Cover Reveal! Karina Halle’s Into The Hollow: Experiment in Terror #6

BONUS: Review of Lying Season: EIT #4

By REBECCA, August 31, 2012

If you read Crunchings & Munchings regularly, you know that I love Karina Halle’s Experiment in Terror series. It is my sublimest delight, then, to reveal to you the brand spanking new cover of the newest Experiment in Terror novel, number 6: Into the Hollow! Check out this totally gorgeous creepfest:

Into the Hollow Experiment in Terror 6 Karina Halle Cover Reveal

Here’s the deal:

“Perry Palomino has fought her demons—and won—but the battle is far from over. She’s now left broken and on her own, leaving behind her life and family in Portland to focus on giving Dex Foray—and the Experiment in Terror show—a second chance. But their past mistakes continue to tease and test their relationship, as does the wild and desolate terrain of the Canadian Rockies. The snow-covered peaks and ravenous forests hide an urban legend too unbelievably frightening to be true and the only way the duo has a chance of surviving is if Perry can let in the very man who sent her to hell and back.” (from Goodreads)

Gaaahh! First of all, few things strike terror into my heart like a quaint log cabin isolated enough so that no one could hear me scream when one of those über pointy icicles just happened to break off and lodge itself in my throat, melting to leave no evidence behind even when I’m found at the first thaw by an adorably-in-love couple who have rented the cabin for a romantic getaway. Maybe they’ll name their firstborn after me and I won’t be entirely forgotten out there in the cold.

Anyhoo, this is a gorgeous cover (by Najila Qamber)—no surprise, since the entire series’ covers have been awesome: one striking image with a supersaturated color. I especially like the sky in this one. That demented green is so much creepier than the blue tinge that snow sometimes gets . . . God, I am freaking myself out.

Expected Publication: October 23rd (by Metal Blonde Books), right in time for Halloween, y’all!

The Experiment in Terror Series, Karina Halle

Want to catch up? Lucky you: I’ve reviewed Experiment in Terror 1-3

here,                                             here,                                              and here!

Darkhouse Experiment in Terror 1 Karina Halle  Red Fox Experiment in Terror 2 Karina Halle  Dead Sky Morning Experiment in Terror 3 Karina Halle

And now, here is a very brief review of Experiment In Terror #4, Lying Season. It’s very brief because the meat of the book’s drama is interpersonal and I would really be ruining it for you if I give any of that drama away. But I promise: it is très, très, dramatic.

Lying Season Experiment In Terror 4 Karina Halle

characters

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

Jennifer: Wine Babe (yes, that’s a thing), Dex’s girlfriend, and all-around overly attractive person

Rebecca: Jennifer’s fellow Wine Babe, equally overly attractive, but also an overly-awesome friend to Dex and new friend to Perry

Assorted ghosts, animals, and other wee beasties

the hook

“Ama­teur ghost-hunter Perry Palomino has bat­tled ghosts, fought off skin­walk­ers and skirted the fine line between life and death. But can she sur­vive bunk­ing down in Seat­tle for a week with her partner (and man she secretly loves) Dex and his perfect girl­friend, Jennifer? And can she do so while being tor­mented by a mali­cious spirit from Dex’s increas­ingly shady past? With love and life in the bal­ance, Perry must dis­cover the truth among the lies or risk los­ing every­thing she’s ever cared about.” (from Goodreads)

everything

Darkhouse Experiment in Terror 1 Karina HalleLying Season has a different form than any of the previous three experiments in terror because rather than Perry and Dex alone together in an intense ghost-hunting experience away from either of their daily lives, here they face the complete and total horror of trying to coexist in the space of Dex’s daily life, girlfriend, dog, and all. (And, again, I’m not going to give anything away, here, because much of the delight of Lying Season is watching the interpersonal drama unfold.)

So, Perry is staying in Dex and Jennifer’s apartment in Seattle so that she and Dex can film an episode in Riverside Mental Hospital and Perry can meet the whole Shownet team (the company that runs their show, as well as several others, including Wine Babes, the show that Jennifer and Rebecca host) at the annual Christmas party. Allow me to summarize: Sexual tension + mental hospitals + ghosts of days past + antipsychotics = well, Christmas, I guess, but also . . . TROUBLE. Trouble for Perry’s heart and trouble for Dex’s sanity, not to mention major, major trouble for everyone’s relationships. Oh, and did I mention the complete sizzle that seems to pass between Perry and Dex any time they’re near enough for energy to arc? Well, it’s pretty clear to anyone in proximity, including Jennifer.

Dead Sky Morning Experiment in Terror 3 Karina HalleAfter incidents at Riverside Mental Hospital suggest to Perry that perhaps Dex’s ability to sense ghosts is closer to her own than he has ever let on, she undertakes an experiment of her own . . . an experiment that causes more terror than any she and Dex have undergone so far. Did that sound cryptic and like it might reference Perry and Dex’s ever-intensifying relationship as well as the spirit world? Well, it is and it does and if you’re not reading Halle’s Experiment in Terror series yet for any reason other than you don’t think you could possibly stand how awesomescary they are then I doubt your sanity.

Have you read all five Experiment in Terror books and are wondering if there is anything to tide you over for the next weeks until Into the Hollow comes out? Well, you are in luck again! You should clearly go read the following:

The Benson Experiment in Terror 2.5 Karina HalleThe Benson a novella that is Experiment in Terror 2.5, between Darkhouse and Red Fox. You can download it for free here.

Old Blood Experiment in Terror 5.5 Karina HalleOld Blood: Experiment in Terror 5.5, which tells the story of Pippa (aka The Creepy Clown Lady) that she begins to communicate to Perry in Lying Season.

The Dex-Files Experiment in Terror 5.7 Karina HalleThe Dex-Files: Experiment in Terror 5.7. This is a companion novel to the series, composed of re-tellings of scenes from the other books, but told from Dex’s perspective. (Note: this means that here be spoilers for the other books in the series, so be warned.) I love how Dex’s profile-silhouette is kind of Sherlock Holmsian.

Can’t wait for Into the Hollow! Check back soon for the review of the fifth Experiment in Terror novel, On Demon Wings. Stay alive, friends. It’s scary out there.

Experiment in Terror Supernatural Sam

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One Moment by Kristina McBride

One Moment

Kristina McBride

Egmont USA, 2012

review by Tessa

Hook

There’s a hole in Maggie’s life – her boyfriend just died in a cliff-jumping accident – and in her mind – she was there with him when it happened, but she doesn’t remember anything.  But getting her memories back means starting to see the whole picture of who she, Joey, and her friends really were.

Characters

Maggie – happy and in love, a little timid but secure in her place in the world (until)

Joey – daredevil boyfriend, always joking, likes Maggie so much that he doesn’t want to call it love.

Shannon – showoffy bestie. The phrase “you know she can be a bitch” seems to follow her around.

Adam – steady dude, foil to Joey

Pete – dreadlocked, laidback, guitar-strummer

Tanna – the sixth friend of the group (I’m sure she’s very nice).

example of a Jumping Hole – deadly! captivating! © Copyright Andy Waddington and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons License

Worldview

Maggie and her friends live in a small town in Ohio (specific state revealed only by of the Library of Congress Subject Headings).  They aren’t cliquey, but they’re tight-knit – they go to parties, know people, drink and have fun, but prefer each other’s company.  At the outset of the book, everyone in the group is settled into their designated role – Maggie is sweet and shy, Joey is outgoing and rebellious, Shannon is harsh and fun, Pete is a hippie, etc etc.

After Joey’s death, the group is shaken and their secret selves come shaken loose.  Whatever they wanted to be, or were in the process of becoming through growing up either starts to blossom or is revealed by the tragedy.  Maggie’s memory loss exacerbates the process, because no one else knows why Joey’s jump from the cliff was so off-kilter.  Everyone in the group thinks they’ll get more closure if they know exactly What Happened.

What is the book’s intention and is it achieved?

What could have been simply a poignant exploration of grief takes on more dimensions and becomes a mystery/group growing up story (not quite a bildungsroman).  McBride, according to her bio, was an English teacher and yearbook adviser and she obviously spent time observing the teenage condition.  Her characters have the un-self-consciousness of friends who are comfortable with each other and have grown up in a small town, a relatively worry-free middle-class group.  For that reason they don’t overdose on slang and replicate a kind of Friends-like proto-adult rapport with each other while still retaining that teenage over-jokiness regarding sex and its companion focus on who has and hasn’t had it.

When the friend group starts chafing against each other after Joey’s death, the dynamics are also spot-on.  Maggie is trying to figure out why she can’t remember anything, and she’s exploring her memories of her relationship with Joey.  She tries to talk to the group, but keeps hitting unexpected anger and, from Adam, outright silence.  The switch from mourning to psychological mystery is what sets the book apart from other realistic fiction. As a portrait of a group, it’s very compelling – more so than it would be if it were simply Maggie’s story.  There are some real stomach-dropping moments when Maggie finds that she didn’t know who someone really was or was too blinded by how she wanted things to be to see what was really going on. And because they involve someone who is dead, they’re tough realizations to process.  The mix of sadness, frustration, and regret is palpable.  Although the short, declarative, fragmentary narration is not my personal favorite style (because it sounds over-dramatic to my ear) it works well with Maggie and her shocked, grief-stricken state of mind and doesn’t overwhelm the plot.

I will say that I didn’t totally see Maggie’s brokenness and panic – it was in the story, but I had to work to integrate it with her character and take her word for it.  However, anyone who has had a brush with tragedy or loss will be able to layer their experiences over Maggie’s and make the imaginative leap.  I’m glad I decided to put the book on hold after reading Liz B.’s review over at A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy.

Readalikes

If I Stay / Gayle Forman

I’m willing to bet that this will leave you with tight-throat-almost-crying-syndrome the entire time you read it.  Mia faces her own life or death.  (I also wasn’t totally into the narrative style here but really liked the book anyway.)

Burn for Burn / Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

As I mentioned in my review (linked above) it’s about a group of friends who maybe aren’t as tight as they think they are, and the revenge that arises from that discrepancy. Coming out soooon.

Past Perfect / Leila Sales

I seem to be reading in an unintentional theme lately (my review linked above).  The re-evaluation of an expired relationship is done so well here, much like (& maybe a little better than?) in One Moment. But no death in this book, and hence much more levity.

Too Much Fun!

Friends,

Happy Monday! This weekend, Tessa came to Philadelphia to visit and we had so much fun. We went to see Bruce Munro’s amazing light display at Longwood Gardens, which I thought were in Delaware and was therefore looking forward to saying “Hi. We’re in Delaware” while there, like in Wayne’s World, but it isn’t. We ate the most perfect meal ever at Amada: manchego cheese with truffled lavender honey, beef shortrib flatbread with horseradish and bacon, patatas bravas, lamb meatballs with truffle oil and pea shoots, and cocktails named after Pedro Almodóvar movies. We went to the art museum and I got to see my favorite room there (Cy Twombly) and Tessa got to see one of her favorites (Marcel Duchamp), made penny wishes in fountains, discussed how Medieval artists seem to portray Jesus with more ribs than people really have, and looked at armor. We rocked out to show tunes at a gay piano bar and Tessa killed it with “Where or When.” [ed. note: “killed it” is kind of Rebecca to say, but it was fun. – T.]

Cy Twombly    Marcel Duchamp

So much fun, in fact, that we couldn’t possibly stop to write about young adult literature. But never fear—we’ll be back on Wednesday with more YA lit than you can shake a stick at! (Also, while we were at the museum we were pretending that we were the kids in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and that we were going to be locked in the museum. Tessa would touch the Brancusi statues and I would climb on the armored horse.)

(Young Adult) Oceanic Swells & The Vasty Deep

A List of YA Books & Movies Featuring That Sublime Creature, the Sea

Awesome waves in Hawaii

By REBECCA, August 24, 2012

Last time, on Crunchings & Munchings, Tessa gave us the scary and awesome list,  Moon Thrills and Planet Palpitations, featuring the totally delightful genre of Space Horror. Well, I’ve always thought that Outer Space and The Ocean were iterations of the same amazing, horrifying, dehumanizing, and sometimes delightful vastness. Besides that, as many of you know, I am completely and totally obsessed with the ocean, sea creatures, and books/movies featuring either. So, as a companion piece to Moon Thrills and Planet Palpitations, I give you Oceanic Swells & The Vasty Deep!

Books

Maggie Stiefvater The Scorpio Races  Maggie Stiefvater The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races

I reviewed The Scorpio Races here  a few weeks ago, and in a way it’s the inspiration for this list—a book that features the sea in all its many permutations: sublime, cradling, dangerous, alien, cleansing. Every November, on the shores of Thisby Island, men race the wild horses that rise up from the toiling waters—only one man may win, but many may die, bloodied and broken by their mounts, or dragged under the water with them, unable to resist their otherworldly call. Just . . . god . . . so good.

Kirsty Eagar Raw Blue  Kirsty Eagar Night Beach

Kirsty Eagar, Raw Blue & Night Beach

I haven’t read either of these books by Australian beach-lover Kirsty Eagar, but they’re both on my list. Especially Night Beach, which Goodreads describes thusly: “Abbie has three obsessions. Art. The ocean. And Kane. But since Kane’s been back, he’s changed. There’s a darkness shadowing him that only Abbie can see. And it wants her in its world.” It says that it’s a “gothic story about the very dark things that feed the creative process.” HELLO! You know what is a very underdeveloped genre? Oceanic Gothic. You heard me. (There’s The Dead-Tossed Waves, the second in Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, which is good, but they’re not in the ocean for that much of the book . . . great title, though.) Anyway, have y’all read either of these? Are they as good as they look?

The Brothers Bishop Bart Yates

Bart Yates, The Brothers Bishop

I love Bart Yates. The Brothers Bishop is about two brothers who are very close but total opposites, forever connected by growing up under the thumb of their terrifying and infuriating father. Serious, misanthropic Nathan likes his privacy in the beach house he inherited. Outgoing golden boy, Tommy, draws people to him without even trying. When Tommy shows up for a weekend visit with his boyfriend and two friends, the brothers revisit family secrets and make catastrophic mistakes, all against the backdrop of the ocean that laps the nearby sand. You can also check out my review of Bart Yates’ first novel, Leave Myself Behind, here.

Scott O'Dell Island of the Blue Dolphins

Scott O’Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins

12-year-old Karana is left behind on her island home when everyone else is evacuated (omigod, that’s like being stuck in a spaceship floating in space when all the rest of your crew have died, ah!). Karana finds food, makes clothes, tools, and shelter, and actually manages to carve out a life for herself. A childhood favorite of mine.

Francesca Lia Block Nymph

Francesca Lia Block, “Mer,” a short story in Nymph

In “Mer,” an aging surfer is rescued from his lonely life on the beach one morning by a wheelchair bound woman who might be a mermaid. Nymph is a collection of 9 short erotic stories that are all a bit oceanic . . .

Moby Dick Herman Melville Loomings

Herman Melville, Moby Dick or, The Whale

YEEEEEESSSSSS! That is all. For your daily dose of the white whale, you can subscribe to the lovely Rena J. Mosteirin on Twitter @WWhaleCrossing. She is tweeting one line of Moby Dick every day until the book is entirely tweeted. She once told me how long that would take (in years) but I’ve blocked it. A daily line of Moby Richard?—yes, please!

Josh Neufeld A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

Josh Neufeld, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge

This graphic novel tells the stories of seven New Orleanians before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. A prismatic approach that shows the vastly different experiences of folks throughout New Orleans.

China Miéville The Scar

China Miéville, The Scar

One of my favorite books of all time. Bellis Coldwine, errant linguist, is fleeing home when her ship is besieged by pirates and she is brought to Armada, a floating city constructed of interconnected floating masses that used to be the hulls of ships. Armada is ruled over by The Lovers who have long been masterminding an epic journey about which the motley inhabitants of Armada know little. But what is the mass stirring far beneath the depths of Armada as it moves ineluctably faster through the vast ocean? And what does it want?

Margo Lanagan The Brides of Rollrock Island  Margo Lanagan The Brides of Rollrock Island

Margo Lanagan, The Brides of Rollrock Island

And, just for fun, here’s a sea-drenched book I’m looking forward to, which will be out this January from the author of the wonderful Tender Morsels. From Goodreads:

“On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings–and to catch their wives. The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.”

Movies

Blue Crush Kate Bosworth  Blue Crush Kate Bosworth Badass

Blue Crush

Y’all, no irony: Blue Crush is an amazing movie. It has everything that I love about sports movies (personal triumph in the face of adversity, spectacular action shots, the intrusion of a pretty superficial love story into what would otherwise seem like a solipsistic pursuit of personal achievement that humanizes the protagonist enough that we’re routing for her all the more—you know, the usual), only it’s set on the beach and features badass girls who don’t care about school or being clean. Also, did I mention it’s about surfing? Amazing!

Whale Rider

Whale Rider

Beautiful film about an 11-year-old girl who believes it’s her destiny to be chief of the Whangara, even though there has never been a female chief. She trains alongside the boys, hoping her grandfather will see her worth, finally urging a beached whale out to sea with her on its back. Epic.

Point Break Patrick Swayze Keanu Reeves  Point Break Keanu Reeves Patrick Swayze

Point Break

The classic tale of an FBI agent (Keanu “You sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn how to surf” Reeves) who goes undercover to catch a group of bank robbing surfers (led by Patrick Swayze)—directed, most importantly, by the awesome Kathryn Bigelow. Presidential masks, surfing, jumping out of planes, and homoeroticism—what more could you possibly want out of your entertainment?

Waterworld  Waterworld

Waterworld

The Polar ice caps have melted and the world is almost entirely under water in this post-apocalyptic delight starring the amazing Dennis Hopper, the un-amazing Kevin Costner and an adorable baby Tina Majorino. It’s pretty awesome.

The Talented Mr. Ripley  The Talented Mr. Ripley

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Based on the (super wonderful) novels of Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by Anthony Minghella, features Tom Ripley, a talented mimic, who tries to insinuate himself into the life of golden boy, Dickie Greenleaf, with whom he falls in love/lust/envy. Set in the Italian Riviera, some major shit goes down asea.

Ondine Colin Farrell  Ondine Colin Farrell

Ondine

Written and directed by the always-delightful Neil Jordan, Ondine is the story of Syracuse, an Irish fisherman and recovering alcoholic who catches a nearly-drowned woman in his nets. When his ill daughter, Annie, finds out about Ondine, she becomes convinced that Ondine is a selkie—a seal creature turned human on land—and almost has Syracuse believing too, just a little. A really lovely movie about how we make up stories to edit the world into what we want it to be.

Finally: So sue me—I don’t like Jaws. But instead, I shall leave you with a bonus: the video for Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”! You’re welcome.

Moon Thrills and Planet Palpitations

photo by flickr user fdecomite

list by Tessa

Inspiration

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad (Little Brown 2012) is a decent but flawed book about NASA’s convoluted plan to reopen a secret moon base without a lot of questions about why it was secret by making into a contest for 3 teenagers to come along on the mission.  MYSTERIOUS THINGS plague the teenagers who win the contest and nothing good comes of reopening the base.  Most all of my criticisms are stated in nicer language here in this Book Smugglers review.

I won’t get into it apart from noting that it made me think of the Space Books that I Did Love. Then it sent me thinking about how Space Horror is such a nice genre of movie. And I compiled them into a short list for sharing.

Books

This Place Has No Atmosphere – Paula Danziger

This is a middle grade realistic fiction book that happens to be about moving to the moon. It contains no horror apart from the horror of being separated from your besties by millions of miles of space. I include it because I loved Paula Danziger in 5th grade, and when I read this I thought the concept of writing about living on the moon in a realistic context was revolutionary.

Feed – M. T. Anderson

Read this book already.  (You can read an excerpt at Amazon.)

Season of Passage – Christopher Pike

Finally, space horror!  I’ve established that I lurve Christopher Pike.  This is one of his adult offerings, about a mission to Mars in the far off time of 2004, and an intersecting story about a depressed author who is writing a story about aliens. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get the connections between the stories in here, but the dread of whatever was lurking on Mars was totally fulfilling in and of itself. I ❤ dread.

Alien – Alan Dean Foster
Part of my dad’s book collection – I worked my way through all the choice sci-fi fantasy stuff over a couple of summers (even IT although I was forbidden to, sorry Dad) and read this book before I watched the movie.  When I read it I assumed the movie was based on the book, but now I have a feeling that it was a novelization.  That’s what happens when you assume. It still scared me.

Movies

Moon (2009)
This might be what 172 Hours on the Moon wanted to be.  It was (masterfully) directed by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones.  Sam Rockwell, of TMNT fame, stars.

Sunshine (2007)
Danny Boyle! The fated Second Mission! Dying suns! Claustrophobic spaceships! People getting picked off one by one!  A greenhouse room! A great cast! So much to love.

Alien (1979)
I did end up watching Alien. Again and again and again. It’s neck and neck with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as my most watched movie.

I haven’t seen these, but they look like good candidates:
Pitch Black (2000)

Pandorum (2009)

Outliers set on Earth

In these books and movies, outsider(s) find the Earth to be an unwelcome, dangerous, and possibly supernaturally evil place.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
David Bowie (hm, second mention in this post…) gives his most unsettling performance, possibly because he does it so naturally.

Sphere – Michael Crichton
The ocean is basically space.

The Thing (1982)
In their 1982 review New York magazine said “this movie is more disgusting than frightening and most of it is just boring.” They’re so wrong! It’s like the episode of the X-Files with the ice worms but better and with Kurt Russell.

Outsourcin’
After writing this I would like to find more stuff like this to read. So I’m going to peruse these lists.  Maybe you’ll join me?
Goodreads: Space Horror
Ask Metafilter: good space horror

Chicken is Chickens!: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

A Review of Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Wendy Lamb Books (Random House), 2012

By REBECCA, August 20, 2012

Rebecca Stead Liar & Spy

characters

Georges (the S is silent): lovely, observant, sincere (but not saccharine) seventh-grader you totally want to be friends with

Safer:  a coffee-swigging, super-observant, home-schooled spymaster and dog-walker

Candy: Safer’s younger sister, she occasionally does recon spy work for the cause

Pigeon: Candy and Safer’s older brother who is very avian-oriented

Bob English Who Draws: an unexpected school friend, he knows all about spelling reform

Georges’ dad: communicative, and supportive dad who is always up for Chinese food, yay!

hook

When Georges moves in to his new Brooklyn apartment, he quickly joins Safer in a building-wide surveillance of the mysterious Mr. X, who Safer says must be evil. His dad lost his job, his mom is always at the hospital where she works, and a gang of boys at school have painted Georges with a target, so he likes hanging out with Safer . . . until Safer’s spy demands start to go a little too far.

worldview

Georges has only moved twelve blocks away from the house he and his parents were forced to move out of when his father lost his job, but it gives him totally different vantage point on his Brooklyn neighborhood. Georges’ neighborhood, school, and apartment building are the world of Liar & Spy and Georges moves through them with familiarity and affection, observing delightful things and thinking delightful thoughts:

“We’re playing volleyball, with an exclamation point. Ms. Warner has written it on the whiteboard outside the gym doors: Volleyball!.

The combination of seeing that word and breathing the smell of the first floor, which is the smell of the cafeteria after lunch, creates some kind of echo in my head, like a faraway shout.

In the morning, the cafeteria smells fried and sweet, like fish sticks and cookies. But after lunch, it’s different. There’s more kid sweat and garbage mixed in, I guess. Or maybe it’s just that, after lunch, the cafeteria doesn’t have the smell of things to come. It’s the smell of what has been” (3).

Georges’ voice is strong and extremely relatable—I totally wish I lived in his apartment building and would get to chat with him in the lobby or the basement. It’s a world where things are both rife with mystery and shockingly clear; where kids’ play has complete power and yet is powerless against larger fears and threats. Every character feels fully-realized, even the gym teacher or a girl with a crush who appear for but a few sentences, which makes me feel like I live in this world, too, and am merely hearing the story of someone else’s view of it.

When You Reach Me Rebecca SteadLike Stead’s previous novel, When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy is about middle-school-aged kids, but is plenty rich to appeal to older audiences, for sure. For a short novel (180 pages in my copy), Liar & Spy covers a lot of ground. The plot isn’t complicated, but it’s a book with a lot of components, all of which feel like they are in their right place. It’s the same feeling I had when reading When You Reach Me (which I love love loved): that I was reading a book by someone who really knew what she was doing. Stead makes it feel effortless. Pre-teen boys, a potential serial killer, bullying, how taste works, spelling reform, candy, the nesting habits of parrots, umami, phobias, home-schooling, Brooklyn restaurants—all the pieces orbit each other like a perfectly balanced mobile, and at the end you realize that without every one of them it wouldn’t be the same beautiful whole.

Plus, did I mention it’s wicked funny? It is. Here’s a story from Safer and Candy’s brother, Pigeon, who doesn’t eat birds:

“‘So one day when I was totally little, Mom, Dad, and I are driving along this road up in Connecticut and we see these cows. And I’m like, what are cows for? I mean, what do they do, you know? And Mom’s trying to give me the easy answer, so she tells me, “Cows are for milk, remember? Cows give us milk.”

‘But then Dad pipes up, “And meat.” And I’m like, “What do you mean, meat?” Then he tells me that hamburgers are cow meat. And this lightbulb goes on in my head, and I start thinking about all the foods we eat, and I’m asking, what about dumplings, and what about bacon—and they’re telling me, pork dumplings are from pigs, blah blah blah. I was real interested in all of it. It’s one of those things you remember—you’re just a little kid, and you’re finally clueing in to the real world, you know? And so then I say, “What about chicken? Where does chicken come from?” And right then this other lightbulb goes on in my head, and I start screaming, “Chicken is Chickens?”‘ (62-3).

what are this book’s expectations? does it live up to them?

Harriet the Spy Louise FitzhughYes! (that was the second question first, but I got really excited.) In a lot of ways, Liar & Spy kind of reminded me of what it might be like to be friends with an altera-verse Harriet the Spy. It’s not that the book is similar to Harriet the Spy, but that Georges’ experience being friends with Safer feels like glimpses into what Sport might feel like hanging around with Harriet when he really wants to be playing baseball (or, in Georges’ case, watching it) instead.

I think, too, that there is something about the experience of growing up a kid in New York (my mom is a Brooklyn kid, like Georges, although Harriet lives on the Upper East Side) that tinges books set there. The kids’ relationships with neighborhood-ishness really appeal to me (I love placey places). They approach a neighborhood Chinese restaurant or the newsstand at the entrance to a certain subway stop with the same particular ownership and favoritism that non-city kids would the park on the corner, and for whatever reason I find the idea of a kid having regular interactions with the people who run these places really delightful.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

So, throughout Liar & Spy, we get the feeling that there are things going on in the background that aren’t addressed head-on (you know, like in real life). This gives a real richness to the book, and also prompts the kind of questions that might feel trite in a novel with older characters, but feel exactly right in a novel with middle-school-aged characters. Georges is named after Pointillist Georges Seurat, his parents’ favorite artist, and like the Seurat poster hanging in Georges’ living room, at the end of Liar & Spy, you can look back at the big picture of the book and see all the little pieces come together, and it’s really lovely. Stead masterfully embeds hints to what is going on that make sense when looked back on.

Liar & Spy is available NOW!

personal disclosure

I had the pleasure of getting my book signed by Rebecca Stead at BEA, and she was extremely lovely and gracious, and liked that our blog was called Crunchings & Munchings because she, too, loves Gurgi. I feel this needs to be said because I have a particular dread of meeting people that I admire, for fear that they will be disappointing. Check out this post over at Rookie on the topic.

Rebecca Stead rocks!

readalikes

Skellig David Almond

Skellig by David Almond (2000). Like Georges, Michael, the protagonist of Skellig, has recently moved into a new home, where he meets a home-schooled girl who teaches him new things. Michael finds a bird-man-angel who eats Chinese food dripping with bugs in his shed. It’s a short, simple story, but has an elliptical, fantasy quality (what is the bird-man-angel? what is really wrong with Michael’s baby sister?). Lovely and lyrical.

What They Always Tell Us Martin Wilson

What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson (2008). Brothers James (a senior) and Alex (a junior) are close in age but not in much else—James is an outgoing overachiever and Alex has withdrawn into depression and is questioning his sexuality. But when the brothers make friends with their oddball 10-year-old neighbor, they find common ground they didn’t know they had.

When You Reach Me Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009). I know maybe it’s cheating to put an author’s own book on the readalikes list, but in the case of When You Reach Me, I’ve included it because although the books share very little in terms of plot they are very close in style and worldview, so I think someone who liked one would really enjoy the other. Also, seriously, this book is amazing. I can’t say any more for fear of spoiling it. Don’t read anything about it; just read it. Now. It’s short. I swear you’ll thank me.

procured from: ARC from the publisher at Book Expo America

Lesbian Discovery Novels & Romantic Female Friendships: From Hey, Dollface to My So-Called Life

Concerning, In Particular, Hey, Dollface by Deborah Hautzig & Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

Hey, Dollface (1978), Knopf & Annie On My Mind (1982), Farrar, Straus & Giroux

By REBECCA, August 17, 2012

Hey, Dollface Deborah Hautzig Annie On My Mind Nancy Garden

A while back, when I was reviewing Siobhan Vivian’s lovely Same Difference, which is about the power of female friendships, I mentioned in the a response to a comment from Past the Ink, that maybe I should do a post about 1970s and 1980s lesbian discovery novels (that is, books where a character realizes she’s a lesbian)—and here it is, in the form of some musings.

Happy Endings Are All Alike Sandra Scoppettone

What’s up, phallic knife

So, what’s special about lesbian discovery novels of the late ’70s and early ’80s in particular, you may be thinking? For one thing, since there were so few of them published (I think the only others before Annie On My Mind are Sandra Scoppettone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike (1978) and Rosa Guy’s Ruby (1976)) that they have a particular mood in common. I chose to focus on Hey, Dollface and Annie On My Mind because they are, in some ways, so similar. But also because I feel like Annie On My Mind is often cited as the first Ruby Rosa Guylesbian YA novel, when Hey, Dollface totally predates it by four years. Besides, I like Hey, Dollface much more, and it holds a special place in my heart because I first read it when I was 12 or so because I borrowed it from my best friend, J—. Incidentally, when I took out my copy of the book today to write this, I started paging through it and realized that it’s totally J—’s. Her name is stamped in the front cover with one of those personalized stamps in two-tone ink (sorry, J—!). Whoopsies.

Shatter Me Tehereh MafiSo, first things first, I am obsessed with the (1989) cover of Hey, Dollface. I loathe the new YA trend of featuring skinny white girls in fancy dress for no apparent reason on the covers of books. For one thing, I don’t like to have a picture in my head of what a character looks like before I start reading. For another, I don’t like that they’re all prettier than average. Finally, I think it’s boring. There are so many parts of a book that would make awesome covers—I don’t get why anyone would want to look at a model instead of an actual artistically designed cover. But I digress. The point is, even though Hey, Dollface‘s cover features girls who are supposed to be the main characters, I think it’s gorgeous. Maybe because it’s a painting (or a painting-ified photo?) instead of a photograph? Maybe because the girls are just floating white faces being swallowed by black hair, black clothes, and splashed with lipstick and blush? I don’t know; I just know that I love it.

In both Hey, Dollface and Annie On My Mind, two New York City high school girls meet and strike up close friendships because they understand each other where no one else does, and go on to discover that what they feel for one another is more than friendship, then decide what these romantic feelings for another girl mean for them in the long run. My favorite thing about Hey, ruby slippers vintage New York thrift shopsDollface (and the reason that I listed it as a readalike for Siobhan Vivian’s Same Difference) is that Val and Chloe are intensely drawn together because of a shared attitude (they think their snobby, rich prep schoolmates are boring and lame) and tastes (they make papier mâché death masks, use Polaroids, and haunt thrift stores). Val’s tastes are nascent—she knows what she doesn’t like, but Chloe shows her a vision of New York that realizes she loves. Oh, and because this is 1978, they’re in Greenwich Village in a totally sincere way:

“I’d never heard of thrift shops till I met Chloe. She taught me the whereabouts and price-haggling of wonderful dark places filled with furs, strange velvet dresses, hats, old jackets, tailcoats and feather boas. And millions of mismatched pajamas. We walked around all day, going into every pokey shop that caught our eye, finding twisted little streets we never knew existed and eating everything we felt like buying.

Chloe liked things I’d never considered before. She adored old pointy-toed spike-heeled shoes if they had a tacky ribbon or rhinestones adorning them. And those pointy glasses women used to wear. She’d pick up what I thought was an outrageous item and gasp, ‘Oh, I have to have this.’ I usually succeeded in talking her out of it; she told me she’d regret it. She said in a year they’d be the latest chic and I’d regret it too” (34-5).

My So-Called Life Angela Rayanne So, when I refer to this subgenre as “lesbian discovery novels,” I mean more than just that the characters discover that they’re lesbians; I mean that they feature friendships that allow one to discover something about oneself. And that is what really interests me about revisiting these two books 30 years after they were published. Late ’70s and ’80s lesbian discovery novels portray certain strong female friendships as vehicles that allow one or both of the characters to discover that they like girls in part because there were so few other books, films, or pop cultural representations of lesbianism. Nowadays, with many more representations of queerness in the cultural ether, queer YA fiction doesn’t have quite the same oh-my-goodness-what-could-these-feelings-possibly-be anymore and, as a result, we have begun to have some really interesting discussions about romantic female friendships, which might include sexual attraction, but also needn’t. Here’s Autostraddle’s “20 Best Young Adult Novels For Queer Girls,” in response to NPR’s lesbian-lacking “Top 100 List of Best Teen Novels, recommended by my dear friend, J—.

Foxfire Angelina JolieI (of course) don’t mean to conflate lesbianism with some kind of cutesy sleepovers and whispers  teen phase. Rather, I think that one of the most interesting things about the lesbian discovery novels like Hey, Dollface is that they do manage to push a queer panic button about intense female friendships (especially in the characters’ parents) who wonder things along the lines of Hey, Dollface‘s tagline: “Just how far do the bounds of friendship go?” This is nothing new, of course, echoing a long-held societal nervousness about female friendships that appear fulfilling enough that perhaps men aren’t needed.

Friendship in general, and female friendship in particular, is possibly the most central social element of YA fiction. So, looking at the trajectory of the shifts in how intimate female relationships are portrayed over 30-some years is illuminating. For those of us who grew up with strong, celebratory friendships, whether romantic or not, I think there is a real joy in seeing how important female friendships can be to discovering what we like, who we are, and what we believe in. For that reason, I’m glad to see a more celebratory attitude emerging on intense friendships. Here are a few of my favorites, which you should read this weekend while watching FoxfireThelma and Louise, and My So-Called Lifea trio of ’90s gems about important female friendships:

Emma Straub’s “My Rayannes,” for The Paris Review (thanks for the link, Casey!)

Krista Burton’s “A Girl’s Best Friend,” for Rookie

The “Friend Crush” series, for Rookie

So, what about you? Do you have a favorite lesbian discovery novel from back in the day? A book to recommend to queer girls now? Flashbacks to buying Manic Panic every time I say “My So-Called Life”? Let us know in the comments!

Chronicle (de una muerte anunciada)

Chronicle
2012
Dir: Josh Trank
Writer: Max Landis (son of John Landis!!!)

review by Tessa

Chronicle  opens on a black screen. The buzz of something electronic.  A hard bump against an unexpectedly closed door, the rattle of a doorknob, and a man’s voice, already angry, barking “Andrew?  Andrew! Open this door.”

Andrew appears behind a camera mounted on a tripod, pointing at the mirror mounted on the locked door.  He refuses to open it, accuses his father of being drunk, and tells him that he’ll be taping everything from now on.

And he does, starting on his ride to school the next day with affable cousin Matt, through the hallways where his camera gets made fun of for being too old, and on the bleachers where he eats lunch alone.  He introduces each scene to an imaginary audience, sounding proud and unsure at once. “This is where I eat. . . This is my school. . . “ But we can see on his face as he reviews the footage that he is happy to be involved in the filming and creation of something:

Until his dad comes in the room. Andrew’s face immediately closes off.

And his dad slaps him around, pushing him off his chair – payback for not opening the door the night before.  Later we hear his dad pleading with the pharmacy to give him a discount on the pain pills that Andrew’s mother needs – she’s painfully dying of cancer in the next room.

It appears that this is a representative capsule of Andrew’s life. His Matt semi-reluctantly invites Andrew to a party in an abandoned building and advises him to leave the camera at home.  Of course Andrew doesn’t, accidentally films the wrong girl’s butt, gets spit on by her meathead boyfriend, and ends up crying in the grass.  It’s more touching filmed than it sounds, less stereotyped.  The documentary style, deft editing, and above average acting skills have already  elevated this beyond a cautionary bullying tale.

And then, Andrew’s camera provides him with an in. The extremely popular Steve Montgomery

Steve

has found something, along with Matt.

A hole in the ground, filled with a weird buzzing energy.

Inside the hole, something that glows and pulses and messes with the camera. Something overwhelming.

The next time we see Andrew, Matt, and Steve, they’re goofing around in the backyard throwing baseballs at each other. . .  from impossible angles. Andrew stops one right in front of his face, using only his mind.  Not only is this an incredible secret, it’s Andrew’s ticket to having real friends and feeling like he can be himself around two other people on Earth.  Soon the boys are hanging out all the time, making fun of how often Steve’s girlfriend calls him and leaves angry, suspicious voicemails, and eventually taking their powers from Legos to parking lots and toy stores.

Until one day, this happens:


The thing to remember is that this isn’t a Marvel Universe. These are teenage boys, and like all teenagers, their brains are still growing – particularly in the prefrontal cortex, where good decision-making happens.  So instead of getting costumes, thinking about responsibility, and fighting crime, these guys just goof around.  The only problem is that even though Andrew now has friends and some confidence, he still is suffering from abuse, probably PTSD, and grief.  And when the world continues to show him uncaring and injustice, he reacts like a teenager would.  But now he’s not just a teenager anymore.


Rent for the great effects and stay for the emotionally resonant story.

Keep your eye out for Chronicle 2, as well.

Watch/Readalikes

Project X / Jim Shepard

Shepard nails the weirdness and sadness and  funniness in the voice of two middle school boys obsessed with a Plan, and masters the yawning gap of reason as well as the push of invented reason behind inevitable violence.

Attack the Block

Group of prepubescent London thugs finds themselves in the middle of an alien attack and must find out what courage really is – more great, old-school effects, and FUNNY.

Carrie / Firestarter

Stephen King knows from telekinetic rage. Read the books AND watch the movies.

Fall’s Young Adult (ish) TV Lineup

A List of Exciting YA(ish) Shows Premiering Fall, 2012 & Some to Catch Up On Before They Return

By REBECCA, August 13, 2012

Well, folks, it’s that time of the year again. The time when, were I still a student, I’d be getting jazzed about buying shiny new pencils and woodsy-smelling notebooks. Instead, now that I’m an adult (cue laugh track), I can put aside childish things and—you know—decide which characters I want enter into borderline unhealthy but oh-so-enjoyable emotional relationships with. Yes, it’s time for a roundup of the YA(ish) tv shows I’m excited about for the fall!

Now, I don’t have cable tv, so my relationship with shows has long been a model of binging once things are out on dvd or on Netflix. This has always worked out fairly well for me because I am inherently a glutton with no self-control or patience whatsoever, so I don’t like to have to wait and watch shows one episode a week. However, lately I’ve felt like tv is getting too good to have to wait months or years to try a new show. And, let’s face it, Netflix is deteriorating into total crap with the advent of other avenues of streaming video. So . . . just this week I decided that, goshdarnit, there is NO REASON why I should deny myself the joys of watching shows in (quasi-)real time any longer! So, I’m going to try out Hulu Plus for the Fall premieres and see how I like it.

(Also: I shall attempt to live in a world where shows only come on once a week, thus hopefully breaking the breakout cycle of glutting myself on a show, feeling bereft when it’s over, and then immediately needing to fill the void with a new show, no matter how awful—yes, Dawson’s Creek, I’m looking at you! Extrapolate from this statement any hypotheses about my personal life that you will.)

YA(ish) Show Premieres I’m Excited For This Fall (by premiere date)

Nashville, ABC

Series Premiere: Wednesday, October 10th

Nashville Connie Britton Hayden Panettiere ABCHoly rusted pickup, Batman, am I psyched about Nashville! It stars my beloved Tami Taylor Connie Britten as the queen of country music whose label thinks that she could use a hot young thing (Hayden Pannettiere) opening for her on tour to spice up her image. Naturally, this turns into a mega diva-off, when it becomes clear that the newcomer is trying to steal her spotlight. So, basically, it seems like it’ll be Country Strong meets All About Eve—or at least that’s what I’m hoping for. I really cannot stress how much I love musicals or how strongly I feel that there should be more of them.

Arrow, the CW

Series Premiere: Wednesday, October 10th

Green Arrow CWThe CW’s take on DC Comics’ character Green Arrow. Dudes, I’m a sucker for anything superhero related, so I’m open-minded about this show, even though I can’t quite imagine what a superhero show on the CW would look like. There have, of course, been many a comic-based movie franchise lately, but I’m jazzed to see the kind of comic-like scope that serial tv can bring to the Green Arrow world.

The New Normal, NBC

Series Premiere: Thursday, October 11th

The New Normal Ryan Murphy NBCThe new show by Glee creator Ryan Murphy tells the story of a single mom who is looking to escape her small town (and bigoted grandmother) allows her young daughter to convince her to move to L.A., where she gets the money to follow her dream of going to law school by becoming a surrogate for a gay couple. I’m kind of scared that this show is going to be a horrible tale of metro-homonormative assimilation, but I’m totally going to give it a chance because a.) Ryan Murphy and b.) the preview looks mildly hilarious due mainly to the antics of an extremely racist and homophobic Ellen Barkin.

Beauty and the Beast, the CW

Series Premiere: Thursday, October 11th

Beauty and the Beast the CWBeauty and the Beast meets crime procedural (maybe?). Homicide detective, Cat, meets the mysterious man—or beast—who once saved her life. He has been hiding out for ten years, protecting his secret: that when angry he totally Hulks out into a beast. Cat agrees to keep his true identity a secret, and he begins to help her solve cases. And, of course, they become drawn together in ways that I’m sure are mutually delightful and destructive. I know, I know: this show will probably be terrible, but I can’t help but hope that maybe it’ll be kind of like Angel meets The Vampire Diaries meets Jean Cocteau . . . no?

YA(ish) Shows I’m Most Excited Are Returning in the Fall

Once Upon A Time, ABC

Season 2 Premiere: Sunday, September 30th

Once Upon A Time ABCI really enjoyed the first season of this show by the producers of Lost. All the fairytale characters we have read about in books have been cursed by the evil queen to forget who they really are, and are trapped in the small town of Storybrooke, Maine. Throughout the season, the lines between their Storybrooke lives and their fairytale lives become dangerously blurred (and shit gets dark near the end!). Sure, Once Upon A Time has silly moments, but I was always intrigued by its machinations and slow unfolding of the relationships between characters in both worlds.

Supernatural, the CW

Season 8 Premiere: Wednesday, October 3rd

Supernatural Sam and Dean WinchesterOh, Supernatural, how do I love thee? Lots and lots. I know: it’s in its eighth season, so if you haven’t been watching, there is a lot to catch up on . . . so you better start now! Sam and Dean Winchester are brothers who fight evil. Done. This delightful gem of a genre show began with humble one-off mysteries and slowly built to a totally epic scale. Ok, so the last season wasn’t the strongest season of television ever written, but I am choosing to have faith that the brothers Winchester can keep it worth my while.

Gossip Girl, the CW

Season 6 Premiere: Monday, October 8th

Gossip GirlThis is the final season of Gossip Girl, friends, and I’m expecting it to be epic. Not so much because the last season was so good, but because I imagine all the writers and costume designers and directors being, like, “hey, it’s the final season of a totally over-the-top show; of course I must make everything outrageously showy and dramatic!” For those of you who haven’t watched the double G, you should check out my list of 10 Reasons Why You Should Watch Gossip Girl here and GET ON IT.

Smash, NBC

Season 2 Premiere: Midseason

Smash NBCSo, you know what I said above about loving musicals? Y’all, I loved the first season of this show! It chronicles the journey of writing, casting, and premiering a musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. There a lots of fun characters and we get great character development, but it’s still a fast-paced show, and for the love of god it’s a freaking musical. The songs are catchy; the lyrics are charming; the singing is awesome; the dancing is fun; and there are people pretending to be Marilyn Monroe—what more do you want? Me? Nothing. I know the title of this section says that these are shows premiering in the Fall, but this one is too good not to include, and also I simply can’t believe it got bumped to midseason in the first place.

So, that’s just a brief preview of the Fall shows I’m jazzed about. What did I miss? What would you recommend?

Half My Head Is Quiet: Stick, by Andrew Smith

A Review of Stick by Andrew Smith

Feiwel and Friends, 2011

By REBECCA, August 10, 2012

Stick Andrew Smith

characters

Stark (Stick) McClellan: Born with only one ear, Stick is used to hearing the world a little slant

Bosten McClellan: A high school junior with a temper who wants to be free of his father

Emily Lohman: Stick’s best friend, who shows him how a family could be

Aunt Dahlia: Stick and Bosten’s great-aunt who lives in a cozy bungalow in California and introduces them to the wonders of surfing, sleeping in, and Evan and Kim Hansen

Evan & Kim Hansen: Twin surf angels who take Stick and Bosten under their wetsuited wings

hook

14-year-old Stick has always had his brother, Bosten, to look out for him, but when their abusive father learns that Bosten is gay, Bosten has to leave home. Once Bosten leaves, Stick takes his dad’s car and sets out to find him, thinking he headed to Aunt Dahlia’s house in California. Without much money or any connections, Stick finds himself in, erm, sticky situations (sorry!), which he handles because he has no other choice.

worldview

Saint Fillan's cave

Saint Fillan’s cave

Stick and Bosten’s cold, perfectionist mother and violent, exacting father have turned their house into an army barracks. There are rules to follow—the boys can’t have hair longer than half an inch, must always tuck in their shirts, can’t wear pajamas, can only shower on the weekends—and consequences if those rules are broken. Not only beatings, but being locked for days in what Stick calls St. Fillan’s room, the spare bedroom that is bare except for a sheeted cot and a bucket. Both Stick and Bosten, though, are warm, hungry for love beyond each other’s. Bosten is in love with his best friend, Paul, who runs hot and cold on him, and Stick feels awed and humbled by the love his best friend, Emily, shows him. The world of Stick, then, contains two extremes of love—the depths of joy that can come from intimacy as well as its poisonous inversion when intimacy is used as a weapon.

Mr. Zogs Sex waxThe structure of the book was particularly interesting: it’s kind of  folded in half. It’s divided into three sections, where the first is about Stick and Bosten’s life in Washington, the second about their visit to California to stay with Aunt Dahlia, and the the third the journey from the former to the latter, again, when Stick makes the same journey to follow Bosten. I bring this up because it facilitates one of my favorite thing about both Stick and Andrew Smith‘s work more generally (you can check out my review of The Marbury Lens here), which is that his novels take us to many different places, but each of them feels like the novel’s home when we’re in it. When Stick is in Washington, and the brothers are going to basketball games, getting into fights, and going to school in the damp chill, I feel fully sunk in that world as a reader; same with when they’re surfing in bright California. Then, when Stick travels to California to follow Bosten, the genre of the book really changes, from being an interpersonal drama to being a kind of adventure-quest-thriller. It doesn’t feel like a shift at all, though, but rather a natural outgrowth of the world and characters to which Smith has introduced us.

did this book live up to its intentions?

Stick Andrew SmithA thousand times, yes. Stick is a book that has so many things going for it that it’s hard to know where to begin. Wonderful characters who have deep relationships with each other? Check. Stick and Bosten’s conversations are as elliptical and offhand as tight siblings’ can be. Serious emotional and physical threats that bring out those characters’ depths and fears? Double check. Stick and Bosten’s father is chilling, but in a human way, so he can’t be written off as exaggeration or romanticization. Similarly, some of the people that Stick meets on his way to California (about which, obviously, I’m being quite vague, because I don’t want to give things away) exemplify the kind of terrifying way that the world feels out of your control at 14. Still, Stick is a survivor, so strongly drawn is he to get to California and make sure Bosten is all right (you might remember that I featured Stick in my list YA Summer Survival Kit: A Crash Course for the Apocalypse.)

Stick is also a beautiful exploration of very different types of masculinity. Throughout the book, we get many examples of how Stick and Bosten’s father thinks men should be, down to his conviction that men don’t wear pajamas or use shampoo. Bosten and Stick don’t agree with their father’s notions, but, as Stick says, they never even thought about the rules. It’s just the way things are. Being gay does not, of course, align with their father’s notions of how a man should act (although, further, we get hints that perhaps these rules are as much for Mr. McClellan to clarify for himself how he feels he must be as they are for his sons). Throughout Stick, then, Stick is exposed to multiple models of all the other ways to be a man there are besides his father’s, some violent, some desperate, some generous.

Stick is a wonderfully-written, exciting, and moving story about brothers, about need, and about the many ways we can rescue each other. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

personal disclosure

I love love love books where siblings are best friends because my sister and I are planning to take over the world! Also, I love the cover of this book so much.

readalikes

Brothers Bishop Bart Yates

The Brothers Bishop by Bary Yates (2005). A totally amazing book about brothers, love, obligation, sex, archaeology, and the ocean.

Punkzilla Adam Rapp

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp (2009). The voice in Punkzilla is extraordinary. I sort of feel like Bosten and Punkzilla would meet and Bosten would adopt Punkzilla because he would remind him of Stick.

My Heartbeat Garret Freymann-Weyr

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr (2002). A short and lovely book about the relationship between Ellen, the older brother that she adores, and his best friend and lover.

procured from: bought

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