Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013


Earlier this year, in an open letter to Laini Taylor, I talked about Laini’s way of describing things in Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

The world is so complete. You seem to relish describing the objects and places that Karou treasures: her tiny apartment, the wings spread above her bed, the wishbone, the ballet costume she gives to Zuzana. Each detail is vivid and drenched in meaning.

One of my favorite elements of any story is when an author describes an object or a place in a way that brings it to life. Somehow these details make the rest of the story seem even more real, and they connect me to the character that treasures them.

I particularly love the way Stephanie Perkins describes Lola’s bedroom in Lola and the Boy Next Door:

I have shelves running across the top of my bedroom walls, lined with turquoise mannequin heads. They model my wigs and sunglasses. The walls themselves are plastered with posters of movie costume dramas and glossy black-and-whites of classic actresses. My desk is hot pink with gold glitter, which I threw in while the paint was drying, and the surface is buried underneath open jars of sparkly makeup, bottles of half-dried nail polish, plastic kiddie barrettes, and false eyelashes.

On my bookcase, I have endless cans of spray paint and bundles of hot glue sticks, and my sewing table is collaged with magazine cutouts of Japanese street fashion. Bolts of fabric are stacked precariously on top, and the wall beside it has even more shelves, crammed with glass jars of buttons and thread and needles and zippers. Over my bed, I have a canopy made out of Indian saris and paper umbrellas from Chinatown.

It’s chaotic, but I love it. My bedroom is my sanctuary.

Sometimes I wish I could steal objects from the stories I love and collect them. I would have my own secret sanctuary cluttered with fictional treasures, and among my collection would be:

• Anna's banana necklace from Anna and the French Kiss
• Katniss's bow from the Hunger Games
• A wand from Ollivander's shop in the Harry Potter series
• One of Karou's sketchbooks from Daughter of Smoke and Bone
• The crystal key from Incarceron
• Cassia's compact from Matched
• One of Elizabeth's letters from The Book of Blood and Shadow
• One of the extra Godstones from The Girl of Fire and Thorns

What would be in your collection?
Friday, May 10, 2013

Every so often around the inter-world, I hear "I'm all trilogied out" or "I have trilogy fatigue."  This is interesting to me because I quite like epic stories with characters that make you want to follow them through Introductions, Make-Outs, and War.  Adventure in three parts, huzzah!  You don't have to work hard to sell that to me.

However, I get what people are on about.  I prefer companion books, like Kristin Cashore has done with her Graceling series.  Being in her world at different times with new voices keeps everything fresh.  A continual discovery, unveiling those hidden hinter-worlds, those shaded parts of the map.  (Don't even get me started on maps...you can have your hot guys, I'll drool over the maps).

You have to read some stand-alones to get some perspective on the beauty of a trilogy.  On why a trilogy is a natural thing--a number that makes sense to me.  Beginning, Middle, End.  Each individual book has these parts, but how meta to spread this over a series as well.  How divine.

So why have I titled this post Trilogy Blues?  Because lately I've been finishing up trilogies.  Stories that I've loved that have been a part of my life for quite a while.  I'm not fatigued, but the finishing is making me all sad and stuff.

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS trilogy I read in little bits before bed to stretch it out as far as it could go.  I just wanted to hang out there for as long as possible.  I re-read each book, hoping to catch something new.  Another patch of shaded territory on the map in my mind.  After finishing THE BITTER KINGDOM, I felt so verklempt.  Like, this couldn't be all there is.  Don't get me wrong, it's a "smashing, satisfying end" to a series.  It's so, so good.  But it's over.  Like done.  I may even have to write a story in answer to this one, simply because it spoke to me so.  And I'm still holding on.

Likewise, at the moment I'm reading QUINTANA OF CHARYN and I keep talking out loud to the characters:  "Stop fighting!"  "You love each other."  Inside, I'm thinking:  "I only have so much time with you." "Don't travel so fast!"  I'm sort of worried I'm turning in to my mother.  She doesn't like to let go.  And I guess neither do I.  And, indeed, the characters aren't letting go of each other.  This end to the series is, so far, perfection (if painful).

What's to be done?


Trilogies!  You are bittersweet.  You make me love you, and then you leave.  xx


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

If someone were to create a list of "Must"s for YA novels, it might look something like this:

1. Must be fast-paced.
2. Must feature a hot guy.
3. Must include romance (preferably with aforementioned hot guy).
4. Must not include stodgy words like "aforementioned."
5. Must take place in a cool city (like New York, Paris, Chicago) OR in a remote and unusual town (like Forks).
6. Must not make allusions to obscure historical facts.
7. Must not make allusions to obscure literary works.
8. Must be written by John Green.
9. Must be turned into a movie starring Shailene Woodley and Alex Pettyfer.

Well, you get the idea.

Anyway. There are a lot of great YA books that follow the rules, but today I want to talk about a great YA book that doesn't follow any of them.

Code Name VerityCODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

Because CNV doesn't follow the rules, readers tend to either love it or hate it. Personally I LOVED it. One thing that helped: I had been warned that it is a "slow burn" kind of story, so I waited until my reservoir of patience was at its very fullest before I started reading. That patience was deeply rewarded.

All I will say about CNV's plot is that it revolves around two young women (a spy and a pilot) who are part of the British military efforts against Nazi Germany in World War II. To tell much more would risk spoilers -- but there isn't some major mystery or twist that I could ruin. It's just that reading CNV is like putting together a puzzle that you lost the box for: You still have all the pieces, and you know the general theme of the puzzle, but the picture won't become fully clear until it's all assembled.

So, back to rule-breaking. CNV is not fast, does not have any hot guys or romance, includes ton of stodgy words and obscure references, isn't written by John Green, and I hope like hell if there's a movie, it won't star Alex Pettyfer. (He would make a very odd Kittyhawk.)

But what CNV does do, it does amazingly.

1. Strong female characters. Not strong like "I bench press 100 lbs" or "I'm queen of the dragons," but strong like fully developed, richly written, truly interesting, and complexly nuanced characters -- who just happen to be female. Verity is now one of my favorite characters OF ALL TIME. And Kittyhawk's pretty great too.

1b. Female friendship. We need more of this, everywhere. In YA, on television, in real life.

2. Layers. Sort of like Sixth Sense (but without ghosts, I promise!) CNV tells a story that looks a certain way from one angle, and then looks very different from another angle. Both stories are true, and both stories are compelling, and when you put them together, it just might blow your mind. Or break your heart. See #3.

3. The bridge scene. Enough said.

Believe it or not, I could keep on extolling the virtues of this book for quite a while, but I'll spare you any further lists.

Tell me, have you read CODE NAME VERITY? Were you in the "love it" or "hate it" camp? What other books have you read that broke the YA rules? For that matter, what other YA rules did I forget?

KH
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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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