I’m still reading, and obviously not updating. But I’m breaking the silence to mention a program happening at my library tonight: Scott Westerfeld will be there talking about his upcoming book, Leviathan. And he’ll be showing off Keith Thompson’s gorgeous artwork. I read the book, from a galley I picked up at BEA, and really enjoyed it. So at this point what I’m really looking forward to is the Alan Cumming-read audiobook (who’s got a Barnes and Noble appearance tomorrow, so I’m really excited about my week.)
The Running Man – Stephen King
I had seen this recommended as a good readalike for the Hunger Games, that it deals with a lot of the same themes and ideas. Which is absolutely true. I also liked that it would appeal to guys. I found it a little hard to get into, and maybe it was a little ironic that I spent a few afternoons reading it while sipping a glass of wine in a fancy hotel lounge, but ultimately I enjoyed it. Ben Richards is compelling, and his fight-the-man attitude would definitely resonate with teens. And televised blood sport is not all that hard to believe.
The one huge caveat with this book is that the introduction reveals the denouement. You might as well read the last page as read the introduction. Thanks for nothing editors!
(I’m both sick and crazy busy with work stuff that I can’t talk about yet, but am dying to share with the world, and so I’m trying to get any kind of backlog of anything done because if I don’t do it now I’ll never do it. )
Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney
Greg Heffley is a dork and kind of a jerk in that way kids can be to whoever’s smaller than them when they’re used to being picked on themselves. Nothing really goes his way, but he doesn’t ever see his own role in his problems. Despite all that, he has fun and acts stupid and hatches plots and gets right back up when things don’t go his way.
I’m not a pre-teen boy, so I can’t say I “get” this book. But it’s funny and takes middle-school problems seriously. And boys love it, so that’s cool. Adrien Mole would be a good follow up for slightly older kids.
The Spectacular Now – Tim Tharp
Sutter Keely is both the life of the party and kind of a joke. He’s that kid we all knew, who was always up for a good time and would often take things too far, but always managed to walk away from things unscathed. His drinking is definitely a problem, though he certainly wouldn’t agree. He is actually as charming as he thinks he is, but I still wouldn’t let him through the front door of my house. Over the course of the book he begins to see the consequences of his behavior and the toll it takes on his closest friends, but whether he’ll be able to do anything about it is up in the air.
I think I’ve seen this book criticized for having too adult of a voice, that teenage boys would never speak like these characters do or want to read about them. But I think older teens do, stoners of all ages do, but I still don’t know that those kids are ever going to pick this book up. Because in the context of the story I get what it’s going for, but I think this cover is just awful.
I really enjoyed this book, mostly because Sutter is so likable and you really do pull for him to make something of himself. But the end, however “true” to the character, felt false and unsatisfying to me. In the guise of doing the right thing, I think he’s just copping out again and that the reader is cheated of seeing him realize that doesn’t work with the rest of the book.
Night Road – A.M. Jenkins
I had really enjoyed Jenkins’ book Repossesed, about a demon who escapes hell and tries to live as a teenage boy. And so I was looking forward to her new vampire-road-trip novel. But I was completely bored by this. There were a few nice touches and I liked how the main character, Cole, describes hemes (don’t call him a vampire, he’s a hemavore) not as being immortal but as having souls that can’t be separated from their bodies. Cole is a sad sack and has adjusted to having killer instincts by keeping every aspect of his life under tight control. This is portrayed well, but isn’t a topic I enjoy the exploration of. I also don’t feel like the cover or the tagline are doing this book any favors, but am glad it’s at least out there to talk to teenage boys about when they’re looking for a non-romantic vampire story.
Evil Genius – Catherine Jinks
I’ve had this review as a draft for almost a month. Because I don’t have a lot to say about it but don’t want to damn it with faint praise. In paperback, this is a big, fat book. Other than that, it seems as if it would be an easy sell to kids who’ve outgrown Ender or who like the X-men or the idea of a training school for super villains. But I was more enthusiastic about the book at the beginning than by the end and I think paring down would have helped.
I’m going to try to post about the other handful of YA books I’ve finished recently, though I’m only enthusiastic about one of them. And then the election came, and for awhile I was only interested in reading about current events. And drawing even more of my attention away from reading has been a holiday craft project I’ve been consumed with.
Sunrise over Fallujah – Walter Dean Myers
Blame my recent lack of reviews on this book; I just could not bring myself to pick it up. Instead, I caught up on podcasts and worked on finishing my honeymoon cross-stitch project.
I’d never read Myers’ Vietnam War “classic,” Fallen Angels, so I don’t know how the two books compare. But they are linked by the narrator of this book, Robin, who is the nephew of the main character in that other book and writes a few letters home to him. Robin joins up at the beginning of the war and as a part of Civilian Affairs he’s not on the front lines, but once the first fighting is over there aren’t really any front lines. His unit is supposed to be working on gaining the good will of the Iraqis though as often as that means they play a pick up game of soccer, they’re trading hostages for detonators.
This is neither a bad nor controversial book. It’s just a boring one. Robin’s voice, especially in his letters home, was overly formal and did not ring true. Beyond that, it felt like Myers was checking off a list of points that he wanted to make about war and this war in particular. There was no deeper insight into the conflict or the lives of soldiers.
Teachers will probably assign this (a lot did over the summer) and it has enough complexity that it might be a good jumping off point for discussions. But it wasn’t gripping or illuminating.