Thursday, May 11, 2006

YA Extravaganza!

Elsewhere Gabrielle Zevin

Liz is more than confused when she wakes up one morning to find herself on a cruise ship with a girl she’s never met before in the top bunk. But then she starts to remember being hit by a car as she rode her bike to the mall and eventually is brought up to the observation deck to watch her own funeral.

The boat eventually lands in Elsewhere, where dead people get a day younger every day until they are taken down the river back to Earth to be reborn. In Elsewhere, Liz meets up with the grandmother she never knew and struggles with the fact that she won’t be turning 16, getting her driver’s license, or going to college. Instead, she’ll turn 14, then 13 and then 12. Again. Liz nearly drives herself crazy watching her family’s grief.

But she eventually finds her avocation counseling dogs who have just arrived to Elsewhere and starts to make friends. But death it seems, is just as complicated as life. What’s the protocol for when your boyfriend’s wife dies and is suddenly in the picture? What do you do when a bottle washes up on the shore inviting you to your best friend’s wedding? Is there a way to go back? Does she want to go back?

Beautifully written and an ingenous look at the after life, Zevin manages to address the subject at hand in a serious manner without getting too heavy or melodramatic, but also not getting too light and fluffy. Very well done.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 Sue Townsend

It is hard being Adrian Mole. His love, Pandora, is dating his best friend. His mother has moved to Sheffield with Mr. Lucas from next door. His chin is erupting in spots. His father has been laid off. His dog is continually at the vet and the only way he’ll get a balanced meal is if he goes round to his grandmother’s house. To top it all off, Adrian knows he is in intellectual and no one else realizes it, least of all the BBC, which keeps rejecting his poetry.

I love Adrian. I've already read this one, but in my love for neurotic British teenagers... Adrian's the best! Technically a YA book, the later books in the series are adult titles (as Adrian grows up). This is milk-out-your-nose funny. I highly, highly recommend!

Love and Other Four-Letter Words Carolyn Mackler

School’s about to let out for the summer and Sammie’s life has just been turned upside down. Her dad just walked out on her mom and moved to California. Sammie’s mom decides to move to New York City. Sammie would rather go with her dad, but finds herself packed into a one bedroom apartment in the city with her dog and a mother that won’t get out of bed.
In addition to dealing with her missing father and leaving her friends and life behind, Sammie is finds herself having to take care of things she feels her mother should be in charge of–like making sure there’s food in the apartment.

Her mom doesn’t have a job and keeps flaking out on her interviews. The closest thing Sammie has to a friend is Phoebe who she sees every morning at the dog park, and Becca, the eight year daughter of her mother’s college room mate, whom Sammie watches on Tuesday afternoons. Then there’s Eli, Becca’s older brother, summer draws to and end, Sammie realizes that she’s not as lonely as she was when the summer began, and maybe things will be alright.

This is a great book that's light without being sappy or cheesy. I loved Mackler's The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things and this is another good one from an author I'm really starting to like!

The Midwife's Apprentice Karen Cushman

The midwife finds Brat asleep in a dung heap. She says she will work for food, so the midwife takes her on, having her do the housekeeping and herb-gathering and renames Brat, Beetle. Beetle is not allowed to assist when the midwife delivers a baby, but she watches from the windows and learns the midwife’s skills.

One day, she gets to go to the fair to buy things for the midwife. There, she decides that she needs a real name, a proper name, and starts calling herself Alyce. One day, in the middle of a difficult birth, the midwife gets called away and leaves Alyce in charge. No one expected the baby to be delivered alive, but Alyce talks the mother through the process and the baby survives.

After that, people start coming to Alyce more than the midwife, but when Alyce needs to call the midwife for help during a difficult birth, she sees herself as a failure and runs away, leaving the life she had built for herself.

This is a great book for an older child about making your place in the world. It's a Newberry winner and Cushman's attention to historical detail is superb. It's a short, little book, but it's meaty and packs a lot of punch.


joe said...

Hey I'm just airing my grievances about Elsewhere, being somewhat concerned over the condition of an entire generation of seemingly uncritical readers. An afterlife in which God is whoever you believe Him/Her/It to be? That is simply dumb. Yet that is the premise of the entire scenario. (In other words, there is NO one true God or Creator, and thus the Hindu bent to the book). Reincarnation would run out after the last person on earth died, or after the earth was over. Then I guess everyone would just disappear as they grew younger, or if the population of earth got smaller. Anyway, I am sad to see so many teens and kids influenced by the notion, as though it were a new religion (which I guess it is!)

Jennie said...

I'm really not sure what you mean by "a generation of uncritical readers" here. Elsewhere doesn't have an after life with whomever you believe God to be. What Elsewhere has is an afterlife where you don't find out. There is a God, but you still don't get the answers... possibly dissapointing, but not saying that there is no one true God or creator.

I'm confused on how reincarnation would run out after the last person on earth died. With reincarnation, it's hard to run out of people.

I'm not entirely sure why this notion saddens you (to be honest, I'm not entirely sure which notion you're talking about. No clear-defined God-figure? Reincarnation?) To me, it just sounds like you're unhappy because this book and/or kids today don't readily accept *your* notion of God and the afterlife. Which has nothing to do with critical reading skills.