One thing I’ve really loved about the Hub Challenge so far is that it’s making me pick up books that I’ve either been putting off or that I might never have chosen for myself otherwise, but which are really good and worth reading. In the case of Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood, I’ve also found a new favorite book.
Midwinterblood presents seven stories, each from a different time and from a different perspective, but all centering around the Scandinavian island Blessed, where there are no children and people experience unnatural longevity. A journalist, an archaeologist, an RAF pilot, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking are the seemingly disparate characters united in this unusual and unsettling story of everlasting love and sacrifice.
This book is strange, frightening, and beautiful, and is sort of like what would happen if a Clive Barker book and a Neil Gaiman book could somehow have a baby. It doesn’t read like YA whatsoever, and there are hardly any teenage characters in the book, so I’m not sure exactly how it won the Printz. That said, it’s amazing. I devoured it and then just sat for awhile, holding the book in my arms and wishing I had someone to talk to about it.
I really want to read more of Sedgwick’s novels; I think I might have found a new favorite author.
I’ve been familiar with Malinda Lo’s work to promote diversity in YA lit for awhile, but I had never gotten around to reading any of her novels. So, when I saw that Ash was an eligible Hub Challenge title, I snatched it out of my library.
Ash is a retelling of Cinderella with a twist. The setup is familiar: Ash is bereft when her mother dies, her father remarries to a cruel woman, and then quickly dies himself, leaving Ash alone and separated from everything she loved. But in Lo’s version, Ash’s mother was a onetime witch-in-training, Ash spends her time running away to the woods to hang out with a beautiful and frightening fairy, and there’s a romantic plot with a huntress rather than with a prince.
Lo’s writing is lyrical and lovely, and I was immediately enchanted by the pagan fairy tale setting. Honestly, I wanted to run off and become an apprentice greenwitch, and I would love to read more about them. I liked that there were enough familiar elements to let the reader know where the story in general was going, coupled with enough invention to keep it interesting.
I gave this one four out of five stars because I felt that the plot lulled a bit a little over halfway through. At least, that’s when I realized that I was still waiting for something really dramatic to happen. It doesn’t really harm the quality of the book, but I just wanted more to happen, and more quickly.
I’m excited about reading more from Lo, and want to pick up Huntress when I’m more caught up with the Challenge.
I’ll take advantage of this not being a professional blog by summing up this book the best way I know how: THE DEATH OF BEES, HOLY SHIT.
This novel, an Alex Award winner, follows the aftermath of Marnie and Nelly’s decision to hide their parents’ deaths by burying the bodies in the back yard. Their neighbor notices that they are alone and, thinking they are abandoned, takes them in and starts taking care of them, which no adult has ever done before. But what happens when someone inevitably finds out what the girls have done?
I had looked at the book in Target, so I had read all the little blurbs about how this is a “darkly funny” book. But I was not prepared for this reading experience at all, because those blurbs lie. This book is possibly the least funny one I’ve ever read. But it’s also one of the best books I’ve ever read, so it was worth all the times I yelled at the book and felt deeply uncomfortable with every situation.
I haven’t been participating in much Hub Challenge discussion, but I have a feeling that The Death of Bees might stir up some controversy. It’s a rough, rough book (and if you doubt me, just stick through the moving-dad’s-body-down-the-stairs scene and get back to me), to the point that a lot of people might wonder whether teens should be reading it.
I absolutely think that people in general should be reading The Death of Bees. In a YA context, it’s a really refreshing contrast to the scores of wealthy teen characters to whom I know readers can’t relate. Marnie and Nelly’s experiences of abuse and the general fucked-upedness of their world almost seems like overblown dystopia… if you’re privileged enough to live far outside of their reality. I’m not saying it’s common for kids to conceal their parents’ deaths, but I am saying that I went to school with a girl who came to class with cigarette burns on her chest and arms, and the principal said they were mosquito bites and refused to report it to child services. Really terrible situations happen a lot, and it’s something that needs to be talked and written about.
I think that in addition to being an artfully written book, The Death of Bees has the potential to spark much-needed discussions. I also think that teens who are put off by reading because they don’t see much reality in the books available to them might respond well to Marnie. It’s not going to be for every reader, regardless of their age, but that’s for the reader, not librarians (or anyone else) to decide. In my opinion.
This is my first year participating in the YALSA Hub Reading Challenge, which dares intrepid readers to complete 25 Youth Media Awards-recognized books between February 3 and June 22. Get the details and a list of eligible books (and sign up!) here!
The first book I read for the Challenge was The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks.
I became aware of Faith’s work late last year, when I read Friends With Boys, and I instantly became a huge fan. The Adventures of Superhero Girl features the same high-quality, supercute artwork and well-crafted characterization and storytelling. It’s also pretty funny, and is the first time I’ve ever been able to relate to a superhero.
The titular Superhero Girl spends her time trying to make ends meet and pay rent while pursuing her dream of keeping the city’s supervillains at bay. She’s got a lot to deal with, including the typical pressures of twentysomething life and living in the shadow of her older brother, the renowned superhero Kevin. (He even has his own limited edition doll and legions of devoted fangirls and -boys.)
I should point out that I typically am not a fan of superheroes. Sure, I watch the Marvel movies, but convoluted backstories and artwork of rippling muscles and melon-shaped boobs popping out of tiny armor has kept me away from superhero comics. So, it was nice to read about Superhero Girl, who wears nary a skimpy leotard and spends her spare time talking to her cat. I could see myself hanging out with her, complaining about the job market and swapping cute pet stories.
I gave this one four stars out of five. It’s a fast, light, and pretty awesome read.
Most Gaimaniacs must have already heard of the volley of good news about our literary rock star’s works these past few days, but for those who haven’t:
- The Sandman graphic novel series is going to get the big screen treatment! Joseph Gordon-Levitt is involved, but it’s not disclosed yet whether he’s going to star, or direct, or both. (Two cents? I love JGL, and although he’s no doubt a dreamboat, I kind of don’t see him wearing the self-obsessed, broody role of the dream lord Morpheus.) Read more here.
- American Gods will be adapted into a TV series, but no longer as an HBO exclusive. Read more here.
- Anansi Boys will also be translated into the small screen by BBC. Read more here.
- The Graveyard Book two-volume graphic novel adaptations will be released by HarperCollins this July and September. Read more here.
(Gaiman photo by Kimberly Butler at Parnassus.)
All hail Neil!
(Side note: For the record, I’m fairly sure JGL can pull off any part he attempts.)
I’m gonna side eye the hell out of any attempt to make Sandman a movie unless it’s by Guillermo del Toro or Terry Gilliam. JGL doesn’t have the experience to do this justice. Not as an actor, certainly not as a director.
Meanwhile, I’m still languishing over here with my two copies of Good Omens.
|—||Lemony Snicket (via witchqueen)|
Yesterday I heard back from our collection development coordinator, and I’m now a member of the genre fiction selection team! Very exciting!