Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cohn and Levithan: In Sync

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist   [NICK & NORAHS INFINITE PLAYLIS] [Paperback]

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

There is something about the way these two write together that is so pitch perfect and in sync that it's easy to forget that they are two individuals writing alternate chapters. And yet one gets the sense that, with a male and female author, the characters are formed by perspectives from both genders and are definitely enriched by it.

The plot unfolds quickly leaving the reader to figure references out as you move along, which is a blessing after too many awkward YA novels that feel the need to spell every last thing out and end up using stilted, fake dialog to start - "'Hi Fluffy, " I said to my cat Fluffy." We meet Nick in a club on stage with his band (he's the bass guitarist) and quickly learn that he has just been dumped by Tris. When she enters the club he falls apart and - in an effort to avoid her and her new boyfriend - he turns to Norah, who happens to be standing next to him, and asks if she would be his girlfriend for the next five minutes. What follows is a night on the town in Manhattan, punk style, and the dawning realization that five minutes may not be enough.
Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List
Although both Nick and Norah have chosen to be 'straight-edge' - no drinking or drugs - and their unfolding romance is as sweet as an old Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn movie, the language is enough to make me hesitate to add it to my collection. The F bomb is used liberally - noun, adjective, adverb, verb, etc. I know that this would make parents crazy. But isn't the upward trend of YA lit due in large part to the willingness of authors to write for and in the language of YAs? Isn't the underlying story and character of the characters the important thing?

I'm on the fence. But this is two in a row by this pair that is so intelligent and fun - see Dash and Lily's Book of Dares - that I am already on to Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List. How to justify keeping such great stuff from my students? Not to mention the cover art - fabulous!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

They've Been Going In and Out of Style But Are Guaranteed to Raise a Smile

The Lonely Hearts Club

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Penny Lane Bloom, and her sisters Rita and Lucy, are the progeny of Beatles fans. Duh.

Penny's lifelong love, Nate, shatters her illusions of perfect love when she catches him with another girl on the night she planned to offer herself to him, albeit with doubts. She decides to swear off dating and boys for the remainder of her high school years since all of the boys are jerks, losers, and trouble. She ends up taking a large number of the girls at her high school along for the ride as they discover how different life is when they focus on school and friends rather than pleasing a boy. But wait, not all boys are losers ... A fun read. I especially loved how Eulberg blames Dav Pilkey for having written the book, promising good humor. And of course, for any Beatles fan, the continuous reference to lyrics and band is a bonus.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Extreme Sheep

Had to share this from Mark Mewes via my husband's Facebook page, since my kiddos can't see Facebook at school ....

What number are you on?

What is it with series these days? It seems as if every book has a sequel. Or two, or three ...

First in the Gone series ...


Gone by Michael Grant.

At 10:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning all of the grown ups suddenly disappear - pop! - leaving only those under age fifteen. A dream come true! Not. Things in Perdido Beach quickly devolve into Lord of the Flies as the bullies take over and children come to grips with the fact that no one is around to cook, clean, comfort them, or keep a semblance of order. The twist is a supernatural phenomena that may or may not have something to do with the nuclear power plant at the center of a sphere that suddenly encloses the town, preventing escape. A new universe? A barrier beyond which all is normal? The survival/sci fi/thriller/romance is broken up with welcome and well placed bits of dry humor - "He found a set of encyclopedias - like Wikipedia, but paper and very bulky." Doing the right thing prevents any happy ending, begging the reader to move on to the next title in the series - Hunger - to see what happens next.

Second in the Chains - trilogy? series? ...

Forge (Seeds of America)

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson.

The sequel to Chains, Forge picks up some months after Chains left off with the escape of Isabel and Curzon to New Jersey. Curzon takes over as our narrator and we learn that Isabel has taken their money and left because he refuses to travel on to South Carolina to find her sister Ruth. This is mainly the story of Curzon's inadvertent enlistment into the Continental army and his time at Valley Forge. The descriptions of life as a common soldier are story enough, but Anderson continues to narrate the story of the place of slaves during this time. With the British or the Patriots? She leaves it up to the reader to decide, and the decision is impossible. When Curzon's former owner Bellingham shows up, Curzon's life goes from subsistence living while trying to to freeze to death to one of relative material comfort when Bellingham claims ownership of the boy. Curzon's experience makes clear that freezing and starving with his fellow soldiers is preferable to the humiliation of slavery while laying bare the hypocrisy in the Patriots' qualified call for liberty. The one silver lining is his bittersweet reunion with Isabel, captured and later bought by Bellingham and serving the same master in the same household. This time it is Curzon who masterminds the escape plan, but will it succeed? This time they have an iron collar on Isabel to contend with rather than one branding scar. As in Chains, Anderson provides a nice question and answer about the history behind the story. The end leaves the reader waiting for the next installment - Ashes.

Third in the Girl series ...

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.

Yet one more volume in a series that keeps one riveted to the page. The story picked up immediately where the last book left off, giving us the benefit of witnessing all of the drama around Lisbeth's capture and the tension of knowing her evil father was just two doors away. Lisbeth's recovery, while somewhat unbelievable, is nonetheless quite gratifying. Each book has had a unifying theme - or ongoing parallel history lesson of sorts; the first was violence against and rape of women, the second was complex math theory, and in this third it is the history of women soldiers. Although the first and last had more to do with the story at hand, I found the second most enjoyable. Maybe because it offered some insight into the way Lisbeth's mind worked. The third and final volume wraps up everything nicely - an enormous task given the many characters developed to the point that they suffered problems and plots of their own - and yet it is a satisfying end. With the author deceased it is a relief that there are no strings left untied, and yet the series was so fun to read that it is sad to finish.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Break Reading II

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage)

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.

A little foray out of YA lit. The second in Larsson's Girl trilogy, this one moved as fast as the first. Although the formula of it began to show through, and the prose could be predictable, it was still one of those books that was impossible to put down. Up until 2:30 two nights in a row, I couldn't resist the introduction to the third and final book appended to the end.

Lisbeth Salander's past is finally revealed and is the heart of the deadly mystery in this installment.

Behemoth (Leviathan)
Behemoth by Scott Westerfield.

The second in Westerfield's Leviathan trilogy, Behemoth picks up exactly where Leviathan left off. Alek's position aboard the Leviathan become more dicey when Austria-Hungary joins the war. He and his men decide to escape in Istanbul while the Leviathan is stopped there. The escape goes awry and the Count is unable to join Alek, who is left alone to navigate life for the first time. His choice to stay in the city rather than run and hide lead to a dramatic alliance and battle, which saves the Leviathan. Although Alek reveals the rest of his secrets to Deryn, she maintains her greatest secret from him. Will the Count blow it in #3 or will she finally spill?