Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oh, That Voice!

I recently finished The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie and I LOVED it. The protagonist is fourteen and has such a strong voice. Awesome. He also is honest and talks about the kinds of things that are on a fourteen year old's mind, which has caused some issues with parents who are concerned about what their kids are reading (more to come on that below.) What I also really loved about it was that it validated my own protagonist of my current work-in-progress, in a way. I tend to write on that line between upper MG and lower YA, sometimes called Transition now, sometimes called Tween (which is not what I think of as tween.) This guy, though, walks that line, too. Of course, his book is marked as YA, but it feels like something my middle schoolers would read and totally get. It's a book to give those guys who say they hate books-- they'd love it. It's funny AND touching AND challenging.

My husband said, "It's funny? It's full of really sad things that happen!" (I made him read it.) And okay, no spoilers, but yes, sad things happen in the book. Normally, I'm all about avoiding sadness in book. I want escapism!! But this one...man, I just loved this protagonist. I loved his voice, this edge of raw honesty, humor and self-reflection. Thumbs up. In the book, too, his character makes a list of his favorite things, so he has a top book list. I'm going to read those books next. :)

Oh, and also? It's been banned or considered being banned a number of times, which is one my life goals as a writer, to have a book that is so true to life, so challenging, that adults freak out and think kids should be sheltered from it. Here's another article about how it was banned in Oregon State. And might I mention that I just discovered the blog linked in the previous link (thanks, Google!) just now and it looks totally great? I'm going to start following that one...has a great list of books to read.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Steampunk Surprise

I love fantasy. I enjoy science fiction. I appreciate alternate histories. I love dystopians. I love all sorts of novels that require using your imagination to build a different world in your mind alongside the author. I had heard of steampunk, of course, and figured I sort of understood what steampunk meant. Then I tried to read Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld. Now, I had read Uglies by him, and loved it. I thought his premise was clever and fascinating. I saw Leviathan on a list of recommended reads by teens, which I'm slowly working through, and checked it out of the library.

I'm glad I used the library.

It didn't help that there are two protagonists, that it is so politcal and war-centered. None of those are things I love. But the scope of weirdness was so far beyond what I had read before that I struggled to pay attention to the plot in my attempts to visualize this alternate WWI setting, with machines and living-genetically altered living creatures mixed together to create a different kind of war machine. Hearing Germany and France just kept jarring me as I was reading about a floating ship consisting of a giant, living whale and an apparently a giant ecosystem that also somehow requires pilots and navy-like Air Force people. I was so baffled that I might be completely wrong about what the ship actually was built out of, but if that's the case, that's just another reason why it's not a book for me.

I think it's clear that it takes a lot of creativity to build this kind of world and I can respect that. I can totally respect the author and how much he has accomplished. What I couldn't do is get past chapter 4 of this particular book. Do you know how rare that is? I actually abandoned a book! Gasp! Now I will try one other steampunk, I suppose, to see if I dislike the genre in general (as I suspect) or if it was just one of those cases when a reader and a book don't match. There are lots of fans for Leviathan--I'm just not one of them. I feel sad about that. Steampunk sounds so COOL! "Yeah, I'm reading this awesome steampunk novel..." Oh well! Too many books to spend time on ones you don't really enjoy! Off to read The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. It was on the same recommended list as Leviathan...we'll see how this one goes!