Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Summary
Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she’ll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s recent unexpected death.

But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it….

Grade: B+

Personal wondering...ment:
Is anyone as drawn to this cover as I am? And the title? All I can say is, whoever designed it did their homework.

Memorable Quote:
"But there was only one truth about forever that really mattered, and that was this: it was happening. Right then, [...] and every moment afterwards. Look, there. Now. Now. Now." (Page 374)

ReviewerXReview:
No time to waste. Let's talk about why this book rocked:

Sarah Dessen is a good writer. What I mean is, she creates believable and relatable characters that very adequately reflect what teens are like. My favorite part of the books I've read by her is the dialogue, which, if you examine carefully, is unique to whichever character she's writing about. Sarah creates well-rounded characters--that's a fact. And it's probably her biggest skill.

Now, let's talk about the girl of the hour, Macy Queen. Quite a confused young woman, Miss Queen is. Her father died, and grief-stricken Macy keeps blaming herself. Worse, she comes to think that if she can just keep things at a constant, that is, perfectly still, she can control her life. And that's her biggest flaw: this unfailing faith in perfection that she simply won't snap out of.

Enter Wes and the whole Wish Catering crew. They help Macy come to life-altering realizations about the controlled forever she keeps thinking she can attain. Wes, especially, helps her see that the future--the eventual forever--is about changes and imperfections and learning from your mistakes, not a present that moves forward with time, never changing.

What can I say about this book? It had a nice message. It was well written. The characters--Wes, in particular--were for the most part great. I don't know how else to elaborate on it, because, to me, this book speaks for itself. The reason, however, that I'm not giving it a 9 or a 10 is because, while an enjoyable read, it didn't speak to me the way This Lullaby did. It didn't teach me anything I didn't know. But like I said, good read--I'd recommend it.

Tune in tomorrow for why I think This Lullaby is better than The Truth About Forever!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Summary
When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

From acclaimed author Sarah Dessen, this is a captivating novel about a tough-as-nails girl and the unexpectedly charming boy who’s determined to soften her up.

Grade: A // Now you're talking!

A note from the personal files:
I keep hearing people say The Truth About Forever is their favorite Dessen book. Frankly, when people tell me this, they're met with a huge, "HUH????" facial expression and/or gesticulation. How does This Lullaby not trump The Truth About Forever at every single evaluable aspect?!

But I digress. This is another post entirely. (Check back Thursday for it.) Onward we go.

Review's up!
I'm a character gal. Whenever a new novel crosses my vastly crowded desk, sliding between the piles and piles of flunked biology tests, my weary, coffee-induced eyes twitch ever so slightly. It's been a long day. I want a great book. Ah, and therein lies the enigma--to be, or not to be? Will the characters drive the plot with compelling force? Or are we in for a doozy? I pray for the former and rejoice when it does come, so in shortage are such books.

This Lullaby falls under the rejoicible book category. This was the fourth Dessen book I picked up, the one I really got caught in. The plot itself isn't all that mesmerizing, I'll admit. I mean, what's so special about a tough girl with a revolving door of boyfriends and an irresponsible mother? This book is as coming-of-age as they come, meaning unless you care about the characters and how they grow throughout the novel, you won't enjoy it. But I loved Remy, the main character, and I loved how Sarah Dessen handled her, and handled the characters that surrounded her. Which is why I say I'm a character gal.

You know, it's hard to write a tough girl like Remy without making her gratuitously hard-up or just plain narcissistic. Come to think of it, she was one of the few truly tough characters I've come across in all the books I've read. I really thought she was well defined and shaped, and reading the book through her eyes was one hell of a trip. The writing was Sarah Dessen at her best. It was exactly what it needed to be to be to make this novel work--sarcastic, intuitive, confident; but with it all accompanied a certain sadness. Pitch-perfect.

Oh, and for people who have read this book: Hate Spinnerbait. Love Dexter. Yeah, baby!

Would I recommend this novel? Strongly. I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

Summary
A fiercely individualist Goth girl wakes up to discover that the whole world has gone Goth and she's actually -- gag -- popular.

Jade Leigh is a nonconformist who values individuality above all else. She has a small group of like-minded Goth friends who wear black, dabble in the dark arts, and thrive outside the norm. They're considered the "freaks" of their high school. But when Jade's smart mouth lands her in trouble -- again -- her principal decides to teach her a lesson she'll never forget.

Taken to a remote location where she is strapped down and sedated, Jade wakes up in an alternate universe where she rules the school. But her best friends won't talk to her, and the people she used to hate are all Goth. Only Clarik, the mysterious new boy in town, operates outside all the cliques. And only Mercedes, the Barbie clone Jade loathes, believes that Jade's stuck in a virtual reality game -- because she's stuck there, too, now living the life of a "freak." Together, they realize they might never get back to reality...and that even if they do, things might never be the same.

Grade: D- // Eh...


Reviewwww!
I'm so surprised that I'm writing a negative review of this book. When I first got Oh My Goth, I thought it'd be one of those books that I'd recommend to all my friends. The premise was great! I mean--here's to showing everyone is human on the inside and labels/appearances should not be the defining factor of a person or their worth.

And then...

Well, first off, we get this huge contradiction right at the opening. Each chapter is prefaced with a blurb from Jade's private journal--here's the first one:

When people look at me, they automatically assume I'm dark and weird. Why can't they see the truth? I'm just a girl, trying to find my place in the world.

I thought, Okay, we're off to a great start. This character has strong likeable potential. But then the narrative began. Three paragraphs down the first page and we've got:

Honestly, I'd rather be anywhere else. Even home, where my dad begins almost every conversation with, "You should lose the black clothes and wear something with color." Puh-lease. Like I want to look like every Barbie clone in Hell High, a.k.a. Oklahoma's insignificant Haloway High School. Ironically, Dad doesn't appreciate the bright blue streaks in my originally blond/now-dyed-black hair. Go figure. That's color, right?

So, Jade complains about being judged based on her appearance, but here she is doing the exact same thing. Is it any wonder people think that about her?

(Steph stands vaguely skeptical...)

The book went on. Some passages were funny in a teen-angsty way. Others were bland. But mostly, my thoughts went elsewhere while I was reading. By the last page, I didn't care what Jade did, what the book's message was, or even how it ended. I won't say I was happy that it ended. I wasn't. I wanted to like this book. But I didn't and here's why:

Jade was impenetrable. I couldn't figure her out or relate to her at all. In fact, I thought she was highly superficial, which is not something I want from any character, especially one I'm reading about in a first-person narrative. I'll even go so far as to say this book was superficial. It meandered along the surface, never really digging deep enough for me to get any substance. Some passages were unbelievably contrived, like the ones describing all the types of goths there are and how they dress, like it's one big institution. Is this what this girl considers being a noncomformist? Comforming to the "norms" or noncomformity???

Which brings me to my next point. Jade "expresses her individuality" because her mother, at the exact moment before crashing with another car and dying from the collision, told her to always be herself, no matter what. And now Jade thinks she has to be unlike everyone else to be herself. Someone please tell this girl that dressing differently doesn't make you original.

Overall, didn't like the main character; thought the book's message was botched; didn't care much about about anything that happened. I had hoped this book would've gone to say something about how a person's essence is more important than their outer shell. It didn't. It focused exactly on the opposite, which makes it pointless.

Note: A friend who didn't like this book (and had the same complaints as me) said Gena Showalter is a good author. So, if you really wanna check something out by her, get one of her other books.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Feature: Reviewer Profiles

Right now, on my sidebar, you can see a lot of reviewer blog links. It's great to be connected, isn't it? But I was thinking: How many of these reviewers post actual information about them? Not many. Now, I'm one of those people totally invested in making all their experiences personal ones. I mean, why do you think I like doing author interviews so much? Book QnAs? Young Adult Weekly? Talking to authors through MySpace?

I have so much already dedicated to authors on my blog. All my features--save for Young Adult Weekly, which has a reviewer portion to it--are centered to promoting, recognizing, acknowledging, and personalizing authors. And hey, I hope the number of author-features on this blog will only grow in number with time.

But I want to give some of the spotlight to the reviewers. Because most of the ones I've gotten to know rock so fantastically, and exult so much positive karma upon the universe, they should just be gifted their own endless supply of great books and call it even.

Hence: Reviewer Profiles. Starting now, I'll interview one reviewer a week and post their own page on my blog. Yup, that's right--that's my tribute to their awesomeness.

When I told this to two close friends, they loved the idea--but were worried about how it might be deterring from my site and just creating open space for ruthless advertising for other reviewers. So I'm bringing this to the open:

Reviewers, how do you think we can make this "fair"? What would you consider "fair", anyway? Let me put it this way: Would you be willing to link to it under your About Me links?

And that's my random post of the day. Tell me what you think. Whatever we decide in the comments section will be the terms for this new RX feature.

PSST! Forgot to add this in: If you want to participate, email me, email me, email me! reviewerx (at) gmail.com!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Winner of TYOMMR Contest!!

22 different people (and 34 entries) stand before The Randomizer. Some of them have a bigger chance of winning--they advertised and they referred people to the contest. But they are all equally worthy of winning. The Randomizer wishes to choose them all. Unfortunately, Steph is so broke, affording to send this one book is a stretch for her pocket. So, she orders The Randomizer to make a decision. The Randomizer stammers. Steph sympathizes--she, too, wishes everyone could walk out a winner. But Steph keeps her cool. She doesn't stutter. She tells The Randomizer to choose now. Unable to stall any longer, The Randomizer does its shuffling and comes out with a verdict.
Number 3.

Number three is...

AELLA FROM MAELSTROMS!!!!!

Aella advertised and did a referral, so she had three entries. She was the first person to enter. Numbers 1, 2, and 3.

The Randomizer has spoken. Steph couldn't be happier with its choice.

Steph wishes to thank everyone who entered! It was a lovely experience, and I'll be holding another contest in June, so stay tuned!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Young Adult Weekly (Week of April 21-25 2008)

Hey guys! Hope everyone had a marvelous week! I know I sure did.

I'm so in awe about the reader response to last week's segment of YAW! It's definitely a plus that so many people liked it, and now I have even more people to include in here. If you don't see your name anywhere (authors, reviewers, and munchkins alike), please drop me a line at reviewerx (at) gmail.com.

So let's get this started, yeah?

Young Adult Weekly

Week of April 21-25 2008

From the authors...

Debbie Reed Fischer (Braless in Wonderland) has a wonderful For Writer's section up on her site, filled with helpful tips mixed with some of her very funny humor. (And yes, I do realize that my writing skills are lackin' in that description, but whatcha gonna do?)

Libba Bray (The Sweet Far Thing) is still fabulous, thanks, and back with a great blog after twenty (yes, twenty) days of no-show. I can finally breathe again.

Stephanie Kuehnert (I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone) presents Rock and Read! Some YA authors, such as Alexa Young (Frenemies), are getting together to mix the book world with the music world in a super promotional event. Books and beats for everyone!

Mary Castillo (Switchcraft) posted a very interesting blog on the relationship between crap and writing.

Ally Carter (Cross My Heart And Hope To Spy) is celebrates the I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You's fifteen-week streak (so far) in the New York Times Bestseller list by posting 15 random things about her.

Claudia Gray is running an absolutely awesome contest over at her blog. The stakes? A $50 Amazon or iTunes giftcard. You heard me. Get moving.

I spy some Reviewer X links over at Catherine Ryan Hyde's (Chasing Windmills) MySpace profile and website!

Jennifer Echols (The Boys Next Door) posted on the Ro-Com blog the next few releases for the Ro-Com line!


Cecil Castellucci will be participating in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Here's her schedule, if you're going and want to see her! Jay Asher (Thirteen Reasons Why), Robin Benway (Audrey, Wait!), Janet Fitch (Paint It Black), Michele Serros (Honey Blonde Chica), Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), and Joe Matt (Peepshow) will be there as well!

John Green (An Abundance of Katherines) tells you how you can enter to win an ARC of his latest novel, The Paper Towns.

E. Lockhart (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks) is giving you the go-ahead to ask her any questions you'd like answered on her soon-to-be-redone FAQ. Not that this is the only reason you should head over there, but, hey, a free book is at stake, so...

Elizabeth Scott (Perfect You) is having a mega contest over at her blog that involves many, many prizes. Frankly, if you don't enter, you're losing out big time. Preview of the prizes: iPod nano or a $200 giftcard to bookstore of your choice; twenty $20 giftcards to the bookstore of your choice; 10 copies of Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen.

Kate Brian (Ambition) wants you to know that some online stores, like Amazon and B&N, are already dispatching copies of the latest Private novel, Ambition!

Lots of updates from Stephenie Meyer (Eclipse). First, we have a new The Host website! Also, there's an article about Twilight on Slashfilm.com! And last but not least, Meet the Characters of the Film!

Meg Cabot (Airhead) finished the first revision of Princess Diaries 10. She says this will probably be one of many revisions, but hey, it's something!

Melissa Walker (Violet by Design) Rocked the Drop over at Grand Station, leaving off Violet on the Runway!

Tina Ferraro (How To Hook a Hottie) guest blogged over at Poised at the Edge about her work in progress.

Linda Gerber (Death by Bikini) celebrates the countdown 'til her book's release date by giving away advance copies of Death by Bikini every Friday! I'm very happy 'cos last week the winner was me! It's time for everyone else to enter, though!

It's Promo Week over at Teen Fiction Cafe! This means that:

Alyson Noël (Cruel Summer) is giving away a copy of her book, Cruel Summer!

Wendy Toliver (The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren) is giving away a copy of Linda Gerber's Now and Zen!

Bev Katz Rosenbaum (Beyond Cool) is giving away a copy of her novel, Beyond Cool!

Ann Angel (Such a Pretty Face) celebrates a myriad of good things happening for her and her novel, Such a Pretty Face!

From the reviewers

Reviewer X held her first ever Author Week, in honor of Catherine Ryan Hyde! Not only were there two reviews (Becoming Chloe and The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance), we also had a kickin' author interview and a CONTEST that's ongoing 'til Saturday.

The Ravenous Reader reviewed Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. Also, a little birdie told me Ambeen is preparing herself for a contest... You know what that means.

Reader Rabbit reviewed Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George!

Book Chic is having a major Lock & Key meltdown over at their blog! Check out their review of Sarah Dessen's latest, along with a contest that ends today. Enter quickly! Also, check out their interview with the brains behind the book, Sarah Dessen herself! Oh, and I forgot to add: guest blog with Sarah. Totally living my dream, BC!

The Page Flipper has yet another contest! M.P. Baker guest blogged over at Chelsea's, and if you comment on that blog entry until April 30th, you get entered in the drawing to get M.P.'s debut, A Difficult Boy. Her April Prize back is also open 'til the 30th. Get winning.

The Book Muncher reviewed The Writing On The Wall by Wendy Litchman!

Liv's Book Reviews reviewed Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, a book that I currently have in order!

And Another Book Read reviewed Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin.

Aella over at Maelstoms reviewed two books that sound like incredibly good reads: The She by Carol Plum-Ucci and Chanda's Wars by Allan Straton.

Hope's Bookshelf reviewed the New York Times bestseller Wake by Lisa McMann!

Alexa Young (Frenemies) guest blogged over at The Story Siren's blog. Incidentally, The Story Siren has three copies of Alexa's book, Frenemies, to give away. Go over there to find out details.

From The Corner of Megan's Mind (isn't the name a charming mouthful?) reviewed Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin.

Backtracking from last week, but Plenty of Paper reviewed I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert, a book I'm personally waiting very anxiously to read when it comes out.

And finally, we have some new bloggers on the block! Reading Mania and Jory & Jane Review are joining the ever-growing blog reviewer community.






Released this week...


Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (On Amazon)
“Ruby, where is your mother?”
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.
That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future—it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?


Nobody's Prize by Esther Friesner (On Amazon)
In this rousing sequel to Nobody’s Princess, young Helen of Sparta is not about to be left behind when her older brothers head off to join the quest for the Golden Fleece. Accompanied by her friend Milo, and disguised as a boy herself, Helen sets out to join the crew of heroes aboard the massive ship known as The Argo. Helen quickly faces all sorts of danger. Not only does she have to avoid her brothers’ detection, but a devastatingly handsome boy catches her eye, Hercules falls in love with her boy-self, there are battles to be faced, as well as a terrifying murderous princess and the start of her period. And that’s only the beginning! With her beauty blossoming, Helen’s journey takes her beyond the mythology of the Golden Fleece to Athens, where her very future as Queen of Sparta is threatened.


Off Campus: An Upper Class Novel by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne, and Caroline Says (On Amazon)

Back for her second year, Nikki Olivetti feels like she's finally finding her way at Wellington. And she's ready to show someone else the ropes, someone new, someone like Delia Breton, a transfer student from California with a dark past. Though Delia doesn't quite fit in anywhere, she knows how to have a good time everywhere.
But when the hunt for fun takes Nikki and Delia off campus, they find themselves in serious trouble. Even if they make it back, they might have forever ruined their chances of graduating to the upper class.


Coming to Reviewer X next week...

- A possibly negative review of a book I'm trying to get through right now. This saddens me.
- New feature that encompasses some of the reviewers.
- Umm, just book reviews, really. No exciting contests/events :(

Have a nice weekend everyone, and don't forget to drop by to see the winners and/or random posts I may put up! If there's one thing here on my blog that you can be sure of, it's that rarely does anything go according to the plan...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Win a Copy of The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance!


Want it? :)

Since I don't have time to judge any interactive contest, this one will be the simple post-comment-you're-entered type. So post a comment. And you're entered. Well, with the following exceptions:

1) Anynomous comments. You can do nickname/URL, but if the comment comes up as "Anynomous", it's automatically eliminated.
2) ... that's the only exception I can think of.

Moving on to how to up your chances:

1) Post a blog/bulletin/WHATEVER that spreads the word (and links to my blog), and link to it on your comment. Gets you an extra entry.
2) Told a friend? Great. Have 'em say so on the entering comment. (Make sure they use the name YOU entered with if you're doing this one.) Gets you an extra entry.

Please put your email address on the comment. Unless it can be easily found on your blogger profile/blog. This is so I can contact the winner. None of that contact-me-or-I-pick-a-new-winner nonsense--you win it, you get it. Though I'll have to get your address, so you will address, and if you don't, then we get a new winner. :)

Contest ends on Saturday at some time. You'll know it's over when you can't post comments anymore. Winners are picked on Sunday.

Get winning!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Author Interview: Catherine Ryan Hyde!

Here's the feature author interview for Author Week: Catherine Ryan Hyde!


About the Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author
of 11 published and forthcoming titles. Among those, Pay It Forward was made into a major motion picture, named an ALA Best Book For Young Adults, translated into 20 languages for distribution in over 30 countries, and also became a national bestseller. (And don't you dare watch the movie first. If you have, read the book, too!) Electric God is optioned for film and currently in development. Her latest releases are Becoming Chloe, Love In The Present Tense, The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, and Chasing Windmills. The Day I Killed James is due for publication in May 2008.

You can visit her online at http://www.cryanhyde.com/ or on her MySpace page.

On The Writing

Could you describe your road to publication?

The hardest thing I have ever accomplished. A real “dark night of the soul.” If I weren’t pathologically stubborn, I doubt I would have made it. I couldn’t get an agent for several years. They just weren’t interested. So I wrote short stories and marketed them myself. I got 122 rejections before I placed one. I eventually placed over 50. And racked up over 1,500 rejections.

Your book, Pay It Forward, has been made into a movie. And now I hear that you have another movie deal under wraps! How does it feel to have your books go to the big screen?

Not sure if I’d say it’s under wraps. It’s in development. I know they’re doing something with it, because they keep re-upping the option. But I’m not sure what exactly. I think a movie is under wraps when it comes to a theater near you. (Steph stands humbly corrected!)

It’s a very mixed experience. They never make the movie you would want, as the author. It hurts to watch them “Hollywood-ize” it. But it’s worth it for the recognition of your work.

How important is music to your writing? Any artists you want to give a shoutout to?

You know, I hate to admit this, but I almost never listen to music unless I’m driving. And then I go through phases. I’ll listen to nothing but Elvis Costello for a month. Then I’ll wear out my Counting Crows CDs. Sometimes it’s all REM all the time. I’m very obsessive, and will listen to the same song a dozen times in a row.

What makes a good writer?

In my estimation? Heart. A real knowledge—or even thirst for knowledge—about human nature. The human condition.

What's the most important lesson you've learned about the publishing industry?

That bigger is not always better. It’s not always best to have the biggest publisher or the biggest agent. It’s about who will understand the work, be enthusiastic about it. Give it their best.

What's the best thing about being a published writer? The worst?
The best? Making my own schedule. The worst? The way the publishing industry is breaking down. Tilting toward celebrity books and page-turners.

But even the worst things about being a writer are still high-class problems.

How long does it take for you to finish a story?

Depends on whether it’s cooperating. I can usually hammer out a first draft of a novel in about five months.

Of the books you've written, which is your favorite?

Becoming Chloe.

What's the biggest difference between writing for adults and writing for teens?

I’m no longer sure there is a difference. All of my YA novels (it seems) were originally written as adult and all my adult novels were originally written for YA. I can’t remember the last time I was right. The only difference I can see is that YA has a character and a story that a younger person will not find boring.

Tell us, does writing for young adults rock or what?

It so rocks.

On Self

What's your favorite place in the world?

The Grand Canyon. Below the rim.

What's your all-time favorite food?

I’d have to go with sushi.

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

Quit my day job to become a full-time writer.

What makes you laugh?

I Love Lucy. And sometimes the old, original Looney Tunes cartoons. I particularly like Pepe Le Pew. Also Jon Stewart makes me laugh.

If you were having a huge, fancy dinner party at your house and could invite any five people you wanted (dead or alive), who would they be and why?

Count Basie and Ruth Gordon. Because they had an inner goodness that shone through. They made me feel good just by being who they were. Albert Einstein. Because he possessed a knowledge that seemed to link science with God/Spirit. My old first spiritual teacher, Thane Walker. Because I know I would understand what he had to say much better now than I did thirty years ago. And my friend Jody, who took his own life in 2005. So I could ask him why.

What's your most treasured possession?

My dog, Ella. If she could be considered a possession. I don’t really see her that way. Actual material possessions, my little house by the ocean and my little motor home. Because they allow me to live the way I love to live.

(If anyone's wondering, Ella is, according to Catherine, "a weird little mix of Scotty/Chinese Crested".)

If you had to pick any other profession, what would it be?

There are other professions? Seriously, public speaking is fun and I could teach writing. But it’s all about writing for me.

What are your favorite movies and TV shows?

My favorite TV shows are The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Real Time with Bill Maher. I watch very little network stuff. Mostly cable.

Movies: Everything Is Illuminated, Stranger Than Fiction, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Little Miss Sunshine, Six Degrees of Separation, Harold and Maude.

What are you reading right now? How do you like it?

Teach Me by R.A. Nelson. I’ve pretty much just started. But I like it very much. The prose is sharp and intelligent, and boy, does he ever get inside the head of this teenage girl.

Complete the following sentences:

Flowers for Algernon is my favorite book because it gets you to spend time with someone you probably would not want to know in real life. And you end up loving him.

In a perfect world, people would say to me, “I haven’t seen the Pay It Forward movie yet…but I did read your book!”

Most people would be surprised to find out that I often go weeks—even months—at a time without working on my writing.

When I'm not writing, I spend as much time as I can outdoors.

My favorite fictional character is Jordy from Becoming Chloe.

I wouldn't be who I am today if it weren't for Lenny Horowitz, my high school English teacher. He told me I could write.

Now it's time for your creative side! Make yourself a question and answer it.

Q: What is your biggest consciousness-raising challenge about your own career?
A: The people who adore the Pay It Forward concept, preach it, share it, live by it, have seen the movie twelve times, but have never read the book. Or don’t even know there is one. I’m trying to spread this one simple sentence to as many ears as possible: “Did You know Pay It Forward started with a book?”

--

Thanks to Catherine for doing the interview and for participating as much as she did this week!

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we're having our first ever contest!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde + Book QnA

Author Week: Catherine Ryan Hyde is off to a great start! Here's the review for the second book I got to read by Catherine. Enjoy!

Summary
Cynnie takes care of herself—and more importantly, she takes care of her little brother, Bill. So it doesn't matter that her mom is drunk all the time. Cynnie's got her own life. Cynnie's the one Bill loves more than anyone. Cynnie's the real mother in the house. And if there's one thing she knows for sure, it's that she'll never, ever sink as low as her mother.

But when things start to fall apart, Cynnie needs a way to dull the pain.

Never say never.

This unflinching look at the power of addiction is the story of one girl's fall into darkness—and the strength, trust, and forgiveness it takes to climb back out again.

Grade: A+ - Read this book NOW!

Memorable Quotes:
"Wherever I went, it felt like the wrong place, and I needed to be somewhere else." (Page 51)

"I almost said I was never mad, I just sort of didn't care. But I didn't say it, because I started to know that it probably wasn't true. I was probably plenty mad without really knowing. And I probably did care. It takes me a long time, sometimes, to figure out how something is supposed to feel." (Page 164)

Review's up!
Everyone I've talked to about The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance seems to agree that Becoming Chloe sounds (and is, for those who have read both) better. I respectfully disagree. I loved Becoming Chloe, but this book spoke to me so much more personally.

When Cynnie grandparents take her three-year-old brother, Bill, away, leaving Cynnie to "make sure her mother is okay", Cynnie is miserable. To soothe the pain, she begins drinking. Even though she vowed never to become her alcoholic mother, Cynnie finds herself spiraling down a slippery slope and doesn't even realize it. When she's the cause of an accident that could've killed not only her, but her kid brother and one of her only friends, Cynnie is court-ordered to take the Alcoholics Anonymous program. And there, she begins facing and understanding all the damage she's caused.

Oh, where to begin, where to begin on saying how all-out fantastic this book was. The plot is dark, taking dips into abuse and vices, but the author doesn't try to make it easier to digest. Some parts had me going, "No! Don't do that, Cynnie!" But that's the thing--it got a reaction (and a big one, at that) out of me. I was incredibly invested in the story. Cynnie is a lost, broken, hurt, confused, cynical character who is just trying to do the best she can with her scant circumstances. She falls into the alcoholic abyss. She commits some godawful mistakes. Some of the choices she makes are downright stupid. It takes all the strength she has, and more, to climb out of the hole she dug for herself. And she does it! She does it for herself. Most importantly, she does it for her brother, who needs her.

Cynnie's strength is in all honesty amazing. She captivated me, and I don't know why, but I felt like I knew her and understood her (as much as I could, anyway) because of Catherine Ryan Hyde's stellar first-person portrayal of her.

This book just, I don't know, grabbed me and registered with me. It was very different from Becoming Chloe. Both were thought-provoking, but this one dug deeper in me. The writing here was still sharp as ever, but very introspective, because of the few people Cynnie allows herself to trust. The characters, even the secondary ones, were super well-developed and had not three, but four dimensions each. And best of all, the ending gave me hope for Cynnie. It wasn't too pessimistic or too optimistic--it was just right.

I wouldn't change a thing in this novel, and couldn't recommend it more. I can't say enough great things about Catherine Ryan Hyde, either. She's seriously an author to watch out for. If Becoming Chloe is in my list of top ten favorite books of all times, this is in the top five. I seriously challenge anyone to read it and see if it had the same effect on them.

I cannot wait to get started on the rest of Hyde's books!


Book QnA (with Catherine!)
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance?
A:
I'm a recovering alcoholic and addict. I'm sure that helped me come up with this. Though I was not a teenager when I found the program 19 years ago.

Q: This story was hard to read because it was so heartbreaking, feeling Cynnie's desperation. Was it hard to write about it, too?
A:
Not as much as you might think, because I knew where all her darkness was leading her.

Q: How did you do research for Cynnie's character?
A: The hard way, as mentioned earlier.

Q: What was your biggest motivation for writing this story?
A:
Probably to see if I could open more of a dialogue about alcohol and drug abuse among teens. So many teens are dealing with both their own abuse and often their parents' as well. I was hoping this might be a book that parents and teens could both read, maybe even read together, maybe even discuss.

Q: Do you think Snake and Cynnie have a future?
A:
In an earlier version, I had Cynnie telling her story at a speaker meeting. Talking from a grownup age. She said that she and Snake were together for a few years. That he was her first real boyfriend. And that he's married now and lives with his wife in (I forgot the name of the town I had them in) but that they still write. That's sort of the future I picture for them. Never entirely losing their bond.

Q: Where does Cynnie's strength come from? Moreover, do you think she's ultimately going to fully heal and stay sober?
A: I think that kind of strength is very common in kids who never really got to be kids. When you have to raise your brother and to some extent your mother as well, with no help from anyone, you find strength. You just grow it. Like a mother who picks up a car because her kid is trapped under it. Extraordinary trials tend to breed extraordinary strength.

I think Cynnie will stay sober, yes. And I think she'll gradually heal. I don't think anyone heals one hundred percent. That's where the concept of the "broken people" comes in. That's why I had Cynnie use that analogy of a cup that's been shattered and glued back together. It's never good as new and it might not look too pretty, but you can use it. That was a sort of nod to the reader regarding how much healing is realistic.

--

Well! I for one am still super thrilled this week is taking place, because these books are truly spectacular.

Reading Catherine's answers for the first (second, third, fourth, etc) time was equally fun. And tomorrow you get to know Catherine better yourself. Stay tuned for the author interview tomorrow!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde + Book QnA!

I'm VERY happy to announce that our first-ever Author Week features Catherine Ryan Hyde! If you haven't read my post with the story behind Author Week, please click here. If you did, then you'll know that Author Week was inspired by a certain book. Well, that book was Becoming Chloe! *applause*

Without further ado, I introduce you to the book that blew my mind!

Summary
Meet Jordy. He’s on his own in New York City. Nobody to depend on; nobody depending on him. And it’s been working fine.

Until this girl comes along. She’s 18 and blonde and pretty–her world should be perfect. But she’s seen things no one should ever see in their whole life–the kind of things that break a person. She doesn’t seem broken, though. She seems . . . innocent. Like she doesn’t know a whole lot. Only sometimes she does.

The one thing she knows for sure is that the world is an ugly place. Now her life may depend on Jordy proving her wrong. So they hit the road to discover the truth–and there’s no going back from what they find out.

Grade: A - Simply Because (Whoa)

Memorable Quotes:
"I miss one shovel motion, the way a heart will miss one beat worrying about something. I wonder if that heartbeat ever gets made up again. If we ever get that back." (Page 65.)

"Jut tonight I was feeling sorry for myself because all I had was somebody else's pickup truck. The whole time, the truck was actually mine. I just didn't know it yet." (Page 77.)

DEFINITELY Review Time!
This book is certainly unusual, far as the YA family goes. We have a gay male narrator, an incredibly fragile female main character, and distressing stakes. The mixture takes a lot of skill on the part of the writer to pull off--but it worked. Brilliantly so.

Jordy's in the Big Apple with no actual money or much of a plan. In the middle of the night, he hears some commotion outside between two people. Chalking it up as characteristic of the New York nightlife, he ignores them. Until he realizes it's a rape. And then he tries to help the girl. Chloe--as the girl comes to be called--turns out to be the turning point of his life.

The strong point of Becoming Chloe is its characters. Jordy is extremely well defined (the story is told from his perspective, after all). He's well aware that his life has no security, and while he focuses on maintaining the little stability he has, he's also scared. When Chloe comes along, Jordy is unsure of what he wants: to help her or not. Chloe's character is hard to decipher because you never understand what fully goes on inside her head. On one hand, she's got this terrible, literally unspeakable past that we never get to know in whole. On the other, her moods and attitudes change constantly in ways that are harmful to her and unpredictable to Jordy.

The quest in the novel is to show Chloe that the world is a beautiful place. It's hard for her to accept that--and to want to keep inhabiting it--with the knowledge she has of the ugly things. But Jordy, because he comes to care so much about her, understands she needs to see that this life is worth it. So they embark in a trip cross country, where they explore sites such as the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Niagara Falls, and find their perfections and flaws, big and small. And it's big enough to make Chloe come to her verdict--just not one anyone was expecting.

This book is wonderful for many reasons. The dynamics between the characters is unmatched in any other novel I've read, in that its so complex and unique. Like Catherine says in the Book QnA below, it's need-based, but I also think it somehow runs deeper than that. The writing, while rich in detail and imagery, is very tight and doesn't linger anywhere. The characters are well-rounded and distinct--I felt like I knew Chloe and Jordy, as much as possible, by the last page. The message is powerful and comes naturally (not to mention succinctly) through the development of the characters and their discoveries. (Oh, and I also thought the cover was amazing and fitting to the story as well!)

This book goes in my top ten favorite books of all times. It blew my mind. I challenge anyone to see if it has the same effect on them.

Book QnA (with Catherine!)
Q:
Where did you get the idea for Becoming Chloe?
A: Probably one of the harder ones to track. I just know it started with Jordy. He was a character I was able to "find" in my head, and he seemed to want to talk to me (sounds more like mental illness than it really is). He seemed to have a story he wanted to tell, and I just tried to be patient in letting it unfold. Now I can look back and note that I lived in New York at age 17 (on my own but not squatting in a cellar) and it really left a mark on me. And I can also see that I wrote this book at a time when I was questioning the unpredictablity of the world. Trying to love it even though it seemed so dangerous and harsh. But that's after the fact. At the time I just put down everything Jordy told me.

Q: Both Chloe and Jordy are both interesting, unpredictable characters. When you were writing them, did you ever get surprised at some choices they made or how they ended up?
A: Yes, I think my characters always surprise me. If they didn't, I would think I wasn't doing it right.

Q: Chloe and Jordy formed an interesting bond with one another, almost (if not) family-like. What do you think is the biggest factor that makes their relationship work? Do you think they will drift apart in time?
A: I think it was a very need-based relationship. Chloe needed somebody to look after her and Jordy responded. But then it turned out she had some things he needed, too. Like her simplicity, and her childlike view of things. I don't see them drifting apart because I don't think she would ever be totally okay on her own. But of course, after the last page, the reader is free to continue the story in whatever way s/he pleases.

Q: Have you been to all of the places mentioned in the book? Were any scenes or details drawn from real life?
A: I think with very few exceptions, those were all places I'd been. I hike the Grand Canyon fairly regularly. I love the Painted desert. I grew up near Niagara Falls. And, as I mentioned, I lived in New York when I was young. Despite being an avid hiker, I have never hiked up to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico. I put that together from trip reports I found online. Someday I may do that trip. Sign their names at the summit.

Q: What message do you hope readers take with them when they read this book?
A:
I'm not so much trying to convince people that the world is a beautiful place. Obviously, it's mixed. I think my point is that if you decide to see it differently, you can. And also that you can love your life unconditionally. You can love the world in spite of its faults. It's a choice we make, though I think sometimes we don't see it that way. Sometimes things seem more out of our control than they really are. In my opinion.


--

Author Week: Catherine Ryan Hyde is off to a great start!! Stay tuned tomorrow for the review of the second book I've got by her! Also stay tuned for the upcoming contest!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Novelist-Inspired New Feature On Reviewer X

Since I'll be inaugurating this new feature for the site tomorrow, I thought I'd explain a little of where it came from beforehand.

I was reading a certain book by a certain author (which book and which author I'm not saying, though you can come back tomorrow to find out) and I was struck at how great this book was. I love a lot of books, that I won't deny. But for books to all-out enamor as this one did, well, it takes a lot.

Incidentally, the author had sent me a second book to review. I readily grabbed it and began reading--and just...whoa. Here I have two books and an author on hand that I want to promote. Big time. Two reviews and an interview wouldn't be enough to express how amazing, stupendous, Jesus-Christ-Almighty-AWESOME they are.

Enter new idea: Author Week. A week where the blog functions to proclaiming the sheer brilliance of this author.

And it begins tomorrow. 2 reviews. 1 interview. 1 contest (which I'm producing, because I believe in and respect the author quite a lot).

Before there's any confusion:

The only difference between Author Weeks and single 10/10 reviews is lack of material. In this case, I had access to two books and to the author. With, for example, Looking for Alibrandi (another 10/10 review I did), I didn't have access to the author or to her other books. So, not enough material for a full week's worth of activities.

Alternatively, if I have, say, two or three books by author I love immensely, I might do an Author Week without an interview. It's possible. But it all goes back to material.

Anyway:

Authors: I'm so excited about this and now, more than ever, I'm looking for more books that have this effect on me. If you think your book might, dude (with all due respect), email me now.

Stay tuned this week for the first ever Author Week!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

First Ever Young Adult Weekly!

Sound the sirens! We have a new feature over at Reviewer X! :)

In my attempt to make this blog more than book reviews and author interviews, to make it more global YA, I will begin an exclusive weekly segment of new in the young adult realm, new releases, cool interviews or reviews on other blogs... Anything from the authors, anything from the reviewers, anything newly released--it all gets linked here.

Want you link added here? Email me at reviewerx (at) gmail.com!

Young Adult Weekly
Week of April 14-18 2008

Fr
om the authors...

Linda Gerber
continues the countdown until the release of her book, Death by Bikini, with a contest to win a signed copy of DbB!

Ally Carter blogs about 13 things that will be on the much anticipated Gallagher Girls 3 book.

Meg Cabot has a sneak peak of her next release, Airhead, up on her site.

Stephenie Meyer talks about going on the set of the upcoming Twilight movie.

Diana Rodriguez Wallach has a cold and is still working hard at her upcoming trilogy (Kensington, September 2008). Send her some noodle soup!

Lisa McMann gave a lovely and informative interview on Kelly Spitzer about the promotion she did for her New York Times bestselling novel, Wake. (Lisa will also be doing an interview here at Reviewer X, but that's still in the works!)

Gaby Triana's contest to win a free copy of her latest release, The Temptress Four, ends on Sunday! Enter while you can.

Jennifer Echols wants for you to come see her tomorrow, in Montgomery. R.A. Nelson does as well! For more information, go here.

Cheryl Kaye Tardif's Whale Song won the 2008 Book Cover of the Year award! (Whale Song will also be reviewed here on RX sometime...soonish.)

Scott Westerfeld talks about his upcoming works for 2008. He doesn't have any novels scheduled to be released, but he does have some short stories!



From the bloggers...

Reviewer X
(that's me!) reviewed The Squad: Killer Spirit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus!

The Page Flipper did a very fun interview with Meg Cabot! She is also sick and needs your warm thoughts! While over there, enter for a chance to win Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway and her April Prize pack!

The Story Siren celebrated her birthday this week with a contest! (Go wish her happy belated birthday!) Unfortunately, the contest is over, but Ambeen of Ravenous Reader Reviews (blog here) won a $20 Amazon giftcard!

The Compulsive Reader reviewed Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, a book which I'm personally dying to read!

Teen Book Review posted a review for a book by one of my FAVORITE authors, Melina Marchetta. The book is On The Jellicoe Road. Yes, it will also be reviewed here, but until then, check out Jocelyn's review!

The Ravenous Reader, aside from winning 20 big ones to Amazon.com (mentioned above), also reviewed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos.

Reader Rabbit reviewed Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, another book I'm dying to read!

And it seems there's an abundance of reviews for Airhead by Meg Cabot. Here's some: Reader Rabbit's, The Story Siren's, Teen Book Review's!

Hope's Bookshelf has a review for Elizabeth Scott's Perfect You--yet another book on my wishlist!

Shooting Stars Magazines is having a bunch of cool contests! Go there and claim your prize!


Released this week...


Fakie by Tony Varrato (On Amazon)
At first glance, Alex Miller seems like a typical teen — typical hair, typical clothes, typical hobbies. Look closer, and you'll see that his life is anything but typical — for Alex, fitting in has become a matter of life and death. The unfortunate witness to a murder, Alex can't forget the things he has seen, and neither can the man he helped put in jail. The Witness Relocation Program has changed the identities of Alex and his mother repeatedly, and they need to keep running to stay one step ahead of his enemies. His latest identity as a skateboarder in Virginia Beach is no easy ride — nosegrabs, ollies, and kickflips are all new to him. Alex has to catch on quickly to blend in — but the biggest trick he'll have to master is staying alive.



A Difficult Boy by M.P. Baker (On Amazon)
Riveting historical fiction from a debut novelist about the friendship that grows between two young indentured servants, one of them Irish, as they struggle to survive their harsh master in nineteenth century New England. It is 1839, Nine-year-old Ethan does not want to work for Mr. Lyman, the wealthy shopkeeper in their small Massachusetts' town. But Ethan has no choice--it is the only way to pay off his family's debt to the man. Ethan tries to befriend the Lymans' other indentured servant, but Daniel, as everyone says, is a difficult boy. Sixteen years old, Irish, and moody, Daniel brushes off Ethan as if he were a pesky gnat. Ethan resolves to ignore the brusque older boy, but is then shocked to see how cruelly Mr. Lyman's blows, and the two boys have only each other. Wil Ethan be able to save his friend? And will others finally have the courage to do what is right for this not-so-difficult boy?

Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer (On Amazon)
Allee Rosen is a lot of things: high school senior, overachiever, brain. The one thing Allee is not is supermodel material—at least that’s what she thinks until modeling scouts spot her and she moves to Miami to work with an elite modeling agency. Suddenly Allee is swept up?p in a whirlwind of designer labels, photo shoots, go-sees and some seriously backstabbing models. Will this fabulous new life go to her head? New author Debbie Reed Fischer offers readers a fresh, fun, and honest peek into the crazy and glamorous world of professional modeling.

Ninth Grade Slays by Heather Brewer (On Amazon)
High school totally bites when you’re half human, half vampire.

Freshman year sucks for Vlad Tod. Bullies still harass him. The photographer from the school newspaper is tailing him. And failing his studies could be deadly. A trip to Siberia gives “study abroad” a whole new meaning as Vlad connects with other vampires and advances his mind-control abilities, but will he return home with the skills to recognize a vampire slayer when he sees one? In this thrilling sequel to Eighth Grade Bites, Vlad must confront the secrets of the past and battle forces that once again threaten his life.


Confessions of a Three Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman (On Amazon) (Review forthcoming!)
Geena can’t wait to spend summer vacation with her two best girls: her friend Amber and her cousin Hero. All three are working at the Triple Shot Betty coffee shop together, but the moment Amber and Hero meet, the claws come out. They hate each other on sight. Geena’s dreams of a girl-bonding summer fl y out the window, and then threaten to disappear completely when a few cute (okay, drop-dead gorgeous) guys come along to woo the Bettys. But all is not what it seems, and in a story of mistaken identities, crazy summer high jinks, and enough romance to make Shakespeare proud, Geena and her friends learn that when Bettys unite, they can take on the most powerful force in their world: a hot guy.

Coming next week to Reviewer X...

- Brand new reviews over the weekend!
- A new feature on Monday that will be tons of fun.
- A new author interview
- A contest

--
Hope you guys liked this segment of Young Adult Weekly! It will be... well, weekly.

Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Summary

Kate Hollis's ex-boyfriend's face plasters newsstands and TV, the Internet and the multiplex. Jack Sharpe is one of the biggest recording stars on the planet, and every song he's famous for is about Kate. For over a decade his soundtrack has chased her--from the gym to the supermarket, from the dentist's office to the bars. Now thirty-year-old Kate gets the call that Jack has finally landed back in their hometown for an MTV special. The moment she has been waiting for--the chance to confront him and reclaim her past--has arrived. But she might just discover that the past she idealized was not as wonderful and romantic as she thought.


Grade: A - Loved It!

Little tidbit about this book:
Even though this is an adult book, there are many flashback scenes that go to the characters' childhoods which, I think, are likely to appeal to the YA audience. It's a great read, regardless--a bit chick-lit with its fun narrative, but with less indulgent sarcasm/inner snark and more character development.

Reviewreviewreview!
This book opens with the main character, Kate Hollis, waking up to a ringing phone in the middle of the night. Her friend Laura is calling to tell her Jake Sharpe is back in their hometown. Immediately, there's a whirlwind of action as Kate scurries off to the airport to catch the next fly out. And then she realizes she's being ridiculously frantic. But she can't help herself--she's been waiting for this chance for a decade.

I loved the urgency in the opening chapter. More often than not, I'm eased into a story, with a more-or-less uneventful beginning that picks up speed after a couple of chapters. With Dedication, though, I was grabbed in from the very first page. And that's when I knew I'd love this book. And, hey, I did.

The character development was great. This is where the alternating past and present chapters, when done well, can make all the difference. In this novel, it fit extremely well, in addition to controlling the pacing and giving the characters depth. The reader gets to see how the past affected the future and how the future is affected by the past. I admit, though, the flashbacks were more interesting to me because I'm a teenager and I could relate.

Oh, and the ending... I can't give that away here, but it was the most perfect ending. The authors really tied the story up in a full circle. It was masterful.

All in all, I liked Dedication better than The Nanny Diaries, because Kate had a backbone didn't cower away, whereas Nanny did and gave us no resolution to her story.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Squad: Killer Spirit by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Summary
Saying Toby Klein is an unlikely cheerleader is like saying Paris Hilton might be into guys–understatement of the year. But as a Bayport High cheerleader and an undercover government operative, she’s living a life that’s anything but typical. Being on the Squad has its benefits, but just as Toby is getting the hang of protocol and pep rallies, fate kicks things up a notch.

Grade: C+ // Well...

Note: They sent me Killer Spirit instead of Perfect Cover, so I haven't actually read the first book in this series. Killer Spirit did a good job of standing independently though, and I was able to follow the story pretty well. If you're interested in a review for the first book, my friend Reader Rabbit's got one up here.

Review time!
All right, first thing I'll say is this: If you're worried the spy/cheerleader mix might potentially induce the ick-factor, you've got nothing to worry about. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is pretty good at keeping cheerleading centric to the plot--it's the Squad's entire cover, let's not forget--but not the central point of the story. Roughly translated: it's not pep-squad overload.

However, I did have a couple of problems with the execution. The writing didn't, I think, match the plot. Jennifer Lynn Barnes' writing is too matter-of-fact and a touch too wordy. The middle of the novel sagged and got boring at parts. She's got a great voice, don't get me wrong, but for this particular premise, I thought a tighter, lighter style would've kept the book's flow going better.

The other problem I had was some of the characterization. Sometimes I was confused as to why the character was described one way and then went completely against that description. An example that comes to mind is when Brooke, who is depicted to be super in control of her emotions at all times, begins having to restrain herself from saying something stupid while being reprimanded by the Big Guys. We hear about how tough Brooke is, but at the first confrontation, she's barely able to contain herself. That bugged me.

Though I didn't fall in love with this novel, I still think it deserves 6/10. The writing was lovely (even if not perfect in tone for this story) and you can tell Jennifer Lynn Barnes has talent. I've only heard good things about Golden and Tattoo, so you know. I'll be checking those out sometime!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

** Edited from original review because I felt it wasn't as polished as it could be. **
Book Description

When Deanna's father catches her having sex in a car when she is 13, her life is drastically changed. Two years later, he still can't look her in the eye, and though Tommy is the only boy she's been with, she is branded the school slut. Her entire family watches her as though she is likely to sleep with anyone she sees, and Tommy still smirks at and torments her when she sees him. Her two best friends have recently begun dating, and Deanna feels like an intruder. She tries to maintain a close relationship with her older brother, but Darren and his girlfriend are struggling as teenage parents. Deanna learns to protect herself by becoming outwardly tough, but feels her isolation acutely. Her only outlet is her journal in which she writes the story of an anonymous girl who has the same experiences and feelings that she does.

(Taken from School Library Journal because I felt their summary made a stronger point than the publisher's.)

Grade: A- - Reflexive

Memorable Quotes:
"We all something we wish we could change, right?"

(Only one I'm posting because I feel it's central to the plot of the story. It's repeated several times throughout, thus no page number.)

The Review Zone!
Here's a book perfect for anyone who's done something they regret (and this is everyone).

A little question before I get started: What image of Deanna did you draw when you first read the book description? I pictured her as a gentle girl, mousy even, struggling to keep her act together. I mean, being with Tommy all those years ago was a humbling mistake, right?

No, not really. It was a hardening mistake. Deanna's degree of isolation, her confusion, the envy she feels for other people who don't have to deal with the past she's got--it all adds up to the rock-hard cold front she puts up. It's the only way she has of surviving the alienation and ostracism she still faces, three years after the fact. But no one is to be fooled--she's got a heartbreaking inside.

When the book opens, it's the summer before junior year and Deanna's looking for a job. She drops off applications at a few locations before coming to the conclusion that her chances of being hired at any of those places is near zero, on account of her reputation. So, she takes a rather undesirable job at a dingy pizza joint. This becomes monumental to the story because not only does the owner become one of the few people who accepts Deanna, but also because Tommy also works there. It's hell for Deanna at first--how could it not be?--but she bravely powers through it. The summer becomes one of change, where Deanna finally faces and tests everything in her life: her friendships, her relationship with her father, and her entire predicament. She learns valuable lessons, the most important of which is that she cannot let people keep defining her by one mistake.

This book is beautiful, with strong characters, tight writing, fast pacing, and a nice message. I'd recommend it to anyone--it's about time people saw the other side, the inside, of someone tormented by one-sided rumors. Dazzling debut. I'll be sure to read Sweethearts by Sara Zarr as well.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Author Interview: Jennifer Echols!

I'm very excited to introduce an author we here (okay, me here) at Reviewer X give a huge thumbs up to: Jennifer Echols!

Jennifer Echols has written two Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies, Major Crush, which won the National Readers Choice Award and the Aspen Gold Award, as well as The Boys Next Door (to see my review, click here.) Her next young adult book, Running to Stand Still, is scheduled to come out March 2009 from MTV books. She also has another Ro-Com under wraps scheduled to come out in 2009, titled The Ex-Games. You can visit her online at http://www.jennifer-echols.com/.

Now for the interview...

Reviewer X: How long have you been writing?

Jennifer Echols: As long as I can remember. My grandmother loved to write, and she encouraged me early.


RX: Where do you get your ideas from?

JE: Usually I'm inspired by real life. I was the first female drum major of my high school marching band, which was the spark of the idea for Major Crush. I grew up on a beautiful lake in Alabama, and that's what inspired The Boys Next Door.


RX: How important is music to you during the writing process? Any artists you would like to proclaim "awesome!" here on the blog?

JE: Very important! This morning I'm answering e-mail rather than writing because my iPod is charging. ;) I listen to all kinds of music, but my favorite band at the moment is Incubus--the deeper I delve into their backlist, the more awesome songs I find!


RX: What's the best thing about being a published writer?

JE: E-mail from readers! Usually they send it at night and I read it first thing when I wake up in the morning (early--4:30 a.m.), so it makes my day. I am constantly amazed that people would take the time to tell me they enjoy my books.


RX: The worst?

JE: Waiting. After you've spent an enormous amount of time writing a book and submitted it to a publishing house, it takes forever to find out whether they will publish it. Before I sold a book, published authors warned me this would not change after I got published, and that's true.


RX: What advice do you give to writers out there looking to get published?

JE: Write the book you want to read.


RX: Which authors have influenced you the most when it comes to your own writing?

JE: The queen of romantic comedy is Jane Austen.


RX: Now, for authors in the YA realm: who gets Jennifer hearts?

JE: Some YA novels I've particularly enjoyed recently are Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, and Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt.


RX: What're you reading right now? How do you like it?

JE: I'm about to start Breathe My Name by R. A. Nelson.


RX: The most important question ever: Does writing for teens rock or what?

JE: I can't imagine doing anything else. I feel very, very lucky.


RX: What are your favorite movies and TV shows?

JE: Here is where you discover that I don't get out much. The best movie I've rented in a long time was Superbad--I thought I was going to die laughing. As for TV, I'm an American Idol groupie. Other than that, mainly I have one eye on whatever my son is watching while I'm writing. Lots of Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs.


RX: Now you get to show us your creative self: Is there a question I didn't ask you that you would've liked to be asked? (Question and answer, please!)

JE:
Q: Do you have another job?
A: Yes, I work as a freelance copyeditor. I think it's important for readers and would-be writers to know that most novelists don't make their sole living as writers, at least not at first.

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Thanks to Jennifer for stopping by! Reviewer X hopes to interact more with this author in the future!