A Hero’s Impact

Why didn’t I read this when I was younger? I had to go back through my old Amazon.com orders to remember when I purchased this book, and it turns out it was part of one of the last orders I ever made when I was still living in Richmond, Virginia. I ordered this book along with The Meaning of Matthew by Judy Shepard, the Enchanted DVD, and a Pokemon graphic novel — a pretty odd assortment, yet strangely appropriate.

hero perry moore

 

Of the sixteen books that survived my Gauntlet, this was actually one of the first I finished. (My hold for the audiobook version came in before some of the others, which was remarkably well done.) Also of the ones I’ve read from the list, this may be one of my favorites… and it is so bittersweet. I think I said bittersweet in one of my last reviews… it is so tragic.

Hero is about a teenage boy named Thom. His mother is presumed to be dead. His father is a smidge gruff  and stern, but still lovable.  They live in a world where Superheroes exist. !n fact, his father is a Super, but has become estranged from The League. Like many teenaged boys, Thom is trying to live up to his father’s expectations… but also hide some pretty big secrets: 1) he has superpowers and 2) he is gay. Throughout the book, Thom struggles with acceptance, fitting in, dating, discovering who he really is… which is all quite typical in my opinion. So what makes this book so appealing?

First, superheroes are awesome. The cast of characters in this novel are incredibly memorable. Thom has to go through an initiation of sorts at The League’s headquarters and is assigned to a team of similarly skilled budding new Supers, including Typhoid Larry (walking CDC nightmare), Scarlett (flying, fireball-throwing pizza delivery girl), and Ruth (chain-smoking, future-seeing old crone).  Oh, Thom’s power is being able to heal things. The team is sent out on little missions and things, and start to uncover conspiracies within The League… all really solid elements. Good good good.

Second, and I point this out second because it’s not the main part of the story, Thom’s sexuality, accepting himself for not only being a Super, but for also being gay, and discovering a bit of romance. There is a tenderness to Thom that makes him so likable. He is also self-deprecating in an endearing sort of way. (Because what teen isn’t a little self-deprecating?) There are so many wonderful passages in Hero… the prose is not only elegant, but also witty. I want to paste oh, so many of them here… but instead I’ll tell you to go read the book.

As for the tragedy: Perry Moore died of an accidental drug overdose in 2011. He was the executive producer of The Chronicles of Narnia film series (2005 – 2010). He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, he graduated from Norfolk Academy, interned at the Virginia Film Fest… And I knew none of this at the time I purchased the book. Moore was working on a sequel to Hero sometime before he died. Thankfully, I don’t think a sequel would be necessary, but it would at least satisfy everyone’s questions of “what next?” Hero was wrapped up pretty well. There were a few surprises that spurred on some tears, but I attribute that to the impact of the audiobook.

And so, Hero entered my life some four years ago in a rag-tag Amazon order, in the author’s hometown (that I will always fondly think of as another home,) and made the journey with me to forge a new life, where I “became more and more of who I really was, and less of this person I thought wanted to be.”

“Once in a while, life gives you a chance to measure your worth. Sometimes you’re called upon to make a split-second decision to do the right thing, defining which way your life will go. These are the decisions that make you who you are.”

Thanks, Perry Moore – your Hero made quite an impact on this reader.

 

Not Quite A Ten

With a hook claiming to be a modern-day Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, I had high hopes for Ten by Gretchen McNeil. Then I realized Gretchen McNeil did the voice of a character on a short-lived but very much-loved (by me) animated show on G4TV called Code Monkeys, a show dripping with raunchy witty humor. I thought this would be brilliant! I first fount this title during my Young Adult literature course (it was on a YALSA list somewhere… or won an award… one of the two), and purchased it through Amazon’s Kindle store for $1.99. Seeing what I paid for it again in print doesn’t make me feel as bad about buying it… But part of me wishes it was only $0.99.

 

ten

 

The structure should already be familiar to anyone who read And Then There Were None, or fans of the movie Clue. The story even starts the same — guests traveling on a ferry-boat to an island in the middle of a storm. Ten introduces us to a cast of high school students, all fraught with ex boyfriends and jocks, the one black guy, an asian girl, and nerds. Okay, I’m thinking, cliché, but let’s see where this leads. The cast is spending the weekend on this island to celebrate graduating. I think. It wasn’t really clear, and didn’t really matter anyway. They make dinner together after awkward interactions, and someone nearly dies from finding nuts in their salad. Ooh, scary nuts! Yes, they were allergic… So I suppose anaphylactic shock would be a little clever way to knock someone out right away… but let’s move on. The kids find a movie and pop it into the DVD player and there’s an odd reel of slashing and scrambly clips and words flashing on the screen and paint slashes on the wall, like a college freshman’s first attempt at a visual arts assignment. The film foreshadows everyone dying, basically.

For anyone wanting to read this, I suppose I’ll leave out the spoilers… but I found the whole story played out like a discount-bin horror flick. I suppose that’s all you really need to know. The story whittled down to somewhat of an anti-bullying story, except the victim was a kook. And I had to recount the number of people who died, because of the ten teenagers… **SPOILER** two survive… meaning only eight died… (Oh, but that’s right, there were two random neighbors’ bodies found in that one scene…but that seems like a cop-out).  I suppose retitling the book to EIGHT wouldn’t have had the same impact… Unfortunately, Ten did not inspire a ten-star ranking.

To wrap things up: The idea was there, the creativity was sorta there, the execution was a bit lacking. The book would have been a bit more enjoyable if it had been shortened. In defense, I think it’s a bit difficult to compose a mystery like And Then There Were None without duplicating it. Sadly, I think the blurbs you read about this book may provoke a more imaginative story in your  own imagination than reading the full story.

Now if only I could slash this title off my list with a swatch of red paint just like in the book. That would be satisfying.

Where You Belong

Veering slightly off the track of my trajectory of books for the year, I couldn’t help but read No Place Like Oz, the prequel e-novella by Danielle Paige, as soon as I caught wind of it. I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure of meeting her and listening to her talk about her (now New York Bestselling) book Dorothy Must Die at my local bookstore, The Odyssey.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of my favorite franchises of all time. I mean favorite. I’m talking: I had a Wizard of Oz birthday cake, y’all. FAV. Over the years, Baum’s books have been adapted countless times, and I would say that this newest addition to the world does not disappoint. Thankfully, I can launch myself directly in to Dorothy Must Die without having to wait. Though I haven’t finished many  of the original Baum books, I have completed the more popular of the stories, which is where Paige’s books draw their inspiration.

“Home isn’t where you’re born — it’s where you belong” 

No  Place Like Oz

 

This prequel brings us back into Dorothy’s life a few months following her return to Kansas. Though she’s been happy to get home after all of her adventures, she has gotten a bit stir-crazy knowing that there’s a whole world out there beyond dusty old farmlands. On her sixteenth birthday she receives a mysterious package containing fancy red heels that end up transporting not just her, but also Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to Oz. Once there, she resolves to never return to Kansas, despite her family’s protests, and to reunite with her old friends. Instead, she ends up spending much of her time at the Emerald City and becomes the acquaintance of the new ruler, Ozma…. And I won’t spoil anything else — but it’s good!

Reading through Paige’s text feels so familiar. Whether it’s the subject of Oz or perhaps her style of writing, I breezed through this novella in just a few hours. One thing I always appreciated about Baum’s original Oz stories is his ability to describe characters and scenarios in such a way that is brief, yet provides just enough detail  to allow your mind to spin these marvelous images. I find Paige achieves this in very much a similar way. Her prose is contemporary, yet not too “current-dated,” by which I mean, it does not fall into today’s vernacular common place in other young adult works. That said, it does still feel very Y.A.. (I’ll have to re-read some of Baum’s books to get a sense of how they match up.)

In this little novella, we see quite a development in the character of Dorothy, from a very familiar “oh-fiddle-dee-dee” corn-fed girl to… well… I won’t ruin it… But trust me on this: it’s worth the read. This, so far, seems like the perfect primer for the full-length Dorothy Must Die, and at a very reasonable $1.99 from Amazon’s Kindle Store, it’s worth the buy. You can bet I’ll be writing about Dorothy Must Die when I finish that, too.

~ ~ ~

Special shout out — Hey Ma, if I wasn’t clear in the rest of this entry…

GO READ THIS! 

In Review

Now that last semester is just a memory and the next looms ahead, I thought I would take some time and reflect on the assigned titles from my Young Adult Literature course. Going in to this class, I never thought it would be possible to read all of the books. 45 books in 13 weeks seemed pretty steep… averaging titles every week! In the past, I’ve considered myself productive if I read three books every three months! 11,080 pages later, I can say that I finished all of them. As I’ve mentioned before, if it wasn’t for audiobooks, I’d probably still be reading. Overdrive Media Console and Audible both have nifty features that allow for much faster playback speed, so that 14 hour audiobook can suddenly be trimmed down to 7 hours!

For those of you thinking: “How in the world could you understand all of that?” It’s just like speed reading. It takes practice, I had to work my way up to 2x speed. Some of the comprehension is lost if you’re not entirely focused on what’s being read to you, but after 4 months, I can’t listen to anything slower because it seems to drag on and on. My comprehension has increased greatly too. Looking back at all of the books I finished from August to December astounds me, not just books from my class, but also titles from my personal library. I’m talking 40+ in addition to the reading list! If I’m able to keep up this rate, perhaps I’ll be able to make a much more significant dent in my shelf in 2014.

So here we go! The class reading list:

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. A Midsummer’s Nightmare
3. Tilt
4. Death Note
5. Black
6. A Child Called It
7. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
8. The Prom Book
9. Pure
10. This is Not a Test
11. What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?
12. The Final Four
13. Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different
14. Caring is Creepy
15. Flowers in the Attic
16. I Hunt Killers
17. Gorgeous
18. My Friend Dahmer
19. Diary of Creepy-ass Dolls
20. Pushing The Limits
21. Lone Wolf
22. Wake
23. Heist Society
24. Juvenile in Justice
25. Something Like Normal
26. Soulless
27. Pretty Girl 13
28. Shadoweyes
29. Drowning Instinct
30. Coldest Winter Ever
31. Lullaby
32. Heist Society: Uncommon Criminals
33. Fat Angie
34. Eleanor & Park
35. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Seven of the titles were either graphic novels or visual books, which I obviously couldn’t get in audio format. 20 of the titles I was able to find in audiobooks, borrowed from Overdrive, the library or Audible.

Pure, Flowers in the Attic, Wake and Lullaby, Soulless, Fat Angie, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children stood out as some that I greatly enjoyed. In fact, I’m waiting for holds to come in for the remaining two titles after Wake and Lullaby in the Watersong Series, which is about a girl that is tricked into becoming a siren. Pure has two more books following it too, which is right up my post-apocalyptic alley. Fat Angie was adorable — and I got to meet and have a conversation with the author e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, who is awesome, btw. Beautiful Music for Ugly Children was uplifting, despite its bullying theme. And Flowers in the Attic is just such a classic, come on!

I’m really impressed with my ability to get through all these titles. Typically, my mind bucks against assigned readings, but I’m thinking this may be a new chapter in my life. With that in mind, I think it’s time for some changes for this blog. Look forward to the next entry when I decide to blow the dust off and shake things up a bit.