I swear, I only walked into B&N to buy a copy of Laurie Halse Anderson's Twisted. And suddenly it was like this incredible buyer's impulse took over. I couldn't stop myself. I really, really admire our local Barnes & Noble because, while I'm not too keen on B&N versus Borders overall, our local B&N has a great YA and teen lit section. Over the last two years I have wasted more hours in B&N reading children's authors and discovering books I should have discovered years ago than I have managed to spend reading anywhere else.
I went in today to pick up Twisted, which I've been keenly interested in for months. I suppose you might say that halseanderson is one of my favorite teen authors. I suppose, uh, you might say she's my only favorite teen author. When I went into the store to search for Twisted, the very first thing that caught my eye was a blazing bright green copy of City of Bones.
I've read City of Bones. I had a friend recently mention that I should offer up an objective reaction to the novel. But I don't think there's any way that any review I made of this book would be viewed as objective, or read objectively by anyone anywhere.
I will say that when I first joined fandom in November 2001, I predicted that my two favorite writers, cassieclaire and astolat, would one day be published. Within the last year they both have been.
This is a good thing for fandom, I think. It's a good thing for all of us to watch people move from writing fanfic to original fiction, and do well at it. So congratulations to both authors for their success, and to fandom for engendering the kind of community and critique that allows writers to become successful at what they love.
Okay, so, yeah, Laurie Halse Anderson. I went in to buy Twisted and walked out with Twisted, Catalyst (also by LHA), the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, and The Time Traveler's Wife, about which I've heard so much. I guess considering the fact that I now own three of LHA's published books (the two above + Prom), and count her first novel, Speak, among my short list of 'books I would be perfectly happy to write and then never write again after having written. 1
I have been lately particularly obsessed with character voice in teen lit. I have read some things that did and didn't hit the mark for me - Prom, for instance, did not hit the mark for me - it felt like the author was trying far, far too hard to sound like 'today's modern teen,' which frankly surprises me because Speak and Catalyst both have amazingly clear, strong and authentic teen voices.
When I picked up One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones, I seriously was not expecting to be as engrossed in it as I was; for starters, the entire book is written in verse. Yeah. But this (thank god) is no Crank; this book has a voice so crystalline and sharp and real that it just engrossed me; I sped-read through it all in a quick two hours or so, and enjoyed every moment. The plot had a key spoiler element that I figured out almost from the very beginning of the novel, and so any surprise reserved for the ending was lost for me. But it's saying something that I didn't enjoy this fun, edgy, raw little book any less. It reminded me strongly of, well, a younger, more uncertain first-season Veronica Mars just setting out to find her voice. There was a VERY large fantasy-gratification element at work here, and I honestly think the novel would have been stronger without it; but it definitely appealed to its base audience as a result, so, I am willing to give it props.
I haven't actually started reading Twisted yet. Twisted is a novel about a kid on Probation, which, for obvious reasons for those of you who know me, is why it really piqued my interest, even more so than it would by virtue of being a Halse Anderson novel. I was kind of holding my breath after the minor letdown of Prom, which was why reading Catalyst tonight has proven extremely refreshing. halseanderson was kind enough to send me promotional reading material and discussion questions for my classroom for the books that I own which I have sort of loaned it unofficially, haha.
When I read over the discussion questions for Catalyst I was totally intrigued, and I'm really, really glad that I sat down and read it tonight. I really love the way that LHA depicts the teens who are, by all standards, the mid-level teen; the non-college, vocational, blue collar, run-of-the-mill abilities teen. This is a really, really tough group to sell, not in the least because I work with them every day and i know how they are; but she really, really hit a strong note for me in the character of Teri, and a very familiar one with the narrator, Kate. There is a gutting element to Catalyst, which still doesn't gut as effectively as Speak but which is, I think, almost more powerful because of that: there is an element of impenetrable emotional distance here which can only be acted out in violent, non-therapeutic ways; because that's how real teens are. And I love that. 2
Uh, what else. Oh, Garth Nix. And by Garth Nix, I mean Graham Joyce. I have read one book by Graham Joyce - The Tooth Fairy - and I found it so intriguing and fascinating that the last line of it was on my userinfo for over a year (I kept hoping someone would recognize it; no one ever did), and despite having a slightly negative, almost uncomfortable reaction to the book when I was reading it, it just lingered and lingered with me and dwelt in my consciousness the way you always want books to do, that I have long been wanting to read some of his more traditional fantasy works.
Which meant that of course, when I went to actually buy fantasy by Graham Joyce tonight, my brain got stuck on the fact that Garth Nix is clearly identical to Graham Joyce because, hey, Garth kinda looks like Graham and their last names are short! So instead of buying anything by Graham Joyce, I walked out with the Abhorsen Trilogy.
At some point, I will find the fantasy novel that teaches me to love fantasy. I keep buying fantasy novels and reading them, and casting them aside for one reason or another. It's out there. I know it is. Just.... a bit more expensive than searching for the perfect anime series to come along and convert me. But it will happen, eventually. One day I will be able to add an "I hate fantasy" tag to my ever-growing list of things I avowedly hate and will never like, ever ever. No really.
1. The list thus far: To Kill A Mockingbird, The Wild Swans, Speak, and Persuasion, with a nod to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea even though it is not a book but an album, because, well. It is in this vague category in my head of 'things so sublime there can never really be a follow-up, can there?' I might also add to this list 'Showboat and West Side Story, except that if Oscar Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim had both rested on their laurels there, then the world would never have had Oklahoma!, Carousel, or Sunday in the Park With George. And there my whole motive for making this list to begin with falls to pieces.
2. Also. Um. I kind of really got a major femslash vibe from this book, so much so that I almost set out to write some, set in the year after the book ended. Except it didn't feel right to jump right to that immediately after reading the book: too soon. There is a lot to digest in Catalyst; powerful stuff for such a small book to dish out, honestly.