Friday, August 8, 2014

The TCABSC Goes To: Zuzana from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy

The Tiny Cooper Award for Best Supporting Character (TCABSC, pronounced Tuh-Cab-Skuh) was created to honor those special guys and gals who, while not the main focus of the book, are still extraordinary. The Tiny Coopers (Will Grayson, Will Grayson), Anitas (West Side Story), and Robins (Batman) of the fictional world may not always get the girl (or guy), but sometimes they fulfill their role of supporting or obstructing the lead character in such a phenomenal way that it deserves special notice. This attention now comes in the form of an imaginary award made up by me. Hey, they’re not the main characters, so they have to take what they can get.

This Tiny Cooper Award for Best Supporting Character goes to: Zuzana from Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor.

In lieu of five other nominees, here are five reasons why Zuzana is awesome:

(spoilers for the three-book series

1) She is uber talented. Zuzana comes from a family of puppet makers, but she takes the art to a new level. Her final project for art school is a street performance where she dances, acting as a marionette, attached by strings to a giant puppet. So the puppeteer is actually the puppet! Brilliant!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Adults Are Cool Too, Right? 7 Adult Books for YA Readers

If The Catcher in the Rye is an adult novel, then why are so many teens obsessed with it? The distinction between YA and adult fiction can be as thin as to be unnoticeable to the casual observer. And such a petty thing as genre distinction will never hold back a teen who loves reading. More than that, YA author Robin Wasserman, in an excellent essay about Stephen King’s ability to write great teen characters, posits “There are some adult books that, for whatever reason, seem specially formulated to wend their way into teenagers’ brains and take root, and I think it’s because—like one of those high-frequency tones the rest of us are too old to notice—these books are whispering  secret truths certain teenagers need to hear.” These are some books that whispered to me as a teen. And then whispered again, and again, and again because I reread them so many times.

It by Stephen King
Here’s Robin Wasserman again: “What Stephen King reader didn’t fall in love with him a teenager?” I fell hard when I read It. But I didn’t reread It for the way it made me terrified to go to the bathroom or how I stayed up all night reading because I was afraid to turn out the light. I reread it because it’s about a group of friends who love each other, and how that love is the most powerful kind of magic. The young versions of the characters are just on the cusp of puberty. The book’s nostalgia for that age, as well as the late 1950s time period in which it is set, perfectly reflect a teenager’s nostalgia for their lost childhood, which seems to be an ocean of time away from their drastically different present. Also, you’re welcome for not using one of the terrifying clown versions of this book’s cover. I had the Tim Curry TV movie tie-in one, which had his picture on the spine, and I would hide it behind my other books so that he couldn’t see me. Eventually I just threw it away and bought another one, but I was still scared it was going to reappear on my bookshelf one night, Talky Tina–style. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why YA? Michelle Dean for the New York Times Magazine

"I suppose I'm admitting that those people who call young-adult readers "childish" are onto something. It's just not the pure desire for regression they pompously diagnose. It's a desire for stories substantial enough to withstand the ages, that are like smooth river rocks you can turn over and over again."

-Michelle Dean. Our Young-Adult Dystopia. The New York Times Magazine. January 31, 2014.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Winter Books

When you hear the words "polar vortex," it doesn't make you want to go outside. The good news is that the recent spate of low temperatures are perfect for my favorite indoor activity: reading. Here are some wintery books to remind you how good you have it while you are curled up inside your warm house.

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Cassie lives with her father, a scientist, at a research station in the Arctic.  When she meets a polar bear who tells her that her mother is not dead, as she had thought, but imprisoned at the end of the earth, Cassie desperately agrees to his price: marriage.  But life in the polar bear's ice castle is neither cold nor terrifying, and Cassie comes to care for her bear husband.  Until she makes a terrible mistake that sends her on a journey to save both her bear and her mother.

Sarah Beth Durst books are always lush, engrossing, and filled with pathos. This retelling of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" effortlessly combines a coming-of-age story with romance and magic.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why YA?

Eliot Schrefer wrote a great online column for the Times about writing YA fiction. It comes the closest to describing my personal reasons for reading/writing YA of any of the other articles of this sort that I have read. Here's the gist:

"...what Y.A. novels value above all else is storytelling. It took me even longer to realize that that needn't lessen a book's complexity -- it just prioritizes the reader's experience. Ultimately, if there's a refrain I hear from the many adults turning to Y.A., it's not that the books are any simpler. They're just more pleasurable."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fangirl for Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl

Pardon me if I’m a little weepy; I just finished reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It’s a good weepy, the kind that lets you know that you’re not ready to let go of that amazing book just yet. Eleanor and Park, Rowell’s last book, was perfectly sparse. Each word fit precisely into place. Fangirl is just as perfect, but longer and meatier. It’s the kind of book that you disappear into while you’re reading. 

Fangirl opens with Cath (full name: Cather) leaving for college and hurt that her twin sister doesn’t want to room with together. She’s not all that excited about college, either, or anything that doesn’t involve writing fan fiction about the Simon Snow books—a Harry Potter-esque series of children’s fantasy novels. Simon has always been her escape—from her mother leaving, from her father’s mental health issues, from engaging with the world in a way that might leave her vulnerable. But her blunt roommate and her roommate’s handsome and friendly boyfriend won’t let her retreat completely. And a good-looking boy in her fiction writing class is tempting her into writing about something other than Simon. Is she ready to start her real life if it means letting go of Simon?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lucid Dream: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Listening to other people describe their dreams can be the most boring thing in the world. I know this. And yet I still can’t stop myself from telling people, “I had the craziest dream last night…” Dreams come straight from our raw emotional cores, which makes them a powerful experience that so colors the waking world that we need to share them with someone else just to continue our day. This also makes them extremely difficult to describe. “I saw this pink poodle, only it wasn’t a normal poodle, it was really scary,” doesn’t cover the visceral terror you felt when staring into the black, soulless eyes of a girly hell-dog. Dreams have unstable settings, as well as mysteriously vanishing and reappearing characters, and unresolvable plot holes. And yet Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, a book about dreaming, perfectly evokes the otherworldly feel of those nighttime phantoms while still maintaining a stable base of story.