YALSA Hub Challenge: Update #8

Checking in with our challenge participants!

struts and FretsAbby

Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 18 of 25

Comments: Beneath a Meth Moon was an easy read, very good for reluctant readers.  I would have liked to see more of her transition from casual meth user to suddenly begging on the streets.  I felt like the author brushed over that a bit.  Generally, the book just felt too short to do justice to the problem of addiction, but it was a good start.  I would definitely recommend it to teens.

October Mourning also fell a bit flat for me.  The Matthew Shepard story is definitely one that deserves exploration and attention, but I found myself not connecting with the poetry in this book at all.  The emotions felt a little forced.  I also just read a Wreath for Emmett Till, which is similar, but that book was so much more effective.

Lastly, I finished Struts and Frets and loved it.  The voice felt very true to life, the story was compelling, and I loved the music references.  Here’s hoping that book leads some teens to the Pixies.

Up next: I’m working on Code Name Verity right now, as well as I Hunt Killers.  So far, I’m finding Code Name Verity hard to get in to, but I hear that will pass soon.

 

RavenBoysBonnie

Tracking her reading:

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: I just finished up The Raven Boys and I have a serious crush on Maggie Stiefvater right about now.  That woman can write!  I thought her departure from the alternating narrators worked just fine.  And now I wait until September for the next book. I listened to The Scorpio Races a few months ago and it was wonderful how different this book was from that one.

I reread A Flight of Angels for the challenge and I still feel really ho-hum about it.  I reviewed it for NFNT and I was so excited… Rebecca Guay is one of my favorite artists.  But the entire book as a single piece didn’t work for me.  The stories were uneven and the overarching was… meh.  Alisa Kwitney’s story was probably my favorite – because I like a very similar episode of the Twilight Zone.

SparksPetra

Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 21 of 25

Comments: Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie
Having just complained that I haven’t really enjoyed many of the books I’ve read for this challenge, I opened up Sparks and loved it.  In the best possible way, Sparks reminded me of an ABC Family Show.  I say in the best possible way, because that could be taken as a really back-handed compliment, and I mean it sincerely (as someone whose DVR is filled with a lot of shows that air on ABC Family).  It’s got a sense of humor, it is filled with characters whose voices ring true, and is a coming out story that I recognize.  It also feels a little bit like I think some of the zanier nighttime adventures in Perks of Being a Wallflower might have gone.  Also, as someone who was friends with people who formed their own religion in college (no eating cheese in April, no wine coolers on planes) I found Bluism awesome and now I want a blue Buddha to hang from my rear view mirror (or possibly sit on my desk at work and confuse all my co-workers).

Every Day
I’ve finished the book and I’m still not quite sure what I think about it.  It’s interesting, but I’m not sure I think it works.  I’m fine with suspending my disbelief to read a book – I read way too much fantasy for that not to be a skill I’ve honed – but I kept being really distracted by the complete lack of explanation for the central conceit of the novel (that he swaps bodies every day).  I kept wanting to know why it seemed to be so geographically limited, or how it worked, or if A was an alien of some kind (parasite?  symbiote?  what would be the evolutionary point?).  I was also distracted by how incurious the characters in the book seemed to be about the hows and whys of his condition – I understood why A wasn’t because the things that are part of your daily existence always seem normal to you, but the lack of curiosity from the other characters who find out struck me as really odd, because I would have a lot of questions.

I also got to the point where I felt a little brow-beaten by the message of the book – I kind of wanted to shake it and say, ‘I get it, love the person, not the packaging.’  I think the lack of explanation of what was going on made the message more obvious in a way that didn’t help the book – I wanted to work for it a little more, or have there be more nuance maybe?

That said, there were moments when I found the language of the book really beautiful, which I hadn’t been expecting.  I like David Levithan but I don’t tend to think of him as necessarily literary.

So yes, interesting, if not completely successful (for me).

Wonder Show
I’m having a moment where I wonder if I read the same book as everyone else.  Mostly I feel like nothing happened, and while that’s not necessarily a flaw in a novel, generally speaking books in which nothing happens need to have something else going on like an exploration of a time and place, or the growth of a character.  Theoretically, I suppose Wonder Show was an exploration of the dying world of the traveling circus in the 1930s, except it kind of wasn’t because nothing really happened.  She shows up, she’s there for a few weeks, she leaves, they come after her (for reasons I find compltely unfathomable).  I don’t feel like anyone really learned anything about either each other, themselves, or the world around them.  And, it wasn’t as if the prose was so deathless that you read it for the sheer beauty of language.

Like I said, I don’t feel like I read the same book everyone else did because nobody else seems to have had this issue.

Up next: Not sure what’s up next.  I tried to read Tell the Wolves I’m Home and while I’m going to give it a little longer to get going, about 40-50 pages in I’m wildly unenthused and taking a break with Eleanor & Park (so awesome! just like everyone said it would be).  The three award winners I did want to make sure I read were Bomb; Gone, Gone, Gone; and October Mourning.

watch-ends-the-nightRobin

Tracking her reading: at her library tumblr

Read so far: 15 of 25

Comments: I finished Dodger, which I found delightful (even though, GASP, I’ve never actually read any Dickens.)

I also just finished listening to The Watch that Ends the Night, and though I was skeptical at first (simply because it’s hard to make something fresh about the Titantic), I really enjoyed it.  (Also, that cover is gorgeous.)  The audio was full cast and very well done, and I was very impressed by the writing and structure in particular.  The framing of the story, which gives the undertaker sent out to retrieve the bodies a significant voice, and the leap of giving the iceberg itself a voice, both worked unexpectedly well.  I highly recommend it as a way to get deeper in to the true story, and I also highly recommend reading the entertaining and thorough accompanying notes, which help the reader discern what is fact and what is embellished.

On a side note, Wolf describes historical fiction as a bird in a birdcage, where the history is the cage and the fiction is the bird.  I loved that.

I too got distracted by other titles: book club books (Unwind and Breakfast at Tiffany’s this time around), and Eleanor & Park (SO GOOD).

Up next: I’m about a quarter of the way into Seraphina now (and loving it).

TitanicVoicesFromTheDisasterSarah

Tracking her reading: at Goodreads

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: I am late in replying because I am ashamed in my total lack of progress.  I think I’m one further than last time, but I gave myself a break for my birthday to read whatever I wanted.  I totally binged on things that I had reserved ages ago, intriguing books, and basically anything that I didn’t “have” to read.

I read: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster.  I had read pieces of it before and great reviews, so I’m glad I read it.  The true accounts from actual survivors lend a brilliant authenticity to the book.  I could see history buff kids getting really into it.  At the same time, I encounter a lot of reluctant readers, and I’m not sure even this crazy disaster would be enough to pull them into something that dense.  But, I liked it.

Up next: I’m halfway through 8 or so books. So, if I can ever buckle down, it should move very quickly…

Sheli

Tracking her reading: here at NFNT

Read so far: 10 of 25

Comments: For some reason I haven’t been able to finish the final book in the Protector of the Small series. I feel like I already know what’s going to happen, so I keep reading other stuff.

I’m gonna keep whittling away!

Up next: Once I’m done those I’ll move on to some audio books and draw for a bit. I have The Watch that Ends the Night and Code Name Verity all ready to load.

Extra discussion: What to read if you’re struggling

Sarah: We’ve got 2 months-ish, after all.  But, I think I’ll need some extra motivation.  Can anyone give me their absolute favorites that I will delight in reading?  Because I feel like I’ve already read everything that I’m really excited about, and I’m feeling blah about a lot of the others.

Sheli: Sarah, I wouldn’t feel bad at all. I’m in the same boat. I keep diving into other books.

Sarah: Thanks, Sheli!  I feel better knowing I’m in good company.  I’m going to keep at it, too.  We can do this!

Emma: I agree that it was hard to find books to read in this challenge.

One problem I had, that others probably don’t, is I don’t like books that are too creepy or about zombies.

That said, I really liked The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (although I confess to skimming through some if the tenser, grosser parts).  I also liked Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron a lot. A great boy voice.  And I adored Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks.  Don’t know if you’ve read those yet, but I recommend them if you’re looking.

Petra: Some of it depends on what kinds of books you like (and what you might have already read), but I would recommend:

  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (WWII pilots & spies – deserves every accolade it has received)
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray (will introduce awesome 1920s slang to your vocabulary + creepy supernatural villain)
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter (very Oceans 11-ish)
  • I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (very very creepy, but incredibly well done – I just finished the sequel which ended on the world’s most aggravating cliff hanger)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (pranks! at prep schools! girl who outsmarts the old boys club!)
  • All the Tamora Pierce books, for nostalgia if nothing else.

Sarah: Thanks, Emma and Petra, for your awesome suggestions.  I think that’s where my big problem comes in with the challenge- I actually read most of those pre-challenge!  So, I think I spend half my time looking at the lists thinking about how nothing sounds as interesting as the ones I already loved (I hunted down Maureen Johnson at ALA 2 years ago and got a signed ARC of The Name of the Star, and pretty much all of your suggestions grace my bookshelves even though I’ve been cutting WAY back on buying books since working in the library.  But you have to own your favorites, right?)

That said, I haven’t read either Struts and Frets or The Diviners, so I am reserving those, stat.  Thanks for putting up with my whining, guys!  I am now re-energized and raring to go.  You guys are the best!

Petra: This has been a large problem for me with the challenge.  The books that were likely to appeal to me I had already read – some in ARC form months and months and months ago.  I forced myself to read a lot of the award winners just because it was an interesting challenge, and a good way to make myself read outside my comfort zone, but some of them have been a real slog.