Thursday, January 30, 2014

Markus Zusak was just named the 2014 winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award. Established in 1988, the award honors an author for significant and lasting contributions to young adult literature. Zusak's novels include FIGHTING RUBEN WOLFE, GETTING THE GIRL, I AM THE MESSENGER and, of course, THE BOOK THIEF.
Kristan’s recent post about the movie adaptation of THE BOOK THIEF inspired me to move this novel to the top of my TBR pile. And ever since I popped into Barnes and Noble and bought a copy of it a couple of weeks ago, I have been entrenched in a series of obsessive reading sessions that begin around midnight and last into the wee morning hours. Which makes me think of Liesel Meminger and her papa. Which makes me smile. It’s sort of undeniable: This is a book begging to be read by candlelight.

In my case, I settled for the dim glow of a cell phone.   

There is too much to say about how good and heart-wrenching this story is—the blog post would never end—so, like Liesel, I’m simply going to focus on the words. Below are some of the passages I starred as I read. If you haven’t cracked open THE BOOK THIEF yet, perhaps these lines will entice you...

When the train pulled into the Bahnhof in Munich, the passengers slid out as if from a torn package…p. 25

In Liesel’s mind, the moon was sewn into the sky that night. Clouds were stitched around it...p. 57

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain…p. 80

It was a Monday, and they walked on a tightrope to the sun…p. 249

The leaf was dry and hard, like toasted bread, and there were hills and valleys all over its skin… p. 323

The last thing I wanted was to look down at the stranded face of my teenager. A pretty girl. Her whole death was now ahead of her…p. 337

Outside the sirens howled at the houses, and the people came running, hobbling, and recoiling as they exited their homes. Night watched. Some people watched it back, trying to find the tin-can planes as they drove across the sky…p. 372

And, finally, the line that inspired sobs:

Liesel came out. They hugged and cried and fell to the floor…p. 548

Man, this book wrecked me. But in a good way. It’s the second book in a year that I’ve felt compelled to hug. Except that in the case of THE BOOK THIEF, I didn’t hug the book so much as cradle it in my arms.

How did you feel after reading THE BOOK THIEF? We'd love it if you shared some of your favorite lines and moments, or ideas and characters from this novel...or from any of the ALA award winners.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Thursday, January 23, 2014
Sometimes I feel like I can mark out my life so far by the books I've read. They've shaped the way I write. Many of them shaped the way I see the world.

Preschool: Oh! The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss — I have very vivid memories of the day Dr. Seuss died (or the day his death was announced). I was in preschool, just about to turn five years old. I remember going to the library and being surrounded by other children, learning that he’d died and hearing his stories read to me. It was the first time I really understood that books come from authors, that all of those colors and creatures and silly words came from some guy’s head. And if he could use his imagination to create entire worlds, maybe I could too.

Grade School: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis — I started writing my own stories when I was in the third grade, and most of them involved finding secret worlds inside cupboards or at the back of a closet, little doorways to another place and time. I was so enraptured by the moment when Lucy steps through the wardrobe and into that snowy forest, and it changed the way I read and wrote forever. My fixation with escaping this world into one entirely imagined still determines what books I pick up and what stories I tell.

Middle School — In seventh and eighth grade I devoured the Baby-Sitters Club books, the Sweet Valley High series, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on about high school aged girls. People say there was no YA before Twilight and Harry Potter, but that’s not entirely true. For as long as there have been teenagers, someone has been telling stories about them.

High School — From the moment I got the reading list for my freshman year until the trip I took the summer after my senior year, I was obsessed with the classics. I don’t think I read anything else through high school. Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Emily Dickinson, Sophocles… I couldn’t get enough of them.

Now I'm an adult, and I'm still reading the same stuff I loved as a kid. I'm still looking for that book that will transport me to another time or place. I'm still looking for a moment like when Lucy stepped into that snowy wood and a new world unfolded before her.

If your life were composed of books, what would be on the timeline?
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014
Since moving to England, I've realized that the majority of my friends are online rather than in real life form.  Even before moving, I only bothered with a handful of people because that's the sort of thing that happens as you move beyond University and onwards toward the sunset.  You recover from your extrovertedment (that's a word, don't argue) and find the good people.  And you horde them.

Also, since I started writing novels with the idea of future publication, I have become a hermit.  I have lost all people skills of the real life friend-making kind.  I barely can hold a conversation with the petrol station attendant.  Simple questions like, "What number?" stump me while the patrons in the queue behind me grumble.  I rather like holding up the line, actually.  Grumpy people tickle me.  Not mean people or bullies, mind you.  Just the grumps.  (See why I don't have friends?)

Anyway, I decided it was a good idea that I get out and socialize with real life people.  So I joined a local writing group--The Stortford Scribblers.  This past week, one of the Scribblers in the group made a comment that he was disgusted by people who read the last chapter of a book, essentially spoiling the ending, before reading the rest. 

"I do that!" I blurted out. 

Then every single Scribbler looked at me with suspicion.

"Well, not all the time," I clarified, ready to just go back to my online friends and lament to them that those 3-D people are really scary.

In fact, I haven't spoiled a book for myself in a really long time.  But if a book's not hooking me, I will skim through just so I know what happens.  I've always been a fast reader so rarely do I have a DNF.  Furthermore, I re-read books a lot and enjoy them much more the second time around because I can take my time.  I already know what happens

But this past week I read a book that I'm SO glad I didn't spoil for myself.  UNDONE by Cat Clarke.  It was really necessary not to know the ending.  And possibly I didn't even try to find out because the author gave me a false set-up from the beginning.  I thought I knew how it was going to turn out because the main character tells me.  I am so naïve.  Even as I got to the end, I thought, "Surely not."  And I'm still wondering, "Did that actually happen?"

I really appreciate the mechanics of this story--the pure delight of an unreliable narrator.  It might have even changed my Spoilery ways. 

What about you?  How do you feel about spoilers?  What books have you read that you "wish you could read again for the first time" and recapture that feeling of wonder?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Once upon a time, I heard about a Young Adult novel called THE BOOK THIEF. Back then, I was still somewhat new to the YA world, having only really read the Harry Potter and Twilight series. But I was intrigued. These stories about young people doing big things spoke to me in a way that I had almost forgotten books could. They made reading not just beautiful or smart (as many adult books do) but fun too.

A couple years later, I finally got around to reading THE BOOK THIEF. Truthfully, the novel was long and unusual and maybe even a bit slow... But Sarah urged me to stick with it, so I did. (For the record, Sarah is almost always right when it comes to books. Trust the Wedge!) And thank goodness I kept reading, because THE BOOK THIEF became a favorite of mine. It was beautiful and smart and fun. It was one of a kind.

Recently, THE BOOK THIEF became a movie. Yesterday, I went to see it in a theater, and I cried and cried and cried. Just like the book, the film was beautiful and smart and fun. It brought the story to life -- not necessarily true to every scene or line, but true to the spirit. Liesl was brave and warm. Rudy was innocent and devoted. Max was resilient and hopeful. Papa Hubermann was honest and kind. Mama Hubermann was fierce and proud.

If I'm being critical, I would say that there are a few moments where the two kids sound strangely wooden, due to their accents combining with the brevity of their lines. But they more than make up for it in every other way. Their charm, their chemistry, their vulnerability, their strength.

Artistically, the film is truly beautiful. There's a scene early on with a black car driving through the snowy countryside, and I remember feeling absolutely captivated by the stark simple elegance of that shot. John Williams's score is a perfect complement, moving from a tender melody for Rudy and Liesl's young love, to the urgent crescendo of burning books and shattered windows and wartime.

Do yourself a favor and read this book. See this film. And if you're anything like me, make sure you have tissues for both.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

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



on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
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
The Fault in Our Stars

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