If you want to talk about an epic 2015 children’s book that is simply SCREAMING to be taught at school so it can wedge its way into our culture just like The Giver did 20 years ago, start talking about Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. You may as well read it now, because you’re going to be hearing a whole lot more about it (if your daily life involves children’s/YA lit).
My only complaint is that the end isn’t super believable if you’re an adult– but that’s only like 30 pages of around 500. Ignore my complaint for now if you want to be surprisingly impressed with how far you will be taken the story of a sort of magical transcontinental harmonica (for real) that affected some kids’ lives at pivotal times in history. I was particularly impressed with the amount of historical research that seemed to go into this book.
This book is pretty popular right now– I’ve seen a review of it in almost every magazine that I’ve opened up. Teenage Johanna Morrigan is from a family that is comically bad to epic proportions. After nerdily appearing on TV she makes herself over into a gothy music reviewer named “Dolly Wilde” and gets herself a job at the cool regional rock magazine (it’s the 1990’s so there are still cool regional rock magazines).
It’s quite an entertaining and well-written read, lots of good insight if you’re a fan of– or familiar with the real-live bands that the (possibly semi-autobiographical) character interacts with.
This is one of those cases where I learned that the author was really famous after reading the book. I just looked at Amazon– and goodness, she’s written a ton. I guess she’s on TV too?
Yay, this book is great. It’s co-authored by two classic contemporary queer writers/performance artists, and just came out this year. It’s based on a live show that the two did together, yet it totally reads like a book (i.e. you won’t be plagued by the persistent feeling that maybe something’s gone wrong and this isn’t supposed to be a book). If you’ve read lots of queer and trans coming-of-age, social critique, and memoir stuff, this book covers familiar ground. Yet it’s still totally fresh in the directions that it takes you. The format it also nice– it’s a vaguely continuous series of vignettes that switches back and forth between the two authors. So Good!
The book itself is 255 pages long, and I read the entire thing in a 30 minute BART ride + a 90 minute plane flight + 20 minutes of the light rail train away from the airport in Seattle. Whoa! Super engaging! The writing ranges from factual to heartbreaking to tender, and is quite good. I don’t really want to give anything away, so just check it out! Or buy it.
Small press gem! It’s the 1980’s. 18 y/o gay goth Matt lives in the ‘burbs near LA with his mom and step dad. Works at May Company. Spends his free time with his gothy girl bff’s getting fucked up, listening to music, buying stuff, going to clubs.
Interesting, upbeat writing, and if you were around in the 80’s– or know a lot about 80’s music (specifically the band Love and Rockets), you’re gonna be pretty jazzed. The writing in general is pretty good– you can tell that it might secretly be a just little bit autobiographical, and that the author might’ve been smirking a little (at himself) as he wrote it. Some of the plot devices kind of bugged me– but now that it’s been a couple weeks I’ve forgiven them. I saw Demcak read at a Radar reading and he’s a delight irl.
Check it out!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been doing a lot of resting lately, due to my obnoxious bicycle injury (ow, my arm).
The only upside is that I’ve been doing a ton of reading. Here’s a synopsis (that doesn’t include the secret “best-seller” trilogy that I’m 2/3 of the way through and planning to do a full review of, when I can finally get the final book from the library):
Cute graphic novel about an adventurous girl, who one day while playing in a field with her friend presses a mysterious red button and gets the two of them transported into a weird post-apocalyptic alternative space dimension. Upon their arrival her friend gets kidnapped and she must bravely save him (making robot friends along the way). Cute and innocuous wizard of oz-type story for an elementary/middle school crowd. find a copy here
Nice little middle-school graphic novel that weaves together rock’n’roll, cancer, science, and friendships. Check out a copy here.
BFF’s Colby and Bev just graduated high school and it’s time to fulfill their teen dream of first touring the Northwest with Bev’s band– and then traveling around Europe for a year before college. But surprise! There’s a major change of plans! The Disenchantments is the story of the band’s tour following the “change.” I read this book in a single sitting and I really liked the author’s aesthetic. The colors and styles and places all feel kind of sunbleached and real, and there are lots of poignant moments and pockets of adventure. Find a copy of this rad little coming of age story here.
Teenage Cameron has schizophreniform disorder and decides to go off his meds. There’s a new girl at school and a new girl’s voice in his head (his “girlfriend”), in addition to other voices that he, alone, hears. Things get a little nuts (he makes some dangerous choices and runs away from home), there’s a big “blow-up” of events, and he ultimately ends up on meds again. This was the first YA novel that I’ve read about schizophrenia. It was a fine read (and it does a nice job of explaining the disorder, which I’d never heard of), but there was something about it that rubbed me in a weird way. Maybe the narrator was just a little too one-dimensional? Or perhaps schizophreniform disorder was used as too much of a plot device– I suppose the author is a clinical psychologist, so maybe that’s why? Still, reading it won’t waste your time. Find a copy here.
This was the last book that I read in 2012 (I finished it on New Years Eve) and it was totally fun! It was a smooth, addictive, and fast read. Often a book loses things like depth or character development when it’s classified as “smooth,” ‘fast,” or “addictive”– but I don’t feel like this one did! The only shame is that it was over in 313 pages; I would like to read more about Audrey.
Plot: Teenage Audrey finally breaks up with her boring, self-absorbed boyfriend who’s in a small-time high school band. That night he writes a damning song about her called “Audrey, Wait!” which propels his band into Justin Bieber-like fame around the world. The media in turn becomes obsessed with Audrey (as she inspired the song), and her life really, really, really changes.
In addition to telling a good story, the book offers a sly critique on paparazzi, America’s obsession with fame, the evilness and fakeness of the music industry, and more. An added plus is that each chapter begins with an apt quote from a real rock song (many of which I know and like in real life). There are 41 chapters– this must have taken a lot of effort!
Perhaps this is a guilty pleasure without the guilt? Read it!
FIND A COPY HERE
So I was pretty excited for this biography to come out, and I was lucky to be at the top of the waiting list at my library. I snatched it off the holds shelf and read it in a day! Coal To Diamonds is co-written by Beth Ditto (a really powerful singer and performer) and Michelle Tea (a fairly brilliant writer)- two stars in the queer pop culture world.
Structurally, it’s a fairly typical famous person biography. Written in first person, it begins in Ditto’s childhood, travels through her coming of age as a queer punk singer, and sort of ends in the present as a successful performer (in the UK, at least– the US mainstream hasn’t really “gotten” The Gossip yet– though I think i heard one of the songs in the teen section at a Nordstrom store once).
Despite the convergence of two personalities who I totally like into a single book (omg, dreamboat combo), I feel lukewarm about it. The pacing was kind of uneven (childhood gets a LOT of weight, whereas interesting elements of adulthood are totally skimmed over), and it lacked a certain poetry and poignancy– two things that Tea is very capable of. The final product makes me feel like the 2 collaborators were far from BFF status by the time the book was done. It felt like a business deal being grudgingly fulfilled by two somewhat unwilling parties. I feel bad saying that! Because honestly, it’s not a bad book at all. You should read it if you’re a feminist or queer or like music or like being inspired. I just feel like it could have been more.
find a copy here