Thursday, January 29, 2004

Wasteland--Francesca Lia Block

Spoilers below (but really obvious in the book)

I'll be honest, I read this book because I was afraid I might get a complaint about it--with the whole incest subject and all... I wound up actually enjoying it. It's different from Block's other work--at least the books I've read. Wasteland tells the story of a brother and sister who are too close. The older brother, Lex, tries to date other girls to keep his mind off his sister. Marina is horrified when Lex suggests she date a mutual friend. She does go out with her girlfriend and a couple of boys, but she never lets anyone get as close to her as Lex is. The two love each other, deeply, and connect in a way that others cannot understand. It is obvious to her classmates how deep their connection is, but Marina remains in denial. At one point, they take a bath together, and while nothing sexual occurs (or is written about), it is implied that the possibility was there...and that freaks the both of them out. Lex deals with his unnatural feelings by committing suicide and forcing Marina to get a life of her own. She reaches out to a mutual friend, and together they investigate the mystery surrounding Lex's death. In an ironic twist, but one that is predictable, Marina discovers that Lex was adopted and not a blood relation to her at all.

Wasteland was a quick read, but not necessarily an easy one. At times it was hard to figure out who was narrating the different parts of the story. Both Lex and Marina referred to each other as "You". Hey, you, what are you doing? But it was a good read. Sad. Not her greatest, not the best YA fiction out there, but worth the time it took to read it.

Just Finished Reading: Wasteland--Block
Reading: Still undecided
On My Nightstand: Oh, many things now

Previous or Next

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

First Part Last-- Angela Johnson

First Part Last is a companion novel to Heaven. It's a prequel of sorts--the main character is a supporting character in Heaven. Bobby and Nia are young teenagers having a sexual relationship. Even though Bobby's parents have warned him about using protection and his mom has gone so far as to keep condoms available for him, they still have unprotected sex. Nia winds up pregnant and they decide to give up the baby for adoption. As Nia nears her delivery date, she has complications (eclampsia). With Nia comatose and no chance of recovery, Bobby cannot bear to give up his baby daughter. He decides to raise her himself, despite how tough it is. His older brother visits with his family and tells him about a place called Heaven--a nice place to raise a baby girl. At the end of the story Bobby decides to leave the city and his parents for a new future in Heaven.
Told in alternating chapters between the past and present, this is a beautifully written book. It doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities of having a child as a teenager, or being a single parent. But it's nice to read a story about a teenage father who takes the responsibility and is not only involved, but actively raising his daughter, and so in love with her. It's deserving of both the Printz Award it won as well as the Coretta Scott King Award.

In other reading news, I gave up on Rules of Attraction and didn't even attempt American Psycho. There's just too much good YA Lit that I still have to read, and with TopShelf starting up again soon, I can't waste time with sucky adult books.

Just Finished Reading: Wasteland--Francesca Lia Block
Reading: Don't know yet.
On My Nightstand: Hard Cash--Kate Cann (?); City of the Stars--Mary Hoffman; When Dad Killed Mom--Julius Lester

Previous or Next

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Heaven--Angela Johnson

Heaven was published in 1998 and tells the story of 14-yr-old Marley, a black girl with loving parents and a mysterious uncle and an all-around good life. Everything is peachy until Marley brings the mail in one day and sees a letter with an unfamiliar name on it--Monna Floyd--in care of her parents. Thinking she knows all of her parents' friends, Marley is confused. Naturally curious, Marley wonders about the letter until she delivers it to her parents and they freak out. Turns out that Marley does know Monna Floyd--very well. As an infant Marley's name was Monna Floyd, until her mom died and her father couldn't deal and left his child with his brother. In an instant Marley's whole world unravels. Her parents are her aunt and uncle, her brother is actually her cousin, and her mysterious, never-met, uncle is actually her father. This is pretty traumatizing stuff, particularly for a 14 year old girl. She babysits for a boy not much older than herself, Bobby, and his toddler daughter Feather. He has secrets of his own and more experience about her current problem than he lets on, and helps Marley come to terms with her new family life and be grateful she has one. I really enjoyed this book, I admit I got a little teary, and would recommend it to anyone. It's a quick read, only 138 pages, engaging, wonderfully written.

Stay tuned for info on the companion novel, First Part Last, winner of both the Printz and Coretta Scott King awards.

Just Finished Reading:
Reading: Rules of Attraction--Ellis--which is pretty sucky so far
On My Nightstand: Same as before, with the recent addition of Stravaganza: City of Stars--Mary Hoffman

Previous or Next

Monday, January 19, 2004

33 Snowfish--Adam Rapp

I recently read 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp. I have it in the YA section, which covers 7-12th grades. It's not a middle school read, but I'd give it to a mature 8th grader I knew could handle it. The story is told from three different perspectives--Custis, roughly 9-11 years old, homeless, abused, racist; Curl, 14 years old (if I remember right. The book is checked out!), drug-addicted prostitute; Boobie, I think he's 15 or 16, psychotic, brooding, obsessed with fire. All three are on the lam--Boobie's parents are violently killed (the implication is Boobie is the culprit but he never actually admits it), and Boobie takes his infant brother and flees with his two friends. They put the baby in a broken TV so if anyone looks in their stolen car they'll think it's just a TV and not a kid. Their goal is to get away from the cops and to sell the baby. Curl is in love with Boobie, and they both watch out for Custis. While on the lam, they get stuck in a blizzard and Curl's drug addiction gets the best of her. She dies, Boobie can't handle it and leaves. Custis is left in a van with the baby and no food or warmth. In an ironic twist, the racist little boy is saved by an older black man and the two children go to live with him in the woods. After a period of adjustment he finds the love and stability and family he needs, and fills a hole in the black man's life as well.

This is not an easy read. It's dark and disturbing, but many kids have dark and disturbing lives. It ends on a positive note, and as unbelieving as it sounds, it actually is a "family-values" book. It has a positive message about the strength of a good family, and that families don't need to be based on blood. There's strong language and sexual abuse, but most teens (9th grade and up) are familiar with such language and themes. Anyone who works closely with teens knows the language they use! It's on YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults list this year and could have won the Printz Award.

Just Finished Reading: Some really bad poetry
Reading: Rules of Attraction--Ellis
On My Nightstand: Same as before!

Previous or Next

Friday, January 16, 2004


I revamped the template a bit.... I also stole Jessie's reading ideas. This is supposed to be my reading log since I can't get my act together to do it in paper form. Soon as I get all my customization done, I'll get to the actual good stuff!

Just Finished Reading: Heaven -- Angela Johnson
Reading: Rules of Attraction -- Brett Easton Ellis
On My Nightstand: American Psycho -- Brett Easton Ellis; Wasteland -- Francesca Lia Block; When Dad Killed Mom -- Julius Lester; Some other book...

Blog Archive