Beware the cleverly packaged book…

It always comes back to haunt you.


I picked up Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley  and thought, wow this looks great and I love the tagline “Rest in Popularity.”  The Edward Gorey goth girl on the cover, the gothy typeface, the coffin-shape of the book were all very attractive.  A funny satire on popularity was promised.   Unpopular Charlotte attempts to become popular but her plans are ruined when she dies.  Sounded promising.

I was disappointed.   Very.

First off, it wasn’t funny.  The jokes were pointed out with lines like “she said jokingly.”  That is the laugh track of books and usually signifies someone is kidding/being sarcastic, not actually telling a joke. 

Second was another problematic line.  After our heroine dies and wakes up in her high school, she finds she needs to graduate from Dead Ed to move on. There is mention of no desire to see her family because teens are too self-involved.  Excuse me?  Huh?  Seriously?  If your average teen died and was a ghost they wouldn’t take a peek back home?  Just for the satisfaction of seeing them cry, knowing you were missed, especially considering at this point of the story the main character’s obsession is attention.  No, I’m sorry, I’m calling BS.  That’s lazy writing.  “I don’t want to write about the family because they won’t have a large role so I’ll put this throw-away line in and be done with it.”  This is how we should find out and care about Charlotte.   How does she talk to people in her life, like family?  How important are they to her?  Do they know of her obsessive desire to be popular?  It frustrating as a reader because there is a giant hole in the main character by page 52 and there is no way to fill it.

And lastly, characters.  Even secondary ones need to be rounded and distiguishable.  All the dead kids blended into one and with the shifting view points and human possession so that one character was acting through another…confusing, flat, and for just great potential, boring.

Why am I nitpicking this book apart?  Why can’t I move on?  Am I that bitter?  Probably yes to the bitter but mostly I wanted this book to be better.  I wanted to love it and have it be my new “you gotta read this.”  I also resent that it panders to the worst stereotypes of teen girls.  If you’re not popular than you’re either an outcast trying to break in or a rebel trying to break out.  Is this true anymore?  After the Queen Bees and Mean Girls stories does this trope really work or has it become a cliche?  Maybe if it was funnier, maybe if it was shorter…something, this whole thing needed something.

Then I had a revelation while viewing Ghostgirl’s well-designed website, and wanted inexplicably to like this book.  Ghostgirl should have totally been a graphic novel.  I could have forgiven the flat characters and unaminated plot.  And after viewing the website it seems the whole set-up from book design to the “Rest in Popularity” tagline to the Gorey-esque cover dead girl are a marketing package for the Hot Topic/Torrid crowd.  The merchandising is fantastic.  Really, if I was back in my jeans/teeshirt high school uniform I would covet the “Rest in Popularity” tee.   And then, thank you Wikipedia, I found all the answers.  Of course Ghostgirl started out as website character.  Of course it makes sense all the cross over merch was in place.  I just wish the story lived up to design.   Or that I wasn’t so critical.  Or bitter.  Same thing right.  Going with Lame on this.


Oh wow…

So I just glanced at my syllabus for YA Mats to see where I left off in my reviews.  And found new and exciting proof that I am in fact extremely lazy.  Well not so much lazy, I just don’t think I manage my time very well.  Especially at work.  At 8am 4:30pm is so far away.  My final is coming up so it might be a handy exercise to do a one line review with a yah or nah vote for the title.  And hopefully we’ll get back into some serious reading, like the new Percy Jackson.

Genre Fiction

The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer – Fun, futuristic, interesting adventure story.  Loved the characters, the action and the humor.  Colfer strikes again, Awesome.

Sabriel by Garth Nix – Sorry to say, I just couldn’t get into it.  Too slow, too boring, I didn’t finish. Just didn’t float my boat.  Whatevs.

Peeps by Scott Westerfield – Set in NYC which was fun.  A different take on “vampires” which was fun too.  Sharp writing and great scenes.  Awesome.

Multimedia…uh, I didn’t read any of the books and I’ve already read Potter 7 so hearing it was nice, Jim Dale rules but nothing much to report.  My committment to not reading Gossip Girl stands. 


Hitler Youth by Susan Bartoletti – I enjoyed that besides getting general information, Bartoletti decided to follow 6 or 7 teens living in Nazi Germany and went into detail about their lives.  Lots of great resources, pictures and well researches.  Awesome

Fields of Fury: The American Civil War by James McPherson – Although the Civil War is not my favorite war, this book was very well made with tons of good features for kids.  Although not as specific as Hitler Youth, it still had some good stuff.  Cool.

Tree of Life by Peter Sis – A book that looks cooler than it actually is.  Although it gives the basics of Darwin and his work, the art work used in the book is a the real draw, yet not used as efectively as it could be.  Still Cool.

Adult Books for YAs

A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer – A powerful story about an abused child.  So terrible I couldn’t bring myself to read it again.  But would still recommend. Awesome.

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Liked the writing, like the perspective, but very depressing story about death and families.  Would recommend but was hard going trying to read on an airplane when there’s a strom out your window.  Cool.

Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah – I would have appriciated it more if I didn’t feel the author’s point breathing down my neck so much.  A cautionary tale about drug life, it was sometimes hard to care about the characters. Whatevs.

And finally Mock Printz Award Night

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party by MT Anderson – I liked it, alot.  Very interesting design, story, writing style.  It was made to look like an 18th century book which was fun.  Would have to make sure to give it to the right kid though.  Not an easy read, writing or story.  Awesome.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher – I heart Crutcher.  As much as I want to be mad at him for his flat, secondary female characters I still love his work.  Whale Talk is one of his best and it holds up considering I read it over 5 years ago and still loved it.  Awesome.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins – I was trying very hard in class to descirbe why I disliked this book.  It wasn’t the sad ending, I don’t mind when things don’t end happily ever after.  I mind though when an author spends over 200 pages setting up a character only to destroy that growth and progress in less than 4 pages.  Why?  I feel betrayed as a reader when I feel lead around only to be punched in the face, and not in a good way.  I really felt the ending was added for total shock value.  Totally unecessary.  Lame.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers – Another book I read 5 years ago that still holds up well.  Told in screenplay format the story is a common one of youth crime but it is so unique when told from Steven’s perspective.  Leaves the reader thinking too, not frustrated and wanting to set fire to the thing.  Awesome.

Woo, so not so hard as I thought.  But we’ll get around to more good things soon.  Like Breaking Dawn.

Feeling neglected?

I’m a bad YA poster.  Almost three weeks with no YA reviews, clever insights, pithy observations.  It does feel like cheating since usually I post my thoughts before I get to class and hear what others think.  But we’ll roll with it.

From Romance and Relationship week

Foreverby Judy Blume

I had never read this.  Apparently growing up it was the dirty book that was hidden under beds and behind desks.  Still is in some places.  It is one of the most challenged books in school libraries, even today.  And I’m not sure why.  Oh, sure I know why.  The main character has sex.  Uncomfortable, awkward, first time, teenage sex.  And sure some may consider the handling of it explicit but I saw it more clinical.  The man puts his penis in the woman’s vagina.  Seriously, it felt that sterile and straightforward.  So I know why, I just don’t understand why.  Subtle.  It is a landmark book being one of the first to tackle teen sex.  But really, you can find worse stuff in alot of other YA books.  Since it is a classic, I won’t rate it but I really can’t see myself handing this to a teen and saying Enjoy!  Honestly, I was reading romance novels by the time I hit high school.  And I wasn’t harmed, much.

Boy Meets Boyby David Levithan

A more modern love story and also more emotional.  Paul goes to high school the is this wonderful world where drag queens are star quarterbacks, people are tolerant of other’s sexual preference and celebrate people’s differences.  When Paul meets Noah, the perfect boy, things go well until (there is always an until) things go wrong.  My description of Paul’s world might be one spot where class discussion influenced me.  Many of us felt it was a great world, but not a realistic one, more an idealistic one.  But the characters are interesting and moving and the story is charming and sweet without being obnoxious.  Favorite of the week, its pretty Awesome.

Letting Go of Lisaby Lurlene McDaniels

I avoided these books when I was younger.  Why?  The same reason I don’t read dead dog stories (Red Fern, Old Yeller, Marley and Me).  I mean, why put yourself through that?  If I need to cry I’ll watch Extreme Home Makeover or stub my toe.  Why would I want to read about terminal cancer patients or teens with rare neurological diseases?  Why?  But I had to pick one of Lurlene’s 50 so I went with the one with the Harley on the cover.  Didn’t help the story much that the terminally ill teen girl rode a bike but it was worth a try.  Flat characters, predictable storyline, blah, blah, blah.  So although I had preconceived notions walking in, they were justified.  I mean if you want to read about death go get the Little Prince or Looking For Alaska or Harry Potter even.  Lame.  Sorry, I had too.  No reason to put anyone through this, ever.

I’m kinda tired so I’ll finish part 2 tomorrow.  I really liked the next set of books so I want to be fresh, and so clean, clean.