NPR is compiling yet another list, and I'm TOTALLY POSITIVE that it, like every other BEST OF list they've created, will result in much debate and discussion. And possibly gnashing of teeth. Exciting!:
Ever since we launched NPR's Backseat Book Club in 2011, our young listeners have been busy reading — classics like The Wizard of Oz, Black Beauty and The Phantom Tollbooth, and newer tales, like The Graveyard Book, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Lunch Lady graphic novels. (Here's a list of all the books we've read so far.) This summer, with your help, NPR Books will assemble the Ultimate Kids' Bookshelf — a collection of 100 books that every 9- to 14-year-old should read.
So head on over and give 'em your picks, if you haven't already.
Despite the book’s disappointing spiral into inanity in the third act, the introduction of a totally extraneous love triangle (and when I say "extraneous," I’m referring to BOTH romances), AND the fact that it ends on a deflating TUNE IN NEXT TIME TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS note, I enjoyed my time with the heroine so much that I’ll very probably pick up Book Two.
One of my galley group teens came into the library last week to pick out a new book to read. As she was browsing the shelves of ARCs, she asked me "where are all the kickbutt girls in YA without the romance? Every YA book has to have a romance plotline! Why can't the girls just be awesome?" She then picked up an advanced copy, read the cover copy, and sighed "See? This one would have been so good before it got to 'and then she meets boy' here."
Her comments got me thinking-where are the awesome girls without romance?
Coming up with them is harder than you'd think.
Sarah very rightly suggests Code Name Verity (there's a subtle romance in there, but it's not at all front-and-center).
• There isn't one in Etiquette and Espionage, though Gail Carriger definitely laid the groundwork for one in the future.
• There isn't an overt one in Martha Wells' Emilie and the Hollow World, but again, there's the distinct possibility that there'll be one in the sequel.
• The narrator in Life as We Knew It had a crush at the beginning, but that didn't go anywhere and then it turned into ALL SURVIVAL, ALL THE TIME. But that might not count, either, because it depends on how we're defining The State Of Being Kickbutt.
• There are romantic doings in the third Kiki Strike book, but not so much in the first two? I think?
Other than those, most of the romance-free action-y reads I can think of are A) middle grade, or B) about male protagonists, or C) not at all recent.
As my sad brain is even more sadly failing me at the moment, I did a little bit of looking around and found these:
• A few reviews of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Every Other Day mention that it's a standout in the paranormal genre because it doesn't feature a romance: apparently, there's the potential for one, but nothing overt.
•Io9 lauded Jonathan L. Howard's Katya's World for being romance-free: There's a lot of talk about how awesome female heroines are these days, but fifteen-year-old Katya is the real deal. She's stubborn and tough, driven by her desire for respect. She's also really smart in a believable way. Plenty of other characters figure things out, but often at the same time as Katya or just after she points out something important that she's noticed. The reader doesn't ever feel like the adults around her are idiots, but rather that Katya has actually earned her place among them. Katya's also entirely unburdened with a romance. So that's getting bumped WAAAAAAAY up on my TBR list.
There MUST be more, though, yes?
*Not to say that girls in straight-up contemporaries aren't awesome, but judging by the other titles listed in the original post, I'm guessing that she's using "kickbutt" literally, which suggests, you know: action sequences and whatnot. Tangential question, because I am too lazy to Google it: Is there a contemporary along the lines of Girlfight? Except, rats, Girlfight had a romance. Wow, this is a ridiculous sidebar. Moving on.
Liz: What type of feedback have you gotten from readers?
Ann: I’ve had lots of really great feedback, but two messages have
been especially thought-provoking for me. One, from a non-US reader,
said she’d always just assumed American teens were very old-looking
compared to teens in other countries, but now she knows it’s because the
actors are all 25.
The other really interesting feedback came from a real, live teen who
said she felt badly she looked so much younger than teens on TV, but
this blog has helped reassure her that her appearance is what teens are
*supposed* to look like. I hadn’t thought about this — for some people,
constantly seeing older people (for instance, the entire cast of Glee)
in high school settings, it can lead to some confidence issues.
Fascinating, important stuff: as the above quote suggests, it's hard to imagine that this practice doesn't factor into our culture's issues surrounding beauty and body image and whatnot.
More easily accessible and not quite as gritty as Gentleman,
but still realistic and truthful. But I know that the burning question
in your mind—it was the one in mine, at any rate—is probably this: IS
THIS A CRYING BOOK? Well, that's a pretty major spoiler. So I shall
leave the answer to that question in the comments section.
While it’s not a title that has inspired me to gush, it’s a solid debut
and a solid book: I have absolutely no complaints. Lexi’s narration is
clear and honest, her guilt about what happened back in New York is
understandable and palpable, and the friendship storyline is given just
as much weight as the romance. Howard shifts back and forth between past
and present so smoothly that, by the time Lexi's past catches up with
her, the groundwork has been laid to allow for a reaction worthy of one
of her beloved Regency romances...while still being emotionally
While I liked the basic premise of Stung—bees die out, which
basically causes the apocalypse (no bees, no food; no food, people freak
out; scientists try to save the bees and accidentally create a rage
virus; the haves create a governmental structure that is focused on
their own survival, and to hell with the have-nots)—I couldn't get over
my issues with the main character. The issues, though, are somewhat
spoilery, so if you're planning on reading it, I'd suggest skipping the
rest of the post.
Martha Wells’ Emilie and the Hollow World is so entertaining,
so compelling, SO MUCH FUN that it made me do something that I haven’t
done since the fourth grade: When my lunch break was over, I just kept
on reading by super-stealthily hiding my book under the desk. Which
would have been less obvious if I’d been sitting in my office rather
than the library’s circulation desk. Happily, judging by all of the
smirks I caught, my patrons apparently approve of the appearance of my
(usually Inner) Bad Librarian.
Beyond Jazz, who's such a fabulous narrator that I'd recommend the book
for his voice and characterization alone, everything else here is
straight-up, flat-out super. The mystery and investigation, the
friendships, the secondary characters, the depiction of media and its
view of Jazz as a commodity, the pacing, the atmosphere, everything.
There's a wonderful balance between dark humor and actual gravity,
between real life and epic drama.
[Azure] definitely dominates, and she's also much harder to like, mostly
because her behavior is so hypocritical: she's supposedly hugely
open-minded and stridently opposes People Judging Each Other, but she's
very dismissive of people who have opinions different than her own, and
she judges other people on the basis of their appearance on a regular
basis. BUT, realizing that is a big part of her personal journey.
The technical details about the investigation (especially the methods of
the dive team) are worked in naturally, and fans of procedural/forensic
mysteries are bound to like those elements. Similarly, fans of The Mentalist will
like the subplot that deals with the faker psychic lady. Oh, and it's
worth noting that John Robertson is creepy as all get out, but while
there's certainly an implied threat of sexual assault, nothing like that
ever happens onscreen.
Enjoying No Safety in Numbers will require some suspension of
disbelief and for readers to avoid thinking too hard about details.
You’d think, for instance, that a mall large enough to house a
rock-climbing gym and an ice rink would, A) have some showers somewhere,
if not an actual gym, and B) have at least a bare-bones custodial staff on hand during the day. But, no. Not this one.
The original characters—Carver's peers, their adoptive parents, the
Pinkerton detectives—read more like stock characters than real people,
but Teddy Roosevelt and Alice, especially, really shine. I didn't form
emotional attachments with anyone, but some of their relationships were
affecting: Carver and Finn's sloooow journey from enemies to allies was
especially well done, in that it was organic and subtle. Also, although
Carver is mostly an Everyboy Type, he's not perfect, which always makes
for more interesting reading. The mystery itself is spun out very well,
and the climax/reveal is fabulous: yes, I guessed where it was going,
but not because of any missteps on the author's part. I'M JUST THAT
The winner of the Best Young Adult Fiction award AND the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year is Into the River, by Ted Dawe:
This engaging coming of age novel follows its
main protagonist from his childhood in small town rural New Zealand to
an elite Auckland boarding school where he must forge his own way –
including battling with his cultural identity.
“Into the River was the book that stood out for us,” says Chief Judge and author Bernard Beckett.
“Traditionally, books aimed at the top end of the young adult market
[ages 15+] have not been a strength of ours here in New Zealand, with
most books aimed nearer the junior fiction boundary. We were delighted
to see a book that both engaged and respected older readers, with
material as subtle as it is honest and provocative.
See the rest of the YA finalists here, and the rest of the winners here.
They do touch on a couple of points that ring true to me, though – one, we keep telling people of color that their books don’t sell – and don’t stock them? Well. You can’t sell what isn’t stocked. Two, there’s this idea that books by people of color are, like, homework and vitamins – things you’re supposed to have to have a well-rounded meal. Nobody wants the food they’re “supposed” to have. Everyone just wants good food. Until we can get over the “people of color as cod liver oil” idea that seems to have permeated American society, and the idea of “tolerance” – man, I hate that word, because all it means is “putting up with crap we don’t like,” instead of actually being loving and inclusive – this is where we’ll be.