YA Lit

I may have been wrong…

I don’t always say it but it does happen and I’ll freely admit it here.  I may have been wrong about Book Trailers. 

The first few I saw were uninspiring.  They were filled with strange voiceovers narrating a synopsis with shadowy figures and bland tracking music.  I also did not get how these would work.  How would people see them?  Find them?  Are they suppose to build anticipation with established fan bases or introduce new works to new audiences?   All around it was a head-scratching, no thank you on my part.

I now give Exhibits A, B, and C that prove how wrong I was.

Exhibit A


Created by one of my favorite blogger, Ransom Riggs over at Mental Floss, it was on point.  It captured the book’s appeal, the charm of Austen mixed with crazy B-movie monster action.  How better to explain that than in video format.  Sure that’s the point of the book trailer but this is the first time I saw how well it could work.

Exhibit B

This one came out a few months back and I was floored.  Not only did it include great graphics and animation (yeah steampunk!) but the voiceover worked!  There is a real sense of drama and urgency about the story being described.  It fits the time period as well as the new world Westerfeld created.  I already loved him for the Uglies series but now my esteem has been taken to a higher level which is another result of a well made Book Trailer.

Exhibit C


Let me introduce you to another author who is now on my must-always-read-list, Maggie Stiefvater.  I read Shiver and enjoyed it (thank you ALA!) but after this video I have to check out her other book.  I liked Shiver but I was always saying  because “werewolves are the new vampires.”  I put it in the Twilight category of YA supernatural romance.  Quick read, impossible love, mythological creature.  Well written for sure but that’s where I put it in my mental file folder.  Talk about being put in my place.  The Holly Hobbyness of the production, the gentle mocking of the genre, the animation… I cried with laughter.  People thought I was having a fit for trying to hold it in.  I love how the author is promoting her material in a unique and engaging way. 

As better products come out I’m willing to change my opinion on Book Trailers but I still have to wonder, besides sitting around and admiring them for their cleverness, does this work?  Where are they placed to be viewed for maximum exposure?  And bringing it all back to me, how can libraries use this model to promote their services and programs?  Are we clever and engaging with our promotion material?  Where can we place ourselves to be seen and enjoyed by our community?


“I see you shiver with antici…”

catchingIt’s here, it’s here, it’s here…Catching Fire.  Look at that sexy cover.  I haven’t been this excited about a book, or film, or show for a while (although HBO is developing a pilot called “Game of Thrones” with some yummy actors but this is year or so off) 

 Part of my excitment is that Hunger Games, the book before Catching Fire, was the most surprising, exciting and intriguing book I read in 2008.  It also featured a tough/strong female lead, a touch of romance and some great action.  She out runs a freaking forest fire!  I don’t know where this love of a good action sequence came from but it’s almost required for my enjoyment of anything.  So I loved the first book, but why the itchy, burning desire for the next amoung all the other series I read?  And why do I crave that shiver?  That antici…pation.

But anticipation is as much a motivation to read as escapism or information seeking.  The desire, nay, the need to find out what happens next is why we start, finish and fight over books.  That’s what good authors do, make you care about the characters or the story enough to find out how it ends.  I’m afflicted with the need to know how something ends.  I’m notorious for jumping to the end, reading spoilers, watching episodes in reverse order.  I remember asking a friend who died at the end of Pearl Harbor so I wouldn’t have to see it.  But when I hold back and restrain myself, oh, OH, how sweet the anticipation tastes.rocky-horror-feature

To tease myself a bit more, I’m finishing my stack of library books before I start Catching Fire.  Okay maybe I’m waiting for the weekend because I know I’ll be up until all hours, half blind, reading just one more page, one more page.  I’m stretching this out because the next book will be so far away and once I give to the anticipation I’m a slave to the just one more page, one more page.

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.

How Hollywood gets it right and wrong…

Armed with a new theme and some updated links I’m ready to go!!  Again!!  I always fall off the blogging wagon but I can never stay away.  But I’ll ease back into it with a short post and work on more for tomorrow.

What are they doing with the Percy Jackson movie??!!??  I don’t usually approve of unnecessary punctuation but it is deserved in this case.  The casting for this movie, based on a favorite series of mine by Rick Rirodan, is all over the place.  You can check it all out here at the IMDB page.  I have to applaud much of the casting so far, Sean Bean as Zues (oh baby, yes) Uma Thurman as Medusa, Pierce Brosnan as Chiron…so much good.  A little on the fence about Steve Coogan as Hades, I like him but that role is really for a dark and brooding type, Richard Armitage comes to mind.  But Coogan’s good so I’ll take.  Not a bad haul so far for a kids movie right?  And then it all goes down with the casting for the kids, you know, freaking Percy Jackson.  I don’t have a problem with this Logan Lerman guy just that’s he’s pushing 18 and Percy’s way younger.  Yes typically older teens play younger teens.  But this is was suppose to be set as the next Harry Potter and they cast those kids the right age.  The chick playing Annabeth?  22!!  Really?  Really?  Rumors are swirling about major plot changes already which is very disappointing since the books already read like movies.  Rirodan gave you the action, why change it?  I have horrible visions of the disaster that was The Seeker.  Please Hollywood, please, don’t mess this up.  Please?  With sugar on top? 


The future Zeus, it helps me calm down.

A comment

So I got my first comment after yesterday’s post and it is a big one.  Author of Burned Ellen Hopkins left a message after I admittedly did not write a great response to her book.  I am totally amazed and appreciative that she took the time to write a comment.  Reaching out to readers of your book, even not so nice ones, is fantastic and says alot about the writer.  Since I was pressed for time and didn’t write a long review of Burned I’ll post my response that I sent off to Ellen.  I’m still awed that she commented.  So cool. 

Dear Ellen,
Thank you so much for commenting on my blog.  I write it mostly for my benefit so I have a record of my readings.  I never have expected anyone to comment, let alone an author.
I want to say that I did like Burned up to a point.  I’m not a fan of novels written in verse but Burnednever felt overly contrived and read easily, like a novel.  And I loved Pattyn and her messed up life.  She’s a very real and honest character and I really felt what she was going through.  She goes through a huge change in the novel that many people can relate to.  The ending didn’t feel tacked on just unfinished.  If you do decide to write a sequel to BurnedI’d love to read it because having a character make such a huge decision and then not show the consequences felt unfinished and unsatisfying.  What bothered me the most is not that she contemplates going on a rampage, but that as a reader I didn’t make that leap with her.  Maybe it’s just me and my experiences but I didn’t think Pattyn would do something like that.  I didn’t get enough time with her from the accident to the last pages to know. 
When we discussed your book in class quite a few people disagreed with me and thought it was great.  That to me is big sign of a good book, when there’s something to talk about.  I would not hesitate to recommend your book if someone asked my opinion but probably with a spoiler-free warning. 
Thanks again for commenting, I think it’s really awesome.

Working vacation…

I still have to catch up my reviews for YA class but I’m going to take a break.  I’ve been taking a break for the last few weeks.  It’s getting to be that time, that end of the semester time.  You get ambivalent about doing work well, or at all.  Push it off until “later.”  Plus to be honest I haven’t been too interested in the books last few weeks.  Not to say they’re bad, well some are.  They’re just sort of blah.  Maybe that’s just me and nonfiction. 

While wondering the internet I came upon a New York Times Op-Ed by Gail Collins about everyone’s favorite summer release, Breaking Dawn.  Called “A Virginal Goth Girl,” the article explores Collins thoughts on the Saga’s popularity with young women.  She points to the “hunky” vampire hero Edward.  Then she jumps to the contention that because of the prevalence of Internet porn young men are all looking for porn stars.  What was most interesting though was this line.

“This sure sounds like trouble to me: A generation of guys who will settle for nothing less than a porn star meets a generation of women who expect their boyfriend to crawl through their bedroom window at night and just nuzzle gently until they fall asleep.”

Doesn’t everyone want a cuddle?  That’s why we get dogs and cats and let them on the furniture.  And shed on our black pants.  Right?

Back to business though, I wonder if its that simple really.  I’m conflicted because I want to agree with Collins.  I think our media send a message to girls that your worth is based on your looks.  And I agree maybe of these expectations are unattainable.  And I’m not a guy.  As much as women are supposed to be a mystery guys are like foreign lands in my book.  I can’t say what guys want.  I can’t imagine they all look for hair extensions and balloon breast.   But it makes me wonder, are men and women’s expectation of relationships that far apart?  Just some thoughts.  Here’s the link.


PS – If you don’t appreciate the popularity of the Twilight books, just check out the Facebook app Flair and see how many pieces are about them.  Me, I’m a Jacob girl.