Archive for the ‘YA literature’ Category

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it would have been better for him if he’d died. . . . .

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Short Stories,YA literature on June 25, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged: , , , , ,

This title is only 80 pages long and can easily be read cover to cover in one sitting. It is aimed at older teens and is a psychological thrill ride wound up in a short story. It is part of a collection of Dyslexia friendly titles produced by Barrington stoke. ( https://www.barringtonstoke.co.uk/ ) What makes a book dyslexia friendly you ask? Well, the typeface, the layout and the colour of the paper stock all make it much much much easier for someone with dyslexia to read.

Jon for short is the story of a 14 year old boy recounting a grizzly hospital visit in which he faces confusion, turmoil,  malevolence and even amputation.  Whilst in hospital he is sedated and under sedation he repeats the same dream, his dream gets progressively worse throughout the story and the chapter is repeated whilst revealing a little more each time we encounter it – an utterly brilliant story telling device!

Blackman’s writing is superb, the right amount is left unsaid building the horror through until the last page. The writing is eerie, its fairly dark and probably not for the fainthearted, but her ability to create an un-put-down-able suspense filled short story is second to none. The sense of foreboding, the out of left field plot twist, the creepy way in Jon’s choice of words helps us create those characters in our minds and the amazing illustrations that exist throughout the story, ( Vladimir Stankovic ) make it something that teens with a penchant for horror really should pick up.

The reason Jon is in hospital will chill you to the core. . . if you’ve never read a short story or a YA title then this could well be the one for you!

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The aliens are invading silently. . . should I care?

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Childrens Chapter books,YA literature on May 28, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged:

silent invasionThe Silent Invasion – spores from space, plants, animals, humans all becoming part of a vast alien intelligence, 2 girls fleeing to the zone – this all sounded like fun, wrapped up in a neat little bundle, packaged in a YA wrapper. I hadn’t read any science fiction recently and I thought this could be a nice little foray into the genre which could lead to more. . . . or it could put me off forever.

James Bradley has produced a post apocalyptic tale following Callie, and her younger sister Grace, fleeing authorities across eastern Australia in an effort to reach the mysterious zone. We are told that Grace has become infected and according to law should be immediate quarantined, we know she and Callie are running from this quarantine but we are never really told why, or what they are hoping to achieve. This lack of direction hampers Bradley’s storytelling and the narrative is very slow moving, I would not hesitate to call it tedious in parts.

Bradley’s story is a little cliche, Callie becomes romantically involved but it seems somewhat pointless, if that portion of the text and the unnecessary violence ( especially the scene in which a dog is tortured ) were removed it could make a great adventure sci-fi read for a slightly younger age range. The Silent Invasion is just trying to hard to be relevant to young adult readers, the writing is clunky and overly wordy, the characters dreary and the plot; all to familiar ( the 5th Wave anyone? )

Perhaps if Bradley had written the Silent Invasion as a standalone title and not the first in a trilogy I would have enjoyed where the story could go, but as it stands, I do not care enough about the characters or the story line, to read volumes 2 and 3.

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There is no such thing as Perfect. . .

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Feminism,Fiction,YA literature on April 16, 2017 by mrsdilemma Tagged: , , ,

Perfect is the conclusion of the duology which began with Flawed, it is their author Cecelia Ahern’s first time writing for a Young Adult audience.

The narrative is set in the not-too-distant future, in an unnamed European country where anyone deemed to have transgressed the social rules is branded – literally – as Flawed. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been on the run. Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. Can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?

Ahern’s writing is crisp, well paced and packs an emotional punch. Her take on a done-to-death YA genre is fresh and refreshingly simple. All of the classic YA story-lines are there but they are not over stated; yes; the good girl goes bad but she’s not really bad after all. . . Celestine’s story is so so much more than that – her character growth and development are superb.

Ahern provides us with what I would call a YA futuristic thriller – there are enough nail biting scenes and out of left field plot twists to keep any thriller fan happy. Perfect is often described as dystopian but Ahern has said she doesn’t regard it as so, whilst it does appear to meet the definition of said genre, I see her point. She has said she sees it as part social commentary on how our global society is becoming more and more judgemental, as a reaction to society’s finger pointing culture.

I think this is a work young ( and not-so-young ) readers should devour and then discuss – I think it is a ‘perfect’ book club read. I think Ahern’s message; That there really is no such thing as perfect, we all make mistakes – is one that needs shouting from the rooftops.

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off to bed with a good book. . . .

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Fiction,what i'm reading now. . .,YA literature on April 9, 2017 by mrsdilemma

CBR914

It’s 8:45 on a Sunday night and I am off to bed with what I hope will be a good book; Perfect – the second in what I imagine is a trilogy from Irish powerhouse Cecelia Ahern.

The trilogy opened with Flawed – the world in which the series is set is defined simplistically ( in Flawed ) through this quote from the protagonist, Celestine; “Before I was born, there was a great recession in this country, banks folded, the government collapsed, the economy was ravaged, unemployment and emigration soared.” In addition to the criminal code there is a moral code by which society lives, the moral code is in response to what was believed to be the moral causes of the great recession. If you break this code you are branded; flawed.

 

 

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young women with no voice, can you hear them yelling?

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,Feminism,YA literature on February 11, 2017 by mrsdilemma

Until Friday Night / Speak by Abbi Glines / Laurie Halse Anderson

I seem to have chosen a number of titles that relate to young women with no voice, not physically, but after suffering some form of unimaginable trauma they choose not to speak. . . . Am I trying to tell myself something?

Speak – a YA classic from 1999 details the first year at high school for Melinda. Our heroine is isolated from her peers, she doesn’t engage or communicate with her family or school community, but can’t hide her pain at being excluded. Her exclusion and her choice to cease speaking is something she also finds comfort in, it is her self inflicted coping mechanism.

Until Friday Night – the first in a connected series from Abbi Glines. Maggie has suffered terrible trauma and doesn’t speak. West, the school jock, is suffering but hasn’t told anyone. When their worlds collide and they fall ( predictably ) in love, They find each others voice and discover their own inner strength.

The difference in the quality of writing between the two is marked, Speak is a beautifully written piece, whilst written for a young adult audience any lover of quality fiction could read and enjoy it. Until Friday Night is stylistically a little simple and left me wanting more depth of story and character development. Having said that both titles would work well for teens who need to grow their self confidence and coping skills, the slow healing process in both novels is honest and compelling, readers will want to cheer out loud for both heroines.

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#frenemies

In Book Reviews,CannonballreadIX 2017,YA literature on January 28, 2017 by mrsdilemma

With Malice by Eileen Cook

“Waking in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of Jill’s life are a complete blank. . .  All she knows is what she’s been told: while in Italy on a school trip she was involved in a fatal accident and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident. . .  wasn’t just an accident.”

With Malice by Eileen Cook is a fast paced, high drama, psychological thriller for teens. It tells the story of Jill’s rehab and the hunt for what really happened in Italy, the author provides numerous plot directions and possibilities for readers to consider as to what actually happened, which ramps up the stories intrigue.

On a larger scale the novel makes comment on the concept of trial by media. Reminiscent of Amanda Knox, Jill is vilified in the media, completely torn apart without facts, using photos out of context and the impressions of other people.

A realistic thriller is difficult to deliver for teens but Cook does this well, Her plot is advanced not only by a convincing narrative but by the inclusion of blog posts, interview transcripts and news articles. This non traditional format is one which will particularly suit YA readers.

With Malice is not highly character driven and whilst the main protagonist Jill, is fairly detached and not completely likeable I believe that is highly appropriate given that you are supposed to be deciding whether or not she is a murderer! Unfortunately some of the supporting cast are fairly stereotypical; the evil stepmother, sleazy italian cop, the overzealous physical therapist . . . but they don’t take away from the narrative at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and raced through it. I will wholeheartedly recommend this for YA lovers of all ages.

As an aside. . . one thing I wish publishers didn’t do, is change the covers for the “international” market – I am in New Zealand and the cover here is awful compared with the US & UK alternative.

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Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture 2016 – David Levithan

In YA literature on August 28, 2016 by mrsdilemma

The Christchurch Readers and Writers festival, known as, WORD, is a bi-annual event that brings together a stunning array of left leaning literary types that a humble little geek like me aspires to be. I love to just sit in these amazing venues and gawk at all the wonderful people milling before an event and over analyzing every word afterwards – It is the life I want to live.

The Margaret Mahy memorial lecture was presented by American YA author David Levithan, a ground breaking author who travels everywhere with a small stuffed blue ninja. ( obligatory pause for selfie with audience. . . .  adorable )

Levithan spoke so eloquently, so powerfully and so profoundly I cannot hope to do him justice – but there was one things he said that struck such a chord with me as a bookseller; “Books don’t matter in their own right at all, what matters is what the reader thinks – and we can only do that by putting the books in their hands”. It makes me think that maybe my fill in job ( going on 8 years now. . .  ) might actually be very worthwhile.

Levithan read part of his acceptance speech from the Margaret A Edwards award, which he accepted on June 25th this year in Orlando, Florida – not even 2 weeks after the nightclub shooting.

    “So, here we are in Orlando. And definitely this is a different speech than I would have given two or three weeks ago. The question is, will be, and always has been: What do we do?

Not What can we do? If we get caught in trying to figure out what can we do, we’ll be there forever. Not What do I do? Because the only time change actually happens is when it is a we.

We have to figure out what to do. As writers, as people in publishing, as librarians, as teachers, we have the tools we need to do something. And we do it, every single day.

We vote with our lives. We vote with our choices. We vote with the people we are. We vote with the people we raise. We vote with the opportunities we give to people – those in our lives and those who come into our lives by picking up one of our books or coming into one of our libraries.

We vote with our voices, with our silence or our lack of silence.

And the question right now, of What do we do?

The answer is: We raise our voices.

Not in shouting, but singing.

Not shouting, but telling stories and sharing stories.

Our own stories, the stories that other people have written – this is how change occurs.

And just as important, if not more important: We raise other people’s voices. We must look for the people who are not getting to speak and we must give them the opportunity to speak. We must look for the people who feel like their stories are not a part of the collective story and we must make those stories part of the collective story.

Again, this is not a surprise to you. You do this every day.

We all have the power to empower other people. The amazing thing about that power is that while it costs time and effort, you can do it no matter how much money you make, no matter what position you’re in, whether you want to sit down and write or whether you are helping people to get to the stories they need or to tell the stories they need to tell.

We have to keep fighting.”

I feel so lucky to have heard him read this aloud, to have heard him give this lecture, to have been in his presence, I feel blessed.  #starstruck

There were a number of audience questions and responses that stood out and are worth repeating; An audience member asked about hope in YA – the YA content she had come in contact with appeared to be very grim, so she wanted to know where was the hope? Levithan’s reply was two-fold; yes, a lot of YA is grim but then so is the real world, the hope comes in the reader’s ability to see that change is possible and to desire it. Two of his favorite novels, M.T. Anderson’s Feed and Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War are both very bleak  but the hope is in the readers ability to get angry and to try to change things from the inside, to try and prevent humanity from ending up that way.

I will now make it my mission to re-read Anderson, Cormier and all of Levithan’s work, even if it takes me until the next WORD festival. . .

 

DL