Monday, September 28, 2009

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which was originally published in 1813, is a literary classic and most beloved book. There have been a number of modern day stories fashioned around the romance, wit, and tribulations of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy, such as Mandy Hubbard’s Prada & Prejudice.

Hubbard’s story begins in London in the 21st Century with 15 year-old Callie, who is on a school trip. Ostracized by her fellow students because of her geeky ways and big mouth, Callie is forced to sit alone in a hotel. The school chaperone will not allow students to tour the city alone, and Callie’s travel buddy, popular Angela Marks, has ditched her for more promising prospects. After being stuck in the hotel for the first few days of the trip, Callie is determined to win herself a spot with the popular crowd. She buys a pair of $400 Prada shoes, something Angela is sure to notice, in hopes of making a strong impression and scoring an invitation with the popular girls to a posh London night club.

However, in addition to being geeky, Callie is clumsy. Only a few feet from the Prada store, Callie gets the heel on one of the shoes caught in a grate and falls head first on the street. She is knocked unconscious. When she awakes, unbeknownst to her, she finds herself in the middle of a forest in 1815. When she approaches an estate to borrow the phone, estate guest, 18 year-old Emily, mistakes Callie for long-time American friend, Rebecca.

With little option, Callie assumes Rebecca’s identify to bide for time while she determines an escape route back to the 21st Century. While a guest at the Harksbury Estate, which belongs to the ruggedly handsome and pompous, 19 year-old Alex, the Duke of Harksbury, she manages to wreak social havoc with her modern ways. Unlike, Emily, Callie has no problem speaking her mind, which comes to a shock for the Duke. Their disputes are both contentious and filled with an obvious sexual tension. Callie, based on the Duke’s stuffy appearance and the discovery of some scandalous letters, is decidedly against seeing in good in Alex.

Callie, while posing as Rebecca, becomes fast friends with Emily, who is resisting an arranged marriage to a man thirty years her senior. Emily’s heart belongs to another, and Callie, firmly rooted in modern day women’s rights, decides to help Emily find a way out of her engagement. Perhaps if she can set Emily’s life on the path her heart desires if will help Callie find a way back to her school vacation in modern day London.

Hubbard’s novel is full of stock characters and touches upon Austen’s original plot. At best it is light and airy and does not seriously address the role of women and status in 19th Century England. However, I do not think that was her point. She wanted to write a story that was light, airy, and romantic. This was accomplished, but still lacks the charm and wit of Austen’s original story. This reader would take Pride & Prejudice over Prada any day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Dark Hunters Volume 1: Story by Sherrilyn Kenyon; Art by Claudia Campos

Author Sherrilyn Kenyon is known for the romantic fiction series The Dark Hunters, which is the basis for this new manga series. Set in New Orleans, The Dark Hunters Volume One sets the story about Amanda Devereaux, an accounting student, who is in denial of her super powers. All of her sisters have embraced their special abilities, but she longs for normalcy and does everything possible to make it happen. She even dates boring men, including Cliff, with whom she was engaged until her magical family freaked him out and he broke things off.

One day when she reluctantly visited her twin sister’s house to let out her dog, Amanda is hit over the head and abducted. She awakes to find herself handcuffed to a gorgeous, blonde hunk of a man, who introduces himself as Hunter. He’s a vampire- kind-of. Really he is a Dark Hunter, who are the good guys in the world of vampires. Dark Hunters fight daimons, who are the bad guys and suck out people’s souls. Amanda and Hunter find themselves united together beyond the hand cuffs they share when one of the deadliest vampires comes after them. Together they must save themselves and the rest of humanity. Along the journey they discover things about themselves and fall for one another.

The story is loosely based on ancient mythology with a vampire twist. There are gods, tough warriors, spells, psychic dreams, and visits from the undead. Volume One of The Dark Hunters acts as an introduction to Kenyon’s story and characters. At times the pages are text heavy, but this seems necessary in order to fit in the weighty story line. Claudia Campos’s illustrations capture the manga style, but unfortunately are forced to compete with the text throughout the story. Kenyon leaves the reader wanting more, but Volume 2 won’t be published until March 2010. In the mean time, if you enjoy this book, check out the original Dark Hunters series. Readers who love romance and vampires are sure to be satisfied while waiting for the release of the next book in the manga series.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breaking Up (A Fashion High graphic novel) by Aimee Friedman; Art by Christine Norrie

Just remember: "There's a fine line between a friend and an enemy."

Chloe Sacks is excited to start her junior year at Georgia O’Keefe School of the Arts (aka Fashion High) with her three best friends, MacKenzie, Erika and Isabel. Together they set themselves apart from the other students and hold a solid place in the school’s popularity ranks. However as school gets underway, Chloe realizes things aren’t quite the same between the four girls. She is particularly bothered by MacKenzie, who seems to become obsessed with climbing the Fashion High popularity ladder. In order to obtain posh status MacKenzie begins hanging out with Nicola Burnett, one of the most popular and beautiful girls at the school. (Nicola also seems shallow and stuck-up.) Mackenzie also starts flirting with Nicola’s boyfriend, Gabe. Chloe is troubled by the ever-present sense that she and her three best friends are growing apart.

Chloe has another issue. She recently befriended Adam, who doesn’t rank well with the popular crowd in high school. In the past he has often been the butt of Gabe’s jokes and taunting. Her BFFs, especially MacKenzie, would ridicule her if they knew that she and Adam spoke to each other in class. She would be committing “social suicide” if she started hanging out with Adam, even it was strictly platonic. However, Chloe sees something special in Adam, especially after he shows her one of his paintings. As they sit next to each other in art class she begins to realize he’s more than a geek obsessed with math and science. Chloe eventually invites Adam to Gabe’s New Year’s Eve party and her friends are far from supportive. Based on the way they reacted to the two of them together, Chloe decides to continue seeing Adam, but doesn’t tell anyone.

Eventually Chloe and Adam’s secret romance is discovered. Her friends are furious for lying to them, and Adam thinks Chloe is ashamed of him. Chloe is left alone to ponder her future and determine if these lifelong friendships are worth saving. She also needs to come to terms with her heart and what people might think about her falling for a math and science geek.

If you enjoyed Plain Janes and Janes’ in Love by Cecil Castellucci, you will enjoy Breaking Up. Christine Norrie’s illustrations are simple, clean, and capture the personality of each character. It makes me wish Hopeless Savages was still in print. As well, it is easy to see a little bit of yourself and probably your friends in Friedman’s characters. Chloe’s struggle with maintaining a lifelong friendship is an identifiable struggle while in high school. People change as they get older, and true friendship can sustain such things.

Other books available at Moore Memorial Public Library by Aimee Friedmann: Sea Change, The Year My Sister Got Lucky, A Novel Idea, and South Beach.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson

James Hoff is an angst-ridden high school student, whose environmental streak is a little radical for most. Well, it might be if he actually did anything for environmental causes instead of railing against them in his English compositions and his blog. Blake Nelson’s new book, Destroy All Cars, opens with a paper written by Hoff about cars and how they are “completely screwing over the planet.” The story is told through an epistolary format and reads quickly.

According to a recent interview with the author featured on the blog Abe Lincoln’s Hat, the lead character is loosely based on Nelson when he was in high school. Nelson went through a revolutionary phase, where he read The Communist Manifesto, drank espresso at the library, and crushed on artsy girls. However, there is more to Hoff’s character than a teen boy full of frustration. Like many teens James recognizes the flaws in the world and how adults tend to ignore them. There is a helplessness to Hoff because although he sees the problems he not necessarily in a place to provide solutions.

Instead of working to evoke change, James complains- and he is very good at it. In addition to complaining about cars and consumerism he also finds issue with his activist ex-girlfriend, Sadie, who he feels tries to evoke change by using the system. James thinks the system is broken, and offers little solution to solving problems. It’s not until Sadie gets him involved with one of her system-based do-gooder petition projects that he realizes there are proactive ways to work toward establishing environmental change. It also changes his perspective of Sadie, who seems pretty awesome.

Other books by Blake Nelson available at the Library: Girl, They Came from Below, Paranoid Park, Gender Blender, Prom Anonymous, Rock Star Superstar, and The New Rules of High School

If you like Destroy All Cars, you might want to pick up Jennifer Cowan’s first novel, Earthgirl. It is currently available in the New Books area of the library.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters to arrive at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, the day Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire on fellow students and their teachers. He has spent the last ten years researching the infamous Columbine shooting to create the first complete account, Columbine, which is available at the library.

Cullen’s intentions in writing this book were to dispel myths propagated by the media after this tragedy occurred. A number of stereotypes, such as the “Trench Coat Mafia” and Goths shooting jocks, were circulated by the media, including Cullen. As an act of apology and from a desire to report the facts, Cullen poured over hundreds of interviews, investigative files, FBI psychologists, and evidence left by the shooters to recreate the series of events that led to Klebold and Harris’ decision to launch an attack on their school. Cullen depicts a very different picture than that portrayed by the media. These boys weren’t outcasts ridiculed at school. In fact, Harris was relatively popular and noted for his charm. Both boys desired to go to their high prom, and Klebold regularly wrote about love in his journal. This tragedy is no longer based on stereotypes, and the media-inspired caricature has been torn away to reveal the killers’ thoughts and motivations.

Although this blog primarily features Young Adult fiction, there is relevance in featuring Columbine, which is a non-fiction book. Cullen’s determination to demonstrate the complexity and depth of the Columbine shooting warrants examination by both teens and adults. The author delivers an important message to be critical of the media and the news they report. As well, Cullen reminds us those tragedies such as Columbine are often more complex than what is reported. As teens (and adults) it is important to remember life and the choices we make are more complicated than where you fit in within the high school ranks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leaving Paradise / by Simone Elkeles

As if living next door to the person who maimed you in a drunk driving accident wasn't awkward enough. Now a year after the said incident which severely injured Maggie Armstrong and sent Caleb Becker to prison, things couldn't be more unsettled here in Paradise (,Illinois) as Caleb is released back into society, back home (still next door to Maggie's house) and back to a life now permanently altered by one ill-fated decision.
In light of the "incident", other issues add to the drama. There's the fact that the once inseparable Armstrongs and Beckers haven't spoken in a year, that Caleb's twin sister Leah used to be Maggie's best friend, that both are starting their senior year of high school (having been in the same grade since kindergarten), that Maggie's dad has now left she and her mom, that Maggie's now unable to play tennis/get a scholarship/get the-heck-outta-here, that Caleb's girlfriend Kendra cheated on him while he was locked-up and basically all the constant, unwanted attention which comes from being the hottest gossip in a small town. The real issue though is the relationship between Caleb and Maggie; the terms of where their lifelong friendship now stands and how the rest of their lives will play out. If anything can be got right, each must confront the other knowing full well that the present is all there is--the past is permanent and assumptions about the future are dubious at best.
Elkeles, in her follow-up to debut How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, doles out some serious seriousness in this weighted story of tragedy, scandal, disability, broken trust, relationships, expectations, loyalty and redemption. Though the circumstances seem a little manipulated, the author renders some genuine authenticity through the dual narrative--alternating chapters with Caleb and Maggie in the first-person--and manages to create a sincere atmosphere out of a complex set of characteristics and background details.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Manga Shakespeare Series

School recently began, and some English teachers will be assigning selected works by William Shakespeare. Reading “the Bard” can insight fear in teens who already dread reading, but fear not. There is a series of books that tell Shakespeare’s stories, but they are in a manga format. Instead of words, words, words, Shakespeare’s works are accompanied by anime-inspired drawings, which makes the story-telling much easier and enjoyable.

The library currently has copies of As You Like It, Julius Caesar, and Othello from the Manga Shakespeare series. As You Like It is one of Shakespeare’s more famous comedies, which involves love triangles and reversed gender roles. Julius Caesar is Shakespeare’s tragic retelling of the real-life events surround Caesar’s assassination. Othello is another dark drama, which addresses jealousy, love, betrayal, and racism. Shakespeare’s works continued to be used in schools because of their historical context and relevance in modern society.

I am not encouraging teens to not read their assigned Shakespeare text, but rather suggesting they check out these manga-style retellings to further the reading experience. The stories are abridged, which means the story is a reduced length. The creators of these books focus on the key scenes of the plays. If you are having trouble reading Shakespeare, which at times reads like a foreign language although it is English, the combination of the text with visual images might help you easily translate the author’s intentions.

For teachers and parents who may be reading this blog, Manga Shakespeare uses the skills of a Shakespeare scholar and educational editor when developing their books. As well, they are advised by teachers in making the work more accessible to young adults. Manga, graphic novels, and comic books are effective teaching tools, especially with those who are reluctant to read or where English may be a second language. As well, both boys and girls respond well to this format of storytelling.

Available at Moore Memorial Library: As You Like It, Julius Caesar, and Othello

Friday, September 4, 2009

Books with Soundtracks and Playlists Display

The Young Adult book display, which is located by the last row of the Young Adult section, currently features a selection of books which were inspired by or contain music. Twilight fans are aware Stephenie Meyer was inspired by the band Muse to write the series, and other authors are similarly motivated.

To accompany the books on display I have created a list of websites, where you can find lists of bands who helped create the books we have come to love. A list is available at the book display, but I will post the weblinks here for your viewing pleasure.

Libba Bray: A Great & Terrible Beauty

Rachel Cohn & David Levinthan: Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Gayle Forman: If I Stay

John Green: Paper Towns

Tonya Hurley: Ghost Girl

Patrick Jones: Nailed & Things Change

E. Lockhart: Dramarama

Melina Marchetta: Jellicoe Road

Marlene Perez: Dead So Last Year & Others

Lousie Rennison: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson Series

Laurie Stolarz: Touch Series