Monthly Archives: June 2010

this world we live in

Why do I like reading books about the end of the world?

(Does it have anything to do with the fact that I’m writing report cards right now? Har har).

At least I know I’m not the only one loving these books. There are plenty of Susan Beth Pfeffer fans just as excited as I was to read the final book in her Survivors trilogy. I’ve had it on my stack for a few weeks, and it’s fairly miraculous that I managed to resist it until now. I am not a stay-up-late-into-the-night type of reader, but with Pfeffer’s books, I get that way.

This third one takes place about a year since a meteor collided with the moon, which knocked it out of orbit, catastrophically changing the earth’s climate. In the first book, we followed Miranda Evans and her family as they struggled to survive in rural Pennsylvania. In the follow up, Pfeffer presented an urban perspective of the same events in the story of Alex Morales, fighting to make it in New York City. Of those two books, I found the latter, the dead and the gone, to be the more powerful. I think it was the characters. Alex is more interesting, more complicated than Miranda. I’d say that the second is still my favourite of the books. In book three, Miranda and Alex meet when he arrives at her home with her father, stepmother and half-brother. The story covers what happens to the two teens after they meet, and another tragedy takes place that affects both of their families.

Overall, I thought the book was rushed. I certainly wanted to have more of Alex’s perspective in the novel. If I hadn’t read the second book, I imagine he would have seemed a rather thin character. I found it a shade unrealistic and contrived that Miranda’s dad would manage to get back to her home when the whole world had more or less fallen apart around them. It was tough to believe. The ending was ambiguous and bleak, which I thought was perfect. Anything else would have been false, and not true to the horror of their situation. People who complain that this book is depressing, they are reading the wrong book. If it weren’t depressing, it wouldn’t make sense. All in all, I thought it was satisfying, but lacking in character development, which is what really makes a book stand out for me. A decent end to a memorable series. I’m eager to see what Pfeffer imagines next.

this world we live in is published by Harcourt.


Beautiful Book Trailer Alert: The Sky is Everywhere

Check out the gorgeous UK book trailer for Jandy Nelson’s gorgeous book, The Sky is Everywhere:

Everyone seems to lurv this book.

I think the trailer captures the sweetness of the book beautifully, which is right on, because I imagine a lot of people will have a hard time imagining that a book about a girl mourning her sister could be sweet (and heartwarming, and funny, and dare I say it, sexy).

I like what Sara Zarr says about this one, “Jandy Nelson’s story of grief somehow manages to be an enchantment, a celebration, a romance—without forsaking the rock-hard truths of loss.”

Ditto to that. I’m off to keep reading it.

Deborah Wiles’ Countdown – review + giveaway

Deborah Wiles‘ latest novel, Countdown, sure has been generating a ton of buzz.

Countdown is the first in what will be a trilogy of “documentary novels” by Wiles, set in the 1960s. This term, “documentary novel,” is something new to me. It describes the format of the book, which is interspersed throughout with photos, cartoons, newspaper clippings and song lyrics from this era. These snippets of history help to build the mood of the story and I assume they are also there to help younger readers, who will be unfamiliar with the political and social upheaval of that time.

Franny Chapman is eleven, and she lives in Washington D.C. The book takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and though Franny may not fully understand the situation, she feels the tension and stress around her everyday, and she has plenty of questions and opinions about it all.

One thing I wondered while reading was whether a younger reader would grasp enough of the historical complexity to fully appreciate what Wiles has accomplished, but I think that overall, the documentary elements work to give even a kid with no knowledge of this time a sense of what people were living through. I would be curious to talk to a kid reader to find out their take on the photos, song lyrics and cartoons. Kid approved? Only kids can say.

From a grown-up’s point of view, this book is complex and satisfying. Franny is a very relate-able character as a tween who feels in-between everything, and afraid of things she doesn’t understand. She is perfect in how she is fearful and feisty, she wants to be noticed and she wants her opinions to be heard. All in all, Countdown adds up to a rich, entertaining and informative reading experience. Highly recommended.

I’m pleased to be able to give away two copies of the book. This book giveaway is open to participants with a United States mailing address only (international readers may enter if they have a friend in the States who can accept their prizes by mail). Just drop off a comment below and be sure to include an email address so that I can contact you if you’re a winner.

You can visit the website for the book here, and take a look at this trailer:

Free laughs for writers

For several months, I’ve been making the habit of writing, as close to every day as I can manage. I’m trying to think of what I’m working on as a really long story. Or some days it’s better if I look at it as a whole lot of single pages strung along one after the next. It’s a lot less terrifying than whispering the “b” word (“book”).

Up until this week, I was feeling fairly invincible. Things were ticking along nicely. And then… not so much. Characters have betrayed me. Yesterday I did more yawning than writing. There has been some slowing down. Some doubting. Some self-pity. A little misery.

I have decided laughter is one cure for this grey place I’m in, because I am not about to give up. I hope to find my way to the end of my long story somehow. Today I discovered these two laughs, made for writers by writers:

That Jackson Pearce, she’s a funny one.

And from a second clever and hilarious Jac… Jaclyn Moriarty has a list of cures for writer’s block I’ll bet you’ve never tried before. I am about to see how #3 works for me.

Or maybe I just need to change my name to Jac?

(photo from stockxchng)