Showing posts with label as king. Show all posts
Showing posts with label as king. Show all posts

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King


Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
 
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?


My Review:

This was the second pick made for my local MOMS Club book club (our discussion of Wonder went great, by the way!).  It was actually based on a suggestion I made, because I mentioned Ask the Passengers as an option, but the other ladies wanted us to pick something that we all hadn't read, so I decided another A.S. King novel might be fitting.  This one won the Printz Award, so safe bet, right?

I finished this book several days ago, and I'm just writing my review now because I needed time to let it soak in.  Despite that, I'm still feeling unsure of my final review.  So let's break it down by the good and the bad.

The good: I instantly took to Vera as a protagonist.  She's a bit of a loner, but she's got an attitude and thinks for herself, which is nice to see in a high schooler these days.  That's not to say that she always makes good decisions, but she's not a crowd-follower, so she's got that going for her.

The way the story is laid out makes it hard to put the book down.  Vera is a the primary narrator in the present time, but she also backtracks and gives you the history of her relationship with Charlie and her parents.  That history plays a major role in her present situation, so you're always wondering what details will be revealed next.  In between Vera's past/present narrative, you also have first person accounts from her dad, Charlie, and the Pagoda (an odd rundown landmark in her town).  I am generally a fan of multiple POV novels, and in one way it works because it keeps you on your toes--you never know what each new perspective is going to reveal.

The bad: Even though the multiple POVs did well in terms of building suspense, use of two of the four perspectives irked me as a reader.  First was the Charlie POV.  As indicated in the book's description, Charlie has died before the novel's start.  So when his POV is used, it is from him in the afterlife (his chapters open with "A Brief Word From the Dead Kid").  I think I've mentioned before that I do not like when authors use an unnatural perspective like this, because to me, it feels lazy (for lack of a better word).  Like, "Hmmm, how can I convey what Charlie was feeling in this situation while he was alive?  It's difficult to do it from Vera's POV...oh wait, let's just bring him back from the dead!"  I'm sure that's not actually what A.S. King's thought process was, but as a reader that's all that I could think when I read Charlie's chapters.

I also was not a fan of the chapters written from the Pagoda.  I get that these sections had a bit of deeper meaning, which I can appreciate, but...thoughts transcribed from a piece of architecture?  It was too far out there, and as a literary device it didn't work itself seamlessly into the narrative for me.

After breaking down the good and the bad, I'd say that I appreciated Please Ignore Vera Dietz for its core storyline and message.  However, the multiple POVs did not entirely work, and took away from the central action of the novel.  King definitely went out on a limb with her unique use of perspective, but for me, that attempt fell short.

Are you generally a fan of multiple-perspective novels?  Do you have specific books in which they did (or didn't) work for you?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rochester Teen Book Festival RECAP!

Those of you that follow me on Twitter know that I spent this past Saturday at the Rochester Teen Book Festival in lovely Rochester, NY.  (Twitter followers know it best because I totally GOT MY LIVE-TWEET ON.  Woo wooooooo!)

To say that I had a good time would be an understatement.  This was my first time at this event, and I will totally be there again next year.  WITH a bigger book bag.  Let's recap.

I showed up around 10am for the opening ceremony.  The festival was at Nazareth College, and the opener was in their big gym.  It basically turned into a giant pep rally for the authors, which was pretty cool.  They played a little "Truth or Talent" game, where each author had to come up to the microphone and share a truth, or a random talent.  Please enjoy this photo of Jay Asher impersonating seaweed while Alethea Kontis and Amber Lough sing along:

And Joelle Charbonneau singing opera:

Also, let it be noted that at this point, I realized that the only people older than me in the audience were probably parents who brought their teens, and the authors themselves.  (Even that is debatable though, there were a bunch of teen authors there...)  LOL.  #sorrynotsorry

After the pep rally, the breakout sessions began.  It was SO HARD to choose between sessions, since there were so many good ones, but here are the four I attended with a small recap of each:

1. Laurie Halse Anderson

Irreverent, funny, outspoken.  Those are the three words I wrote down after Anderson's talk.  She discussed many questions that people had about her books, but more importantly, she wasn't afraid to make impassioned statements about touchy subjects like feminism, racism, alcoholism, and sexual abuse.  This was a very empowering session, especially for the teens in the audience.  So awesome.

Laurie Halse Anderson and moi.  Wish I knew she was making a crazy face so I could have gotten in on the action.  NO FAIR, LAURIE.
*Also: at this session I met up with the illustrious Katie from Doing Dewey!  My first time meeting a blog friend in real life!  We attended a few sessions together throughout the day and had a great time connecting in person.  Also, you should all know that she apologizes profusely for getting her Bout of Books post up late.  I witnessed her contrition as she was trying to post it via her smartphone.  LOL.
Book bloggers unite!
2. Ellen Hopkins

Another wonderful session.  Hopkins started with a reading from her upcoming book, Rumble (excellent!), and then gave updates about her daughter (who the Crank trilogy is based upon).  Wow, what disheartening stuff.  Her daughter is in prison yet again, and pregnant with her seventh baby.  She's now been battling addiction for 18 years.  Hopkins has custody of her daughter's oldest son (now 17) and her three youngest children (ages 4, 5, and 10).  Many have accused her of exploiting her daughter's story for her books, but Hopkins said this is not just her daughter's story--it is her story, her husband's story, her grandchildrens' story, etc. and she feels it is important to share that in order to keep young readers away from this life.

Afterwards, she asked the teens in the audience to share some concerns that they are dealing with in their own lives.  I was blown away by some of the situations these kids shared.  Sickness, abuse, etc...there was a lot of strength in that room.  A very heavy session indeed.

3. Gina Damico

After two discussions that were pretty serious and issue-based, I needed something a little lighter.  I knew Gina Damico would be just the ticket, since I loved the humor in Croak.  Gina was friendly, funny, and down-to-earth.  You can tell she's newer to the publishing world than the previous two authors I visited, and I don't mean that in a bad way.  She had a more carefree attitude that I imagine was inspiring for the aspiring teen writers in the audience.  She talked about her road to authorship, and then took questions about the book.  Lots of laughs and overall a good session for fans of her work.

4. A.S. King and Andrew Smith

For my last sessions, I was really torn between this one, and Jay Asher's.  I decided to go here because I adored King's Ask The Passengers, and I hadn't read anything of Smith's yet, so I figured it would open me up to some new material.  I'm so glad I made this choice!  Kind and Smith based their session on the idea of boxes--that is, how NOT to use them.  They discussed how to avoid "boxing people in", by things like race, gender, sexuality, etc.  They also argued that the same should be done for books.  For example, they both expressed frustration about the fact that they've published books that have gay characters, and then those book are automatically grouped as "gay literature" when really, the main themes of those novels had little to do with sexuality.  They encouraged readers to go into any book with an open mind, regardless of the genre you've been told the book falls into.  Great advice for any reader!  I was really impressed by their session and ended up buying Andrew Smith's Winger at the book sale later.

After the breakouts, it was book signing time!  I had my big ol' bag with me, and spent the full two hours waiting in lines.  In the end, this was my haul:

All of the authors I met were incredibly nice.  I am very socially awkward at signings (please refer to the embarrassment of my Dennis Lehane signing), so I didn't say much, other than a "how are you?" and "thanks so much!".  They were all very gracious though, and Laurie Halse Anderson was especially chatty (her line was AGES long as a result, but worth it!!).  However, I did ask Andrew Smith for training tips for my half marathon (he's completed a whole bunch of marathons and runs every day).  He seemed happy to share, saying that 13.1 miles is nothing (I suppose that's true when you run 26.2!) and that I should just enjoy the run.  Points well taken.  Now when I start getting tired and whiny at mile 5, I'll just imagine Andrew Smith in my mind yelling, "THIS IS NOTHING!!"  (I'm sure that's exactly what he intended.)
A.S. King during signings
There you have it, reader friends!  My first major book event, and I loved every minute.  You know what one of the best parts of the day was?  Seeing all these teenagers who were TOTALLY STOKED about reading!  The teens in the audience asked all the best questions during every session.  I saw one girl break into tears when she met Jay Asher in person for the first time.  Neal Shusterman had a pack of groupies with him every time I saw him walking between sessions.  The book love was EVERYWHERE.  These kids give me hope for the future of the literary world.

So, who's coming with me next year??

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Ask The Passengers by A.S. King


Title: Ask The Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: October 23, 2012
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother's pushiness and her father's lack of interest tell her they're the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn't know the passengers inside, but they're the only people who won't judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she's falling in love with a girl.

My Review:

Oh man, I forgot how much I enjoy a really good, fo' serious YA novel.  I read a few in the last year or two, and they were okay, but many are so focused on angsty boy-meets-girl plotlines that they felt more like fluff reads than anything else.  But then I got my socks knocked off by Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls, so I decided to follow that up with Ask The Passengers.  GREAT CHOICE.  This is the first time I've read anything by A.S. King, but it certainly won't be the last!  And I'm now very excited to meet her at the Rochester Teen Book Festival in May.

I hereby declare that this book should be required reading for adolescents.  Not just those that are questioning their sexuality, but ALL teens.  Because Astrid goes through some pretty awful bullying as her sexual identity becomes more public.  I sometimes lose sight of the fact that not everyone grows up in an area like mine, where views on the LGBTQ lifestyle are generally accepting.  (I say generally because...as we all know, there are haters everywhere.  Unfortunately.)  I had friends that came out in high school, and it didn't create nearly the ripples (more like tidal waves) that Astrid has to face in the close-minded community of Unity Valley.  This book is great for any teenager in the midst of their sexual-identity journey, as well as those who want to understand how to better support their friends and family members going through such an exploration.

What makes this stand out in YA LGBTQ literature?  Number one is Astrid.  She is such a great character.  She's often snarky and sarcastic, despite the difficult issues she's constantly facing.  Plus, her frank discussions about sexuality are refreshing (and the primary reason why I think all teens should read this).  I love her habit of "sending love" to the passengers of airplanes that she sees flying above her.  At first, I didn't know what to make of that ritual, but I like how King uses it as a way to explore the relationship problems that many of the passengers themselves are facing (she often segues to little side-stories about the passengers that Astrid has "sent her love" to).  This whole idea gives the book a unique premise, something more than your average YA novel.

GAH, you guys!!  Are all the Rochester TBF authors going to be this good?  Ask The Passengers was an awesome read, and has made me want to be all BFF-like with the YA genre again...for a little while, at least.  :)

Readers: have you read any other books that tackle teen LGBTQ issues in a powerful way?
 
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