Sunday, October 12, 2008

YA Lit - Week 8 (No books week 7)

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.: This book told in alternating first person narrative follows two teens through one night in New York City. Nick is the bassist for a "queercore" punk band - the only straight member of the band. Norah is the daughter of a record label exec and out to see the band and protect her self-destructive friend Caroline from herself. Nick, broken hearted over his ex-girlfriend, begs Norah to pretend to be his girlfriend when Tris shows up at the club, not knowing that Norah and Caroline know Tris from school. This situation starts here and develops as the two spend the night wandering from club to club, from misunderstanding to intimacy, and from heartbreak from two failed relationships to a tentative romance. This is a romance for modern teens that is sure to appeal with its broken but ultimately hopeful protagonists.

Ready or Not by Meg Cabot: This teen version of the modern pink-covered contemporary romance tells the story of Samantha Madison, the less popular, less brainy middle daughter who somehow has managed to 1)save the president's life 2) started dating the president's son 3) been made the teen ambassador to the UN (a unpaid position that sucks up a lot of time). Samantha really adores her boyfriend, and spends much of this book agonizing over whether she should go all the way with him on a trip with him to Camp David. Filled with humor and self-absorption, this often patently ridiculous story is a light read for girls who might not want the heaviness of the YA problem novel. I listened to this one on CD, and the narrator did an OK job. Unfortunately, many of her secondary characters (particularly the boyfriend David) sounded like pot-smokers with sore throats.

Looking for Alaska by John Green. The very intelligent, and quite socially unattached, Miles decides to leave his Floriday high school to attend his father's unusual alma mater, a boarding school in Alabama. Co-educational, and unusual, the boarding school is populated by wealthy local "Weekday Warriors" who go home for weekends, and the kids, sometimes scholarship kids, who live at the school full time. Rooming with a highly intelligent scholarship boy named Chip (more commonly called The Colonel) Miles finds himself falling into a social set of sometimes deeply troubled, highly intelligent pranksters led by the Colonel and a girl named Alaska. Highly sensual, mercurial, and moody, Alaska dominates Miles (now ironically called Pudge) dreams and thoughts, but remains out of reach, even as Miles participates in elaborate pranks. This is a complex, tragic story that is sometimes funny, and intriguing - and speaks to what teens must do to get through a terrible loss. Poetic and bittersweet. Unusual for Miles actually loving and valuing his parents, and leaning on their (removed) emotional support when the going gets hard.

Hail Caesar by Thu-Hong Ha. The eldest of three children being raised by a very successful widower, John (nicknamed Caesar after a game played in younger days) is almost literally the king of his school. A superb athlete, Caesar is used to boys respecting him and girls dropping trou for him. Every weekend is a new party, and Caesar never lets anyone too close, certainly not any of the slutty party girls he hangs out with. Then a new girl named Eva comes along, and she seems immune to his charms, which of course intrigues him. At the same time, Caesar sees his 13-year old sister following in his footsteps, and the footsteps of the girls who sleep with him, and he can't bear the idea. Caesar takes a job with Eva delivering pizzas, and grows emotionally attached to the girl, who refuses to get involved with him due to her unresolved feelings for another boy. Ultimately, Caesar doesn't get the girl, but he does stumble to a better relationship with his sister, and a little understanding of himself. I think older teens would like this book, but its unresolved ending might not be for everyone. Readers who like to imagine a life for characters beyond the book might find this story quite appealing, however. A little hackneyed, but quite emotionally honest.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. Paul is a high school sophomore who has known he is gay since he was very small. Luckily, he lives in a very open-minded community and attends a high school where the quarterback of the football team is a flamboyent drag queen, and where people of every sexual orientation are accepted. When a new boy comes to town, Paul finds love at first sight, but it is all complicated by his existing relationships with friends, ex-boyfriends, and acquaintances. A very tender story with a traditional boy meets, boy gets, boy loses, boy gets theme is set against a magical backdrop of sweet tolerance and love.

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