Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I love Dark YA week 5: Waiting on Wednesday

I don't usually like to talk about books I haven't read yet, because then if I say I'm going to read them and don't blog about them, I feel like that looks like a negative review. Not that it matters right now, but fingers crossed it will one day.

That being said, I feel pretty safe tying into my first blogfest post, by revealing the startling confession that I'm chomping at the bit for the Divergent sequel. I'm pretty sure everyone I care about in that book will be too busy being awesome to worry about whether or not their semi-automatic weapons make them look fat, so I'll be shocked if it can't make the list.

I've really enjoyed this blogfest even if I didn't always post on time. I've been introduced to a lot of cool bloggers I never even knew existed, and I'm really thankful for that.

Happy last day of November!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Love Dark YA Week 4: #YASaves

I'm late with the posting, but we've been traveling today and blogger doesn't like my phone, so it's late and it'll have to be short. Sorry!

For this post I picked Eating the Cheshire Cat, by Helen Ellis.  I guess it straddles YA and New Adult, because it follows the characters into college. I went to UA, where most of the story is based, and I feel confident in saying that the portrayal of sororities there was a mix of truth and fiction as any novel might be, but that wasn't really the part that got to me.

The thing is that a lot of ugly manipulation the villain uses was a mirror image of a the boy I was allowing to rule over me in a terribly unhealthy relationship. The thing about that kind of setup is it comes on gradually, and you find yourself doubting and rationalizing your concerns away until you're in so deep it becomes the new normal. Something about seeing it page after page for a couple hundred pages really helped crystallize the situation for me.

I'm not saying I read Eating the Cheshire Cat and immediately text message broke up, because that's not how life works. But it was the beginning of the end, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Love Dark YA Week 3: Fun with Movies

I love this week's topic, because it gives me a reason to talk about a book I loved, but couldn't put on the Recommended Reading list.

Skinny, by Ibi Kaslik,is a brutally honest look at anorexia's impact on its victim and the loved ones of the person battling the disease. I found this novel extremely disturbing from page one, but I was never able to turn away. Kaslik manages to create a much more in depth and nuanced image of this tragic mental illness than I've seen in a lot of YA literature, while at the same time making the actual focus the family dynamics strained by mysteries of the past.

I would see the crap out of this if it was made into a movie. For some reason, I get a very REM vibe reading the book (Night Swimming specifically) and I'm thinking with their musical variety, you could probably keep them as the sole artists on the soundtrack.

Whenever the main characters have a scene at home, I'm always reminded of the cab scene at the end of Reality Bites so I'm pretty sure that kind of grainy nostalgic aesthetic would be the cinematography I'd go for. Sort of a constant mourning for a past that never really existed.

Now for the fun part: Casting!

Supporting Actors

Hollie: This is Gisele's little sister, and while she is an equal POV character, the story always revolves around Gisele so I still consider her supporting cast. Since their father's death, it's been her job to carry the family. She's strong, but beat down from the loss of her father and the technical loss of her sister. When the story starts we get the sense that she's still trying to carry on, but she's tired and she's going to crack any minute. For an actress who emanates strength, vulnerability, youth, and wisdom and could believably be cast as someone of Hungarian descent, I nominate...
Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit (photo by Nathan Blaney via Wikipedia). The Hunger Games people may have been too blind to cast her, but I sure as hell am not.

The Father: I know. I know. But my book is upstairs with my sleeping husband, Ibi Kaslik doesn't seem to have a website with this information, and if I don't do this now I never will. Anyway, he's dead already when the book begins but he's very involved with the present in that his emotional distance from Gisele and clear preference for Hollie continues to cause problems in their relationship and problems for Gisele in general. Her personal mission to figure out his preference is a large and compelling portion of the plot.

I have to go with Javier Bardem for this one. I'm thinking strong and silent type, but with charm. He wouldn't have to do much talking as it would be mostly soundless montage scenes, so I'm betting we could get him into a Hungarian accent for the few words he would have to say. And my wouldn't he be nice to look at as a break from all the intensity.

The Mysterious Fiance from Mother's Past: Again, I'm not good at names. But here we're looking for someone who is charming and attractive but with a dark side and the acting chops to be totally charismatic while still letting us know that try as we might he's just not the one. Clear choice: John Turturro. This is immediately where my mind went when I first read the book. And besides, this Turturro could probably convincingly star as the lead in a Shirley Temple biopic. He should really just be in everything.

Gisele's Boyfriend: I'm totally stumped here. I'm kinda thinking James Marsters for the dark and brooding, but somehow simultaneously joyful qualities. I sort of hate the boyfriend though, and I love James Marsters. Perhaps I could just go full on creep and hire the guy who played Barty Crouch, Jr. in The Goblet of Fire. (EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this is David Tennant, which I completely missed. He creeped me out so bad in the B.C., Jr. role, that I managed to see right through his hotness and charisma. Which I guess just means he would rock this character.)

Mom: The mother character didn't leave a huge impression on me if I'm honest, but from what I remember she was fragile with oddly placed and usually useless bursts of big displays of strength and/or imagined power. Sort of a Ruth Fisher from Six Feet Under, but less dreamy and scattered and more just ineffectual and distant.

And the Role of Gisele Goes Too...

Zooey Deschanel!

Obviously! Who else? This would be the perfect break out gritty role for her do something besides be professionally adorable. I'm seriously not trying to be snarky here, I really do like her. It just always feels like the troubled roles usually go best when it's someone you've come to identify in a different light.
And that's a wrap. I can't wait to see what everyone else is doing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Recommended Reading: Divergent

October was a whirlwind and as such my poor blog has been sorely neglected. However, I've got a nice long backlog of books to recommend and the motivation to get to back to blogging since I've joined YAtopia's I Love Dark YA Blogfest!

For the post, the participating bloggers are supposed to talk about their favorite dark YA book(s) which is just about all I do here so that's kind of a lucky break for me.

Currently, my favorite dark YA book is Divergent by Veronica Roth.

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

I love every page of this book. I'm not even sure where to start about why it appeals to me, mostly because there are so many twists and turns that everything I could say would be a total spoiler.

On a thematic level, I am always intrigued by self-segregation and the logical extensions thereof when one tries to build a society around that type of thinking. The notion that we can all be confined to small boxes where we are only this or only that has never made any sense to me, yet it pops up again and again in our cultural messages and the way we organize our society. I have no idea if she was looking at that specifically, but that's what it reminds me of.

I've also always been really drawn to YA books that show teenagers having to make high stakes decisions about their lives. I think the opinions and experiences of young people are often unreasonably dismissed even in a lot of contemporary YA, so that may be why I'm more into darker books with teens who are forced to rise to the occasion.

This is my favorite Q&A from Veronica Roth's blog:
What faction would you choose?

Despite my intense fear of heights, bugs, flocks of birds, speed, scaling rickety structures, and ordering meat at the deli counter, I would choose Dauntless, because I think courage, particularly courage that empowers a person to act for the good of others regardless of the consequences, is important. Also, I own a lot of black clothing.

Trigger Warning: There is serious violence in this book including at least one incident of attempted sexual assault.  It is all integral to the plot, but if you're upset by that kind of thing this one isn't for you.

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive and respectful manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.