Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Also . . .

For you aspiring authors out there, here's a call for manuscripts and reviewers. I don't know Knox Robinson, but it's always worth exploring, eh?

Hunger Games Trailer

Many thanks to Abbey, Patrina, and Emily for posting! I am a notable slacker, and I do not anticipate that this will change anytime soon.

Here is a link to the Hunger Games movie trailer:

I can already see where the movie is losing some of the book's subtlety and understatedness. These are two elements which make the books remarkable and draw me to (and back to) them. I just keep telling myself, “It’s a movie, it’s different, it has to be . . .” It’s a very effective trailer, I think, but I can already see some small, but significant, changes (and it isn't just freaking out because the actors don't look like the people in my head. Though I'm sure there's that, too). Madeleine L'Engle taught me that "comparisons are odious," but how can you stop yourself with something like this, something you're so deeply invested in? I guess that investment is the problem, which leads to the question, WHY do we (or some of us, at least) get so strongly invested in these literary texts? Do you care about every filmic translation of books you've read? I didn't like what they did to The Lightning Thief, but I was able to respond fairly philosophically--I understood why they aged Percy and why they collapsed certain characters and plot elements into others. So why does a "faithful" interpretation of The Hunger Games mean so much to me? I realize that the particular elements I'm attached to may not be the ones that lend themselves most readily to the screen, or even that others would find important enough to preserve. . . . So, what do y'all think??

Monday, October 10, 2011

Paper Girls: Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns

Lately I've been thinking a great deal about two of my favorite female characters in the YA canon: Margo Roth Spiegelman and Alaska Young. These two characters, though driven by different motivations and back-stories, share very similar qualities. What I love about them is that they're real, vulnerable, and they aren't perfect all of the time. I feel like these two girls have a depth and uniqueness that many female characters don't have.

And I empathize with these two girls a great deal. Especially Margo. Granted, I'm not some idolized popular beauty queen in a public high school--but the striking difference between the Margo that the world sees and the Margo that Margo sees is the part that I empathize with.

The fact of the matter is, Margo Roth Spiegelman and Alaska Young are not perfect. They are not heroines, or victims, or romantic leads. They are not soft and frilly or "one of the boys". They are portrayed as brilliant and mysterious and hypnotizing and yet, the more we learn about them, the more we see that that's all conjecture--sometimes the girls are those things, but it's impossible for them to maintain.

And so we have a Paper Girl.

So often I feel like the bits of me that I know and the bits that other people see do not add up. If you were to take all of the pieces of me and add them together, I don't think that you would get something greater than that sum. I think you would get a mathematical nightmare. I'm inconsistent and conflicted and like Margo and Alaska, most of the people around me have no idea.

I understand why Margo could feel so empty in her paper town and why Alaska smokes to die. It's impossible to maintain an image for other people to see when it isn't who you are. It's exhausting and frustrating and it leaves you empty--a wrapped up gift with pretty paper and nothing inside (or worse, socks).

But the beautiful thing about Margo Roth Spiegelman and Alaska Young is that they have people who love them anyway. Sure, you can make the argument that Pudge only loves the Alaska he sees--but at the end of the book I would argue that he loved the Alaska that he didn't know too. And then you have the wonderful Q, who comes to this awesome realization:

"And all at once I knew how Margo Roth Spiegelman felt when she wasn't being Margo Roth Spiegelman: she felt empty. She felt the unscaleable wall surrounding her. I thought of her asleep on the carpet with only that jagged sliver of sky above her. Maybe Margo felt comfortable there because Margo the person lived like that all the time: in an abandoned room with blocked-out windows, the only light pouring in through holes in the roof. Yes. The fundamental mistake I had always made--and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make--was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl." ~John Green

This knowledge sums up so much of how I feel sometimes, and it's one of my favorite quotes in Paper Towns.

My only problem, and the question I would pose to John Green were I to get the chance, is this:

How do you stop being a paper girl?

Because the Alaska and the Margo models don't seem to work long term.

(this post can be found originally on one of my other blogs, however, it was a perfect candidate for this blog as well, so I am posting it here. Original Post)

Monday, October 3, 2011

"What good is supposed to look like"

I have been debating for a while now what exactly I could post on here. While this is more of a recommendation/'rah rah rah' you-should-read-this-book-if-you-haven't already-type post, it is also an attempt to mention the many weighty themes Picoults presents in her book Nineteen Minutes which make it so intriguing (sp?).

For many obvious and even more subtle reasons, I love, love, love this book. Its one of those that I couldn't put down, despite its length (to me anything over 400 pages is a bit hefty, but that's just my humble opinion). The title to this post comes from a journal entry which serves as an ongoing division between each chapter. I love the use of this technique. It is one of the factors which gave me the feeling of wanting to read more- this whole idea of, well, whose journal is this? Why did Picoult use this literary device? The journal entries give insight into one of the main character's deepest thoughts- but the whole time I was reading the book, I was like 'ok, surely this person is going to say their name or give some dead-give away clue as to who they are'. Well, I got nada. It was interesting to see the development of this character through their journal entries which they intended to keep private, and conversely, were not able to speak these words to another human being in their life and thus resorted to and found comfort in writing down their thoughts.

I still am unsure as to if this book would 'qualify' as YA lit. It certainly is based on young adults, set in a high school with teenagers, but some serious, life-changing events occur that (in my mind atleast), force it out of the comfort of young adult lit into adult fiction. Some of the weighty themes I alluded to earlier include but are certainly in no way limited to the following: teenage angst, anger, violence, bullying, depression, memory, the legal system, being 'on trial', unrequited love, friendship lost, parent-child relationships and communication, bearing and rearing children, teenage/young pregnancy, absence of parents (physically and emotionally), disconnect between parents and children on emotional and psychological levels, etc. The mere fact that these and more themes are so wonderfully woven together throughout the story are the many reasons why I love and recommend this book.

The journal entry which the title to this post comes from reads in its entirety as follows:

"Nobody wants to admit to htis, but bad things will keep on happening. Maybe that's because it's all a chain, and a long time ago someone did the first bad thing, and that led someone else to do another bad thing, and so on. You know, like that game where you whisper a sentence into someone's ear, and that person whispers it to someone else, and it all comes out wrong in the end.
But then again, maybe bad things happen because it's the only way we can keep remembering what good is supposed to look like."

I love this particular journal entry. Thoughts?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Classroom Library

So, this week in my favorite grad school class, Literacy History: Teaching Reading in Middle and Secondary Schools, I have an uber exciting project due. It's called a classroom library project. I get to build a library of books for my (imaginary) classroom. I want to teach English (grades 8-12) and for the project I'm pretending it's an 8th grade classroom. I have to have at least 6 trade books and 2 of them MUST be YA! And I'm just thinking Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

I have to do a qualitative and a quantitative analysis on the books but it's worth it!

I've already decided to us Silent to the Bone by E.L. Konigsburg, a book I read and loved thanks to an awesome class/professor I had in my undegrad (big wink and an elbow nudge)! I'm thinking about a lot of different books that I could use and there are so many! I'm in Heaven here but I can't have a list a mile long. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for my fake 8th grade classroom.

I want to have a dystopian novel because a.) they're awesome and b.) I think it's an important concept for kids to start thinking about. I have given thought to choosing The Giver, but I know that most kids read that in elementary school these days so, I was thinking of choosing something a little different, perhaps a little longer. I'm considering The Hunger Games as a possibility. Any input/suggestions for a good dystopian novel would be much appreciated!

Here are some YA books I'm thinking of using in my fake classroom for my fake 8th grade students (whom i already love):
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Any suggestions from fellow book lovers would be super helpful. I want these fake 8th graders to have quality literature to choose from in my imaginary classroom! And I wanted to share my excitement!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to Hogwarts: On Rereading the Harry Potter Series

One of my (failed) projects for this summer was to undertake a full reread of the Harry Potter series. I wanted to do so partially because of the release of the second movie, and also because I have only read Half-Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows once and I'd like to revisit them now that I am older and more likely to understand some of the moments I had missed previously.

I mention that this project failed not because I abandoned it but because somehow I ran out of time to finish the books. Currently I am working through Prisoner of Azkaban.

My thoughts on my series read through so far are as follows:

1. I am astounded by the amount of foreshadowing and setup in the beginning books. Particularly in Sorcerer's Stone. I never liked rereading book one because there were so many parts that were slow and nonessential once you had read the book and understood how the wizarding world worked. Now, going back to the beginning and reading all about the Dursley's and Dumbledore and how everything fit together I was surprised at how much more I learned from that very first book.

2. Similarly, the part in Chamber of Secrets where Dumbledore explains why Harry can speak to snakes makes a whole lot more sense now that I've read Deathly Hallows. Even as early as books 1 and 2 there's the foreshadowing of what Harry really is and what the series really holds.

3. At this moment, I am almost eager to reread Order of the Phoenix because I want to see how my knowledge of horcruxes changes my perception of Harry's (angry) actions and behavior in the book.

All of this said, I have one other fun tidbit to share with you.

After years of begging and pleading, I convinced my youngest brother to read the Harry Potter series. About 3/4ths of the way through Prisoner of Azkaban he tried to quit. When I returned home for two weeks before the start of school, I sat down and convinced him to finish the book. The condition for him finishing it was that I would have to read it aloud to him. I promptly sat down, broke out my best British accent, and we finished Prisoner of Azkaban together. Watching his awed face after the end and hearing him agree to start Goblet of Fire brought me to the oddly fulfilling sensation that only books can. As I started Goblet of Fire with him, I got to rediscover and see the books for the first time again. I get to watch my brother's excitement about Fred and George's pranks and silliness, see his love for Quidditch, and share the book series that became my home with a new reader.

And that is what reading is really about--sharing your experience and what you've learned with those around you and those who come up after you.

I will finish my read through of the series as soon as classwork permits, but I am more excited to read the series through my brother's eyes and see it all for the first time once more.

I hope everyone has had a great start to the semester.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Going Back to Hunger Games

I'm thinking about The Hunger Games et al (again) because I'm supposed to be writing a paper about them for a conference presentation in about ten days.  So, in re-reading Abbey's post about how well written they are, I'm intrigued.  One of my fellow panelists will be discussing the mixed reader-response to Mockingjay, and I'm very much looking forward to her thoughts.  I'll do my best to pass them on, but when I'm presenting I'm not at my note-taking, attentive peak. I will try to focus my nervous energy on taking notes, rather than on ripping my fingernails into tiny shreds, in hopes that I'll be a calmer presenter and a more reliable scholar. So I can then hear some feedback from other THG readers (that would be you).

I'm looking at the various faces of rebellion in THG, exploring how Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch each has their own peculiar response to the capital's oppression, and none of them are what we might find "typical."  I hope I come up with more than that in the next few days.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Post-Feminist World of Beka Cooper

In her quite marvelous thesis, Emily (Lanning) talked about Post-Feminism as something beyond the need for feminism--a society (fictional, of course and unfortunately) where traditional gender roles, perceptions of gender as we understand them, just don't exist (Garth Nix's Old Kingdom, just for instance). She initially speculated that perhaps Beka Cooper's Tortall (created by Tamora Pierce, a woman, btw) is such a place.  I'm now midway through book two (I can tell you that I am 55% through the book, but I can't tell you the exact name of the book because I'm reading it on my groovy new Kindle! [Is that product placement?  Should I demand compensation?]) and I can see how Beka's not-entirely-but-pretty-close-to-post-feminist society is about to fall into the dark abyss of patriarchy, the dark abyss that will eventually lead Lady Alanna to cut her hair, bind her breasts, and call herself 'Alan' in order to follow her dream of becoming a knight.  Interesting.  This means that EMILY had better read those books while she's jaunting about overseas, and post something here to address this burning issue.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


So, outside of class requirements, I have recently finished The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, the three book series by Suzanne Collins. All three books were incredibly well done, capturing the essence of a totalitarian society and coupling it with the beautiful heart of the adolescent characters. I was most blown away by Collins' ability to isolate what the reader could see, and the sense that there was something sinister going on outside of what Collins was letting us see. Did anyone else notice this as they were reading?

More recently, I have finished Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell. The book follows an uptight rule following bookworm named Vassar who has always lived up to everyone's expectations of her and is perfectly happy with who she is. Well, that's how she is in the beginning, until she's forced on a surprise trip across the world with her Grandmother. I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who haven't read it, but I loved the realism of this novel. Like most adolescent/coming of age novels, there's an exploration of a new world that eventually teaches the main character something more about themselves and gives them a new identity, but what I loved about this particular tale was that we never had to leave our world to get there. There were no elements of fantasy or magical creatures--but it still had the feel of being completely foreign in a similar way. So, if you have room on your ever growing list of books to read, add this one. (and if you've read it, what did you think?)

And now I'm out of books. I forsee a library trip in my future soon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Please write on my blog!

I know I said I would do this long, long ago (well, at the end of the spring 2010 semester), but look, here it is!  If you have lost your enthusiasm or just have no time, no hard feelings, I totally understand.  If you want to read and occasionally comment, that's wonderful, please do to your heart's content.  If, however, you would like to author posts from time to time, you may already be able to do so.  If you don't have that permission and would like it, just comment to that effect and I'll figure out how to make it happen.

What are You Reading?

Okay, so maybe this is not the best time to ask, what with the semester well underway, but what are you reading? I've just finished Conspiracy of Kings, the fourth (perhaps final) Megan Whalen Turner book set in the fictional worlds of Eddis, Sounis, and Attolia. They are remarkably well drawn in terms of setting and character, and while book one, The Thief, may have been intended as a single story, the series momentum pulls you through to the end. It's personal and political, and funny, a combination I can't resist.