The Young World

A review by Alyssa Lacross

 

the young world chris weitz

My loving boyfriend (who is not a book lover at all and tends to read exclusively postings on “The Truth About Cars” website) won an ARC of The Young World from our awesome (not-so-local) bookstore The Odyssey while attending a YA Author Panel.

 

I was a mix of excited and skeptical, the concept sounds great, but another Hollywood-type trying to be an author? (If you are less than familiar with the Hollywood crew, he was the director of New Moon.)

 

I’m telling you now, this is one of those books you either love or hate…and based on the very teenaged plot and constant references to Google, 2012 top charts songs, Facebook, and partying like it’s the end of the world all meant dreams of my boyfriend picking up this book were zero.

 

The book is set in post-apocalyptic New York City, where a strange sickness has killed all children and adults, leaving behind only teenagers. The two main characters Jefferson and Donna are part of one of many heavily armed tribes in New York. When Jefferson becomes their tribe’s leader he, Donna, and a misfit gang set out, traveling through lands of other tribes where they are constantly in danger to to try and save humanity and cure the sickness. The book has a lot of action, a little bit of romance, and some things that are just down right strange, all in a way that plays out like a movie script, which is great because the film rights were picked up by Warner Brothers already! I have to say my love of all things YA and my nearly embarrassing appreciation for pop culture means I’m definitely curious.

 

I don’t think its really a “timeless” book because of the many pop culture references, but in the present it will definitely make some hype once teen readers find it on the shelves of their local libraries and bookstores. Keeping in mind the cliffhanger ending and the adorable potential love story between Jefferson and Donna, they’ll soon be clambering for the sequels too as it is set to be a trilogy.

 

The book is to be released on July 29th, so check it out!

 


 

alyssa brian

A little about me ☺

My name is Alyssa Lacross. I’m from Connecticut. I wear many hats, including a children’s and teen librarian hat, at a few libraries in CT and MA while obtaining my Master’s in Library Science with a concentration in School Libraries from Simmons College. I love to read (but only children’s and YA books), binge watch Netflix, listen to the radio (but only in the car) and run (but badly). That’s the boyfriend in the picture with me, since this post came from him winning the book!

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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.

The Fault in My Stars

Okay.

I get it. Sort of. Yeah, I get it, but… really?

This isn’t going to be a raving review, but it won’t be scathing either. I also won’t dispute or judge the witty banter of the characters… for it seems as though that afflicts many, if not all, of John Green’s characters. All the same, I was quite motivated to read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green for this month’s book club pick. In fact, I breezed through it in about a day and a half. As soon as I posted a little photo one morning saying I was starting the book, I was bombarded with “tissues tissues tissues you need tissues boohoo boohoo saddest book ever,” and although it was sad (Come on… it’s about cancer), it was also over saturated with hype.

 

the fault in our stars john green

This month marks the 1st anniversary of The Odyssey’s YA for Adults book club, and we had our (seemilngly) biggest meeting ever! This meeting was also a first: a double-feature, where we discussed the book (briefly) and high-tailed it to the neighboring movie theater to catch the next showing of the film.

Now, I’ll have you readers know: I cry at movies all the time. Any time there is an emotionally charged part of a film, where the music swells, oh, and if there’s a touching montage… I start to bawl. Books, on the other hand, I do not often tear up over. That could be because I would find my tears getting in the way of my reading, which I wouldn’t find very practical… BUT, I will go on the record to say that I HAVE indeed cried at books. (Most recently, Ready Player One, and also The Hunger Games.) All I’m trying to say is that I’M NOT HEARTLESS.

So, I have my tissues… I’m staying up til wee hours of the morning, waiting for at least a sniffle… and nothing. I flip to the final page and nothing hits me. Yes, it’s sweet, yes, it’s sad… but I was expecting SUCH a strong emotional impact and I was disappointed. I certainly did not need tissues. To be honest, I thought the book was going to travel in a different direction. **Spoiler Alert** I thought the book was going to end in the middle of a sentence just like An Imperial Affliction did. There was an incredible amount of build up surrounding the happening of this book within the book, and I was left dissatisfied.

I felt as though these characters already garnered such sympathy because of their prescribed situation, which is addressed in the book – Cancer Perks – but despite recognizing this pity, it still illicits an emotional response for a reader. I also felt rather disconnected from their situation. This was a safe, encapsulated way to deal with cancer. It has to be! Afterall, it is YA lit. (That’s not to say all YA lit is safe… not at all… just in general!) Would the book been as good if it wasn’t about cancer?

Here is a bit of praise: The narrative and dialogue flow very smoothly. I never felt jolted away from what was happening and once I accepted the quirky methods of postulating and hypothesizing and philosophizing… I really did enjoy it. Also, the film adaptation did a nice job of weeding out the bits of extra “stuff” that was in the book that I found unnecessary. (Though, there is an interaction between Hazel and a young girl in the mall that I found to be particularly touching that was cut from the film… but I understand why.)

SO! Read the book? Watch the movie? This one is a tough call. The effect is the same. Though, the movie is much quicker than reading the book.

Sigh. I’m sorry… I know this is a number one selling book in… what, most of the world? But I just didn’t fall in love with it. I wanted to! It wasn’t lack of trying! I even thought I would take Hazel’s approach: falling in love like sleeping… gradually, and then all at once. Except… I think this time I just passed out.

Why, My Little Party’s Just Beginning

Ah, here we are! Finally I can dish out a bit of chatter on Dorothy Must Die. Danielle Paige has not let me down with her interpretation of Post-Dorothy Oz. As I mentioned in my prior post that I hold this franchise in high regard… tangled up in that regard is my nostalgia, and therefore a clear bias, along with the utmost of love for this piece.

Imagine trusting someone so much, you just know that anything they do or say is golden in your eyes. Coming from one as apprehensive about making new friends as me, earning that level of trust takes time… slowly inching the door open. But once that door is open, it stays that way! It’s a lot easier to overlook flaws or short-comings.

Uh oh, now it sounds like I’m going to rip into things! Not so — I just want you, Kind Reader, to understand my clear stance on Oz-ian things.

Dorothy Must Die

After finishing No Place Like Oz, I immediately picked up my (signed!) copy of DMD and sped through the first few chapters. Just like NPLO, Paige pays homage to the original books. I know she did a lot of reading and research into them, too, sending a fan like me squee-ing when I encountered old characters like Jellia Jamb, The Patchwork Girl and Frogman later in the book. Paige, however, is really out for blood. Her protagonist Amy Gumm (taken from Judy Garland’s true name!) is continually forced into some form of solitude… and I’ll tell you why I like that:

In so many books, characters are transported to another land/world/time and thus begins the questions and quests that plague every RPG video game… Where am I? How did I get here? What’s my name again? I know this literary device helps the reader/player insert themselves into the novel for a closer connection with the story, but many times I find these characters turn out to be husks, lacking depth. Not so with our Amy. She has a clear outward persona at the beginning of the story, but through many events, she is separated from things… her home, her mother, even her new friend after landing in Oz (OMG, I was shocked!). Again and again, Amy is forced into being alone, which forces her to think and ponder and muse. These inner monologues, for me, greatly strengthened her characterization. Far from a husk, Amy is a smoldering ember.

Realizing this is the first of a trilogy (right?), there’s much to be said for a writer of young adult literature to pen a character with, from what I can tell, a clear path for her development and growth over the course of the story. I never found myself rolling my eyes like I have with other YA protags. Amy, like a rock in the tumbling waves, is slowly being shaped by her environment. Loss after loss after mishap after near misses… she keeps getting beaten down.

What will be interesting in the future installments is how her further development is treated. It is clear that she is being built up to be a desensitized assassin, but with no clear-cut motives from her surrounding cast members, I can guarantee she’ll be faced with a decision that will question her moral integrity. Where’s the line between Good and Wicked? Perhaps she’ll discover it’s all a matter of perspective. (And therefore, fits snugly into the YA genre. Yay for morality & ethics building!)

~ ~ ~

Awrighty, Danielle — You’ve got me believing Dorothy is an evil bitch. And in those final scenes, you also got me asking: Does Dorothy HAVE to die?? Ugh, look what you’ve done!

Let’s see what else ya got comin’ our way! ;D

BEA – Books Everywhere…Ahhh!

Where do I even begin?

The last few days have been incredible — and I know my tendency to blather on about things I find exciting, but I’ll try to keep my gushing to a minimum.

This year, I had the wondrous opportunity to attend BEA – Book Expo America – which, I’m convinced, is where all my dreams come from. My favorite wordsmith, Jane Yolen, along with her daughter, Heidi Stemple, ushered me to the convention as Morpheus and Hypnos would upon a dark steed (or in this case, their black Hyundai), through the perilous nightmares of New York City streets.

36 books, 21.5 miles, 3 car jump starts and 1 sippy cup later (and only one caffeinated beverage!), I’m back home, still reeling from how much was packed into the last three days.

My biggest take-aways from my first BEA:

The hype is real and it’s a lot of fun!  Now, here’s what I’m going to tell you… because somehow I missed this in all my preparations… What I failed to gather was an understanding as to just how much time I would spend standing in line.

My first stop was waiting in line for Neil Patrick Harris. Letdown #1: a billion other people thinking the exact same thing. Letdown #2: He might not get to sign for everyone. Letdown #3: Rather than a full galley copy, he was signing a sample.  Whoa, whoa… a sample? What is this?? I stood in line for 45 minutes for someone to hand me a 30 page pamphlet? Why would I want this signed? That’s when reality set in. I ditched the line.

Til I got sucked in again when I saw Anjelica Huston. (At least this time, it was a hardcover copy of the full book!) And again for Marie Lu. And Rainbow Rowell. And Lev Grossman. And Tim Federle. And Ally Condie… Though there were so many I missed! Garth Nix, Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, David Levithan, R.L. Stein, Stan Lee, A.S. King, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch, Gregory Maguire… and Grumpy Cat 😦

Luck was not on my side when it came to any author in the autographing area. Each attempt was thwarted by a early closed line, or a mile-long line of squatters. Squatters. You know, the folks that decide to sit down because they’ve been waiting in line since the night before the universe was created. That kind of patience extended ell beyond my threshold for this event. Whether I arrived an hour before a signing, or ten minutes before a signing, I never stood a chance. That’s another thing: expect your plans to be changed. All of the authors mentioned above were those I intended on meeting, but then again, I suppose meeting 1/3 of my list isn’t too bad.

Instead, I found my biggest rewards at book drops. That’s where a publisher births about 100 ARCs on a tabletop while people rush by and swoop them up. These lines, though also rather long, rush through rather quickly, usually yielding a satisfying three or four ARCs at a time.

What I missed out on the most were the author panels (many took place on Saturday, the day after I left when BEA became open to the public) but also on the conferences and talks. I inadvertently bypassed so many networking opportunities with other bloggers. Though, I should point out, the few that I met while waiting in lines were all lovely! Here’s to hoping I’ll get to attend next year!

In the meantime, I submit this list of acquisitions to my Sickness. These were not purchased! So based on my original rule set, they’re acceptable additions. With all of these new ARCs, I will need to revisit and reformat how to account for them… But until then…:

 

  1. Trial By Fire – Josephine Angelini
  2. Miles to Go – Connie Bailey
  3. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas – Stephanie Barron
  4. Witch Island – David Bernstein
  5. The Iron Trail – Holly Black & Cassandra Clare
  6. Atlantia (sample) – Ally Condie
  7. The Emissary – Patricia Cori
  8. So We Read On – Maureen Corrigan
  9. Not My Father’s Son – Alan Cumming
  10. Hell to Pay – Garry Disher
  11. Endgame: The Calling – James Grey & Nils Johnson-Shelton
  12. The Magician’s Land – Lev Grossman
  13. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography (sample) – Neil Patrick Harris
  14. Skink– No Surrender – Carl Hiaasen
  15. Bombay Blues – Tanuja Desai Hidier
  16. The Devil’s Intern – Donna Hosie
  17. Flying Shoes – Lisa Howorth
  18. A Story Lately Told – Angelica Huston
  19. Mastering Toby – Jan Irving
  20. Evil Librarian – Michelle Knudsen
  21. Amulet: Escape from Lucien – Kazu Kibuishi
  22. The Young Elites (sample) – Marie Lu
  23. On A Clear Day – Walter Dean Myers
  24. Last Winter We Parted – Fuminori Nakamuri
  25. Young Houdini: The Magician’s Fire – Simon Nicholson
  26. Clariel – Garth Nix
  27. King Dork Approximately – Frank Portman
  28. Mort(e) – Robert Repino
  29. Jackaby – William Ritter
  30. Landline – Rainbow Rowell
  31. Dataclysm – Christian Rudder
  32. I Became Shadow – Joe Shine
  33. Sway – Kat Spears
  34. A Sudden Light – Garth Stein
  35. Sisters – Raina Telgemeier
  36. The Black Butterfly – Shirley Reva Vernick

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!