I’m in the midst of trying to make several large life decisions (graduation? travel? living situation? life plan? does life have meaning?). I need some help, and I started thinking about what characters I’d like to talk to. Originally I thought Dumbledore, but then I realized that he would just be all “Follow your heart and do what’s right,” kind of like my dad (thanks, Dad).  So here’s who I figure would actually help me out.

1. Gandalf

Where Dumbledore would be all serene and tell me to follow my heart, Gandalf would kick me in the butt and get me out the door, moving on to the next adventure in my life. If he was able to shake up a couple of Hobbits, there is no doubt that he’d be able to get me on my way.

2. Gladys from Second Helpings

Jess Darling’s grandmother always has the right advice when she’s trying to figure out what to do next, and I could really use some of her hilarious wisdom right about now.

3. Luna Lovegood

As much help as I’m sure the older generation would have plenty of wisdom to give me, there would be nothing like stressing out to Luna and having her tell me, oh so serenely, that I need to get those nargles or whatever out of my head and then everything will be fine.

4. Anastasia Krupnik’s parents

One of my complaints about YA lit is the blatant lack of parents who are willing to talk things out with their kids. Not so with Anastasia. They would sit with me and tell me to follow my dreams, but they would also be realistic. Two artists with two kids have definitely learned the balancing act in life.

5. Leslie Burke

Bridge to Terabithia never fails to make me cry, which is why I think it would be so powerful to talk with Leslie and see what she thinks. I’d ask what she would have done at my age, if she’d had the chance to make the decisions I’m making. Her answer, I’m sure, would be filled with the kind of creativity and hope that is found only in the perpetually young.

So I know y’all follow my blog religiously and you know I read this book while at the beach a week and a half ago (sorry for the delay, I was knocked out by a vicious virus for a few days). It didn’t disappoint!

Speed Read:

Something terrible has happened. Anna’s parents have sent her to boarding school in Paris.

Ok, ok. I know. Bear with me, I swear it’s worse than it sounds.

Then, when she gets there, she meets this absolutely dreamy guy, Etienne, who jokes around with her and orders her lunch in French for her (due to her lack of speaking French) and shows her around Paris and becomes her best friend. But he has a girlfriend. And then other stuff happens and the world just wants to keep them apart and Anna doesn’t know what to do.

   The Deal:

Ok so in retrospect Anna and the French Kiss sounds a lot like Twilight. Girl has to move somewhere beautiful against her will. Girl meets amazing guy who quickly falls for her but is off limits. Girl must decide How To Deal. But where Twilight is about whirlwind romance between two people that have almost nothing in common, Anna and Etienne get to know each other slowly. Their relationship builds over time, and the circumstances keeping them apart are actually understandable. While it’s totally swoony and awesome, it’s also not out of the range of emotional possibility for high schoolers. Ah, refreshing.

Also, Anna is kickass. She isn’t preoccupied by her looks (except to debate bleaching a stripe in her hair…sweet), she’s funny, and she loves her family dearly. She is insecure about the things that actually matter, like if the people at her new school will like her or if her little brother will forget her. I was totally routing for her, and I cannot WAIT for Stephanie Perkins’ next book, Lola and The Boy Next Door, coming out this fall!

How Far Should You Go:

If you open up your locker one day to a mysterious note saying that the last copy of this book is somewhere in Paris and you have to find it if you ever want to read it, don’t hesitate to steal your parent’s credit card to buy that plane ticket. I mean, if you get there and a small child already has it and they are clinging to it for dear life, don’t sacrifice your integrity to steal it, but do everything you can to be the first one to get there.

The 13/16 Test:

Everyone’s good. I’ll probably actually lend it to Thirteen when I see her next.

The Low Down:

Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Speak
Published: August 4th, 2011
Classified as: Young Adult

The Guardian ran an article this week on book spoilers, and a study that revealed readers may actually enjoy spoiled stories more than the unspoiled!

The psychologists go on to wonder why this is: perhaps, they say, it’s because it’s “easier” to read a spoiled story. “It could be,” says Leavitt, “that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”

When I first read the article I was astounded and in denial, but then I realized something. Whenever I’m reading a book and my enthusiasm is fading, once I get to the point where I’m ready to give up and put the book down, I’ll start flipping through the book to find out if what I want to happen, happens. If it doesn’t, I usually put the book down, but if it does, I’ll go back and read all the way through to find out how they got there. Nevermind my lazy reading habits, but doesn’t this kind of support what they’re saying?

The instance that most clearly sticks out in my mind is Twilight. I remember reading it in late high school because my little sister was reading it, and I was fading fast, so I looked and saw that in the end Bella and Edward are at prom together, meaning they must have overcome the whole “I want to suck your blood” thing, so I read through to the end.

And then I started thinking about big franchises that, if spoilers were truly a huge issue, probably would have died off a long time ago. Namely: “Luke, I am your father.” What person really makes it to that moment without knowing about the twist? I’m sure it was awesome for those leaving the theater when it first came out, but the fact that it was common knowledge meant that this advertisement was possible when the prequels were coming out:

So what do you think? Does reading the last page of a book “spoil” it or is it part of your reading experience? And is it lazy to find out what happens early on? Is there some sort of inherent value in reading the book as it was written, waiting to find everything out as the author intended?

So in my perfect life, I would open my mailbox to find a trillion dollar gift certificate to Barnes & Noble (or maybe Shakespeare & Co) and I would be able to buy all of the beautiful books I want. There are so many pretty editions out there, but usually I’m stuck buying used paperbacks. In a world where I have enough book money to be vain about what I read, the entire line of Penguin Classic clothbound hardcovers would be my first purchase:

 

Ack these are so gorgeous! I love how well the covers fit the stories, and how whimsical and lovely they are.

I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who can only read certain books in certain places. Pairing an environment and a book is like finding the perfect wine for a meal. I mean, yes, more is always better, but the point is, it’s an art.

Like this one time, I was making my way through all seven Harry Potter books in time for the sixth movie premier, so I brought the fourth book with me to the beach. It did not work out. There’s something about reading about magic in a huge Scottish castle that just did not mesh with the sand ‘n surf atmosphere. So then I had to stop reading, but I didn’t have my iPod and we’d run out of chips and I was just kind of lying there for the whole afternoon and the water was too cold and it just ruined the whole experience.

Now I’m a lot more careful about the books I bring to the beach with me.

I’ve found it’s incredible important to have three books with you at the beach at all times.

Category #1: (this week the position is filled by Anna and the French Kiss)
This book should be fun and light, preferably with a swoony guy. Ann and the French Kiss will be perfect, especially since I’ve heard the swoony guy in question is French. This position can usually be filled by a Sarah Dessen book (see: The Truth About Forever and Keeping the Moon), although some of her books do fall into…

Category #2: (currently occupied by The Sky is Everywhere)
This book should be that book that you’ve been hearing about, that’s just so so so good, the one that none of your friends could put down but for some reason you haven’t read it yet. For a lot of people, this summer that book is The Help, but may I also suggest 13 Reasons Why or Looking for Alaska?

Category 3: (Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks)
This one is different for everyone, because the only requirement is that it’s a book you’ve already read and loved. I loved Disreputable History the first time I read it, but it was for a class so I thought I’d give it the time and devotion it deserved.

Even if you’re only going for the day, having all three of these books with you is extremely important. Take it from someone who’s been there. How are you supposed to know what your beach experience will be like until you get there? Maybe it’s so ridiculously hot that you can’t concentrate that well, in which case rereading a book is probably your most relaxing option. Maybe it’ll be a little windy and gray and suddenly you’ll be feeling a little contemplative, making a Category 2 seem more appealing. You never know.

 

We all have characters we’d love to meet, and usually we discuss this with the “Who would you invite to a dinner party?” routine. But the thing is, it’s August. It’s hot. And I don’t want to be stuck inside all day struggling to prepare perfect Chicken Kiev when I could be at the beach, so would you please stop asking me to throw a dinner party and just accept that the most you’ll get out of me is a few hamburgers on a slightly suspicious bar-b-que that we find near the sand?

K thanks.

I’m off to the beach until Friday now (for real!), so here are the people I’d take with me to chat with on that two hour bus ride and then dance around on the beach:

1. Takumi from Looking for Alaska.

Yes, he’s a secondary character, but guys, he can rap. On the fly. He can just…rap whenever he wants. And intelligently. He rhymes words like “malaria” and “hysteria.” Who wouldn’t want him on a two hour bus ride?

2. Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

She’s a surefire way to make the beach more fun. She would probably lead a whole operation to prank the guys hogging the sand with their football game/toss/whatever it is, and get a killer tan to boot.

3. Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird

Yes, he would complain for the entire bus ride, asking every five seconds how long it will be until the beach, but he would totally hunt for crabs with the eight-year-old I babysit so I can read for a little bit without feeling guilty. Plus, Dill+Frankie Landau-Banks would equal some hilarity for sure.

4. Ruby from Imaginary Girls

Listen, I know she’s not perfect, but she’d be great for a day at the beach. She would be able to convince that group over there to share their watermelon, and she’d be able to convince the bus drive to get there faster and just, you know, skip all those other peoples’ stops (what? I want to be at the beach!).

5. Len Levy from Second Helpings

With this crowd, we’ll need a paramedic around for sure. Maybe he’ll also play us some background music on his guitar!

I came across this article about favorite childhood books and what they say about our current psyche. Hilarious, with a few gems:

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The residual guilt may be nearly unbearable, but at least you’ll be a good parent.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Your friends may be totally crazy, but you’re together enough that you can go out partying with them every night and still hold down a full-time job.

It’s really a great concept. When you think about it, the books you loved as a child probably do say a lot about you. I mean, Flavorwire went the direction of cute/ironic, but I’m kind of serious here. In a game of “dissect your friends’ favorite childhood books” I’m betting a lot more than meets the eye would be revealed.

Ok, ok, I’ll go first.

Favorite picture books: Silly Sally Went to Town, Walking Backward Upside Down, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Comet’s Nine Lives.

 

Favorite Middle Grade: Anything Roald Dahl, but especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Matilda. Then I read my first Harry Potter book (no explanation needed).

Favorite YA: Looking for Alaska and This Lullabye.

 

Hmmmm…I don’t feel like I can really psychoanalyze myself without being a tad biased, but I can try! I see a lot of characters who start small and go and do something big, like inheriting a chocolate factory from the poorest of poverty or finding a home as a cat in a land full of dogs or striking out from their family very young to go seek a “great perhaps” at boarding school. I see a lot of characters with longing for something more. And I see sideline romances, except for Sarah Dessen’s book, which features a girl who is afraid romance will keep her from achieving her dreams.

I see a lot of dreaming.

What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Or, if you don’t feel like sharing something that’s apparently so revealing, feel free to analyze me!

I was so excited to see this book lying around at my internship. The premise is amazing, Nove Ren Suma’s agent is great (and works for the company I intern for), and I so so so admire the editor of Dutton, so I knew it was going to be incredible. It did not disappoint!

Speed Read:

   It sounded impossible, something no one would believe if anyone but Ruby were the one to tell it. But Ruby was right: The body found that night wouldn’t be, couldn’t be mine.

Chloe left her small, mountain town two years ago after a terrible summer night at the reservoir. A girl died, and Chloe left, leaving her older sister, Ruby, behind. Now, Ruby has come to get her back, at least for the summer, and so Chloe returns to the town where it all happened.

Everything is the same. Her sister is still the center of the town’s attention, able to convince anyone to do her bidding with a quick smile. Chloe’s mother is still drunk, hanging around at the only bar in town. Everything is how she left it, even the things that should have been gone a long time ago.

 

The Deal:

Ok I thought Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was freaky, and then I read this book. Peculiar Children was in-your-face creepy, like watching Psycho. Imaginary Girls was more like The Sixth Sense…you’re watching and watching and suddenly you realize you’re completely freaked out and you don’t know when it happened and then it ends and you’re left by yourself with a little bit of an eerie feeling that makes you keep looking back over your shoulder in case someone is there.

But don’t worry, I just looked, and we’re all good. I mean, I am. You probably are.

But just like The Sixth Sense, this book is beautifully crafted, one of those stories that’s good aside from the creep factor. The writing is creative and spare, and Ruby is a wonderful, larger-than-life character that fills up the pages to their very edges. That said, I think it’s going to be a book that people either love or hate. It’s surrealism is part of it’s appeal, but I can see how it might be frustrating for readers who like their books a little…neater. This one leaves a lot up to the reader, which means a greater closeness to the book, its characters, and the world they live in, but can also mean it’s not as easy to breeze through and leave behind you. The story will stay with you, for good or bad.

How Far Should You Go:

There’s this really creepy place in my hometown, all windy roads and overhanging trees and shadows, where crazy teenagers go and dare each other to get out of the car. You know, “I dare you to run to that mailbox in front of the abandoned mental hospital,” or “I bet you won’t last four steps to that creepy ramshackle hut with the light on inside.” I was the girl who would never unbuckle seatbelt, let alone set foot outside the safe confines of the car, but for this book, I’d run all the way up to the abandoned mental hospital and might even touch the doorknob.

The 13/16 Test:

Fine for Sixteen, but I think Thirteen should wait a year. Maybe next summer, before she starts high school? I think any of the different factors by themselves would be fine, but add a creepy dead girl sitch, a high school girl with, shall we say, challenging parents, and an older sister who didn’t have much guidance growing up and it just gets to be a little too much for a thirteen-year-old at times. Next year, for sure.

The Low Down:

Imaginary Girls
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Published: June 14th, 2011
Classified as: Young Adult

I’m pretty well-read when it comes to new books. At least, for YA. But when it comes to classics, I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read very many. Guys, there’s something I have to admit, and it isn’t pretty. It’s so bad that sometimes, when a stranger* hears I’m a Lit major and asks me my thoughts on a classic, I’ll pretend I’ve read it just so I don’t have to deal with the inevitable gasp and sidelong glance that penetrates my very soul and questions my worth as a human being.

So I’m coming clean. Here are some (only some) of the classic books I haven’t read. Maybe putting them out there will motivate some actual reading on my part.

Jane Eyre

This one is embarrassingly easy to fake. I read the shortened child version when I was little, and then got totally lazy and never read the real thing. Sorry, Charlotte. If a stranger brings it up on a day when I’m feeling particularly cowardly, I’ll smile and say, “Reader, I married him.” and then they’re convinced. I told you it wasn’t pretty!

Little Women

I’ve seen the movie like eighteen times, but I’ve never made it past the part where Jo cuts her hair. Which I’m pretty sure is like the first thing that happens in the entire epic novel.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The closest I’ve gotten to this one is Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective (which is an excellent movie by the way).

Black Beauty and The Secret Garden

I know, I know, especially shameful, seeing as these are two classic children’s novels. Actually, I’m going to get on that like, this weekend, I swear. I’m cringing.

So there you go. My secret list of shame. What are some classics you’ve managed to avoid reading?

*By stranger, I mean someone who I talk to in passing in line at the grocery store, in the elevator, or on a plane. I would never lie about my literary experience to a friend or family member! The travesty!

So yesterday I blog about Wintergirls and how it should be required reading for girls everywhere, and today it’s selected by the New York State Reading Association to be on the Charlotte Award reading list, a list New York schools use to pick their required and suggested reading! It’s a huge honor for a book to be chosen, and I’m so excited that they picked such meaningful, helpful books for teens to read.

It was definitely chosen because of my amazing superpowers, right?

 

Right.