Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What You Wish For: Stories and Poems for Darfur YP FIC WHAT

Stories and poems about wishes (the ones that come true and the ones that don’t).  Francisco X. Stork, Joyce Carol Oates, Jane Yolen, Gary Soto, Meg Cabot, and many more pen poems and short stories with some proceeds of the book going to Darfur refugees.  

This is a wonderful and surprising collection.  I expected this to be a book about Darfur and to be grim, humorless, and depressing, but this book is filled with stories of life, love, magic, and hope.  Also, it’s not about Darfur it’s just FOR Darfur.  Sort of confusing.  Also, the fact that it is about ‘wishes’ feels a little too general for a collection for short stories.  That out of the way it is a really GOOD collection of short stories.  My favorites personally were “Nell” a dark retelling of an old Danish short story, “The Protectionist” a funny story about a economics obsessed kid looking for a bodyguard, and “The Conjurers” a comic from the always wonderful Nate Powell.  There is a lot of gems and no real clunkers, so it’s a really good way to read a lot of stories to find new authors to follow. 

Bad Island by Doug TenNapel YP FIC TENNAPEL

Reese didn’t even want to go on vacation.  He was happy just staying home and hanging out with friends, but nooooo.  His dad just HAD to drag the family on a boat trip.  A boat trip about as successful as the one on Gilligan’s Island (readers: do young adults know about the Gilligan, Skipper, et al.?).  His family is shipwrecked on an island inhabited by unearthly plants and creatures that want them dead.  Their only hope is to solve the secret of the strange island’s existence.  

Bad Island is not a Bad Comic.  Actually, it is a Very Good Comic.  Unfortunately, I was always thinking that it could have been A Truly Great Comic with just more time and pages.  The book has a crackling sense of movement and flow.  The story moves form beat to beat with speed and drive.  You will rip through the book in no time and greatly enjoy the excellent cartoonish art.  Then you will likely find yourself wishing there was more to it all. This isn’t the fault of the writer/artist, but because of his strengths.  His art and design are so good I want to spend more time in his world than he gives us.  I think that with the right project TenNapel could make a book as great as Jeff Smith’s masterpiece Bone, but it is certainly difficult to get long running independent comics financed in this day and age.  In the meantime, readers will have to be satisfied with Mr. TenNapel’s very good work and hope for more, larger books and more of them.  While you wait, check out more of his work in YP FIC TENNAPEL and J FIC TENNAPEL.

Notes from the Blender by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin YP FIC COOK

Declan and Neilly have nothing in common.  He’s a social leper who loves Finnish death metal, violent as possible video games, and internet sites with a minimum of three ‘X’s.  Neilly is the mean girl, queen bee, ruler of the school.  Declan loves lusts Neilly from afar and wishes it were from aclose.  Now dreams come true for Declan and nightmares for Neilly as they find that they are brand new siblings with the surprise marriage of their parents.  Also (on the SAME DAY), Neilly is dumped by her boyfriend, betrayed by her BFF, and her social stock is plummeting faster than the actual stock market!  Can these total opposites ever coexist?  

I am a big, big fan of alternating viewpoints from different authors when done well and Notes from the Blender does it very well.  The narrators are so different that their POVs on the same events are wildly divergent.  Declan is hilarious, but hard to like as is Neilly.  They are pretty realistic and VERY honest, so there is some definite TMI.  Unfortunately, most the secondary characters were flat and never feel like real people.  Also, the ending feels a little too ‘Happy Ever After’.   These problems keep a fun and funny read from ever achieving greatness, but a fun and funny read is always great in its own way.  Fans of Rachel Cohn, Lauren Myracle, and other YA humor authors should definitely give this one a spin.

Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera YP FIC PERERA

Khalid is guilty until proven innocent.  A 15 year old British citizen, he is stolen from his family while on vacation in Pakistan.  He is imprisoned without trial, lawyer, or hope in Guantanamo Bay.  The only way to escape the nightmare of loneliness, fear, pain, and torture is to ‘confess’.  

Even though this is a fictional story it is inspired by all too real events.  Anyone that is interested in the War on Terror will find a lot to think about in Guantanamo Boy.  The political message is very direct and many readers may feel differently from the author, but I think people should give the book a chance.  The writing style is very plain and sometimes dialogue is a bit stiff, but the straightforward style makes the horrifying descriptions of torture very effective.  This is a raw and edgy story that never shies away from the ugly truths of ‘enhanced interrogation’.  I won’t say I ‘enjoyed’ this book, but I am glad I read this moving and frightening story of how innocence and freedom can be stolen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hunger Games, the movie: Will you watch?

The latest trailer for the movie version of Suzanne Collins' mega-popular The Hunger Games dropped this week. It stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the girl with the deadly archer's aim, as well as Liam Hemsworth as Katniss' hunting buddy Gale Hawthorne and Josh Hutcherson as the bread-baking Peeta Mellark.

Never heard of those actors? Give it time. The Hunger Games has echoes of the same momentum behind it that we all saw behind the Twilight franchise, although there's no sparkly vampires or teen werewolves here: The Hunger Games is about a dystopian future where a totalitarian government requires each of its district to send two young "tributes" to duke out it in Battle Royal-style fight to the finish.

If you haven't checked out the The Hunger Games trilogy yet, get thee to our young adult section, post-haste. We've got all three: Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. You'll find them all at YP FIC COLLINS. We've also got Mockingjay on audiobook (YP AD FIC COLLINS), as well as The Hunger Games Companion: The unauthorized guide to the series (YP FIC COLLINS).

So what are its odds? Will you be watching The Hunger Games?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff YP FIC BREZENOF

Kid loved a junkie named Felix until he disappeared and left Kid with nothing more than pain and the questions of who started the fire.  Scout comes along and gives Kid a shot at reclaiming the life, love, and music Kid that had disappeared forever.

This is a true original.  Kid is our narrator and he always talks directly to ‘you’.  However, in this case ‘you’ isn’t an imaginary, unnamed audience.  ‘You’ is Scout.  We learn all about Scout through Kid’s eyes and eventually more about Kid.  This is not only a way to keep the reader wondering about who the characters are, but also allows for the story to be very ambiguous in a wonderful and surprising way. We NEVER find out the gender of Kid or Scout.  The book never reveals if Kid is male or female or Scout is male or female, so this story is universal.  No matter gender or orientation, you can see yourself as a reader in Kid, Scout, or both.  This doesn’t just feel like a gimmick, because the story is all about identity, love, loss, and how easy all three get mixed up together.  Kid feels like Felix took away love, music, and Kid’s identity.  They are all rediscovered in Scout.  I liked Brezenoff’s previous book The AbsoluteValue of -1 or l-1l for short, but found it sometimes lacked focus with the multiple narrators, but Brooklyn Burning is a perfect and original use of the single narrator.  This book is honest, gritty, and raw.  It would be good for fans of edgier contemporary fiction.