This book has a bummer of a title, but it’s all right. Indeed, there’s a dead best friend– and there’s Cass, who’s still alive. Basically, it’s a story about how Cass learns to deal with the loss– and also falls in (teenage) love along the way.
Chapter-by-chapter the narrative flip flops between past and present, which was a little weird. It was slow and funky at first, but It drew more of my commitment by the time I got to the middle. I didn’t find everything completely believable– but I do gotta support a decent librarian-authored book that somehow brings together bike touring, Quakers, drama, and teen lesbians.
Francesca Lia Block and I go way back– like all the way to the 6th grade. I stumbled upon Weetzie Bat sometime before it “went missing” from the local library (oooh, yes, it’s a “banned book”), and was immediately obsessed with bleached crew cuts, pink cowboy boots, Dirks&Ducks (omg I could not believe what I was reading!), & pastel-bleached summer so-cal days. Love In the Time of Global Warming is less about life and beauty and finding a sense of place– and more about an Odyssey. And I mean that Homeric-ly. Penelope a.k.a. “Pen” (remember that Odysseus’s wife’s name was Penelope)is the only one left at the site of her family’s house after a huge disaster hits. She holes up along in the rubble for a while until a mysterious man brings her a map and a van…
A dreamlike odyssey follows, and some of the critics point this out as a weakness, but I think it’s kinda beautiful. It’s been well over a decade since I was forced to read the original in school, but I can tell you that the obstacles that Pen encounters mirror those in the classic Odyssey, but in a fresh and unique way. You meet the Cyclops, but it happens somewhere supermodern and kinda apocalyptic anyway (etc). FLB is FLB, so she also finds lovely ways to weave in narratives of LGBT teenagers, which will probably change some kid’s life, first relationships, elements from her real life, and hazards of genetic engineering… If it sounds like a lot it is, and is it literal, or is it an dreamy meditation about how to function, and ultimately love, in a world so damaged by everything our kind has done to it? My recommendation is to avoid going into this book with expectations of tidy points, simplistic resolutions, or clear-cut anything. Just dive in, and see what happens.
Totally worth it!
So Lo’s a teenage girl who skates with the dudes in some NorCal suburb in the 90’s.
Everything around her is pretty boring and her family life kinda sucks, and in the midst of it all a crazy reciprocated crush starts happening with a girl from school. They become total BFF’s, but in the meantime something totally nuts happens in the family realm, some other things happen, and Lo ends up going on a wild runaway adventure and tons of interesting stuff happens.
This book is often poetic, and always a little magical. Argo’s capture of the onset of first crushes and queer identity and discovery of identity-shaping things is ridiculously spot-on. She nails how it works in your (ok, my) head. There’s drugs, action, sex, music, ADVENTURE, and a solid story line that keeps you reading until the last page (apparently there’s a sequel in the works, and this is a good thing). Though under 300 pages, the story is dense and you’ll definitely probably take a couple of days to read it.
This book is super enjoyable and well written. BUY a copy here cuz it’s self published and you’ll probably want it for your bookshelf anyway.
Just a heads-up that this kinda awesome graphic novel exists. It somewhat poetically tells the story of two queer high school students (a tough girl and a soft boy) who find each other as friends, go on coming-of-age adventures and get into conflicts, etc. The feel is pretty passionate and teenage (lots of song lyrics and drama), and the art totally wins. Check out the “Look Inside” section on the amazon page to see some samples. There’s not really a beginning-middle-end to the story– it’s more of a snapshot in time.
I do love YA novels with nontraditional trajectories. Our protagonist Alva Jean is 14 years old and has grown up in a Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community in Utah. She’s never known anything outside Pine Ridge other than what she has heard in sermons (including institutionalized racism, mega-patriarchy and plural marriage), and hasn’t questioned it until she is one day made to witness the grisly punishment of a woman from her community.
Around the same time, an innocent first kiss lands Alva Jean on the wrong side of the community’s favor, a number of punishments happen, and she soon finds herself forcibly married to someone other than her teenage crush. This novel is stark, rough, and quite engrossing. The story seems to partially function to educate the reader about how problematic the FLDS church/cult can be (and simultaneously is sympathetic to the people living in it)– and if you’re like me and didn’t have any previous knowledge of it, you’ll gain a ton of new information.
The book was pretty great, but I think that the ending was a little too swift, easy, and unbelievable. I feel like this one could have easily become a two-book story (or following recent convention, a trilogy if things got stretched a little more)– but don’t let that stop you from reading it!
A while back I read and reviewed Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother. I’d been meaning to get around to Little Brother, and its pick as San Francisco’s One City One Book gave me the push that I needed.
Little Brother takes place in a present day, slightly dystopian version of San Francisco (these is more obvious surveillance, tracking, blind patriotism, and privacy breaches). The premise is that terrorists have blown up the Bay Bridge, and our teenage narrator and his friends just so happen to be ditching school Downtown when it happens. In the wrong place at the wrong time, they get arrested and jailed & abused in a secret prison on Angel Island. Our narrator Marcus gets out and basically starts a secret internet and technology-based revolution.
Like Homeland, the really big strengths of this book are in the political messages. They are about the stifling prevalence of surveillance, the problems of illegal secret imprisonment of innocent people, and the importance of privacy. The story was ok, and it’s clear that effort was put into making the characters human, but it honestly seemed more like padding for all of the exciting concepts presented. Actual timing and events in the narrative felt kind of dizzy and lumpy. Ultimately, it was the action and the politics that moved me through the book. If anything, this exciting and thematically important book will make you want to re-check your privacy settings…
Quirky and creative Bea moves to a new school and becomes fast friends with Jonah, an outcast who everyone calls “Ghostboy.” They have a fabulous and artistic friendship together, but it turns out that Jonah has some really dark, messed up family stuff going on. I’m not going to say what it is (though I will say it’s not what you’re expecting). It starts to consume him, and Bea joins Jonah on the wild ride of trying to fix it. Meanwhile, Bea’s got her own family drama going on. And on top of all of that, they’re each navigating the worlds of high school hallways, parties, bars, and a nightly late-night call-in radio show.
I felt like a lot of really improbable things happened in this book, and that’s what kept me from falling in love with it. BUT, if you can take the somewhat fantastical events as they’re thrown at you (as I probably could have as a teenager– and this is a YA novel), you’ll get a well-written story where lots of really unique things happen. The story is different from others that I’ve read before, and is totally worth the couple hours that it will take you to get through it. Check it out!
On a softer note than the one from the other day, I have a confession to make.
So we librarians have all these really great readers advisory tools that our employers pay money for. Lots of money. They come in the form of $15-an-issue periodicals, hard-bound books, electronic databases, our big giant brainzzz– but my favorite is still the section of the amazon.com product page that is called “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” Here are two that were recommended to me in that way:
Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee by Megan Boyle
This book felt a little bit like watching a tv show like the dog whisperer in a hotel room in a new city alone late at night. It’s a steady something, but I really wish that time would speed up and I could be doing something else. That’s not necessarily a 100% negative thing; I kept thinking that I would’ve been really into this book at maybe age 19. I have a habit of not googling writers or literary references until I’m done (see my review of I Love Dick)– turns out Megan Boyle has an internet presence and this book kinda falls into step with it. Get a library copy or a support-the-author money copy.
Whores on the Hill by Colleen Currran
This is one of those books that an alternative kid could read as a teenager and get sartorially and emotionally inspired by. Kind of like how all of us “older” millennials did by The Craft and Tori Amos and maybe the Weetzie Bat books. It’s a series of vignettes about a group of shamelessly sexual and kinda gothy 1980’s teenage friends. Don’t get me wrong, there are some absolutely beautiful sentiments and sentences in this book (these alone make it worth the couple hours’ read), but I thought it really got deflated by adding in the disaster at the end. Not every book needs a moral edge. Find a copy here!
I found this book accidentally– it was in a pile of new library books that were waiting to be shelved. I liked the cover, so I snagged it & checked it out before any of its intended teenage audience could get their little hands on it.
First things first, the book is British! I leaned all kinds of new terms like “loo paper” and “minge” and “luggage trolley.” The Britishness also fostered a totally “un-American” openness about sex (yay!); the teen characters had plain and clear conversations with each other about the sex that they were having, they referenced a sex ed class, and it was all without shame or weirdness.
So the premise is that teenage Jeane is a super-creative, super-weird all-around awesome blogger/public speaker/web personality on the internet (she has a growing lifestyle “brand” called “Adorkable”)– and also a righteous loud-mouthed feminist and activist in real life. She’s SO brash and opinionated that it’s hard for her to make friends with all the loathsome people at high school, but then she and a really good-looking “normal” and “popular” boy who are on total opposite ends of the teenage spectrum kinda fall in together. What follows is reexamination of preconceptions on both ends…
Honestly, I found Jeane’s character to be a little too awesome; her achievements and involvements were a few too many for me to find 100% realistic (e.g. getting a book deal and speaking at professional conferences overseas unchaperoned…). BUT. The concept of the book was pretty rad, Jeane didn’t have to give up any of her beliefs, and my interest was kept through the full 384 pages of the book (e.g. I was thinking about getting back to reading it while at the supermarket). Furthermore, on the teenage front, “Jeane” will alert teen girls about all kinds of rad stuff like labor issues, fat positivity, rock-n-roll camp for girls, general feminism, individuality, etc…