The Fame Game – Do celebrity authors deserve the buzz?

So, I just finished The Fame Game by Lauren Conrad. And I certainly try to be pretty positive on this site, featuring those books which I would recommend to fellow teen fiction enthusiasts. Here’s the thing. It’s not a bad book. In fact, it delivers exactly the story it promises. The thing is, I’ve read many beautiful, intriguing stories by talented authors, and I can’t help but wonder the following: does Miss Conrad deserve a corner of the market when so many great authors remain unpublished? People who have devoted their lives to developing their writing talent and perfecting their story–is it fair to get pushed aside for a book that sells because of a powerhouse name?

Well, the publishing industry is a business, Miss Conrad is certainly talented in many areas, and life isn’t always fair. And that’s all I have to say.

If you want a quick read, give it a go and let me know…

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Lament, Ballad by Stiefvater beg the question – What language is ok in YA?

The new Books of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater were certainly novels that held me. I actually enjoyed the second one, Ballad, over the first, Lament, probably because I liked the perspective of James better than his friend, Deidre. You bet I’ll be one of the first in line for Requiem (we YA authors love doing trilogies – or maybe it’s the publishers?).

However, I did notice a huge difference between the first and second books that was interesting. Lament had a level of vulgarity that wasn’t surprising to me, especially since I came into contact with true faerie lore on a trip to Ireland in 2004. I was a little taken aback by the use of the “f” word in Stiefvater’s first installment, only because I myself like to broaden my audience, and this can be very offensive to certain gatekeepers – school librarians, teachers, and most importantly, parents. However, there’s some great discussion out there about whether vulgar language is appropriate in YA literature, and I do commit to the philosophy that an author has to make a decision based on the character, the story, and his or her level of comfort. I don’t buy the argument that just because kids hear swearing all the time that it’s okay to write it in. That’s a weak argument. But making a decision based on being true to your characters and yourself as an author certainly has merit. Kidlit.com has a great discussion here (and another followup here).

Any thoughts from teens? Parents? Writers?

A quarter-century of intrigue drives Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

I’m not sure how The Night Circus, made it onto my list of YA reading. It is not classified as a YA novel, and yet, I didn’t know this until I had the story well underway. That being said, I wanted to feature it here because I put the time into reading it, enjoyed most of it, and was curious what others thought.

The new, highly acclaimed novel from Erin Morgenstern (check her out) spans more than a quarter century. Without giving much away, I will say that this tale of two star-crossed magicians really gets moving in the second half of the novel. There is a great deal of description, but since the author is detailing something (an extravagant night circus) that many of us have never (and will never) see, I can understand why it was sketched so extensively. There are several stories woven into the fabric of this narrative, but don’t read this like your run-of-the-mill novel. The Night Circus forces you to expand your idea of how a novel should be organized, so jump in with an open mind!

It’s actually very tastefully written, with little foul language and a very tame sex scene. In fact, I’m thinking it’s time for a post on certain levels of vulgarity in YA novels. In the meantime, if you’re interested in the subject, check out this post by Kidlit.com and the follow up here. I always look forward to getting opinions on controversial topics!

And thinking about the circus did make me feel like a kid again…

Falling for Oliver’s Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver is another YA author  to expound on the dystopian theme, with the popular Delirium and recently released Pandemonium. However, the first book I got my hands on was her debut novel, Before I Fall, a present day, stand-alone book.

At first I hated the characters. I’ve been racing through so many novels on my Kindle that I hadn’t exactly read the synopsis for this one. I thought it was some kind of ghost story, and in the first few pages, I felt frustrated. I wasn’t one of those girls in school. I was never an outcast, but I was nice, and most of my friends were of the nice variety as well. I wasn’t sure I could relate to Oliver’s Samantha Kingston.

But before throwing in the towel, I went back to read the book blurb. Ahhh–I didn’t realize this girl was going to get the chance to live her last day seven times. After that, I was hooked. Don’t ask me what flipped the switch in my brain–it just flipped.

I will tell you that I felt this story very powerfully. I don’t usually cry for books and movies, but this one definitely contributed to some waterworks. This author writes very artisitically for sure, but it was the journey for this bitchy high-schooler that really had me believing that Oliver has “the stuff.”

Tamar – Mal Peet twists a tale of love, jealousy, and betrayal in WWII

I’m a sucker for WWII fiction, I’ll admit it. I especially like the kind with a little love thrown in. Tamar, by Mal Peet, is an expert blend of espionage and personal drama, and I’ll admit I only put it down long enough to take a breath because one of the characters was making me want to kick something! The School Library Journal lists it as Grade 8 and up. I haven’t been an eighth-grader in a while, but I think this is right. It certainly deals with some heavy issues, but the story is not vulgar by any means. WWII was not pretty, and this book dabbles with it’s violence and tragedy on several levels. I started to guess one of the endings halfway through, but it was only one part of the story, so obviously my interest was kept to the very end. This is a good read for adults too as most of the characters are adults, and the themes are of universal interest. Check it out at amazon.com.

 

Utopia gone bad – The Matched Trilogy is a gentler but more subversive take on the popular dystopian theme

Thank goodness there’s one more book in the Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie. Matched and Crossed will go down as two of my favorite YA novels thus far. The ideas behind this series about a dystopian society reminds me of the concepts put forward in Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, with the-world-is-hunky-dory concept getting blown to bits in the first book. Of course, the ever popular Hunger Games makes no bones about its dystopian world, but I like Condie’s gradual revelations even better.

The question I pose is, how important is the disscussion of dystopian themes in todays’ society? It’s not a new idea by any means (see list here), but conspiracy theorists and doomsday preppers aside, how complacent are we, and can dystopian fiction make us any more aware of giving up the freedoms we cherish?

Oh–and I love Condie’s use of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” I think it’s a good reminder.