Thursday, December 9, 2010

Year in review, part the fourth

I read a fair bit of YA. I enjoy it. I want to stay fairly current in the library field in terms of youth services, and I'm a member of YALSA (they have a booklist here: ALA --> YALSA --> booklist). So with that, I give you my list of favorite YA books that I read in 2010. Note that this doesn't mean the book was published in 2010. Just that I read it in 2010.

What I Saw And How I Lied

This is a really good historical coming-of-age YA novel. Set in 1947, the story follows Evie as her family travels to Palm Beach for the summer. What at first might appear to be a vacation soon reveals itself to be much more complex. Evie finds herself privy to bits of information, and gleans more and more, and slowly dips her toes into the adult world of secrets and love. Really, it's a small mystery historical coming-of-age novel, so it really spans several genres. I found Evie to be a very believable character as she fumbles to act more like a grown woman than the young girl she really is, and the story doesn't waste time in the telling. There are undercurrents of deeper meaning laced throughout, and themes of race, class, and gender roles crop up -- this is a thoughtful, intelligent and well-told tale. There's a reason this is a National Book Award winner.

The Whale Rider (book)
Whale Rider (film)

I've talked about this book before, and I haven't re-read it since I last wrote about it in very early 2010, so I'll just post a link to my review here, as it's long, and includes video clips and a discussion/comparison-contrast of book vs. film. I'll simply note that it's showing up on my most-loved list for a reason: it's really, really good.

The Summer Before (Babysitters Club)

Okay, so while I wouldn't put this in the pile of Deeply Intelligent And High Concept YA Fiction, who doesn't like a bit o' fluff every so often? As an adult, I still got a wee kick out of reading a BSC prequel. I loved the BSC, although not quite as much as I loved the Saddle Club books -- and ghostwriters, I loved you too, even when you made such egregious errors in continuity here and there! I just want to go on record to say that I read a good number of upper-level books as a tween, but I loved my standard YA fare too. I must have gone through the library collection of BSC and SC several times over. CLAUDIA AND MARY ANNE (and Stevie from SC) FOR LYFE.

*ahem* So there was a good nonsensical ramble. Let me get back on track. This book was a fun little trip in the wayback machine, and I think it's a good little set of interlocking stories about the BSC characters right on the verge of becoming tweens, just finding out their personalities (in Stacey's case, her personality is DIABETES DIABETES DIABETES -- god, she still annoys me to death just as much as she did when I was younger...and I have a brother with diabetes now, so it's not that I'm insensitive, but DANG GIRL GET A GRIP AND REALIZE YOUR ENTIRE PERSONALITY DOES NOT HAVE TO BE "DIABETES GIRL"!). I think the book really works on two separate levels: it's rather fun for people who grew up with the series because it's a prequel, and it's good for new/current readers because it all fits in just fine.

All in all: fun. Also, for all the old-school BSC people out there, have you seen the blog What Claudia Wore ? Awesome.

4. Oh yeah, there was the culmination of the Hunger Games Trilogy in 2010.

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games), I will say that I enjoyed it. I know some folks have problems with the story, but I loved it. I think the way in which Collins shows the utter lack of control Katniss has over her lot in life is quite well done. At first, the seemingly endless number of times Katniss would wake up having missed something really important frustrated me, but I quickly realized that Collins was using the mechanism as a way to show her lack of control and vulnerability in the midst of war. Katniss may be the Mockinjay, but she's a tool, and the lack of direct action on her part sometimes when it's out of her control shows that. (I worded that awkwardly. Oops.) I think throughout the series I was also really impressed with the use of Heymitch and how that character developed and morphed. Finally, I really appreciated the epilogue. Unlike the infamous Harry Potter fanfic epilogue, this one was realistic.

Does the fact that Katniss does end up fulfilling the standard women's-role of having children and settling down bother me? No. In this case, it feels right and good. It doesn't feel forced. I appreciate the fact that the children aren't all named after characters who were killed previously in homage. I think it shows a sense of distance between Katniss and her chaotic youth. And people change as they grow older -- she didn't want children when she was younger, but that change makes sense within the confines of the book, and as I said, it doesn't feel contrived to me, as though Collins thought she HAD to in order to wrap everything up neatly with a bow on top (*cough JKR*). I'm satisfied.

I am a bit annoyed at the current casting business for the upcoming Hunger Games films -- am I recalling correctly that in the books the District 12 people are generally described as having olive skin, dark hair, grey or dark eyes...and yet very very very white people are being cast? The whitewashing of the cast is troubling.

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