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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

YA Book Club Chat: Taken by Erin Bowman

I guess I should start this whole shebang with a disclaimer: I am friends with Erin Bowman, author of Taken, the YA Book Club’s current pick. I’m almost sorry to have to tell you that because I know some of you will wonder whether my fondness for Erin has played a role in my review. And the answer is: No.

I hope you believe that because it’d be a shame for you to doubt me when I tell you that Taken is beautifully written. If you’ve ever read Erin’s blog, this will come as little surprise, but in Taken it becomes even clearer how skillful she is at creating vivid descriptions laced with so much emotion. As in:
The bird is a filthy thing: slick black feathers, a beak of oiled bones. I could wring its neck if I wanted, sneak up on it and crack its frail frame between my palms before it even heard me coming. It doesn’t matter, though. Crushing the life from the bird’s small body won’t save my brother. Blaine’s been damned since the day he was born.
And for all of you following todays reviews without having read the book, rest assured this passage is from page one. It’s difficult to talk about Taken without giving too much away, but I’m declaring this post a Spoiler-Free Zone.

So, yes, the prose is gorgeous and, if you haven’t heard about it yet, the premise is intriguing: Boys in a small village surrounded by a wall are “heisted” on the morning of their 18th birthdays. What I loved about Taken was that the major question—where do the boys go?—was a launching pad for a million more. Before it’s answered we’re presented with a  host of other mysteries, none of which I can repeat here because Erin has threatened to Heist my firstborn child should I spill too much.*

Surprisingly, the mystery of the Heist is revealed before the halfway mark, but by then we’re asking so many other questions it’s nearly impossible to put the book down. Right, so let’s skip over any plot comments I’d have lest I ruin the twists and turns for you. On to other matters!

Starting with Gray. He’s not your typical boy narrator, which more often than not tend to be cynical and funny in a snarky sort of way. Gray is serious, and for good reason. He’s also impulsive, which means he’s not a perfect guy. Something Gray does in the first chapter, for instance is inexcusable, but as readers we’re not expected to fully sympathize with him.

And yet I did, sympathize with Gray, that is. He’s sometimes reckless, but it makes him so human—so teen—and more of a three-dimensional character than a smart, self-sufficient guy who everyone loves and who volunteers with the disabled on the weekend.

Another thing I loved: the love triangle. Reading Taken, I realized I’ve never read a book where the boy is interested in two girls. Sure, there are plenty of indecisive** girls in YA literature, but the boys? Most of the time they have one crush. So it was interesting to see the love triangle idea flipped on its head.

Not only that, but Gray’s relationships with the two girls are so realistic that I can’t imagine there not being a love triangle—not because both are equally as awesome, but because Gray’s affections are swayed by others’ actions as much as raging teenage hormones. (As this is still a Spoiler-Free Zone, you’ll have to head to my Goodreads review, where I can hide spoilers, for a more detailed explanation.)

All in all, Taken is a fast-paced novel with tons of twists and turns that’ll appeal to fans of books like The Maze Runner.

Dont forget, tomorrow at 9 p.m. EST Erin Bowman (@Erin_Bowman) is taking to Twitter to chat about Taken. It’s open to anyone (you do not have to have participated in the YA Book Club), just use the hashtag #TakenChat. 

(And if you’re like me and get overwhelmed by viewing a chat in Twitter, I recommend participating via a site like TweetChat.)

*That’s a joke. She really only threatened to egg my house.
**Though I wouldn’t call Gray indecisive when it comes to relationships.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This Is Why I'm Grinning

This is me grinning. (You’ll note the absence of a photo. This is for your own good.)

I am grinning for one reason. I’ll let you decide.

A. I am a computer genius and have hacked into the Royal Bank of Scotland’s computer system, transferred $1 trillion to offshore accounts, and am currently on my way to an undisclosed location to live out the rest of my life with a hot guy named Finn who does not own a shirt.

B. I have miraculously obtained a polar bear cub that is, as I type, nuzzling my neck with his cold nose. I’ve named him The Darkling as both a nod to one of my favorite boyfriend-worthy villains as well as an ironic statement I hope will make look clever. Hang on. (NO, DARKLING, THE SWEATER IS NOT ME MAKING A STATEMENT ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING! IT IS SIMPLY A CUTE SWEATER THAT MAKES YOU LOOK SNUGGLY!)

C. The lovely ladies in the Bookanistas have inducted me into their book-reviewing society. Contrary to popular belief, the process didn’t involve months of hazing. Only minor hazing occurred. (My eyebrows are already growing back, thank you!) And now certain Thursdays during the month I will be posting reviews of books I love. It’s a win for you (book reviews!) and a win for me (book talk!).

I know what you’re thinking: It’s obviously A. You’re probably shocked to learn it’s C. (The most unlikely choice, I know. Mourn with me for my loss of The Darkling.)

Ill give you a moment to mull over that shocking news. 

Moving on... Since I’m clearly not doing one today, how about you check out what other Bookanistas are reviewing? 

FIRST…Jessica Love welcomes our FIVE NEW BOOKANISTAS!
Carrie Harris croons about THE COLLECTOR by Victoria Scott
Corrine Jackson adores CONFESSIONS OF AN ANGRY GIRL by Louise Rozett
Shelli Johannes-Wells hails HYSTERIA by Megan Miranda
Stasia Ward Kehoe celebrates YALSA’s TEEN LIT DAY
Nikki Katz raves about ROOTLESS by Chris Howard
Gretchen McNeil adores UNREMEMBERED by Jessica Brody
Rebecca Behrens shares why she’s excited to be newbie Bookanista 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Another Reason I Love This Book

I think I have mentioned it once before (or maybe ten trillion times) that I have a writerly crush on Melina Marchetta. Her books make me feel like my heart is simultaneously being torn bit by bit and restored piece by piece. I’m not sure that makes sense, but it does if you’ve read her novels. They’re all great, but (and I’ve mentioned this before, too) my favorite is Jellicoe Road.

I’ve recommended this book so many times I think my friends and family are sick of the title. (Though it has such a nice ring—Jellicoe—that I can’t imagine tiring of it.) Anyhow, there are three things people who have read this book will tell you:
  1. It is phenomenal.
  2. If you’re confused at first, stick with it.
  3. It is phenomenal.
So the other day on Tumblr I came across this awesome moment from the book. If you haven’t read the it, here’s the fourth thing people will tell you: Jonah Griggs is one of the best fictional boys ever. Behold:

Q: If you’ve read Jellicoe Road, what’s your favorite scene?*

*Maybe reading the comments will inspire the rest of you to read the book…

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April Pick for the YA Book Club

Good news, book club members. I have a soon-to-be-released novel ready for our April discussion. And, yes, this is one time when I’m exercising my power as Supreme Ruler of the YA Book Club and picking a book for you instead of conducting a poll. What can I say, I’m power hungry.

I’m really excited for this month’s read because it was written by my dear friend Erin Bowman. She’s most famous for never having seen Veronica Mars as of a few months ago. Don’t hold that against her. She’s been hard at work fixing that character flaw.

So, this month we’ll be reading Taken. (It releases on April 16.)
There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone. 
They call it the Heist. 
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive. 
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
We’ll be talking about Taken, right here and on your blogs, on Tuesday, April 30

But wait, there’s more! 

On Wednesday, May 1 at 9 p.m. EST, the YA Book Club will be hosting a Twitter chat with Erin. Well talk about Taken and you can bombard her with your questions (like, How did you create the world in your book?” and How did you get into writing?” and Is your hair naturally blonde?) and because she is nice shell answer them. You can join in with the hashtag #TakenChat. 

It will be supremely awesome.

Anyhow, book club newbies can get caught up here. And for the rest of you, happy reading!