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Ash Ash by Malinda Lo

Yet another title to add to the collection of novel-length Cinderella retellings, and this one is distinguished by a few things. It’s the only one I know of where the Cinderella figure – Ash, in this story – falls in love with another woman rather than the prince. It also treats the fairy godparent role in a distinctive way, with a helpful but not entirely benevolent fairy godfather of sorts. The darkness – and allure – of the world of fairies is a big part of the mood of the books, and fairy lore is treated as a sort of ‘pagan’ religion that fell out of favor with the rulers of the book’s imaginary country.

I would recommend this for middle school and up, since the romance is more in glances and longing than anything else, but there’s still a darkness and maturity to the themes of the story. It’s a solid retelling, and a good choice for fans of this genre, but it never quite hooked me personally. I don’t think I was ever completely swept up in the world of the story, and I wasn’t particularly drawn to Ash as a character.

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Flash Burnout Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

A strong, realistic YA novel with a great blend of humor and grit. Blake has a great voice as a character, and I loved reading his interactions with his family, his girlfriend, his teachers, and his friend-who’s-a-girl. Plus, local author! Local setting! There are some heavier issues – a side character is a meth addict, although the topic is never dealt with in detail – it’s more about the way that kind of addiction affects other people. I loved that I didn’t know how the story would resolve, yet Blake’s actions always fit his character. And the ending is realistic – there is no happily ever after, but there is some resolution and a sense of moving forward. You know what I would love? Not a sequel, but a companion story from another character’s point of view. Marissa, his brother, Shannon – I don’t care, but it would be a hoot to see Blake from someone else’s point of view. View all my reviews >>

Hold Still Hold Still by Nina LaCour

A haunting but not depressing contrast to Thirteen Reasons Why. While the central issue is Caitlin dealing with her best friend’s suicide, and there are certainly heartbreaking points in the story related to that, it’s as much about Caitlin finding her place emotionally and artistically. Photographs and photography are woven into the story quite nicely, and the design of the book complements this artistic angle. It’s more character and situation driven than plot driven, with good supporting characters – Caitlin’s photography teacher is particularly memorable. A good sense of place, too, and I loved how Caitlin used building a treehouse as part of her way of dealing with grief. Recommended to teens looking for a thoughtful story.

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I keep having dreams about book award announcements.  I’m either transcribing the results or I’ve slept through them.  Why can’t my brain figure out which day it is?  Or at least accurately convey the results to me via a prophetic dream?  That would be fun.  As it is, they just make me feel anxious.

Part of it is that I’ve been charged with ordering any books that my library doesn’t already own, and ordering duplicates of the Newbery and Caldecott winners.  Because Monday is a holiday, the library is closed.  And because the library is closed, our catalog is getting an upgrade that day, while no one needs to use it.  Except ME who wants to get an order in pronto, especially if there are some obscure winners and everyone is scrambling for copies.  And if I can’t see the catalog, I don’t know what I need to order (I’m up on what’s in my section – juv fiction – but not necessarily picture books and non-fiction).  Which means I wait till Tuesday.  And yes, that annoys me profoundly.

On the other hand, I could get up at 4:45 am for the awards and send in an order from home before the catalog goes down at 6:30 am.  HAHAHA.  That’s a good one.  I don’t even know if I’d trust myself to place an order at that hour of the morning, even if I were up.

In other news, my reading has been a little scattered this week.  I finished up Ballad (oh, the snark!  How I love thee!)  I was quite taken by the Morris finalist Hold Still – I kept thinking of Thirteen Reasons Why, because I felt like HS did everything right that TRW did wrong.  Sad, but still lovely.  Then I picked up another Morris finalist, Flash Burnout, which coincidentally also involves photography as a major theme in the story, and which I was intrigued to find out is written by a fellow Portlander and is set in Portland – I came across a street name and immediately had to check the author bio.  Plus, it has a nice sense of place so far – it’s not just set here for the sake of giving it a real location.

Yesterday I real the Mock Printz title All the Broken Pieces in two sittings – I thought it was excellently done and I’m curious to hear how it fares in dicussions (this afternoon!)  I kind of read the last MP title over breakfast – The Eternal Smile.  Which is to say, I read the first story and the last story, and artwork in the middle story is so off-putting to me that I kind of gave up.  After my experiences at the first Mock Newbery I went to (the year Criss Cross won), I never expect other people to have the same reaction as I did – because I couldn’t finish Criss Cross for the discussion, and people at the MN raved about it.  So.  I’m looking forward to the discussion.

In audio land, I finished up Once Was Lost – a fantastic book, I wish it were part of our Mock Printz discussion – and started listening to the full-cast Graceling (because audio books are a great excuse to reread).

I also went a little crazy one night and started Leaving the Bellweathers, one of those juv titles I ordered and then wanted to read and have had sitting on my shelf for ages.  And because I finished All the Broken Pieces before my lunch break was over yesterday, I started another title in that category – Escape Under the Forever Sky – which I’d had sitting on my shelf at work.  The non-fiction that I’m planning on reading has been sadly neglected, and I even added to the pile by picking up Jim Murphy’s Truce, which I’m really looking forward to.

Whew!  Now it’s time to get ready to meet fellow book nerd Kitri for lunch before we head to the Mock Printz.  Back with results later!

For us YA lit junkies, there’s nothing like award announcements to get us excited and adding more books to our towering to-read piles.

The William C. Morris Award is only in it’s second year, and it goes to debut authors, which narrows the pool nicely.  Also, they announce a shortlist of finalists so that we can get reading and have an opinion when the winner is announced (on Monday, January 18, 2010, along with the rest of the ALA awards – Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.)  I just took a look at the description on the award website, and it’s very interesting:

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award celebrates the achievement of a previously unpublished author, or authors, who have made a strong literary debut in writing for young adult readers. The work cited will illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers through its excellence, demonstrated by:

  • Compelling, high quality writing and/or illustration
  • The integrity of the work as a whole
  • Its proven or potential appeal to a wide range of teen readers

Not only are they supposed to be books written for a teen audience, but they will “illuminate the teen experience” and have “proven or potential appeal to a wide range of teen readers.”

This year’s finalists!

  • Ash, by Malinda Lo
  • Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  • The Everafter, by Amy Huntley
  • Flash Burnout, by L. K. Madigan
  • Hold Still, by Nina LaCour

I haven’t read any, but I’ve heard good things about Ash and Beautiful Creatures.  Good thing I’m almost done with my Mock Printz reading, because my list just got longer.

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