Why Frankenstein Is Important to YA Lit

Happy National Frankenstein Day! & Some YA Takes on Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

by REBECCA, August 30, 2013

National Frankenstein Day is celebrated on Mary Shelley‘s birthday (August 30th, 1797), and honors her most famous (and arguably the most famous) literary monster. And I love literary monsters.

But what a lot of people forget is that Frankenstein has a lot of the elements that make YA lit great. After all, Mary Shelley did write the original story when she was just nineteen.

Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyIt tells the story of how a kid becomes obsessed with something and turns it into his life. Victor Frankenstein’s backstory is one of my favorite elements of the novel. His early relationships with his adopted sister and his two younger brothers are the backdrop for Victor’s growing obsession with science. It’s when he sees lightning strike a tree outside his family’s home in Geneva that Victor first gets the idea of lightning as an energy force, which he’ll later use to animate his creature. His interest in natural science is as singleminded as any teen’s obsession with a band or a comic book. And, though he’s captivated by Elizabeth when he’s older, it’s still his childhood friend, Henry Clerval, that is his strongest relationship throughout the book.

But the thing that always struck me as most YA-similar is the way that Victor’s monomaniacal pursuit of his obsession ends up producing something totally out of his control.

So, it’s no wonder that a number of young adult authors have taken Frankenstein as the jumping off point for YA novels of their own! Here are a few.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel

This delightful series by Kenneth Oppel tells the story of Victor and his twin brother and their mutual love of Elizabeth. When his twin falls ill, Victor must go on a quest to find the ingredients for the elixir of life. Loved it! My review of This Dark Endeavor is HERE.

Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters by Suzanne Weyn

Dr. Frankenstein’s Daughters by Suzanne Weyn

This retelling features Victor Frankenstein’s twin daughters who inherit their father’s castle—one of them wants to throw lavish parties, but the other . . . the other wants to pick up where daddy left off.

Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley

Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley

In this adaptation, a young street urchin befriends the creature and accompanies him on his search for Victor Frankenstein.

iFrankenstein by Bekka Black

iFrankenstein by Bekka Black

This is a Frankenstein told through texts, tweets, emails, etc. Victor is homeschooled and has set his sights on winning a prestigious science prize and going to a tech university. He creates a bot, which he codes with a self-extending version of his personality and puts it on the internet. Soon, though, it seems like this e-doppelgänger has developed a personality (and a plan) of its own—one that may threaten not only Victor, but all humanity.

Broken by A.E. Rought Tainted by A.E. Rought

Broken series by A.E. Rought

Emma Gentry’s boyfriend died tragically last year and she’s barely holding it together. But when she meets Adam Franks, the son of a renowned surgeon, she’s intrigued—especially when it seems like Adam knows things about her that only her dead boyfriend knew . . . And when Emma stumbles on Adam’s father’s experiments, she knows that something is very, very wrong with Adam—or is he Adam? My complete review of this ridiculous disappointment is HERE.

Adam Franks by Peter Adam Salomon

Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon

Henry Franks had a terrible accident and his father put him back together again. He thinks. But he can’t be totally sure because he can’t remember anything. His nightmares and a serial killer on the loose make him a little hesitant to trust that everything his father says about his recovery is true. Creepy!

Do you have a favorite Frankenstein-related book or movie? Tell me in the comments. Happy National Frankenstein Day!

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Cover Porn: Gorgeous Young Adult Covers

A Gallery of My Favorite Young Adult Book Covers

by REBECCA, August 26, 2013

Y’all, I am extremely superficial, and book covers are an art I particularly love. It’s such an interesting art, because it can go so many different ways. The cover can be a representation of the book, it can reflect the themes of the book, it can abstract an element of the book. It can elevate those elements or make them laughable; it can feel similar to the book or be a total mismatch. When one works it really works, and there is nothing more sublime than when a gorgeous book gets a gorgeous cover (though I must admit, sometimes I have been seduced by a mediocre book with a pretty face). So, here’s a gallery of my favorite cover porn, and—bonus!—most of them are attached to really great books. Enjoy the beauty!

STRONG GRAPHICS

Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt

Both the hardcover (left) and the paperback (right) edition of Tell the Wolves I’m Home are gorgeous. I love how they look like scherenschnitte (the art of German paper cutting) against gorgeous background colors of the trees that feature in the novel. You can read my full review of the book HERE and our interview with the lovely Carol Rifka Brunt HERE.

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardner

Both the two hardcovers (left and center) and the paperback (right) have this awesome woodblock look that I love, and the hardcover editions have a kind of Russian propaganda poster font going on that is awesome. You can read my full review of the super-awesome Maggot Moon HERE.

Proxy by Alex London

Proxy (Proxy #1), by Alex London

You can’t see it in this image, but the cover itself is metallic, which looks awesome. I love everything about this cover—the doubling of the imagery that echoes the doubling of Knox and his patron, Syd, the colors, the bar code look of the background, the font—everything! And I loved this book, too. You can read my full review HERE.

Teeth by Hannah Moscowitz

Teeth, by Hannah Moskowitz

The fish hooks making a heart is such a goddamned brilliant an image for Teeth. And I love the metallic in the fish scales that look like teeth. It’s so simple and so, so good. My full review of the awesome and eerie Teeth is HERE.

How To Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis

How To Repair a Mechanical Heart, by J.C. Lillis

How To Repair a Mechanical Heart is a self-published book, which makes me all the more impressed by its awesome cover. I love the three-color scheme and halftone dots here that evoke classic comic printing—so adorable, just like the book! My full review is HERE and our interview with the delightful J.C. Lillis HERE.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead

I think this paperback (right) change in the lettering is interesting. I really like them both, but I lean toward the hardcover (left) because the bright yellow echoes that window light and the moon and I just love it. This is the absolute perfect cover for Liar & Spy—my full review is HERE.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr

The cover of Sweethearts is so simple, but it’s so perfect. The pink and the turquoise against the white background is beautiful, and I just love how lush the frosting on the cookie looks. It doesn’t quite get at the angst between the covers, but it doesn’t really need to because I’m sold. Tessa’s full review of Sweethearts is HERE.

PAINTERLY

Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer Girl Unmoored by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Girl Unmoored, by Jennifer Gooch Hummer

Both the hardcover (left) and the paperback (right) have this beautiful, sunny color scheme, but I particularly like the blue and orange of the hardcover. The fingerpaint-y style of the hardcover fits with the young protagonist’s voice, and the paperback looks like awesome wallpaper that would be in a kid’s room. They perfectly evoke the summeriness of the book, but they definitely don’t give away its heartbreak. You can read my full review of Girl Unmoored HERE.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) and The Scorpio Racesby Maggie Stiefvater

I’m obsessed with the art on The Raven Boys hardcover and The Scorpio Races paperback, both by the incredible Adam S. Doyle. There’s a robustness to his brushstrokes that makes these animals look so dynamic, and I love the colors so much. Besides, these books are both so wonderful that they deserve the best of all possible covers. You can read my full review of The Raven Boys HERE, and The Scorpio Races HERE.

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp Under the Wolf, Under the Dog, by Adam Rapp 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp

Punkzilla and Under the Wolf, Under the Dog and 33 Snowfish, by Adam Rapp

Adam Rapp’s books often get cover art by one of my favorite illustrators, Timothy Basil Ering. I find his paintings so evocative and otherworldly, and I think they fit Rapp’s style of storytelling and writing perfectly. Ering’s own picture book, The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone, is awesome too.

PHOTOS OF PEOPLE

Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Burn For Burn, by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian

I usually hate book covers with photos of people on them, but I think this one is really beautiful. The light, faded colors make these girls look like they’re drenched in strong summer sunlight, and the transparency of the text and the border makes the whole thing look like a framed poster. I just love it (and the book’s good, too!). You can read Tessa’s full review HERE.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (The Chemical Garden #1), by Lauren DeStefano

Wither wasn’t a good book, but I adore this cover. It’s so . . . trashy or something. Like, the girl’s dress is so frothy, and so is her hair, but it looks like she’s collapsed in a basement. I love the birdcage and the lines connecting the boxes of text and the circles around the living elements are in such great contrast with that frothiness. Also the colors look great. Too bad the book doesn’t live up to it, but the cover definitely deserves a shout-out. Here is a great 3-part interview with Lizzy Bromley, executive art director at Simon & Schuster, who designed the cover.

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

The Marbury Lens (The Marbury Lens #1), by Andrew Smith

I think this cover is perfect. The blued-out black and white of the picture and font combined with the fiery reds and orange of one lens is an awesome way to indicate the different world that is seen through the Marbury lens. It’s eerie, but not sinister, and it’s what attracted me to what has become one of my favorite books of all time! My full review is HERE.

The Hanged Man by Francesca Lia Block

The Hanged Man, by Francesca Lia Block

Francesca Lia Block’s books often use photos by Suza Scalora, who’s famous for her photographs of fairies. I love how ethereally beautiful this photograph is, but also how this girl, despite that beauty, looks so haunted, which is the core of The Hanged Man: the line between beauty and destruction.

SUBTLE & REALIST

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy Paper, by Elizabeth LaBan

This cover is so simple, but it’s so beautiful—the darkness of the tree branches at the top giving way to the whiteness of the snow below, and both of them creating a tunnel for the dark figure to run through. It’s the light spots that really make it, though, as if the person watching the figure run away is blinded by the light refracting in drops of snow on the lens. A perfect cover for a great book. You can read my full review of The Tragedy Paper HERE.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

I love the subtle colors here, and how the figure looks realistic, but is so small that it evokes the vastness and non-realism of the novel.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick

You can’t see it in this image, but the hardcover is printed on pearlescent paper that makes the whole thing extra gorgeous. I was at Border’s one night during grad school, and I couldn’t decide what to read. I saw this book on an endcap and was totally captivated by it. Sadly, it’s not a great book, and the sequels are awful, but I still love this cover. The near black and white combined with the subtle red in the feathers. So good.

So, what about you all? What are your favorite YA covers?

Fall 2013’s Young Adult(ish) TV Lineup

A List of 10 Exciting-Looking YA(ish) Shows Premiering in 2013

Supernatural Beauty and the Beast

by REBECCA, August 22, 2013

It’s the dog days of summer and I’ve sweat through every article of clothing I own. All I want to do in the whole world is drink ice cold cocktails made with Saint Germain and some kind of fresh herb and watch something amazing. Thus, my thoughts turn, inevitably, to the upcoming Fall tv schedule! I am still reeling from the disappointment of Smash being cancelled after its second season, but I’m trying to pull myself together because there is a ton of stuff premiering this season. Lots of it looks intriguing, much of it looks entertaining, and some of it looks legit promising.

So, in addition to being super psyched about my friends, Supernatural, Beauty and the Beast, Elementary, etc., here are the 10 (vaguely) young adult(ish) shows I’m looking forward to checking out, in order of pilot premiere.

sleepy hollow sleepy hollow

Sleepy Hollow, FOX (September 16th)

“In this modern day twist on Washington Irving’s classic, Ichabod Crane is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Bound to the Headless Horseman by a blood spell cast on the battlefield of the American Revolution, Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC (September 24th)

I’ll definitely be checking this one out. Produced by Joss Whedon, he also writes and directs the pilot.

“Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel’s feature films, as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary. Coulson’s team consists of Agent Grant Ward, highly trained in combat and espionage; Agent Melinda May, expert pilot and martial artist; Agent Leo Fitz, brilliant engineer; and Agent Jemma Simmons, genius bio-chemist. Joining them on their journey into mystery is new recruit and computer hacker, Skye.

the originals The Originals

The Originals, the CW (October 3rd)

The Originals is a spinoff of The Vampire DiariesI thought The Vampire Diaries was boring, so I’ve probably missed some backstory to The Originals; I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to follow along, though. This is set in New Orleans, though, and I’m hoping for some Southern awesomeness. Plus: psychology grad student/bartender.

“Klaus Mikaelson, the original vampire-werewolf hybrid, has returned to New Orleans, the city his family helped build, the city from which he and his siblings were exiled a century ago by their relentless hunter father. Klaus is intrigued by his recent unexpected reunion with his former protégé, Marcel, a charismatic but diabolical vampire who now has total control over the human and supernatural inhabitants of New Orleans. Tensions between the town’s supernatural factions—vampires, witches, werewolves and humans—are nearing a breaking point as Marcel commands his devoted followers and rules with absolute power.

Even the human population of the Quarter is unwittingly drawn into this supernatural battleground. A recent arrival to New Orleans, Cami is a whip-smart psychology grad student who appears happy to pursue her studies by day and work nights as a bartender, unaware that many of her customers are vampires. Hiding the dark secret that has brought her to New Orleans, Cami soon finds herself fascinated by both Klaus and Marcel, and totally unaware of the danger that they pose for her and everyone around her. Now, in the midst of a thriving New Orleans, a city known to be steeped in magic and history, the long-smoldering war is about to reach a fever pitch, and the Originals stand as the catalyst.”

The Tomorrow People CW

The Tomorrow People, the CW (October 9th)

The Tomorrow People is based upon a British show of the same name from the 1970s. This looks like it’ll be a bit of a departure for the CW, so I’m curious.

“They are the next evolutionary leap of mankind, a generation of humans born with paranormal abilities—the Tomorrow People. Up until a year ago, Stephen was a “normal” teenager—until he began hearing voices and teleporting in his sleep, never knowing where he might wake up. Now, Stephen’s issues have gone far beyond the usual teenage angst, and he is beginning to question his sanity. In desperation, Stephen decides to listen to one of the voices in his head, and it leads him to his first encounter with the Tomorrow People—John, Cara and Russell—a genetically advanced race with the abilities of telekinesis, teleportation and telepathic communication. They are being hunted down by a paramilitary group of scientists known as Ultra, which sees them as a very real existential threat from a rival species, and the outcast group has been forced to hide out in an abandoned subway station just beneath the surface of the human world. They offer Stephen the chance for a normal life with his family and best friend if he will help in the struggle to isolate and eradicate the Tomorrow People.”

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, ABC (October 10th)

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland is a spinoff of Once Upon A Time, which I enjoyed for the first season and then got bored of. Still, I’m always willing to give an Alice a chance.

“In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she’s seen during this impossible adventure. Surely this troubled girl must be insane and her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything. Alice seems ready to put it all behind her, especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever—the handsome and mysterious Cyrus. But deep down Alice knows this world is real and just in the nick of time, the sardonic Knave of Hearts and the irrepressible White Rabbit (John Lithgow) arrive to save her from a doomed fate. Together, the trio will take a tumble down the rabbit hole to this Wonderland where nothing is impossible.”

Reign CW Series Logo for Reign

Reign, the CW (October 10th)

Ok, let’s be serious: this will probably be both horrendous and very historically inaccurate, but I will definitely check out the pilot, if only because it looks like the CW is trying to tap into a Harlequin Historical kind of vibe here. Plus, costumes and castles, duh.

“Hidden between the lines of the history books is the story of Mary Stuart, the young woman the world would come to know as Mary, Queen of Scots. The teenage Mary is already a headstrong monarch─beautiful, passionate and poised at the very beginning of her tumultuous rise to power. Arriving in France with four close friends as her ladies-in-waiting, Mary has been sent to secure Scotland’s strategic alliance by formalizing her arranged engagement to the French king’s dashing son, Prince Francis. But the match isn’t signed and sealed, it depends more on politics, religion and secret agendas than affairs of the heart. Prince Francis is intrigued by the fiery Scot, but like most young men, he resists the idea of settling down into marriage, especially when he has a history with a lady of the court and his own point of view on the wisdom of an alliance with Scotland. Still, an attraction between Mary and Francis is ignited.

As Mary learns for herself that fierce foes are conspiring to sabotage her marriage to Francis and even threaten her life, she becomes aware of other dark forces. There’s a mysterious presence in the castle; a shrouded figure who may become her unlikely ally. Villagers cope with the brutality of the times by trusting in magic and superstition. And in the dark woods surrounding the French Court lurk those who offer human sacrifice to a being who seems to require blood.”

dracula nbc

Dracula, NBC (October 25th)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is very close to my heart, but it’s been done so many times that I don’t have any squeamishness about the story being changed. This really could go either way, but I’m cheered by the fact that Daniel Knauf, creator/writer of the awesome Carnivàleis the head writer and showrunner.

“It’s the late 19th century, and the mysterious Dracula has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. He’s especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night—useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: he hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan… until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.”

Believe NBC JJ Abrams

Believe, NBC (Midseason)

I’m super excited about this because J.J. Abrams is producing and Alfonso Cuarón is producing, writing, and directing!

“Levitation, telekinesis, the ability to control nature, even predict the future… since she was two years old, Bo has had gifts she could neither fully understand nor control. Raised by a small group known as the ‘True Believers, the orphaned girl has been safeguarded from harmful outsiders who would use her forces for personal gain. But now that she is 10, her powers have become stronger, and the threat has grown more dangerous.

With her life and future now in jeopardy, the ‘Believers’ turn to the only person they see fit to be her full-time protector. That is, once they break him out of jail. Tate, a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate who’s lost his will, is initially reluctant – until he witnesses one of her extraordinary abilities. Bo sees people for who they truly are . . . and who they may become.”

Surviving Jack surviving jack

Surviving Jack, FOX (Midseason)

Surviving Jack is based on the book I Suck At Girls, by Justin Halpern, of Shit My Dad Says fame. I am assuming, then, that the character of Jack here is the eponymous “dad.” Whatever, I don’t usually care for comedies, but Jack is played by Christopher Meloni, my favorite ever SVU detective, and in the preview he looks hilarious. Le premise:

“Jack Dunlevy, ex-military and an oncologist, is a no-bull kind of guy. He sees little, if any, need to sugar-coat the truth. Up to this point, Jack’s been the parent who’s left for work early, come home late, eaten the big piece of chicken, yelled at his kids and gone to bed. But after years of deftly raising and running the family, his wife, Joanne, is going back to law school, leaving Jack as a full-time parent for the very first time.

Jack’s teenage son, Frankie, is just starting his freshman year in high school. Lanky, quick-witted, self-deprecating and not entirely sure of himself, all Frankie wants to do is fly under the radar. But over the summer, he grew 10 inches, threw a no-hitter against a rival team and started to attract girls—all of which put him in some awkward situations—especially when the only base he’s ever been to is on the field.”

Resurrection

Resurrection, ABC (Midseason)

Resurrection is based on the novel The Returnedby Jason Mott, which comes out next week. I have an ARC of it and have been looking forward to reading it; it seems like a premise that would translate well to tv.

“The people of Arcadia, Missouri are forever changed when their deceased loved ones suddenly start to return. An 8-year-old American boy wakes up alone in a rice paddy in a rural Chinese province with no idea how he got there. Details start to emerge when the boy, who calls himself Jacob, recalls that his hometown is Arcadia and an immigration agent, Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), takes him there. The home he claims as his own is occupied by an elderly couple, who lost their son Jacob more than 30 years ago. While they look different, young Jacob recognizes them as his parents. Those closest to the family try to unravel this impossible mystery, including the Sheriff, whose wife Barbara drowned 30 years ago trying to save Jacob. But this boy who claims to be the deceased Jacob knows secrets about his own death that no one else knows—secrets that Fred’s daughter will begin to investigate and discover to be true.”

What about you? What shows are you looking forward to this season?

A Little Healthy Competition! A List of Ass-Kicking, Sporty, and Competitive YA Protagonists

A List of YA Reads Featuring Ass-Kicking, Sporty, and Competitive Protagonists

Winger by Andrew Smith The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater Leverage by Joshua Cohen

by REBECCA, August 19, 2013

Now, I know this may shock a number of you, but I am neither sporty nor am I an ass-kicker. No, I’m far more comfortable running up a coffee shop tab than running a mile. I am, however, extremely competitive; I love, love, love being good at things; and I am easily manipulated into trying things when told I will fail at them. Thus, it will be no surprise to learn that I am a big fan of books and movies where people push themselves to be great and triumph over challenges, whether personal or worldly.

The Little Gymnast by Sheila HaighSome recent rad sporty or competitive reads include Andrew Smith’s spectacular Winger, Joshua C. Cohen’s Leverage, and Maggie Stiefvater’s beautiful Scorpio Races. Then, of course, there are classics from my youth, like Chris Crutcher’s Stotan!, and Sheila Haigh’s The Little Gymnast. There’s been a recent spate of sporty YA tv, too: the reality show Breaking Pointe on the CW, awesome Aussie import, Dance Academyand my personal favorite, gymnastics drama Make It Or Break It.

Lucky me, then, because my list of to-read books about such ass-kickers, sportsters, and competitors has recently swollen with the following exciting-looking reads! All blurbs from Goodreads.

Falling Hard by Megan Sparks

Falling Hard (Roller Girls #1) by Megan Sparks (2013). Why is roller derby so freaking badass?!

When Annie moves from London to a small town in the midwest, she struggles to fit in. She gets off to a bad start when she makes an enemy of her school’s queen bee, Kelsey. But she discovers a new passion, the exciting sport of roller derby, and makes friends with the cool and quirky girls on her team, the Liberty Belles. She also meets Jesse, the friendly boy who works at the roller rink, and Tyler, a cute, all-American sports star.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (2012). 

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit,” the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space. As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.

Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe

Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe (2013). Basically, this sounds like one of my all-time favorite sporty movies, Blue Crush (2002), featuring a pre-waif Kate Bosworth and a pre-straightened-teeth Michelle Rodriguez.

Blue CrushFor Grace Parker, surfing is all about the ride and the moment. Everything else disappears. She can forget that her best friend, Ford Watson, has a crush on her that she can’t reciprocate. She can forget how badly she wants to get a surf scholarship to UC San Diego. She can forget the pressure of her parents’ impossibly high expectations. When Ford enters Grace into a surf competition—the only way she can impress the UCSD surfing scouts—she has one summer to train and prepare. Will she gain everything she’s ever wanted or lose the only things that ever mattered?

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

 

Stupid Fast (Stupid Fast #1) by Geoff Herbach (2011). This one’s been on my to-read list for a while.

I, Felton Reinstein, am Stupid Fast. Seriously. The upper classmen used to call me Squirrel Nut, because I was little and jumpy. Then, during sophomore year, I got tall and huge and so fast the gym teachers in their tight shorts fell all over themselves. During summer, three things happened all at once. First, the pee-smelling jocks in my grade got me to work out for football, even though I had no intention of playing. Second, on my paper route the most beautiful girl I have ever seen moved in and played piano at 6 a.m. Third, my mom, who never drinks, had some wine, slept in her car, stopped weeding the garden, then took my TV and put it in her room and decided she wouldn’t get out of bed.

Listen, I have not had much success in my life. But suddenly I’m riding around in a jock’s pick-up truck? Suddenly I’m invited to go on walks with beautiful girls? So, it’s understandable that when my little brother stopped playing piano and began to dress like a pirate I didn’t pay much attention. That I didn’t want to deal with my mom coming apart.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11787733-bruised

 

Bruised by Sarah Skilton (2013). 

Imogen has always believed that her black belt in Tae Kwon Do made her stronger than everyone else—more responsible, more capable. But when she witnesses a holdup in a diner, she freezes. The gunman is shot and killed by the police. And it’s all her fault. Now she’s got to rebuild her life without the talent that made her special and the beliefs that made her strong. If only she could prove herself in a fight—a real fight—she might be able to let go of the guilt and shock. She’s drawn to Ricky, another witness to the holdup, both romantically and because she believes he might be able to give her the fight she’s been waiting for.

But when it comes down to it, a fight won’t answer Imogen’s big questions: What does it really mean to be stronger than other people? Is there such a thing as a fair fight? And can someone who’s beaten and bruised fall in love?

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

 

Pointe by Brandy Colbert (forthcoming, 2014). I’ve been burned by feh ballet books in the past, but this one looks particularly interesting because ballet is only half the story.

Theo is better now. She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor. Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

So, how about you—what are your favorite ass-kicking, sporty, or competitive books?

Matter & Antimatter, Before & After, Charm & Strange

A Review of Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

by REBECCA, August 14, 2013

I am in love with Charm & Strange, Stephanie Kuehn’s mysterious and slim debut novel that is both strange and charming.

The blurb: Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost. He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable. Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

Charm & Strange alternates between the present, when Win is at boarding school, and the past, when he and his brother go stay with their cousins one summer. When the book opens, there has been a mysterious death in the woods surrounding school: a body has been found, attacked by a wild animal. This is the setup for the psychological battle that Win is facing: he is convinced that he is a werewolf who hasn’t yet been able to turn. Maybe. Or has he? Is this a werewolf story, an unreliable narrator, a misconception? All of the above? None of the above? Well, obviously, I’m not telling.

Kuehn (who is working on a doctorate in clinical psychology) masterfully uses this animal attack as a way for Win to discuss his conviction about his feral nature, and it’s all done with such subtle menace that I was sold in the first two pages:

“The headmaster is firm. There’s something out there, he tells us while we’re all crammed shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh in the dark shadows of the school’s creaking chapel. A bear. A cougar. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. No one knows. . . .

The platitudes and clichés spill from his mouth in rapid succession like the lame script of some poorly programmed android. I listen but learn nothing new. I do know the cops are in the woods again this morning. I know because I watched them trudge out there, real early, with their cadaver dogs and everything. But today’s forecast calls for rain, and this will wash away the evidence, I guess. That’s too bad. I’d like the truth to be known as much as the next person.

More, really.” (22-3)

Charm & Strange by Stephanie KuehnI will say very little about the plot of Charm & Strange because it would be a damn shame to give anything away. Kuehn’s writing is gorgeous and her presentation of Win’s internal landscape heartbreaking. This is a rich, dark book about childhood, about families, about trauma and the ways we deal with them.

The story of the summer Win and his older brother spend with their cousins—the summer that everything changes—is a well-crafted coming of age story shot through with bolts of menace, sowing the seeds of Win’s conviction that he is a werewolf. As the two stories—past and present—play off one another, they build to a climax that might reinvent Win entirely. And though it’s a circumspect story, the stakes have never been higher.

At just over 200 pages, Charm & Strange packs a major punch without ever losing the edge of mystery that makes it recognizable as dealing with memories dredged from childhood and events colored over with the fog of trauma. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(Also, both the U.S. and the U.K. covers are competing for ultimate gorgeousness!)

readalike authors

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith. In case you haven’t, just don’t waste another minute of your life before you go and read every goddamned thing he’s written. Fans of The Marbury Lens in particular will enjoy Charm & Strange. My review is HERE.

Last Night I Sang To the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Gorgeous, gorgeous prose and an ability to evoke the psychology of his characters that’s at the absolute top of the heap. Fans of Last Night I Sang To the Monster, in particular, will enjoy Charm & Strange. My review is HERE.

procured from: a secret admirer! (thanks, mom!)

Best Friend 4-Ever: Paper Valentine

A Review of Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff 

Razorbill, 2013

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

by REBECCA, August 12, 2013

Hannah’s best friend Lillian has been dead for six months, but for Hannah, she’s always around. And now Lillian is helping her investigate a string of murders that have been committed against teenaged girls in their town—murders connected by paper valentines left at the scene. As if that weren’t enough, Hannah finds herself drawn to Finny Boone, a boy who seems to shoplift more than he goes to school. Can Hannah solve the murders, or will she become the next victim?

Brenna Yovanoff’s Paper Valentine is about a serial killer, sure, but it’s at its most interesting when it’s exploring the territory of friendship and the ways that style and taste both express our personalities and exert control over them.

Lillian was the queen bee of her and Hannah’s group of friends, and she set their agenda:

“It was Lillian who decided . . . that there was room for only one really enviable group in school, and we were going to be that group. . . . The kind where when a band gets big or a movie comes out, everyone checks to see how you feel about it before they can decide if they like it, and if you come to class with neon crackle nail polish or colored eyeliner, they all have to . . . get it too, but they never forgot that you wore it first.

That was what Lillian wanted . . . we’d be the girls you could never confuse with anyone else. The girls who invented the colors and started the trends . . . The biggest requirement of Lillian’s fashion philosophy was to always wear it—whatever it was—like you meant it. Like no one in the world could inhabit that exact outfit but you.” (50-51).”

The girls make their own clothes, sewing one thing into another and adding whimsical decorations, Lillian always the arbiter of taste and Hannah her best friend. When vibrant Lillian dies from anorexia, though, Hannah is left feeling uncertain of herself. Lillian’s ghost has stuck around, though, and only Hannah can see her. Little by little, they realize that they have information about the murders that are terrifying their suburban town, and Hannah puts the pieces together.

Paper Valentine by Brenna YovanoffThe atmosphere of Paper Valentine is spot-on: spooky in a heat-dazed, summer-tranced kind of way. In the mornings, Hannah walks her little sister, Ariel,  to music camp, where she runs into Finny Boone, who’s there for summer school. Hannah’s known Finny since elementary school, but never really spoken to him—he has a reputation for being a bit of a delinquent. Once, though, Finny stuck up for Hannah and she’s never forgotten it. She finds herself drawn to him, and he turns out to be a sweetheart. Plus, it’s super convenient to have a very tall/strong boyfriend when there’s a serial killer on the loose, amiright?

Paper Valentine does pretty well in terms of its component parts. The scenes of Hannah and Lillian’s friendship, and their clique, are perfectly-pitched psychodrama; the scenes of Hannah and Finny’s burgeoning friendship and romance are touching; and the throughline of the serial killer mystery is fairly satisfying. It’s just that there are a LOT of them and, for me, the book felt like it didn’t go quite deep enough into any of them to fully inhabit them. Hannah and Lillian’s friendship isn’t actually anything you’ve not seen before; Finny is your quintessential gentle giant character; and the murder mystery element, while dramatic, felt more like backdrop than narrative backbone.

I felt like Paper Valentine itself was the ghost of a few different books combined and it couldn’t decide what should be in the foreground and what in the background: are the serial murders just a backdrop against which to tell the story of Hannah’s recovery from a trauma? Or, is Hannah’s grief the backdrop against which the murders spur her to start a new relationship? It isn’t really clear, and, as such, I wasn’t quite sure what the stakes were. I enjoyed the book—Yovanoff is a solid writer, and the world she built is evocative and interesting—but each element gets about the same amount of development, and the result is a competent book that feels like a bit of a flatline. If one or two of these elements could have fallen to the background, leaving room for more development of one or two others, it would have had the peaks and valleys I craved by the end.

Lillian is the most vivid character and she haunts Paper Valentine as she does Hannah. I like the idea (if this was intentional), but the effect is still that Hannah seems lackluster. And, as in Pretty Little Liars, I’m left wondering what’s to like about these control-freak-mean-girls. I didn’t mind that there’s never really an explanation of whether ghosts are, like, a thing in the world of this book, or if it’s just Lillian, but it’s definitely one more thing the story skates on the surface of. Overall, I enjoyed the book as it unfolded, but found myself unable to remember much about it besides the outfits when it was over.

received from: the library

Birthday Booklist! My Sister’s Fave YA

by REBECCA, August 8, 2013

Today is my sister’s birthday! One of the best things about sisters is that sometimes you share a taste in books and can force them to buy things and let you borrow them. Or, in the case of my sister, she can assume (correctly) that I have all the books and she can pop in and borrow them whenever she wants. But that’s cool, because reading is a main tenet of sisterhood! In honor of my sister, then, here is a list of a few of her favorite YA books (she has pretty good taste)! Happy Birthday, sister! And, yes, you can come steal these books from me whenever you want.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964).

Harriet is the ultimate superscamp (just like my sister)—she hides in people’s dumbwaiters, rides in the baskets of bicycles, and gets people to make her sandwiches, all in the aid of finding out the truth!

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)

An anti-establishment band of brothers (three of whom are actually brothers) who are just trying to live their goddamned lives even though the world is kind of against them? Hell yes. I take full credit for my sister having the good taste to like S.E. Hinton’s novels—if I hadn’t convinced her I carried a switchblade when we were kids, who knows where we’d be?

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (1997-2007)

My parents and my sister and I tried to read the first Harry Potter book aloud the year it came out. I totally fell asleep in front of the fire because I was in high school and stayed up all night doing . . . stuff. But, then, we got back to it the next year and were totally hooked. Actually, we read the first three or four as a family and they are some of my fondest memories.

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (2009)

I had read Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series (well, okay, like 2.25 of them) and enjoyedish them, but never heard of Santa Olivia until my sister recommended it. It’s awesome, y’all. In fact, she’s promised to write a review of it for Crunchings & Munchings for, like, a year. Hmm, maybe if I shame her about it on her birthday it’ll get some results? No, I couldn’t do that—it’s too, too mean.

The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith

The Secret Circle trilogy by L.J. Smith (1992)

A coven of friends fighting (slash calling up) evil on an East Coast island while rocking nineties fashion? Of course I was obsessed with it as a teenager (slash now). I remain convinced that my sister must have stolen these out of my bedroom at some point during middle school; fortunately, she saw them for the TOTAL AWESOMENESS that they are rather than judging me. SO MAGICAL, despite the terrible work of the demon network The CW!

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)

A smart, hyper-literate girl surrounded by witless fiends uses her intelligence to outwit and punish them! Of course you love this book, sister: it must be like reading a biography about ME! Kidding. Kind of. We heart Matilda, and in honor of Bruce Bogtrotter, I made my sister a chocolate birthday cake and forced her to eat the entire thing.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (1995)

You guys, it’s so good. So good that I wrote a whole post about it HERE.

Happy Birthday to my sister and sisters everywhere!

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