to a Blade Runner-esque city named Dranac, all looping highways and jumbled buildings, with trash stuffed in all the crevices.  This could be Earth’s future, or its past, or not Earth at all.  But the people of Dranac are distinctly humanoid (with cyberpunk style).

Scout and Kyisha are busy hanging out and designing Scout’s Crimewatch persona – there are apparently neighborhood groups dedicated to fighting petty and violent crime, which tells you a lot about how much the governmental structure must care about its citizens. Once the name “Shadoweyes” is decided on, they leave on their first patrol and notice a man being menaced by a brick-wielding youth.  In short order, Scout gets knocked out by said brick, Kyisha punches the dude, and a week or so later a recovering Scout goes into her bathroom and transforms into a little blue creature with a tail and light-sensitive eyes.  She can change back, but it’s really painful.

Drakan looks like this but with way more buildings and garbage everywhere.

For Scout this is a perfect opportunity to fight crime, but she doesn’t know what the hell is going on.  Does this have anything to do with the brick or is it something that was waiting to happen to her, stuck in her genes?  As it gets harder and harder for her to change back, she decides to leave home and become a full-time vigilante.  Only Kyisha knows who she really is.

Then Scout saves someone half-dead. Someone who promptly kidnaps one of Scout’s classmates, the unbelievably peppy Sparkle.  And although she’s sick of being homeless and hungry, Shadoweyes now has a real goal to achieve. And an excuse to visit her mom.

What was the book’s intention and was it achieved?
One of the things I loved about reading Wet Moon, Ross Campbell’s other slice-of-life graphic series about a subtly creepy town in the Deep South was its matter of fact depiction of goth/industrial/emo kids of all shapes and sizes.  It was like all the token characters in TV or wherever had gotten together to create a real life for themselves (without realizing they were living right next to the set of True Blood and some of that otherworlidness was bleeding into their world.)  The same can be said of Shadoweyes, but the goth aesthetic seems less notable in a cyberpunk setting.  The characters care about what they look like, but they don’t seem to be consciously dressing to be part of a subset.  Maybe that’s what everyone looks like.

Another thing that I really like about Campbell’s way of settling us into the world of Shadoweyes is how he inserts information about the society without just outright making it part of a voiceover.  Within the first couple pages we know that Kyisha has a serious peanut allergy and that Scout has asthma, which clues the reader in to the possible environmental effects of living in Dranac, without totally spelling it out.

Although the story of a weaker person (class-wise and, in this case, physical strength-wise) gaining superhero powers isn’t new, it has a renewed strength here. It has grittiness via its setting and heart via its characters, and even humor, as when we see a view of Shadoweyes’ lair, covered with newspaper clippings of her exploits, and one particularly large headline reads: “Shadoweyes helps student with biology homework.”  While the plot moves along at a quick pace, it mostly focuses on the emotional turmoil of becoming Shadoweyes–with, admittedly, a long conversation in the last issue of the collection between Shadoweyes and Sparkle that could have been shortened or used the graphic format to better effect.  There are hints of more exciting conflicts to come, though, especially between Noah, Kyisha’s boyfriend, and Shadoweyes, as their views of when to let a bad guy go differ.  I’m excited to see where this leads.


Malinky Robot: Collected Stories and Other Bits
Sonny Liew
Image Comics, August 2011
If you dig the gritty collapsed-society feel of Dranac, check out the world of Malinky Robot.  There’s more gentle humor in here as Atari and Oliver try to suss out the pleasures of life at the bottom of society. The cover copy hints at this when it describes the stories as “featuring stinky fish, philosopher-labourers, and summer rain.”

The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury
Brandon Thomas & Lee Ferguson
Archaia Entertainment, August 2011
For the lovers of strong female superheroes, we have Miranda Mercury. She carries on her family’s legacy of space heroism. She kicks major ass!  A complex sci-fi swirl of buried intentions rides along on sharp lines as the plot twists and sizzles.

The Never Weres
Fiona Smyth
Annick Press, February 2011
A speculative work from a Canadian author! I could take or leave (alright, leave) the narrator character, but if you focus on the story of a infertile human race a century in the future and one teenage girl who loves art and has a mysterious past, then you’ll find an imaginative work with an art style that called to mind Keith Haring, a little bit.

Disclosures & Digressions
I noticed on some Goodreads reviews of this volume that some people have a beef with Campbell’s faces – that they’re all the same or that they’re expressionless.  Obviously I don’t hold those views, but I’ll just say that if you really want to see cookie cutter, expressionless faces, you should read Birds of Prey: Endrun.  It’s a prime example of why I get frustrated when I try to get into reading the main superhero canon, and why I find Campbell so exciting.

Ross Campbell is all over the internet!
Livejournal: http://mooncalfe.livejournal.com/
Deviantart: http://mooncalfe.deviantart.com/
Standalone page: http://www.greenoblivion.com/
Shadoweyes: http://www.shadoweyes.net/
Tumblr: http://mooncalfe.tumblr.com/
Oni Press Artist Page: http://www.onipress.com/creator/rosscampbell

I got this book from the library.

Photo by flickr user yakobusan

Re-read: The Secret Diaries Trilogy by Janice Harrell (and an elephant in the room)

Scholastic, 1994

By REBECCA, April 16, 2012

Secret Diaries Janice HarrellSecret Diaries Janice HarrellSecret Diaries Janice Harrell


Joanna: new girl in town, she is falling hard for Penn and the rest of his clique . . . but what are they hiding?

Laurie: has disappeared! Once Tessa’s best friend, now no one can find her . . .

Penn: handsome and wealthy, Penn holds the group together, but money can’t solve everything

Tessa: physics guru and gourmand, Tessa welcomes Joanna warmly

Stephen: Tessa’s boyfriend, he wants to get his grades up so he can follow Tessa to Princeton

Casey: computer whiz, misogynist, and all-around egomaniac, is Casey simply unpleasant or downright dangerous?

Cabin in the Woods Joss Whedonhook

When you’re new in town and you start dating a guy who is charming, handsome, and has use of a cabin in the woods, it can mean only one thing: obviously he and his friends are involved in something creepy and/or sordid. Ah, l’amour!


Joanna Rigsby has moved to town in her senior year to live with her workaholic father. On her first day at her new school she sees Penn, Tessa, and Stephen and is drawn to them and their friendship. As Joanna starts hanging out with Penn and his friends, though, she senses a strange undercurrent to their interactions. Her new friends seem secretive, they let horrible Casey order them around, they’re unusually concerned with the weather, and they seem to change the subject when she walks up unannounced, saying terribly unsubtle things like “what were we just talking about? Ah, yes, the —,” which, of course, no one ever says. Little by little, as we learn from the diary that Joanna keeps, Joanna begins to wonder if her new friends were involved in Laurie’s disappearance . . . or death.

But, but, but, there’s a cabin to spend the weekends in!

I actually think that the cabin thing is what originally sold me on this series. I read it when I was 13 or so, so driving up to your parent’s cabin with your friends, cooking, studying, taking walks in the woods—this all seemed mature and magical to me. And it still does.

“After dinner we gathered around the hearth . . . Casey stretched out full length on the couch, crunching a cookie. Stephen was sunk into one overstuffed chair, a leg hooked over one arm. Tessa sat on the other, a stainless-steel bowl in her lap, snapping green beans. I sat cross-legged, leaning against the couch, writing. Penn lay on his stomach, propped up with his arms, watching the flames as if hypnotized.

My pen hesitated. ‘I wish we could stay here forever,’ I said.

‘What?’ Tessa’s cheeks dimpled. ‘And give up our big ambitions?’

‘What’s your big ambition?’ I asked?

‘Well, first Princeton . . . And then I want to write cookbooks, become famous, and have wonderful children and give brilliant dinner parties where major world issues are settled between the chocolate mousse and the coffee!’

‘I have got to get into Princeton.’ Stephen gritted his teeth” (Temptation, 124-5).

Chocolate MousseThe Secret Diaries books are chock full of intimate, rainy scenes of friends studying in bakeries and libraries, friends cooking at the cabin, friends playing board games and talking about college applications. For this alone the series is a fun read. And, frankly, almost everyone will see through the mystery element pretty quickly–far quicker than Joanna, although she does figure it out at the end of book one.

what was the book’s intention? did it live up to that intention?

Even if Janice Harrell is no John le Carré, the series does a good job of showing how when the friends try to cover up the mess they’ve made they just dig themselves deeper. The characters’ motivations are solid and there are very few moments where you want to throttle anyone for making stupid decisions. You know who I do want to throttle, though: Casey. I want to enroll Casey in some kind of torturous psychological study as punishment for being one of the many things wrong with the world. Much of the story hinges on Casey’s ability to extort favors and get away with terrible behavior based on his threats to expose his friends, and that was painful to read, if dramatic.

Tom Riddle Diary Harry Potter

Tom Riddle's Diary

Joanna’s diary entries are, predictably, stupid and purple, which is surprising because her character is terse and undramatic. Indeed, Joanna is not the main draw here. Penn is kind and charming, but it’s Tessa and Stephen that I always wanted to be friends with. They’re a twin couple: attractive brunettes with shaggy hair and baggy clothes who you imagine rolling around and cuddling like puppies instead of making out. They are the best-developed characters, with quirks, hobbies, and multi-dimensional desires. Plus, Tessa loves to cook, so I always used to hope that we could convince Penn to turn the cabin into a destination restaurant and Tessa and I could run the kitchen. P.S., when I first read these, I (for some now inexplicable reason) thought Stephen was pronounced Stefan because of the “ph,” which is a name I like. Then at some point in the third book, I think, someone calls him “Steve” and it totally devastated me.

personal disclosure

Secret History Donna TarttBut let’s get to the elephant in the room: The Secret Diaries is a young adult, slightly-changed version of Donna Tartt’s magnificent novel, The Secret History, published in 1992. In The Secret History, Richard Papen moves from California to Hampden College in isolated Vermont (a fictionalized Bennington, where Tartt went to college and wrote the book) and is immediately fascinated by a clique of four friends: intimidatingly smart Henry, cultured Francis, buffoonish Bunny, and the twins, Charles and Camilla, all of whom study the classics with the most exclusive professor at Hampden. The prologue of The Secret History opens with Bunny’s death, and then the novel narrates the path to his death and its aftermath.

I won’t go into super-specific detail because it won’t be interesting to anyone who hasn’t read both. But I will say: if it were simply the basic plot structure, I would chalk it up to independent invention. There are, however, details in The Secret Diaries that seem so close to those in The Secret History that one almost wonders if they are homages. To give but one example: in The Secret History, Charles and Camilla are twins; in The Secret Diaries Joanna first says of Stephen and Tessa, “there was a boy-girl pair who looked so much alike I thought at first maybe they were brother and sister, but then I spotted them kissing one morning in a dark stairwell” (Temptation, 10-11). A totally unnecessary similarity, right?

Anyway, details like this seem like precisely the kind of thing that I would shy away from if I was writing a series that was the exact same plot as a book published two years before. So, basically, I’m curious what the deal with this is. While there are  a few instances of The Secret Diaries being misrecognized as The Secret History and one comment on a Donna Tartt fansite, I can’t find any mention of there being litigation over it or anything. So, anyone out there who has read both, I’d love to hear your thoughts: am I crazy, or are they the same story?


Secret History Donna Tartt

The Secret History (1992) by Donna Tartt, of course. As I said, one of my favorites, it’s not generally called YA, but it certainly could be.

I Know What You Did Last Summer Lois Duncan

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973) by Lois Duncan. A group of friends cover up a major mistake in an attempt to get on with their lives. But, as the blurb for this classic teen-whoopsie thriller says, some secrets just won’t stay buried! I never saw the Jennifer Love Hewitt/Sarah Michelle Gellar movie, but the book totally freaked me out as a kid.

Divine Economy of Salvation Priscila Uppal

The Divine Economy of Salvation (2002) by Priscila Uppal. Boarding school, secret society, clique, rites of initiation . . . you do the math.

Procured from: bought used, long ago

Books That We Never Would Have Bought If It Weren’t For the Library

by Tessa & Rebecca

Not only is it National Library Week, it was also Support Teen Literature Day yesterday.  In that spirit, we’d like to highlight a benefit of the library that also doubly benefits the writers, illustrators, and publishers of the items we can check out of those institutions. Namely, things that we discovered at the library and loved so much we had to buy them.

Yes, the library purchases items, which allows the community access to the items. And then people can purchase the items for their personal collection. It really happens!

(If I can digress a little: In my opinion, it’s better for everyone this way because people are more likely to end up with what they want to own if they pre-screen it first, rather than ending up with a pile of stuff they kind of like, and a pile of frustration that they can’t seem to find what they want.)

Here are some of the things we loved so much we didn’t want to return them, but we did and then bought them elsewhere. It’s not too late to Support Teen Literature – buy a YA book today. Don’t know what to buy? Click on the link to read some of the books that have recently won honors due to the work of YALSA!



I don’t own the Folio edition, but mine are almost as neat.

His Dark Materials Trilogy / Philip Pullman

Crunchy, dense fantasy.  English fantasy. Like a special chocolate bar given to you from a friend who traveled abroad, it must be sampled (read once) and saved for savoring later.

The Dark is Rising Sequence / Susan Cooper

More English fantasy with a movie version you’d do better to skip – but this stuff has a legendary, Arthurian bent.  I bought a paperback omnibus edition and plan to track down and buy the originals with their fantastic Alan Cober illustrations. Check out my full review here.


Whales on Stilts / Feed / M.T. Anderson

Whales on Stilts was my gateway drug to M.T. Anderson – I picked it up for an assignment in my Children’s Services class in library school and felt like there should be more books with such a sense of silliness. When I became a Teen Services person I gathered that Feed was a big deal so I read it and fell in love.  I’ve been recommending it to basically everyone ever since.  Come on. The first line is “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

Lowboy / John Wray

I think I read a review of this, got it from the library, was sucked into its story of a sadly schizophrenic teenager who sort of kidnaps his friend and takes her to an out-of-commission subway station (perhaps the City Hall stop?) and the parallel story of how his mom tries to find him.  I think it was one of the best things I read all year. And I love the cover design.

The Magicians / Lev Grossman (and The Magician King)

Harry Potter, only real, with even more teenage confusion and sadness and exhilaration and friendship, and referencing Harry Potter. And Narnia.  And… Magritte. I’m so glad that there’s more than one book set in this world(s). (There will be three, actually). I’m now a pre-orderer.

Bodyworld / Dash Shaw

It takes barely any incentive for me to buy graphic novels – usually I have to make myself NOT buy them because I have a budget to stick to.  I’d read Bottomless Belly Button via the library and was researching more about Dash Shaw so I could get more of his work into my brain, and found that he had some free stuff online.  Bodyworld was all up online at that point. I gulped it down – it’s set in a world that seems just offset from mine.  It’s the world in the corner of your eye.  And it’s kind of dangerous and psychedelic and nasty and sad.  (This is more of an adult title, but it’s partially set in a high school so I’m including it.)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart

The cover seemed like it would hold a story that was a little too precious (it was the seal that did it—I can’t tell you why). Luckily my fellow librarians booktalked this enough so that I knew that there was something else to it.  Frankie is sort of my hero, but she’s not without flaws. I’m glad she’s on my shelf to return to whenever I wish.


The Marbury Lens Andrew Smith

The Marbury Lens / Andrew Smith

As I mention in my review of The Marbury Lens, I picked this book up because of the amazing cover (I’m shallow), thought the blurb looked sinister and awesome, and then proceeded to read the first two chapters before having to be dragged out of the library by the friend I was supposed to be meeting. I finished it that night, thought it was so amazing that I had to buy it immediately, and have since read and pretty much adored everything Andrew Smith has written. Check out his blog, too. The sequel to The Marbury Lens, Passenger, comes out this Fall!

The Unwritten Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Mike Carey Peter Gross The Unwritten Inside Man Mike Carey Peter Gross The Unwritten Dead Man's Knock Mike Carey Peter GrossThe Unwritten Leviathan Mike Carey Peter Gross





The Unwritten / Mike Carey & Peter Gross

In this amazing series of graphic novels we meet Tom Taylor, whose father wrote a series of fantasy books about a boy-wizard named Tommy Taylor, which became massively popular. Now an adult, Tom must fight a metatextual battle with his father’s character in the eyes of rabid fans the world over, and maybe find out who he is in the process. This series is now an auto-buy for me. The art is wonderful and the story fascinating and innovative. Plus, did I mention that #4 is called Leviathan and features one of my two favorite sea dwellers? Yes, indeed, Tommy Taylor enters Moby Dick(no jokes, sexual or Jonah-related, please). Joy of joys!

Will Grayson Will Grayson David Levithan John Green

Will Grayson, Will Grayson / John Green & David Levithan

This book is pure joy from the word go (well, the first word is actually “when”). I had no idea what to expect when I grabbed this from the library one afternoon—I just loved the concept of two dudes with the same name meeting (sometimes it doesn’t take much). Anyhoo, as they say, I laughed, I cried, etc. And then I bought the book so that I could laugh and cry again, only without dripping my tears on the library copy of the book. Sorry about that, Bloomington public library patrons. Check out our joint review here, here, and here!

Skin Hunger Kathleen Duey

Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic #1) / Kathleen Duey

I’ve raved about how much I love this series in my review. Skin Hunger was recommended to me by my friend E— and after reading it on an airplane, I didn’t even bother getting the sequel from the library; I immediately bought both because I knew they would be must-rereads. Duey promises that she has made much progress on the third book in the trilogy, so we’ll keep you informed.

Skellig David Almond

Skellig / David Almond

I don’t remember how I first heard about Skellig but it’s a short British novel about a young boy whose sister is sick and who finds a bird-man-angel dripping with bugs in his shed, so of course I read it. And loved it. The bird-man-angel eats Chinese food, for god’s sake. Skellig is a very simple story, but its elliptical quality makes it haunting and very re-readable. I was thrilled to find it in a used bookstore this summer.

Just Listen Sarah Dessen

Just Listen / Sarah Dessen

Believe you me, I did not pick this puppy up because of the cover. Indeed, I had resisted reading Sarah Dessen for years before finally giving this one a try. Girl who is too nice to tell the truth + boy who tells the truth as part of anger management = delightful conversations set to a soundtrack of music discussion that I couldn’t resist. Have I mentioned that I’m obsessed with the notion of radical truth-telling? (Not that I practice it—I mean, I’m not a sociopath. Or brave enough. Or mean enough.) I bought this (well, traded it) because it’s exactly the kind of comfort book that I want sometimes.

The Toll Bridge Aidan Chambers

The Toll Bridge / Aidan Chambers

I’ve been a big Aidan Chambers fan since I first read YA lit as a kid, and The Toll Bridge is my favorite of his novels. Piers takes a job as the keeper of a toll bridge, where he befriends Tess and they both fall for Adam, a compelling wanderer. First of all, is it any wonder that I do not have a realistic view of the world, given that as a child I thought that being keeper of a toll bridge was a totally reasonable summer job. I also didn’t understand that color and colour were American and British spellings, respectively, because I didn’t know that I was reading American and British books—I just thought there were two spellings. And I just thought there were toll bridge keepers. But I digress. The point: this book is an awesome story about a group of friends figuring out what they want and with whom they want it. I’ve re-read it many times.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Peter Cameron

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You / Peter Cameron

I won’t lie: I checked this out because it had a kick-ass title. Well, and because even though I’m 30, I always seem to identify strongly with misanthropic, gay, teenage boy characters (seriously, some of the things James Sveck says . . . It’s like Peter Cameron was following me around with a tape recorder). James Sveck is awkward and odd and hilarious, and this was a definite re-read. Check out the full review here.

Tithe Holly Black

Tithe (The Modern Faerie Tales #1) / Holly Black

I actually read this as part of a breakfast book club with some friends from grad school, so we collectively checked out every copy in the library. I won’t say that homemade scones and cucumber sandwiches at the discussion of Tithe made me like it even more, but they certainly didn’t hurt. I love this whole series, and after reading Tithe I bought all three.

*Most of the poetry I buy is because I read it from the library, and the music. But these are not germane to our mission here at Crunchings & Munchings – Tessa

So, what are your favorite books that you just HAD to buy after getting them from the library? Tell us in the comments!

Top 20 Memorable YA Library Scenes, part II

In honor of National Library Week, here is Part II in my list of amazing Young Adult library scenes! If you missed Part I, you can read it here.

By REBECCA, April 11, 2012

Secret Diaries Series Janice HarrellSecret Diaries Series, Janice Harrell

Joanna is new to town and to school, where she is swept up in a clique with a dangerous secret and the boy of her dreams, Penn Parish. Joanna is rather humorless, but a loyal patron of the local library. Indeed, she finally meets cute with Penn while procuring her new library card. Check out my review here!


There are several delightful library numbers in Glee, but my favorite is the first time Rachel and Jesse meet. I find him hilarious: “I remember when I used to get nervous.”

Among Others Jo WaltonAmong Others, Jo Walton

Morwenna Phelphs has just moved to a boarding school in England from her home in Wales. In an attempt to cope with the recent death of her twin sister and her feelings of isolation, Mori is blazing through the science fiction and fantasy sections of every library and bookstore she can find. Finally, in the local library in the small town near school, she finds a science fiction book group that saves her from her isolation at school.

Pump Up the VolumePump Up the Volume

Samantha Mathis makes Christian Slater tongue-tied in a very un-Hard Harry way. She’s working the circulation desk at the school library when he checks out Lenny Bruce’s How To Talk Dirty and Influence People. “Now you’re in trouble,” she tells him, and he panics. “You owe 25 cents.” Talk hard, Christian Slater!

Mary Ann and the Library Mystery Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries Ann M. MartinMary Anne and the Library Mystery (The Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries #13), Ann M. Martin

Good girl Mary Anne is participating in the Stonybrook library’s Readathon (of course she is)! But someone sets a fire in the library. Who would want to burn down a library? (I mean, except Julius Caesar. Oh my god, when I think of the Library of Alexandria burning down it makes me want to die.)

The Juniper Game Sherryl JordanThe Juniper Game, Sherryl Jordan

Dylan and Juniper are experimenting with telepathy (awesome). When they realize that it’s actually working, Juniper is sending Dylan pictures of the library. Check out Tessa’s review of The Juniper Game here.


Lireal Garth NixLireal, Garth Nix

Nothing has ever made me want to be a librarian more than the badassness of the Second Assistant Librarian in the Great Library of Clayr. “The Stilken will drink your blood and grow stronger from it. Then it will creep out into the lower reaches of the Library, emerging every now and then to capture librarians, to take them one by one, feasting on their flesh in some dark corner where the bones will never be found. It will find allies, creatures bound even deeper in the Library, and will open doors for the evil that lurks outside” (156).

Un Lun Dun China MiévilleUn Lun Dun, China Miéville

In Un Lun Dun, Margarita Staples is “Extreme Librarian. Bookaneer.” When our hero, Deeba, climbs a “storyladder,” she finds herself in Wordhoard Abyss of UnLondon where she meets Margarita Staples. Margarita tells her about the Bookaneers and how they venture through the Wordhoard Abyss to hunt and retrieve manuscripts: “Sometimes we’d be gone for weeks, fetching volumes . . . There are risks. Hunters, animals, and accidents. Ropes that snap. Sometimes someone gets separated” 157).

Young Adult LibraryThe Incredible Book Escape

P.J. gets locked in the reading room of the library alone at night. Four storybook characters come to life to tell their stories and, finally, help her escape. Ok, so I loved this movie as a kid. I haven’t seen it in probably 20 years, and when I went to go look it up I totally couldn’t find it. Then I learned it’s actually an episode of a show called CBS Library, which made animated and live action versions of children’s books and ran from 1979 to 1983. Check it out, with the original opening here:

And, of course, no list of memorable library scenes could possibly be complete without . . .

Buffy the Vampire SlayerBuffy the Vampire Slayer

Every scene that takes place in the library is genius! My favorite, however, is the scene when Buffy and Giles first meet in the library:

Giles: Can I help you?
Buffy: I was looking for some, well, books. I’m new.
Giles: Miss Summers?
Buffy: Good call! Guess I’m the only new kid, huh?
Giles: I’m Mr. Giles. The librarian. I was told you were coming. He heads around behind the counter.
Buffy: Great! So, um, I’m gonna need ‘Perspectives on 20th Century—’
Giles: (interrupting) I know what you’re after!
With a big grin on his face he pulls out a large old book with the word “VAMPYR” written in gold leaf on the front cover. Buffy looks up at him with an uneasy gaze.
Buffy: That’s not what I’m looking for.
Giles: Are you sure?
Buffy: I’m way sure.

So, there you have it. Have I missed any of your favorite Young Adult library scenes? Let me know in the comments!

Top 20 Memorable YA Library Scenes, Part I

Happy National Library Week! In celebration of the amazingness that is the library, I give you a list of my all-time most memorable YA scenes in libraries. Check back on Wednesday for Part II of the Top 20 List!

By REBECCA, April 9, 2012

Wake Lisa McMannWake (Dream Catcher #1), Lisa McMann

Every day during study hall in the library, Janie’s classmates fall asleep . . . and Janie falls into their dreams. But one person’s dreams fascinate and frighten Janie. What secrets is the mysterious Cabel hiding, and how far will he go to help Janie in her waking life as well as her dreaming one.


Billy ElliotBilly Elliot

Once Billy decides that he wants to learn ballet he does what anyone who wants to know something but doesn’t want to ask would do: he goes to the library to look it up. Well, the bookmobile. Faced with ageism in the library card system he then does what anyone who wants something they’re told they can’t have does: he sticks it in his pants and runs!


The Secret Circle Trilogy L.J. SmithThe Secret Circle Trilogy, L.J. Smith

I’ve discussed my adoration for this series at length here. One of my favorite scenes of Cassie on Diana awe takes place while Cassie is hiding in the school library. She “saw a brightness like sunlight. That hair. It was just as Cassie remembered, impossibly long, an impossible color. The girl was facing the circulation desk, smiling and talking to the librarian. Cassie could feel the radiance of her presence from across the room” (The Initiation, 108).


The Wind Blows Backward Mary Downing HahnThe Wind Blows Backward, Mary Downing Hahn

Shy Lauren loves her job at the public library and it’s the setting for some of the best scenes in the book. Lauren and Spencer used to be best friends, but now in high school Lauren is mousy and Spencer is seemingly perfect. As they reconnect over Dickinson, Whitman, and Frost while Spencer follows Lauren around reading to her as she shelves books, Lauren realizes that—I bet you didn’t see this one coming—Spencer’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems. If you haven’t read The Wind Blows Backward, consider this your wake-up call! It’s perfect ’90s YA romance.

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast

Obviously the best thing about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is “Little Town,” the classic song of teen dissatisfaction that can, of course, only be solved by a book. Ok, so technically this is a book shop, but Belle uses it as a library, so I’m totally counting it. Besides, later the Beast basically seduces her with his library anyway.

Matilda Roald DahlMatilda, Roald Dahl

Matilda was basically my childhood hero, and the scene where she first walks into the library and learns that she can have her own card and finally have access to all those books may as well be accompanied by a major rock anthem like “We Are the Champions” or “Welcome to the Jungle” for how much it pumps me up.


Harry Potter J.K. RowlingHarry Potter, J.K. Rowling

There is many a delightful library scene in the Harry Potter series, of course. My favorite is the scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry is searching desperately in the library for a book that will tell him how to breathe underwater and is awoken with his face in a book by Dobby who saves the day.


The Breakfast ClubThe Breakfast Club

The famously ad-libbed scene in which the Clubbers tell the stories of why they’re in detention takes place in the school library. The library is also home to the statue that gets plastered with lunch meat. And, of course, there is dancing and joyous book destruction.



The Truth About Forever Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever, Sarah Dessen

Macy has taken over her studious boyfriend’s summer job at the library information desk and her co-workers do not make cardigans feel welcoming. “By now, I’d been at the library for three days, and things were not improving. I knew that I was doing this for Jason, that it was important to him, but Bethany and Amanda seemed to be pooling their considerable IQs in a single-minded effort to completely demoralize me.”


Party GirlParty Girl

One of my favorite ’90s movies! Parker Posey is, well, a party girl, obviously. Desperate for work, she takes a job at the local library, and doesn’t exactly shine. One night, though, furious and ashamed at being thought of as irresponsible, she organizes entire library while high, and dances on the tables in the process. Oh, and you can’t forget the delightful ongoing Hannah Arendt joke—really, there are so few.

Come back on Wednesday for Part II!

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