Tag Archives: young adult

Dedication: the cover (and its four thrilling sequels)

8 Sep

Why does one book need five versions of the cover? Okay, once it hit New York Times bestseller status (WTF?) it could have used an update telling everyone how great (?) it was. But what’s the explanation for the others?

For the record, the copy I reviewed features the half-girl looking up while posing on an overstuffed suitcase.

Why so many covers, Dedication?

Sooo… which do you prefer?



8 Sep

Dedication by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, 2007

NB: This is the first post on this book – you can also read a note on its cover(s).Alternative text for alternative covers

You know the story. Girl meets Boy in early high school. Boy stuffs Girl around. Eventually Boy and Girl fall in love. Boy stands her up on prom night, leaves town and becomes international recording star. Girl spends next 10 years trying to get over him, not helped by the fact that Boy’s omnipresent songs are all about her, their sexual exploits, and her family secrets. Boy returns to hometown, Girl decides to resolve things with him. Things happen.

I went into Dedication with high hopes. I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to have dated A Famous Person before they hit the big time (specifically Brad Pitt. No reason, of course!), and this seemed like the book that was going to explain it all.

Then the structure intervened. The first chapter was set in the present; the second was set in the sixth grade, when aforementioned girl first lays eyes on the Future Megastar. The next chapter was again in the present; the fourth was in Year Seven. This alternating timeline continues throughout high school and into the uni years. But it wasn’t the structure itself that got on my nerves – it was the dialogue and scenarios created in those early high school years. Let alone the fact that these rural kids have a case of Dawson’s Creek-itis (what 12-year-old has a perfect comeback for every snide remark?), the main character actually stands on a table, in the middle of class, to declare that she likes the boy. She is then, apparently, allowed to live this down. What world do these people live in? Why was that event not made into a huge thing? Realism, where are you?!

Anyhoo, I was originally dreading every second chapter and its crappily crafted stories, but as the characters got older they grew into their sass and became much more believable. And then – gasp! – I actually started to enjoy the damn thing. There were some great passages – especially the descriptions of early love and lust, which just made me want to be a teenager in love. A teenager in love with a tortured boy. Who can sing beautiful songs he’s written just for me. Also, he has a really great body. Sigh.

It’s not all about the twists and turns of this relationship, by the way – there’s some family drama packed in there, and questions are posed about friendship, loyalty and growing up. Some of the subplots are a bit blah, but the big one just keeps pulling you back in. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE COUPLE? I can’t tell you, obviously. Unless you really want to know – then you can contact me and I’ll tell you privately. I just don’t want to put it out there and ruin it for everyone because I know EVERYONE ELSE wants to read this now 😉

So what IS it like to go out with someone who became famous after you knew them? You’ll have to read it to find out. Yes, you may be gritting your teeth to just get through those early high school years… but isn’t that a lot like real life anyway?

BTW: This was the second book in my MS Novel Challenge.

A Young Girl’s Diary

2 Jun

A Young Girl’s Diary by AnonymousA Young Girl's Diary, DailyLit

(This post references the DailyLit site I’ve reviewed in the past. To understand what I’m talking about, you might want to read that entry before continuing with this one.)

I knew almost nothing about A Young Girl’s Diary, by Anonymous, when I started reading it on DailyLit. I knew it was about a young girl as she grew into her early teens, and that it was written in diary format (yes, I am quite the detective). But I liked the idea of it because a) I like books written from a young adult perspective, and b) it was short (99 instalments of average length, compared to the 423 of Anna Karenina, for example).

But by the end, those 99 instalments just weren’t enough – which is funny, because for most of the story, nothing massively huge happens.  It really is just a girl’s diary as she grows into her teens – she’s going to school, realising boys might not be so bad after all, avoiding her condescending older sister, and sharing her secrets with her BFF.

One point of difference between A Young Girl’s Diary and similar novels: it’s set in Germany in the early 1900s. This means there are maids, noble families, evidently socially acceptable public crushes on female teachers, and passages like this:

 I’ve taken to wearing snails*. Father calls them “cow pats”; but everyone else says they’re exceedingly becoming.
*Flat rolls of hair-plait covering the ears – Translator’s note.

So, you know, it’s educational! Cow pats!

But there are also sections that remind you how good writing is timeless. Sitting on top of a hill, the narrator notes:

When I see so extensive a view it always makes me feel sad. Because there are so many people one does not know who are perhaps very nice.

I’ve felt like that. It was perfect.

However, the time and culture in which the novel was written does raise its head. A lot of the diary – especially later on, as the writer gets further into her teens – focuses on boys and even (gasp!) sexual matters. When talking about these things, the author uses so many vagaries that I was left wondering if she was even writing about what I thought she was writing about.

Dora says she took a dislike to S. from the first because he — — — –. It’s an absolute lie! — — — has clammy hands. It’s simply not true, on the contrary he has such entrancingly cool hands.

What the hell… clammy hands?  Was this scandalous at the time? Sexy? How confusing… yet intriguing. Men, do YOU have clammy hands? Is this a sign of sexual deviousness? Let me know.

But overall, hand moisture mysteries aside, this was a fascinating read. Family tragedy intertwines with the whole coming-of-age thing, but the author doesn’t dwell on the sad times. It’s just a girl growing up, and these are the things that happen to her, wonderfully noticed.

* Word on the street is that the author was actually a psychoanalyst who specialised in child psych matters, not an actual teenage girl. It doesn’t really matter.

Read it when you want to find out how it felt to live as a somewhat-pampered German girl in the early 1900s, annoying siblings, frenemies, crushes on older boys and all. 


13 Apr

XVI by Julia Karr, 2011

XVI julia karrIn case you didn’t know, there’s a bit of a dystopian trend happening in the literary world at the moment – well, in the young adult literary world anyway (if you don’t believe me, you can read all about it in a NY Times debate). And that’s the excuse I’m using for reviewing two books in a row that depict a very bleak future for our world (the last being Super Sad True Love Story).

The narrator of Julia Karr’s XVI is Nina, a 15-year-old who’s dreading her next birthday. Why? Because when girls turn 16 they’re considered fair game for every man who wants to have a crack at them – whether it’s one guy in an alley, two guys on a bus or a pack of guys at a party, the girl has to go along with whatever the men want. And on their 16th birthday, the girls are forced to have their wrists tattooed to show their eligibility. They’re also trained to look forward to this “sexteen” experience. Nice, huh?

There’s more to this world – everyone’s implanted with a GPS tracker, there are Governing Council spies all over the shop, troublesome citizens are lobotomotised – but as a teen, Nina is most freaked out about the whole sex-slave thing… especially when she starts to – wooo! – actually like a boy, and realises sex mightn’t be as evil as she’s always thought. And then, even more especially, when it turns out her family has a big anti-government anti-sexteen secret that has her fearing for her life (dum dum DUM!).

I wanted to really love this book. I loved the premise, and Nina’s a cool chick. But, at the risk of showing my pedantry, there’s some shoddy editing. For one, a whole chapter has a heap of quotation marks that face in the wrong direction (eg, ”Hi“), or weird double marks (eg, “Hello, is anyone proofreading this thing?”“).

But worse than that is the occasionally questionable dialogue. Yes, it’s set in the future so there’s some odd slang (transport = “trannies”, every swear word = “shiv”), but teenagers will also apparently become a lot more selfish in the next 150 years. Case in point: at one stage, Nina thinks her pre-teen sister has been kidnapped by a man who will keep her as a sex slave, and Nina was making out with her boy interest when it occurred. So Nina cries:

“I don’t want this body. I don’t want it to feel so good when you kiss me, when you touch me. It’s not fair.”

That would totally be my first comment if my sister was stolen by a rapist, too.

Overall, though, I did enjoy XVI. This future world may be creepy – and I sure as hell wouldn’t want any of my future family members to live in it – but it’s pretty damn imaginative, and the teen love scenes are a bit swoony. AND I like the idea of driving a hover car, dammit.

Read it when you want to consider the future of sexual politics, or to remember what it felt like (or learn what it would have been like!) to fall in lurve at 15.

My favourite books of 2010

29 Jan

“The Literate Chicken,” I was often asked earlier this year, “What were your favourite books of 2010?” Okay, so that’s not entirely true: firstly, this blog was nothing but a registered wordpress site by then, so very few people would have known about the whole ‘Literate Chicken’ thing to call me that, and secondly, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me what my favourite books of any one period of time were.

BUT! I’m sure this is something you would ponder henceforth if I didn’t answer that very question now, so I will.

room: a novel

Room, by Emma Donoghue, was an absolute stand-out for me. Having a novel narrated by a five-year-old boy could have made it a cheesy mess – the first season of Full House featured a five-year-old Stephanie Tanner, so just imagine the horror of a book narrated by a character like her, for example – but the child’s voice is what made Room for me. The boy, Jack, lives in Room with his mum. He’s never been out of Room, and eventually we piece together why: he and Ma are captives of a deranged but clearly very intelligent man. Kidnapping, imprisonment, depression and rape could have been incredibly heavy going if it had been told by the mother character, but seeing it all through Jack’s innocent, hopeful eyes actually makes it work. I still think about this book a lot. And I can’t really say much more because I don’t want to give anything away, so just read it, dammit.

My natural leanings towards young adult lit took me to The Perks Of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, and man, am I glad I found it. This is just AMAZING. I’m going to do a proper review-type thing of it in future, so I’ll link this to it once I do; in the meantime, just know that it’s a coming-of-age story about a young guy who has a few issues. And that it’s about a thousand times better than that description made it sound. And that technically it came out in 2009, so it doesn’t really fit into this 2010 list, but oh well, it’s so good that its year-of-being-published can span two years. Maybe even three, I’ll see how I feel in 11 months.

Of course, 2010 was also the year of One Day by David Nicholls (but I just realised this was published in hardback in 2009, so I’m giving up on the 2010 theme). This book was recommended to and by just about every reader I know, and it seemed like we all happened across it at the same time. Funny, somewhat realistic, sweet, romantic, sad… One Day is all I could ask for a in a book, really. I actually feel that the approximately three people who may read this blog will have already read this novel, so I’m not going to go into detail – chances are they already understand why it’s on this list. And the four of us can go see it when One Day comes out in movie form. Hot date ahoy!

Anyway, that was my top three books of last year. What did you lurve in 2010 (or 2009, as the case may be)? Want to join in our One Day movie date?