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Thursday, August 30, 2012

What You Asked For

Sometimes when I look at the keywords that lead people to my blog I think, Oh, okay. Like when someone searches “Tracey Neithercott” or “Insurgent book review.” Yep, we serve both of those here.

Other times I have to wonder: Did these people visit my blog with the hope I’d have what they’re looking for? Or did they just know this blog is full of creepy children?

So today, I wanted to say, “Hey, Internet people who find my blog by searching things like ‘creepy children’ and ‘cute teen boys’ (two of the keywords that lead people here most often, by the way), I hear you. I hear you and I applaud your search for knowledge and greater meaning in life crushworthy boys.

So here you go, you searchers, an answer to your demands.* And because I don’t want to give everything away, I’ll let you decide who’s creepy and who’s cute. How’s that for promoting a thirst for knowledge?**


*Though, technically, the teen-ness of these boys is debatable. I’m sorry I can’t give you everything you want. It’s just the way of the world, Googlers. 
**Speaking of knowledge, if you click a photo it will take you to the source.

Monday, August 27, 2012

YA Book Club Review: This is Not a Test

Did you hear that? That’s the sound of sirens blaring because this is the official start of the YA Book Club and therefore this is your official warning: If you don’t want to read about Courtney Summers’ This is Not a Test, you might want to procrastinate elsewhere. (I hear there are perfectly good places on the interwebs to do that. Like here and here.) Not that you’re guaranteed spoilers, but as far as the book club goes, they’re not illegal. Or banned. Or whatever.

Glad we got that cleared up. Let’s move on to the important stuff: discussing the book of the month. For anyone who didn’t read the book, here’s the Goodreads blurb:

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. 
To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. 
But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. 
When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Courtney Summers’ first departure from contemporary fiction isn’t your typical zombie novel. Young adult literature has no shortage of dystopian/survival stories, and despite the different complications—zombies, natural disasters, tyrannical governments, and so on—most feature a protagonist who fights for something: freedom, love, health, happiness, family. This is not that kind of survival story, and that’s what made me really love the book.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a kickass hero or heroine as much as the next reader, love when a character has this insane determination to fight for what they want or what they believe in. It’s exciting. It’s what usually makes us invested, right? We want them to succeed. We’re like cheerleaders: Brrr. It’s cold in here. There must be some cataclysmic event in the atmosphere. Go, go, go! Fight, Fight, Fight!

(Why yes, I did just adapt a Bring It On cheer for fictional characters living in a post-apocalyptic world.)

Anyhow, Summers’ novel is fresh because the narrator doesn’t want to live. She lives alone with an abusive father and was just about to kill herself when the whole zombie apocalypse ruined her plan. Now she’s barricaded inside her high school with five other kids who want to live and she’s, well, not happy. And yet as a reader I still rooted for Sloan. She was still likeable to me, even if she didn’t see the point in fighting.

I think it told a better story, too. Because this isn’t a story about zombies or crazy survival tactics. Amid all of the dead and undead, it’s really about a girl learning to want to live.

It’s also about human nature, why we struggle to survive even when all hope seems lost. You know those stories you hear after disasters about people who miraculously hold on? Like a man who drank his own pee when he was trapped in a building after an earthquake and somehow he survived until help came.

Or something like that. You get what I mean.

What makes people want to go on?

It’s an interesting question, and this is an even more interesting answer because it’s not told from the point of view of someone with the fight to survive in them.

The book is slow, purposefully. Don’t expect a lot of zombie-fighting action, because even though there are zombie attacks, most of the story takes place inside the school and focuses on the characters and their interactions with one another. But I liked that it was a realistic survival story. Take this quote:
The thing no one tells you about surviving, about the mere act of holding out, is how many hours are nothing because nothing happens.
It’s also not a survival slash romance story. I usually go into a YA book assuming there will be some romance, even if it’s secondary to the main plot. But know that this isn’t about romance or a boy at all. Yes, there’s a boy, but he was there more to push Sloan along in her character growth, not to fulfill this deep romantic longing in her.

And her character growth was really my favorite part of the book. It wasn’t a quick realization, like, “Wow, I should really want to live! Horary!” Instead it was subtle, as were the changes in Sloan.

One of my favorite scenes was when Grace, another student trapped in the school, asked Sloan to come with her when they reached a relief center. The longing that Sloan felt to belong to a family was heartbreaking.

There’s a grim, melancholy feel to the whole story, and though the ending isn’t one big happy dance, there’s hope. It was slow coming, but there’s a part at the end of the book that Sloan finally realizes what we as readers have seen building in her: She wants to live.

There were a million and one reasons she should have wanted to die and there were a handful of reasons she should have wanted to live, and I’m not sure which exactly made her keep surviving at any point or if all of them did in some way, but there it is. This idea that as humans we want to survive. We want to fight.

What did you think? If you blogged a review about This is Not a Test, leave a link to your post by filling out the form below. If you don’t have a blog or haven’t reviewed the book, no worries. Join in the conversation in the comments here, and then hop around to everyone else’s blogs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RTW: The Story Love List

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: Inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ poston Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

According to The Great and Powerful Ms. Perkins, here’s the function of a love list:
Whenever I begin a new project, I also begin a list called “What I Love About This Story.” I start by writing down those first ideas that sparked the fires of my mind, and then I add more ideas to it as I discover them during my push through early drafts.
With that in mind, here are a few things I love about my story:

A boy with an accent
Air that smells like chocolate
Memory loss
Buzzed hair
Overcoming disability
Candy necklace
Electroshock therapy
Childhood friends
Cliffs overlooking a lake
Red plastic glasses
Creepy hospital

And because I basically have a love list in my mind, where I store parts of scenes, I thought it’d be fun to give you love lists from two different perspectives, too. So the first is what I love about my story in songs that capture a moment, a scene, a chapter, or the whole book. I’ve added keywords from above if they pertain to this musical love list.

Overcoming disability, memory loss:

Grief, guilt:

Creepy hospital:

Creepy hospital, sacrifice:

The second is a visual love list, with any word tags from above.

A boy with an accent, buzzed hair:

Stargazing, cliffs overlooking a lake

Creepy hospital

What’s on your love list?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RTW: Best Sports Book

Road Trip Wednesday is a blog carnival, where YA Highway’s contributors and readers post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s take on the topic.

This week’s prompt was: In honor of the end of the Olympics, share your favorite sports book.

I’m going to be honest: I’m not really into sports. (Oh, that sound? That’s The Man laughing at me for saying “not really” when the most appropriate phrasing would be “not at all.”) Sure, I like the Red Sox and have an innate hatred of the Yankees—that, my outside-New-England friends, is something we’re born and bred with. But do I sit on the edge of my seat for every Pats game? No, and that’s saying something considering Tom Brady’s in high def.


Because of my disinterest in sports, I rarely pick up a book that involves sports. I don’t mind if a character is an athlete and talks about sports on occasion, but I pretty much avoid Hoosiers in book form.

(Though I’d totally be into reading a book about boxing with some good pummelings, especially if the character’s a girl. I’m not sure what that says about my mental state.)

That was your warning. I do have a favorite book involving sports, but it’s one of the few (only?) I have read. My pick:

I’ll be honest: The only reason I picked up the book was because it seemed like a cute romance and I’d been desperately trying to make the romance in my book believable. So I was reading all these YA romances to see what worked, and this one sounded adorable. I decided to overlook the whole football thing.

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it, even though I know less about football than, like, nuclear fusion. The romance was cute, but I was also a fan of the kickass girl factor—a chick playing football, score—and, yeah, even got into the game. Which is really saying something about Kenneally’s ability to explain the sport’s details without slowing the pace.

I’m going to say something that’s even shocking myself: Catching Jordan is a fun read, even if you don’t like sports. 

Whats your favorite sports book?