Tag Archives: YA lit

Forever Young Adult

I love Young Adult lit. I’ve loved it ever since I was a young adult. I read a lot of books when I was growing up, and there are some amazing novels out there geared towards teenagers. I’m not talking about ‘Twilight’ and the endless other vampire series that have sprung up in its wake (although I am certainly not above reading a book about supernatural creatures, if it’s well written :) I’m talking about smart, thoughtful, engaging writing that doesn’t talk down to its readers because they happen to be below the voting age. J.K. Rowling proved that children’s books could be embraced — and in many cases, loved — by adults too, and I am a huge proponent of the idea that YA lit can be enjoyed by a wider audience than it’s target demographic.

Some of the best books I’ve read in the past year have included YA titles. There’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green, and ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline. I also loved ‘Flick’ by Abigail Tarttelin. All three of these are examples of books that are full of both humour and sadness — real, complex emotions, just as engaging as anything I’ve read recently in adult fiction.

My main source for finding out about upcoming YA titles is the awesome, brilliantly funny Forever Young Adult. When I first stumbled on this site I was thrilled by the discovery that there are other people out there like me…people who are — ahem — not exactly teenagers anymore, but still love teen books! All the girls at FYA are awesome and their reviews have become my go-to when I’m trying to decide what to read next.

In fact, I am such a huge fan of FYA that as I type this, I am wearing my new Forever Young Adult t-shirt. You guys, it is awesome! It has a rainbow on it, with a unicorn lolling in a martini glass, an olive speared through it’s horn. Any site that mixes a love of cocktails with passion for teen books is pretty amazing, in my view.

Thaddeus is wearing an FYA-designed t-shirt too. He just started reading ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins and is really into it so far.

Here we are in our new shirts!

Hamlet, Omelet. It’s All So Similar.

hamlet, omelet

In English, Miss Vlorque was handing back Friday’s test. As Sheldon and Paul entered the room, she had called Dick Oliver up to her desk to discuss his paper.

“Dick, you did very well, but one thing confuses me. Why did you write
‘Cooking’ under ‘subject’ in your exam booklet?”

Dick looked completely blank.

“This is English,” Miss Vlorque went on. “Shakespeare.”

“You’re kidding!”

Miss Vlorque blew up. “How could anyone possibly mistake this for a cooking class? Do you see cooking equipment anywhere? Have we cooked anything?”

“Yeah, but I thought this was…you know…theory.”

“If you didn’t even know what course this was, how could you have done so well? You got a ninety-five!”

Dick shrugged. “I studied.”

“Man!” he muttered to Sheldon and Paul as he headed for his desk. “I should have known right off when there wasn’t any stove that something was wrong. But, you know, you cut a few classes, come in late a couple of times, maybe you don’t pay attention so hot in the first place – it all gets by you. You know – Hamlet, omelet. It’s all so similar.”

© Korman, Gordon. Don’t Care High. New York: Scholastic, 1985.

It’s Official: Best New Read of 2012

John Green

John Green: killing me softly with his words

Okay, now, I know what you are thinking. We are a scant 29 days into the new year, and I am already declaring The Fault in Our Stars as Best New Read? Well, my friends, it is just that good.

Oh, this book…this book! On Friday night I went to see a movie by myself (more on seeing movies alone another day, as it’s one of the things on my list) and although it was good, the whole time I was there I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to be reading this book. So when I got home, I continued, even though it was late, and by the stroke of 1:00 am I was lying in bed sobbing my eyes out. I don’t want to spoiler it too much for you in case you read it (and you should!) but suffice to say that this book destroyed me.

When we left off, of course, Hazel and Augustus were about to start out on their journey to Amsterdam to meet the elusive Peter Van Houten and finally learn more about the ending of An Imperial Affliction. All I will say is that the trip does not go exactly as planned, but that it is nevertheless an amazing experience for both of them. The second half of the book is less focused on the bloom of first love, because there is some pretty heavy shizz that goes down, but there are still plenty of swoony moments. There is one passage about love that I would like to share with you:

“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.

“Augustus,” I said.

“I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

“Augustus,” I said again, not knowing what else to say. It felt like everything was rising up in me, like I was drowning in this weirdly painful joy, but I couldn’t say it back. I couldn’t say anything back. I just looked at him and let him look at me until he nodded, lips pursed, and turned away, placing the side of his head against the window.

You guys, I think John Green really nailed it here. I have tried a few times, unsuccessfully, to explain what it feels like to fall in love. Everyone (i.e. TV shows, Hollywood movies, Harlequin romance novels) seems to treat it as this magical experience that is filled with joy and ecstasy and doves being released to the heavens — but in my view, more often that not, falling in love is actually a kind of painful experience. Not exactly painful in a bad way — it’s amazing, and thrilling, of course — but essentially you spend a few months walking around feeling like you’re going to throw up most of the time. Love is basically the most pleasurable illness in the world. Few would choose not to have it, but it is an affliction nonetheless. So when I read the line “It felt like everything was rising up in me, like I was drowning in this weirdly painful joy” I think I actually jumped up and exclaimed “Yes!! John Green, you are a genius!” Because that was exactly how I felt the first time a boy ever told me that he loved me. I was sixteen, and his name was Ben, and it was simultaneously one of the best and most terrifying experiences of my life up to that point. I felt vulnerable, and exposed, like my skin had literally been turned inside out. Which sounds super gross, but it was also amazing…and terrible, and great, all at the same time. Love is weird.

Anyway, it is very difficult to write about love without sounding cheesy or resorting to lame clichés, but John Green navigates the subject skillfully, treating it with a perfect balance of humour and gravitas. Even though the relationship between Augustus and Hazel intensifies quickly, it really rings true. Another thing that struck me about the book is that Green is able to write convincingly from the point of view of a 16-year old girl, which is rare for a male author. This is his first novel featuring a female protagonist, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked this character even more than the (male) main characters in his other books.

Before I wrap this up, I must mention Hazel’s parents, especially her dad who is possibly the awesomest book dad ever. I would imagine that having a terminally ill kid would be one of the most difficult, heartbreaking experiences that anyone ever has to go through, and Hazel’s parents are bastions of strength and good humour. I really like this little passage in which the three of them are watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon (Hazel is addicted to bad reality TV):

Finally, we watched ANTM. Dad tried really hard not to die of boredom, and he kept messing up which girl was which, saying, “We like her?”

“No, no. We revile Anastasia. We like Antonia, the other blonde,” Mom explained.

“They’re all tall and horrible,” Dad responded. “Forgive me for failing to tell the difference.”

In conclusion: although this book made me cry quite uncontrollably, and was very sad in parts, I do not for one second regret having read it. I feel fortunate that it came into my life, unexpectedly, when it did. I grew quite attached to it in a short period of time, which surprised me because that is not usually my style with books. And even though it may have ended, I suspect that I will be thinking about it for a long time to come.

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars

John Green is not only one of my favorite YA authors, he is simply one of my favorite authors, full stop. The first book of his that I read was Looking for Alaska (the Colonel is hands down one of the best characters of all time) and I loved An Abundance of Katherines. Don’t even get me started on Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the book that Green co-wrote with David Levithan (there are really no words for the complete joy that Tiny Cooper brings to my life).

So when I was at my local bookstore yesterday evening and noticed that his new novel, The Fault in Our Stars, had come out, of course I purchased it immediately and began reading it on the subway ride home. It is now 14 hours later, I am on Chapter 9 (having stayed up until 2 am reading), and I am officially, completely, and totally obsessed.

There are just SO MANY AMAZING THINGS about this book. First of all, it’s the story of Hazel Lancaster, a sixteen year old girl living with cancer. That sounds like a total downer of a premise but it’s totally not, I swear, because even though Hazel has been through some tough times and has problems breathing and stuff (a side effect of the illness, which ravaged her lungs), she’s pretty awesome about it all. Anyway, she goes to a support group every week for kids with cancer, which is where she meets Augustus Waters, a super hot boy who also happens to have had cancer (osteosarcoma) and has a prosthetic leg and may be the most swoon-worthy character I have ever encountered in a YA book. Or any book. Seriously. He is just that awesome. He’s smart, and funny, and sarcastic, and he reads Hazel’s favorite book the night after he meets her, and gives her one of his favorite books which is the first in this ridiculous series of novels based on a video game, with a protagonist called ‘Max Mayhem’. The developing romance between Hazel and Augustus is actually, literally, killing my life right now with its amazingness. They transition pretty quickly from being complete strangers to becoming majorly important in one another’s lives, but it doesn’t feel rushed. It makes sense. And here’s the thing – I’m on page 129 and they’ve barely even held hands yet, let alone kissed. There’s hardly been any physical contact between them but it doesn’t matter, I am still dying from the hotness of their relationship – that’s how swoony this book is. Check out this passage:

After that, we turned on the TV for a little while, but we couldn’t find anything to watch, so I grabbed An Imperial Affliction off the bedside table and brought it back into the living room and Augustus Waters read to me while Mom, making lunch, listened in.

“’Mother’s glass eye turned inward,’” Augustus began. As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

Another excellent thing about The Fault in Our Stars is that there’s a whole book-within-a-book situation going on, which I always love. Hazel is a huge fan of this reclusive author named Peter Van Houten, who wrote only one novel (An Imperial Affliction, the aforementioned favorite book, which ended literally in the middle of a sentence) and then disappeared to the Netherlands, never to be heard from again. Hazel is obsessed with finding out what happened to the characters in the story after the book ended, so Augustus tracks down Peter Van Houten’s assistant, Lidewij Vliegenthart, and they end up arranging a trip to Amsterdam to go and meet the author.

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I will leave you with the last words that I read, as I walked into work this morning:

I texted Augustus because I knew he was in school:

Still free May three? :-)

He texted back immediately.

Everything’s coming up Waters.*

If I could just stay alive for a week, I’d know the unwritten secrets of Anna’s mom and the Dutch Tulip Guy. I looked down my blouse at my chest.

“Keep your shit together,” I whispered to my lungs.

*Of course John Green is a Simpsons fan.

Stay tuned for an update as to whether the second half cements this book’s status as Best New Read of 2012. So far, it’s looking good!