YA Literary Halloween Costumes I Want To See

A List of YA & Children’s Lit Characters I’d Love To See Brought To Life This Halloween!

Effie Trinket Claudia Kishi

by REBECCA, October 30, 2013

Happy almost-Halloween! There really is nothing quite as awesome as cruising a Halloween party and seeing recognizable characters from your favorite YA books. Since I feel this way, it will be no surprise that two of my favorite times dressing up have been YA characters. Let’s start with them.

1. Harriet, from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet the Spy Louise Fitzhugh Harriet the Spy

I went as Harriet junior or senior year of college—Tessa, do you remember which? It’s such an easy costume: red hoodie, jeans, black sneaks, glasses, and the notebook and you’re set. Then all you need to do is wander around the party writing snarky and hilarious things about people in your notebook and hope nobody “accidentally” reads it and shuns you as a result. When I was Harriet, Tessa and I wrote drunken hilarious things back and forth to each other, such as haiku about how hungry we were. It’s a classic, but it’s never old.

2. Your greaser of choice, from The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders S.E. Hinton the outsiders

Two years ago, my sister and I went as greasers, complete with an elaborate sororal backstory about our dead parents and our deadbeat third sister who wouldn’t come to the rumble—ahem, party. Another super easy, but very recognizable costume. All you need are some too-short jeans, any color t-shirt, a jean or leather jacket, and some hair product. Blondes who hate hair product, never fear: though Matt Dylan is decidedly brunet, in the book, Dally is “towheaded,” and his hair flies free. Mofo is so badass he doesn’t even need hair grease to be known as a greaser.

3. Claudia Kishi, from The Baby-sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin

The Baby-Sitters Club Ann M. Martin  Claudia Kishi

Claudia was always my favorite of the club. A junk food addict who loves fashion—what possible better costume? Eating ALL the candy will be totally in character for Claudia. This is a great one because there are so many amazing outfit descriptions to choose from throughout the series. As long as you rock a long, brown side-pony and graphic earrings, any YA fan worth their salt will recognize you in a hot second. And if they can’t, they’re not worth the newsprint their Baby-Sitters Club books are printed on. This heroic blogger celebrates all of Claudia’s amazing outfits, so take your pick and start crafting your clay animals for earrings now!

4. Effie Trinket, from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

katniss-effie-reaping Effie trinket

Why on earth would I want to dress as Katniss when I could go as Effie! No, obviously there will be a lot of Katnisses running around shooting stuff this year, and it’ll be awesome. But if I had planned ahead at all, I would totally be going as Effie this year. Really, all you’d need is a loud-color outfit, a bunch of fake flowers and a scarf you could make a collar with, and a dab hand with the ole maquillage. Love it.

5. Miss New Mexico, from Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens Libba Bray

When the plane carrying 50 beauty queens crashes on an island, the contestants are all wearing their formal dresses. They end up in various stages of tatterdemalion from the crash, not to mention blood-stained and bedraggled. But the best is poor Miss New Mexico:

“‘My head kinda hurts,’ Miss New Mexico said. Several of the girls gasped. Half of an airline serving tray was lodged in her forehead, forming a small, blue canopy over her eyes.

‘What is it?’ Miss New Mexico checked to make sure her bra straps weren’t showing” (8).

So, you will have the delight of ripping and bloodying a dress, making yourself a New Mexico sash, and finding some way to seem like you’ve been impaled with an airline tray. I can’t think of a better way to spend Halloween!

6. Eloise, from Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hillary Knight

Eloise Kay Thompson Eloise Kay Thompson

A short, pleated black skirt, black suspenders, white knee socks, black Mary Janes, and a white short-sleeved shirt with puffed sleeves. Oh, and pink bloomers (don’t forget the bloomers). Messy blonde hair and a red bow. A willingness to make a mess and be adorable and spunky while doing it. Find those things, along with your “Inner Resources” and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Plaza hotel, and you can own Eloise this Halloween.

7. Weetzie Bat, from Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Weetzie Bat Francesca Lia Block

Weetzie has a “bleach-blonde flat-top,” “pink Harlequin sunglasses, strawberry lipstick, earrings dangling charms, and sugar-frosted eyeshadow.” She wears “old fifties taffeta dresses covered with poetry written in glitter,” “dresses made of kids’ sheets printed with pink piglets or Disney characters,” “sunglasses and leather, jewels and skeletons, rosaries and fur and silver.”

8. Nancy Drew, from Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew Carolyn Keene Nancy Drew Carolyn Keene

With delightfully high-waisted clothing in style right now, I feel sure that it wouldn’t be too hard to find some 1930s-ish Nancy Drew garb, especially if you can capture her penchant for acid greens. Now, just carry a flashlight and you’re good to go.

9. Max, from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak Max Where the Wild Things Are

I would lose my shit with delight if someone showed up as Max! I don’t think it’d be that hard, actually. You’d need long underwear and some of those wolf slippers. Then you could make the head piece with ears pretty easily. And you can make yourself a crown to put on halfway through the party when you get crowned king of the wild things!

10. Will Grayson & will grayson, from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson John Green David Levithan Will Grayson, Will Grayson John Green David Levithan (get it?)

This is a costume à deux. It’s subtle, so you might need name tags, but if you meet anyone who recognizes you right away you know they’re a friend for life. Really, you could wear any combo of jeans, tee-shirt, and sneakers, so long as you have Will Grayson and will grayson, respectively, on you. If it helps, though, Will Grayson is tall, with short, messy hair, and in the play, the character based on him wears his uniform: khakis, and a short-sleeve plaid button-down, both of which are very wrinkled, and black Converse. will grayson is small and blond and wearing a tee-shirt with a picture of a robot made out of duct tape on it, which says robotboy when the twain meet. You could add a Tiny Cooper, if you’re a threesome.

HAPPIEST OF YA HALLOWEENS TO YOU, MY FRIENDS! If you’re dressing in any kind of YA-related costume, tell me about it in the comments!

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Awesome Horror Comics, Part 2!

The Second Half of a List of My Favorite Creepy Comics

Crawl to Me Orchid Tom Morello

by REBECCA, October 28, 2013

On Wednesday, I posted Part 1 of the Awesome Horror Comics list! Here’s Part 2. It may or may not surprise you to note that there isn’t a single woman, either as writer or illustrator, on either of these lists, even though many of the most famous gothic and horror novels were written by women—Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, etc. Do you know of any horror comics written or illustrated by women? I hope so! If so, please tell me in the comments.

Frankenstein: Alive, Alive!11. Frankenstein: Alive, Alive!, by Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson

“Few works by comic-book artists have earned the universal acclaim and reverence that Bernie Wrightson’s illustrated version of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein was met with upon its original release in 1983. Nearly 30 years later, Wrightson returns to his passion project with a comic series that picks up at the end of the classic novel, hailed as one of the greatest horror stories of all time. Frequent Wrightson collaborator Steve Niles provides the script for this epic, decades in the making. While appearing to be in black and white, each page was scanned in color to mimic as closely as possible the experience of viewing the actual original art, showing off the exquisitely detailed brush work of one of the greatest living artists in comics today.”

Uzumaki by Junji Ito12. Uzumaki, by Junji Ito

“Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi’s father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return . . .”

The Walking Dead13. The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore

“An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months, society has crumbled: There is no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. Rick Grimes finds himself one of the few survivors in this terrifying future. A couple months ago he was a small town cop who had never fired a shot and only ever saw one dead body. Separated from his family, he must now sort through all the death and confusion to try and find his wife and son. In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally begin living.”

Echoes14. Echoes, by Joshu Hale Fialkov & Rahsan Ekedal

“From acclaimed author Joshua Hale Fialkov (Tumor) and rising artist Rahsan Ekedal (Creepy) a disturbing story of murder and mystery wrapped in questions of sanity. Brian Cohn was learning to deal with the schizophrenia inherited from his father. Supportive wife, new baby on the way, drugs to control the voices. But, when on his father’s deathbed he learns that he also inherited the trophies of his father’s career as a serial killer, will his madness send him further down into the crawlspace of his father’s mind?”

The Beast of Chicago by Rick Geary15. The Beast of Chicago: An Account of the Life and Crimes of Herman W. Mudgett, Known to the World As H.H. Holmes, by Rick Geary

“He was the world’s first serial killer and he existed in the late 19th century, operating around the Chicago World’s Fair, building a literal house of horrors, replete with chutes for dead bodies, gas chambers, surgical rooms. He methodically murdered up to 200 people, mostly young women. The infamous H.H. Holmes is the next subject of Geary’s award-winning and increasingly popular series.”

From Hell Alan Moore Eddie Campbell16. From Hell, by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

“‘I shall tell you where we are. We’re in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We’re in Hell.’ Alan Moore turns his ever-incisive eye to the squalid, enigmatic world of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders of 1888. His Ripper’s brutal activities are the epicentre of a conspiracy involving the very heart of the British Establishment, including the Freemasons and The Royal Family. A popular claim, which is transformed through Moore’s exquisite and thoroughly gripping vision, of the Ripper crimes being the womb from which the 20th century, so enmeshed in the celebrity culture of violence, received its shocking, visceral birth.”

Batman Arkham Asylum17. Batman: Arkham Asylum, by Grant Morrison & Dave McKean

“The inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham’s detention center for the criminally insane on April Fool’s Day, demanding Batman in exchange for their hostages. Accepting their demented challenge, Batman is forced to endure the personal hells of the Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and many other sworn enemies in order to save the innocents and retake the prison. During his run through this absurd gauntlet, the Dark Knight’s must face down both his most dangerous foes and his inner demons. The classic confrontation between the Dark Knight and his archnemeses, this story is well known for its psychological intensity and probing portraits of Batman and the Joker.”

Clive Barker's Hellraiser18. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, by Clive Barker, Christopher Monfette, Leonardo Manco, & Stephen Thompson

“Clive Barker has ‘touched’ Hellraiser only twice before: once to write The Hellbound Heart, and once more to write and direct the original Hellraiser film. With the Hellraiser ongoing series, witness Barker’s long-awaited return to tell a new chapter in the official continuity — a trajectory that will forever change the Cenobites . . . and Pinhead! So prepare your soul for an epic journey into horror from one of the medium’s greatest voices, and starring one of the medium’s greatest characters, in an unforgettable new chapter of Hellraiser.”

Orchid Tom Morello19. Orchid, by Tom Morello (yes, that Tom Morello), Dan Jackson, & Scott Hepburn

“When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. Delve into the first chapter of Orchid, the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her.”

20. Crawl To Me, by Alan Robert

Crawl to MeWire Hangers creator/hard-rock musician, Alan Robert, is back for blood with an all-new horror tale, Crawl to Me, which centers on Ryan as he struggles to protect his family from what appears to be an evil entity living within their basement’s crawl space. It is only after a series of violent events occur that Ryan realizes he must set aside all he believes to be true in order to face his shocking and inevitable reality.”

Happy horror comic reading, folks! Did I miss your favorite? Have you thought of any horror comics written or illustrated by women? Tell me in the comments!

Awesome Horror Comics, Part 1

The First Half of a List of My Favorite Creepy Comics

Batman The Long Halloween The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala

by REBECCA, October 23, 2013

One of the things I love about horror comics is that I have total control over reading them, so I can make them feel more or less scary, unlike when I watch a horror movie, which moves relentlessly forward. With Halloween right around the corner (yay!), here is the first half of a list of my favorite horror comics. There’s a wide range here, from the slightly creepy to the grisly to the existentially horrifying—certainly not all of them are horror in the classic sense. All descriptions are from Goodreads.

Batman The Long Halloween

1. Batman: the Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

“Taking place during Batman’s early days of crime fighting, this new edition of the classic mystery tells the story of a mysterious killer who murders his prey only on holidays. Working with District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against the calendar as he tries to discover who Holiday is before he claims his next victim each month. A mystery that has the reader continually guessing the identity of the killer, this story also ties into the events that transform Harvey Dent into Batman’s deadly enemy, Two-Face.”

30 Days of Night2. 30 Days of Night, by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith

“In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn’t rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love.”

The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala

3. The Chuckling Whatsit, by Richard Sala

“In The Chuckling Whatsit, Sala weaves the gothic cartooning traditions of Edward Gorey and Charles Addams with a densely constructed, melodramatic murder mystery involving astrology, ghouls, academia and outsider art. Part noir, part horror and part comedy, this labyrinthian tale of intrigue follows an unemployed writer named Broom who becomes unwittingly ensnared in a complex plot involving mysterious outsider artist Emile Jarnac, the shadowy machinations of the Ghoul Appreciation Society Headquarters (GASH), and the enigmatic Mr. Ixnay. Sala’s deadpan delivery makes this ingeniously layered narrative a roller-coaster ride of darkly pure comic suspense.”

Hellboy4. Hellboy, by Mike Mignola & John Byrne

“When strangeness threatens to engulf the world, a strange man will come to save it. Sent to investigate a mystery with supernatural overtones, Hellboy discovers the secrets of his own origins, and his link to the Nazi occultists who promised Hitler a final solution in the form of a demonic avatar.”

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

5. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez

“The series focuses on the 20-something year old anti-hero Johnny C, also known as “NNY” (pronounced ‘knee’). He is a deranged serial killer, mass murderer, and spree killer who interacts with various other characters, generally by murdering them. He elaborately kills anyone who even slightly irritates him, then drains their blood and paints one of the walls in his house with it. Johnny is also willing to murder “innocent” people who, in his twisted mind, deserve their fate for some reason or another. The number of Johnny’s victims is in the dozens, if not hundreds — or perhaps even thousands. Authorities are unable to capture Johnny and seem unaware of his existence, even though his crimes are often witnessed in public and reported by the few who manage to survive.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/97486.The_Crow6. The Crow, by James O’Barr

“Murdered along with his fiancee on Halloween eve by a vicious street gang, Eric Draven returns from the dead and led by a crow, seeks vengeance on the killers who killed him and raped and then killed his beloved Shelly.”

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore7. Rachel Rising, by Terry Moore

“Rachel wakes up at sunrise on a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the freshly murdered body in the dirt is her own. With events of the previous night a blur, Rachel seeks out her boyfriend Phillip. But Phillip has a new girl now and Rachel is beginning to suspect she rose from the grave for a reason . . . revenge!”

Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott

 

8. Cinema Panopticum, by Thomas Ott

“T. Ott plunges into the darkness with five new graphic horror novelettes: “The Prophet,” “The Wonder Pill,” “La Lucha,” “The Hotel,” and the title story, each executed in his hallucinatory and hyper-detailed scratchboard style. The first story in the book introduces the other four: A little girl visits an amusement park. She looks fascinated, but finds everything too expensive. Finally, behind the rollercoaster she eyeballs a small booth with “CINEMA PANOPTICUM” written on it. Inside there are boxes with screens. Every box contains a movie; the title of each appears on each screen. Each costs only a dime, so the price is right for the little girl. She puts her money in the first box: “The Prophet” begins. In the film, a vagrant foresees the end of the world and tries to warn people, but nobody believes him. They will soon enough.”

Harvest9. Harvest, by A.J. Lieberman & Colin Lorimer

“Livers, kidneys, and rogue medical teams, oh my! Welcome to Dr. Benjamin Dane’s nightmare! His only way out? Bring down the man who set him up for murder by reclaiming organs already placed in some very powerful people. The only people Dane can count on are an ex-Yakuza assassin and a six-year-old drug fiend. If Dexter, ER, and 100 Bullets had a three-way and that mind-blowing tryst somehow resulted in a child, that kid would read Harvest!”

Locke & Key

 

10. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

“Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them . . . and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all . . .”

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Awesome Horror Comics!

Gone Home: a chat.

In which Evan and Tessa discuss a new video game that they played together and really liked. (So did other people – it is a 2013 Finalist for Excellence in Narrative from the Independent Games Festival as well as getting an Honorable Mention for Excellence in Audio and Seumas McNally Grand Prize!)

screenshot from Varewulf.wordpress.com

screenshot from Varewulf.wordpress.com

Tessa: So, Evan. I learned about Gone Home via a Rookie Mag Saturday Links list in March. I think I talked to you about it, or you noticed that I liked its Facebook entity, or something. Did you hear about it somewhere else, or did you hear about it through me?

Evan: I heard about the game through you mentioning it to me. I remember us talking about a video game to play together while I was playing Bioshock: Infinite and you brought up Gone Home. I don’t really follow video game news or play many games these days so I’m pretty blind when it comes to 99% of new releases. After you mentioned it I watched a trailer and the game started to intrigue. I love adventure games and the idea of interactive stories. As somebody that doesn’t really play video games, what made you interested in Gone Home?

Tessa: It was the whole atmosphere of the game – the 90s riot grrrl bands, an empty house, the sound of rain on the roof and windows. Although I grew up during the riot grrrl phase, I never got to be one (instead, I described myself as a riot nrrrd), so I felt like this could be my chance to play one in a video game.
from Jenny Woolworth's Riot Grrrl Diary

from Jenny Woolworth’s Riot Grrrl Diary

As it turns out, you get to play the sister of someone who becomes part of the scene, so I still didn’t get to fulfill my fantasy. Maybe there will be a game based on Blake Nelson’s Girl in the future. One can hope.

Also, we’d been talking about finding a video game to play together and this one looked like it wouldn’t require so many hand-eye coordination skills. I’m not a huge gamer because I kind of suck at using video game controls. Even when I did play NES during my youth, I would get too into the game and hobble myself with a combination of physical enthusiasm (jumping when my character should jump) and mental terror (what if my character does not make it across that chasm?), so the experience was exciting but terminally frustrating.

So I spend my free time doing things at which I can improve.

What I’m saying is I’m glad you’re into board games.

Is this the time that we declare that this discussion might get spoilery? And do you want to describe your first impressions of the game/the basic plot?

the last game system Tessa seriously played, a.k.a. the point at which you can stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers

the last game system Tessa seriously played, a.k.a. the point at which you can stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers

Evan: Definitely. What makes Gone Home special is the story and it’s pretty impossible to discuss the game meaningfully without discussing what happens in it. Despite my desire for blogging fame I’m going to make an impassioned plea that if you are interested in Gone Home that you should navigate away from this page, log in to Steam, download Gone Home and play it. Then come back here and read.

How to know if this is something for you? If you’re interested in interactive storytelling, video games with rich atmosphere and expertly crafted characters, if you’re interested in exploring a creepy house and looking for the clues to a mystery then you’ll probably dig Gone Home. You will not be killing anything or solving complex puzzles, you will be experiencing a story. Go play it.

With that out of the way, in Gone Home you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 21 year old woman returning home from a European trip in 1995. While she was away her family moved to a large mansion outside Seattle. She arrives home on a dark, rainy night to find a note on the front door from her younger sister and nobody home. As Kaitlin you’re trying to find out what happened to your family by exploring the mansion.

I fell in love with this game almost instantly. The set-up is really juicy. The game tosses you into this scenario with almost no background and plays on your lack of knowledge rather effectively. Mechanically the game is really simple. All you can really do is walk around, pick up objects, rotate them, and read various notes and letters left behind. There are lots of details to dig into in the house. It was fun to just go slow and search for a little tidbit of information that would reveal more of the story.

What are your feelings about the very beginning of the game? Did you have any expectations for how the game would play or what it was about beyond the basic premise?

Tessa: I was really into the game from the beginning, too. From the menu, actually, which I found out was done by Emily Carroll, an artist whose work I’d previously admired in comics form (especially in a creepy story in the Explorer: The Mystery Boxes collection). It turns out her wife (Kate Craig) is one of the game designers, so Emily illustrated the start page,along with in-game maps, and the font is based on her handwriting (more info here):

How great is that? The dusky sky lit by some illumination – the setting sun? The one light on in the whole rambling house emerging from the trees, with the door left slightly open – it’s not clear whether in neglect or invitation. The image works against the usual connotations of the word “home”, and then “gone” takes a double meaning. So the atmosphere is apparent immediately.

The game itself opens with Kaitlin seeing her family’s new house for the first time. It’s raining. The enclosed front porch is lit by a lonely lamp, and she has to find the key (our first task as players).

I personally find it difficult to imagine that anyone in the world doesn’t like the idea of exploring a big old empty house, so I was already into it. And then when she finds a Christmas themed duck, and a text box proclaims “Good ol’ Christmas Duck”, I was delighted.  There was humor, familiarity, character, history.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the graphics in Gone Home aren’t trying to fool you into thinking that it’s anything but a video game. It isn’t Final Fantasy-level…rendering? I don’t know what the word is.

Not to say that creating a game didn’t take lots of love and work, but they don’t have to, because the strength is in the story. Your brain attaches to the story that you’re building through exploration and smoothes out the edges of what you’re seeing, so it doesn’t end up mattering. It feels real.

I didn’t have any expectations about how the game would play, but I did somehow expect that it would have a creepy angle.  And there are some moments in there that pander to that expectation – but this isn’t a murder mystery or a tragic story.

As much as I want to play a video game where I explore a haunted house, I’m glad that my expectations weren’t met, and impressed that they were fooled with by the game designers – not just the stories of the parents, which I thought could go in a couple different directions, but the back story of the house’s original owner, especially a blown light bulb in particular.

That story I hope requires some further digging. I’d like more than the hints we have now.

What did you think of the game experience compared to your other video gaming experiences? Do you think it lends itself to more than one play?

Evan: The title screen is super impressive. It feels like the cover to a book, which is appropriate because Gone Home feels like an interactive book. I’m glad you mentioned the Christmas Duck and the textbox joke. There were lots of great little moments like that in the game. I especially liked when you find a condom in your parents bedroom and the text description of it is just “Eww.” I loved all the items you could interact with. I liked finding tapes to put in stereos or playing records that you find. All those little things add to the character of the house.

Good point on the “horror” elements of the game. They are definitely there to subvert the expectations of the player. Gone Home is a game that is boldly about ordinary people. I listened to a great extended interview with one of the game’s creators (Steve Gaynor) on the Qt3 Games Podcast, and he explained that those moments are in the game to help ground it in reality. For example if you find a teenage girl’s ghosthunting journal in a video game the expectation is that at some point of the game you’ll be seeing ghosts, but if you found one in somebody’s house in the real world you would just think it was the result of kids having fun and not assume that the house is haunted.

As you begin to piece together more and more information from exploring the house you begin to realize that your younger sister Sam has met Lonnie, a young woman at her new high school. As the two girls bond and become friends they realize they are in love with each other. The moments that build up to this realization are beautifully detailed. When you find a key piece of information you hear Sam’s voice reading her diary. These were some of the most moving portions of the game. The voice actress playing Sam was great. The V.O. diary filled in big pieces of the story, but there’s a ton of details to be found by looking at items, reading notes, and rifling through drawers. You get to see a lot of items that Sam and Lonnie bonded over: riot grrl cassette tapes, a ticket stub to pulp fiction, SNES game cartridges, VHS recorded episodes of the X-Files. I loved finding all those details. It gave me a real sense of who all of the characters were without even interacting with them once.

I really have to applaud how this game features a real, loving lesbian relationship that wasn’t sensationalized or sophomoric or all about sex. Maybe this is my lack of current videogame playing speaking, but I can’t think of another game that approaches love with this level of maturity and believability. You develop a very strong emotional bond with Sam and her struggles to hide her relationship from her parents, or her struggling to find herself and realize who she is.

Sam is the heart of the the story and is the main character of the game, but there are great story arcs for the parents as well and you get to know them to a great level of detail. You get the sense that real people live in the house and they are just away. Ironically Kaitlin (the character you are controlling) is probably the least developed character in the game. I think that’s an asset of the game because it lets you insert yourself emotionally into the story with a greater ease.

I’ve never played a video game like Gone Home before. Genuinely. I think most games emphasize thrills and intensity over quieter story moments. I think there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but Gone Home feels like a gigantic leap forward in what a video game can do with narrative.

The replayability of the game is an interesting discussion to have. It has been one of games aspects that has drawn some criticism. There’s nothing variable about the game other than the order you find items, so once you find everything in the house it won’t change on subsequent plays. So if you want to come back to Gone Home and have a different experience you probably won’t play the game more than once.. But I could certainly envisions people playing the game again to revisit the story. I think the reason replayability has been so hotly contested is because of the video game medium. People don’t criticize books or movies because they don’t inherently offer different experiences when you revisit them. Yet people do read certain books and watch certain movies more than once. That said there is a lot to discover in the game. I’m positive there are still details we haven’t found yet, so there is a reason to come back until you’re sure you’ve explored every nook and cranny of the house.

What are your thoughts about the story? Were there any specific moments of the game that you found especially moving or fascinating?

Tessa: I like your comments about replayability in games vs. in books or movies. If you’re measuring Gone Home by the standards of an adventuring, quest type game, it will fail. Because it doesn’t belong in the genre. It’s definitely a storytelling experience. But while Gone Home has a rich world, I’m not sure it can be judged yet on the level of things like a book, as far as equating replaying and re-reading.

Sam’s and Lonnie’s relationship isn’t played as a huge twist, and I like that. Gone Home is really mining the theme of discovery and self-discovery. You can see it not just with Sam, but also with the parents, and to a superficial extent with Kaitlin, coming back from time abroad.

And I love the way it plays with the idea of home – not just the house space, but the idea of the people that give us the feeling of being home. Home is a deceptively simple idea, but one that carries different experiences for everyone and can be counted on to hit some emotional chord. I can’t praise the game designers/creators enough for the way they created both a home and an unknown space. As Edgar Albert Guest so colloquially says,

“Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;

Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ livin’ in it”

So I do think the game succeeds in atmosphere and thematic elements, and I believe you when you say it is a giant leap forward in depicting  a realistic first love between two teenage girls. But I’m not sure if it has enough meat in the story to draw me back again once I discovered everything in the game. Sam & Lonnie’s story is sweet, and open-ended. I’d probably end up yearning for more instead of re-enjoying it ,although it might be something that I pulled out from time to time to revisit the environment, though, or to play with a new person.

I also hope its success paves the way for more games like this.

 

 

The Top 10 Greatest Halloween Episodes of TV!

My So-Called Life Halloween My So-Called Life Halloween

by REBECCA, October 16, 2013

I love holiday episodes of television. The fantasy world on the screen intersects with our mundane world during those episodes, as if the pull of shared seasonal moments is too strong to resist. Since I don’t usually watch tv in real time, though, one of my favorite things to do in the weeks leading up to Halloween is watch Halloween-themed episodes. Whereas Christmas and Chanukah and Thanksgiving episodes tend to revolve around family dynamics and issues, Halloween is nearly always a friend-centric holiday, making it perfect for Young Adult tv shows. But, since Halloween is the ultimate day of becoming someone we’re not, especially in terms of dressing up and acting childlike, it creates perfect opportunities for a YA feel even in adult tv shows.

1. My So-Called Life, “Halloween” (1994).

My So-Called Life HalloweenThis is, without a doubt, my favorite Halloween episode of tv; it really hits all the high points. Characters’ costume choices reveal insights into their personalities, like when Rickie decides to dress as Brian Crakow and comments, “I thought this Halloweek I’d be everyone else.” There’s an actual supernatural happening, in which Angela is visited by the ghost of Nicky Driscoll, a greaser who died in the gym on Halloween in 1961 (she got his book in English class, where every good haunting is born). Then there’s the parents’ humiliating storyline where Patty (gag me with a spoon I hate her) dresses as Rapunzel, and the poignant one where Danielle dresses as Angela because she can’t decide whether she wants to understand her or mock her. All in all, it’s grade-A Halloween.

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Halloween” (Season 2, 1997).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer halloweenBuffy and her friends get their Halloween costumes from Ethan Rayne’s shop, and the costumes are magicked so that each one turns into the costume she’s wearing. Buffy is a meek damsel, so she can’t do anything; Zander is an army guy who, in an amusing twist later in the season, still remembers some of his army training; Willow is a ghost. This is a fun literalization of the idea that people become what they dress like. Also it’s fun to see Buffy, who’s usually such a badass, be scared of things, while Zander, who’s usually scared, gets to be capable.

3. Supernatural, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” (Season 4, 2008).

SupernaturalThe day before Halloween, Sam and Dean are investigating a man who dies from swallowing razor blades in candy and a girl who was bobbing for apples at a costume party and was boiled by the water, and realize they’re dealing with a witch who’s trying to raise Samhain. When Sam and Dean confiscate the dude’s candy to check it for supernaturaly things, there’s an amusing gag in which Dean eats ALL the candy. A fun episode and, bonus, it guest stars Ashley Benson, of Pretty Little Liars fame, a very spooky show—and, Ashley Benson is almost the same name as Amber Benson, who stars in Buffy. See what happens on Halloween?!

4. Roseanne, “BOO” (Season 2, 1989).

roseanne halloweenRoseanne did a Halloween episode every season after this one, god bless it, and they’re all pretty awesome. This is one show that’s an exception to the Halloween-is-for-friends theme I mentioned above—Roseanne and Dan are both obsessed with Halloween, and they spend the episode trying to one-up each other on pranks. They have their living room set up as a tunnel of terror for trick-or-treaters, but really Roseanne and Dan are mostly trying to scare each other. Roseanne forever!

5. Bones, “Mummy in the Maze” (Season 3, 2007).

BonesBones and Booth are investigating a mummy found in a haunted maze. Soon, another body shows up, and it seems like the person has been scared to death. The whole gang dresses in costume for the annual Jeffersonian Halloween party, so when Booth and Bones are called away to try and find a missing girl, they have to go in costume. Booth is a nerd squint and Bones is Wonder Woman and it’s amazing. Favorite moment: Booth and other FBI types are trying complicated systems to explain how to find the mummy in the maze and Booth is getting super annoyed. Then Booth realizes the maze is made of hay bales and just knocks the whole thing over.

6. Will & Grace, “Boo, Humbug” (Season 1, 1998).

Will & GraceSuch classic shenanigans! Jack begs Will and Grace to go with him to the Village, but they hate Halloween and are planning on having an Ingmar Bergman film festival at home. Jack begs Karen to go with him instead (and I think this is the episode where they really become friends—one of the greater tv alliances in recorded history). Just as W&G are pouring the wine, Will’s boss shows up and dumps his kids on Will, so he and Grace have to take them trick-or-treating. Hijinks ensue and W&G rediscover their childlike glee. Meanwhile, everyone in the Village thinks that Karen is a drag queen and worships her, which is really only her due.

7. Pushing Daisies, “Girth” (Season 1, 2007).

Pushing Daisies "Girth"Really, nearly every episode of this delight kind of seem like Halloween. Ned (Lee Pace, I love you) hates Halloween, because as a child it was the day he found out that his father had gotten a new family after sending him to boarding school. Emerson and Olive are on the case of a ghost-jockey and ghost-horse that are haunting other jockeys. Turns out, Olive used to be a jockey (amazing backstory choice since Kristin Chenoweth is so tiny) and is therefore in danger of being killed too. In a poignant ending, Chuck dresses up as a ghost and trick-or-treats at the aunts’ house. God, why is this show SO good?!

8. Grey’s Anatomy, “Haunt You Every Day” (Season 4, 2007).

Grey's AnatomyGrey’s Anatomy doesn’t usually do much in the way of Halloween episodes, but I really like this one because it’s more about a Halloween feeling than the holiday itself, although, there are some amazing Halloween moments, including when the boy born without ears goes to Sloan and trick-or-treats for ear surgery. In this episode, Meredith is carrying around her mother’s ashes in a bag and is trying to decide what to do with them, but can’t make the decision—her mother haunts the halls of the hospital and the decisions Meredith makes. The theme of haunting continues in a particularly creepy and interesting instance of a man who is convinced that his foot is “dead” and needs to be cut off.

9. Gossip Girl, “The Handmaiden’s Tale” (Season 1, 2007).

Gossip Girl The Handmaiden's TaleRemember when Blair and Nate were still dating! Well, Blair has arranged an elaborate scavenger hunt at the Halloween Masked Ball. Because it is a MASKED BALL, naturally cases of mistaken identity and disguise abound. In a show where appearance is everything, the opportunity to be mistaken for someone else is a dangerous one, and one that creates opportunities for people who are willing to take them. Bwah ha ha.

10. Beavis and Butthead, “Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest (Butt-O-Ween)” (Season 6, 1995).

Beavis and ButtheadI just found myself transported back to the moment I first saw Beavis and Butthead (sixth grade) and everyone (well, everyone whose parents didn’t immediately force them to stop watching it) was talking about it at school the next day, trying to figure out if they were using real words or just making stuff up. Sadly, my poor mother waged an epically losing battle against the phrase “that sucks” for years, which she can lay firmly at Beavis and Butthead‘s feet. Except they’d probably tell her, “shut up, dumbass.” Anyhoosier, this episode is 1990s MTV Halloweenery at its finest. B&B are watching a horror movie when trick-or-treaters show up at their door. When they realize they, too, could go trick-or-treating and get free candy, they take to the streets. After being dismissed for not wearing costumes, Butthead pours melted cheese all over himself and goes as nachos. Meanwhile, Beavis eats all the candy corn, and is transformed into Cornholio. Somehow, B&B end up at a farm, where they variously turn into zombies, are suspended on meat hooks, and are chased with chainsaws. Oh, the nineties.

So, there you have my picks for the 10 best Halloween episodes of TV. Tell me yours!

Asher’s Fault: A Quiet Coming-Of-Age Novel

A Review of Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

Bold Strokes Books, 2013

Asher's Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

by REBECCA, October 14, 2013

“The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He’s so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad’s plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it’s his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher’s black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.” (Goodreads)

Asher has a lot going on. He’s falling in love with photography, but he isn’t quite sure what appeals to him about it so much. His father has moved in with another woman and seems to have abandoned him. His best friend, Levi, has joined the football team and they don’t have anything in common anymore. And all of that is before he experiences the tragedy of his brother’s death. At church one day, Asher meets Garrett, the new kid in town, and goes with him to the local pool with his brother in tow. In the bathroom at the pool, Asher and Garrett share a sweet kiss that clues Asher in to parts of his sexuality that he’d never recognized. At the same time that Asher is getting his first kiss, though, his brother drowns in the pool.

Asher’s Fault is, first and foremost, a quiet book, which I like. It’s about one boy’s coming of age against the backdrop of his parents’ divorce, his brother’s death, and his growing distance from his friends. Asher’s sexuality is not at the forefront of the novel, though there is certainly the implication that he connects the first stirrings of his homosexuality with not preventing his brother’s death. The guilt Asher feels, though, is shared by others, so this connection is a character trait not an authorial indictment.

Minolta_Maxxum_Panorama_Elite_w_35-70_f3.5-4.5The details of Asher connecting with the world through the lens of his camera are strong, as is Asher’s slow realization that his family situation is more complicated than he originally thought. It’s also nice  to see a character—especially a queer character—who was raised religious and for whom religion is important, who isn’t totally messed up and traumatized because they were taught that their sexuality is sinful. All in all, Asher’s Fault is well-written and I definitely enjoyed it.

Still, though, it felt like there were some things missing; it almost read like a condensed version of a larger, more detailed story. I was shocked, at one point, to learn that a year had gone by with no indication. Since some of the chapters are preceded by a parenthetical description of a photograph, I wondered if this flashbulb skipping ahead in time was a purposeful narrative choice to echo photography, but it’s not consistent enough to feel purposeful. There are also some blank spots in terms of Asher’s character; I felt a bit like he wandered around in a mild fugue state, which might function as an indication of his grief and guilt over his brother’s death, but really just seemed like a bit of stiff characterization. I enjoyed a small family mystery that unfurled in the final quarter of the novel, but it felt more like slipping in backstory than something that moved the plot forward.

While I definitely enjoy a slow burn, I didn’t get as full a sense of these characters as I wanted at all. Garrett, who seemed like he would be a main character, disappeared after the kiss, and Asher mostly has superficial interactions with schoolmates. Again, realistic, sure, but not terribly compelling, and I think the lack of a real friend for Asher deprived the author of some great chances to show us his growth as a character.

Elizabeth WheelerThe structure is a bit inconsistent, too. The book opens with what seems like it will be a frame narrative: “I might as well have been blind for the first fourteen years of my life. . . . After what Dad did, you’d think she’d get it. . . . Take the day I got my old-school Minolta, for instance.” But then, rather than moving to the present and returning to the frame story at the end, it turns out not to be a frame at all; instead, we move forward from there. So, there’s a knowingness to the beginning—the suggestion that this is being written from the far future, where the character is wiser and has something to say—that promises insights and closure that aren’t delivered throughout the rest of the book.

Asher’s Fault is a debut novel, and I’d definitely be interested to see Elizabeth Wheeler‘s next effort. It was a fast, enjoyable read, even if it had some rough spots. You can check out some of the photographs described in Asher’s Fault on her website.

procured from: I received an ARC of Asher’s Fault from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler is available now.

October Is Horror Movie Month!

Here Are 5 Young Adult Horror Movies To Get Us Excited For HalloweenCarrie

by REBECCA, October 8, 2013

Like so many fans of horror fiction, October is always a treat because it’s a constant rollout of horror movies. Usually this consists of 90% garbage, but there are always a few I get excited about. Horror movies have long been the province of young adults, whether it’s the teens being picked off one by one in Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the terrifying children of The Exorcist, The Omen, and Let the Right One In, the gangs of scary teenagers in Near Dark and The Lost Boys, or the teens just trying to survive evil in the form of authority figures in Suspiria and The FacultyBecause of their scare-factor, however, these horror movies would rarely be considered Young Adult movies. This October, though, there are five horror movies that seem much more in YA territory!

1. Carrie, starring Chloë Moretz and Julianne Moore; directed by Kimberly Peirce

CarrieA remake of Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s novelCarrie is the story of a shy girl raised by a hyper-religious mother who is tormented by her peers at school and gets revenge on them by using her telekinetic abilities to kill them at the prom. I liked Moretz in the American remake of Let the Right One In and can really see her as Carrie. Carrie‘s theme of bullying will, I think, resonate even more strongly with audiences of today than it did in the seventies. Bonus: October is national anti-bullying month, which I’m sure is the distributors’ reason for releasing it then. EDIT: Also, check out this amazing publicity stunt in which a special effects-rigged coffee shop freaks customers out by making them think a girl goes all Carrie on someone after he spills her coffee!

Carrie opens October 18th.

2. I Will Follow You Into the Dark, starring Mischa Barton and Ryan Eggold; written and directed by Mark Edwin Robinson

I Will Follow You Into The DarkNamed after a Death Cab For Cutie song, I Will Follow You Into the Dark finds Sophie (Barton) suffering from depression after the deaths of her parents. Then she meets Adam (Eggold), the only one who gets through to her. But when Adam disappears, Sophie tries to find him, ending up at a mysterious apartment building and crossing the threshold into the realm of the dead. This mixture of horror and romance seems sure to resonate with a young adult audience.

I Will Follow You Into the Dark opens October 11th.

3. Haunt, starring Harrison Gilbertson and Liana Liberato; written by Andrew Barrer and directed by Mac Carter

HauntIntroverted teen Ethan (Gilbertson) moves into a new house and becomes friends with the girl next door (Liberato), then romantically involved. As they explore their new relationship they also explore Ethan’s family’s house, which is haunted, and discover an alternate (and terrifying!) dimension. I haven’t heard anything about this movie, nor have I heard of these two lead actors, but I’m excited for a non-remake horror movie—also the tag line is terrifying: “The Feeding Never Ends.” What?! Haunt actually sounds a bit like I Will Follow You Into the Dark in its mix of romance and horror and it’s portal-to-another-realmness.

Haunt opens October 11th.

4. Toad Road, written and directed by Jason Banker

Toad RoadWriter/director Jason Banker describes Toad Road as “something like Kids meets The Blair Witch Project.” Banker cast Toad Road by finding a teen who friended VICE magazine on MySpace and looking at his top friends (weird) and filmed it in his home town of York, Pennsylvania. He used their real lives, kind of, and built the story around them—about 70% of the film is documentary, in that it’s these people actually interacting. Banker had them use real drugs before shooting (also weird) and, in a grisly twist, Sara Anne Jones, the lead, died of a drug overdose just after Toad Road‘s premiere. I’m very curious about this movie and I could see it having real cult appeal. Here’s hoping it’s more Kids and less The Blair Witch Project.

Toad Road opens October 25th.

5. Grand Piano, starring Elijah Wood and John Cusack; written by Damien Chazelle and directed by Eugenia Mira

Grand PianoOk, so this one is a cheat because it’s opening in Spain, but I had to include it because it looks so freaking awesome. Tom Selznick (Wood) is a pianist who hasn’t played in five years after he choked during a performance of his mentor’s work. This is his comeback performance and he finds a note on his piano that tells him if he plays even one wrong note then he and his wife will be killed. Dude, it’s like Speed on classical music. Tom puts in an earpiece so he can hear orders from the man who is threatening him (Cusack) and has to play for his life. I’m sorry to tease you with this since I’m not sure when it’s releasing in the U.S., but this is exactly the movie I want to see on Halloween. I’ll report back when I hear it’s opening here. UPDATEGrand Piano is opening in the U.S. on March 7th!

People, when I paused in writing this post on HORROR to check that my formatting looked right, guess what the word count was at? Guess. Come on, guess! Yep, that’s right:

DEVIL!

Why Fans of Young Adult Literature LOVE The Voice

The Voice

by REBECCA, October 2, 2013

Obviously, I am talking about myself; I love The Voice with a passion that I usually reserve for soft cheeses in ash rinds. I love it because I love music and great vocalists, but there are plenty of other shows I could be watching were it only good singers I was after. No, it’s the narrative structure of The Voice that makes it so compelling, and its tropes are straight out of YA fiction.

With or Without You by Brian Farrey1. Overcoming an obstacle to get a chance at your dreams is a major trope of YA lit. The Voice milks this trope for everything it’s worth: each singer tells the story of how she got into music—stories of everything from disfiguring accidents, racism, and terminal illness to the deaths of loved ones, brutal bullying, and devastating acts of nature. But what gets each and every one of them through their hardships is the power of freaking music, y’all. Now, I know that probably sounds cheesy (and not in the good, ash-rind sort of way), but there is really nothing that gets me as much as the way that people can transform the horrible, the unfair, and the devastating into art. I did a whole post last year that was a list celebrating YA books that feature characters who use creativity as an outlet because I really think it’s one of the most powerful stories there is. And to hear those stories and then watch these singers come on stage and just annihilate . . . well, it’s pretty inspiring.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills2. Relatedly, unlike American Idol et al, which operate according to a cattle call mentality, where we laugh at as many contestants as we clap for, The Voice is totally sincere. Sure, the coaches make fun of each other good-naturedly, but at the end of the day their genuine passion for the voices they’re hearing is humbling. Relationships between a mentor and a hopeful are definitely the stuff of YA fiction, even though many of the contestants on The Voice aren’t young adults. The show’s sincerity, further, makes it doubly easy for me to feel good about my devotion to it. Where some similar shows either take themselves too seriously or seem to be laughing at anyone who really invests in them, The Voice feels more like the Magic: The Gathering group that met at lunch in your middle school and was legitimately psyched to find other people as excited about getting down to it as they were.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going3. Because the premise of The Voice is that the coaches cannot see the singers until they choose to turn their chairs around for them, the disconnect between what a singer sounds like and what she looks like is a theme on the show with which any YA reader will be very familiar. Dynamite singers discuss the way the music industry has been unwelcoming to them because they aren’t white enough, young enough, thin enough, attractive enough. Over and over, we hear stories of prejudice and bullying that makes the singers feel like their only fair shot is to audition blind, which is what led many of them to The Voice. This is an issue that looms large in YA fiction, certainly. The limitations that we place on ourselves, our talents, and our ambitions based on how others treat us, or how we believe they see us, is at the heart of a lot of YA lit, as is breaking through the ceiling of those limitations.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins4. Once the blind auditions are over and each coach has assembled a team of twelve, the Battle Rounds begin, in which two singers from the same team sing one song in an epic sing-off for the chance to continue in the competition. This is a Hunger Gamesworthy drama that wreaks Machiavellian havoc on the singers, the coach that must make the decision, and the viewer. Forcing the coach and the viewer to choose between two very different, but both appealing, singers is precisely the tension that makes the much-loved/oft-scorned trope of the love triangle so powerful (and so polarizing) in YA lit. It’s intoxicating to know that there is so much talent to choose from, empowering to decide who is worthy of staying, and humbling to have to end someone’s dream. I mean, at least that is totally how I feel every time I’m forced to choose between two really attractive, really talented people who want to date me. Right?

The Culling by Steven dos Santos5. Because The Voice has to be watched in real time (if you have tv, which I don’t) or online (which I do), there isn’t the option to marathon it (my favorite way to watch tv), which is a real shame, because the arc of The Voice is not that of your mama’s reality show. Unlike most reality tv shows, which are episodic and therefore repetitive, there are multiple phases of The Voice, so we watch the singers develop, see their personalities as artists cohere, and get attached to them, just like characters in a novel or fictional tv show, which is a really smart narrative choice. First we’re introduced to the singers’ backstories and fall in love with their voices. This is like the first quarter of a book where we meet the characters and see who’s who. Next, before we’re too, too committed, but after we’ve formed allegiances, we have to watch singer after singer die from exposure, arrows to the throat, poison berries, and tracker jacker stings be eliminated from the competition in the Battle Rounds. But wait! There are steals, whereby some lucky singers are saved and switch teams, shifting allegiances immediately—just like when a character is blackballed by her friend group and has to find another table to sit at in the cafeteria (or my father moves cities and has a new favorite sports team).

Friday Night LightsThen, after the teams have been whittled and stolen down to their very essences, when you think you couldn’t bear to lose even one more person, most of them leave you and go off to college! Ahem, I mean, get eliminated. Because the third stage of competition finds us in the Knockout Rounds, where two singers from a team compete against each other with songs they each choose for themselves. Here singers’ personalities emerge even further and who the judges choose to continue in the competition depends as much on their song choice and vision as it does on their execution. This is the part of the book where a character realizes that she has to be true to herself because even if she succeeds, if she does so on someone else’s terms, it ain’t nearly as sweet. Finally, the Live Rounds shift the power from the judges to the voting audience, changing it from Debate Team to Popularity Contest (there goes the neighborhood) in a display of “taste” that has often been as heartbreaking as having your school cancel its football program, if you know what I mean.

So, it is for these reasons (and more, like, say, awesome music, and the fact that it resurrects Carson Daly from his mid-to-late-1990s MTV Total Request Live VJ past and puts his crooked little face back in the action) that I am totally, unapologetically a fan of The Voice. And, I’d wager, they’re why a lot of YA lit-loving folks love The Voice when they couldn’t care less about shows like American Idol. What do you think? The Voice: love it? hate it? indifferent to it? Tell me why in the comments!

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