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Posts Tagged ‘Rainbow Rowell’

Book Jam Question:   Why read Young Adult Literature?

Answer from Beth Reynolds, Children’s Librarian, Norwich Public Library, and bookseller, The Norwich Bookstore:  

“It all comes down to is this: Labels don’t matter, good writing does.”

Outstanding children’s librarian Beth Reynolds (and someone we are also lucky to call a dear friend) offers some words of wisdom around the YA genre and some sure fire hits for all of us looking for a good book — young adults and adults alike. This is our first in what we hope will be a series of guest bloggers on the Book Jam. So now, please enjoy a posting by our first guest author — librarian extraordinaire, Ms. Beth!

Ask anyone who works with books and they can fill you in on what happens to be the latest internet drama over one book or another. There is always an uproar about some genre: Chick-lit, Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Romance etc… When a group of books gets categorized and labeled, readers of that genre are often dismissed for their tastes. As if what they’re reading isn’t good enough, as if it isn’t literary enough for the likes of critics or someone looking down from on high.

As someone who spends her weeks donning her librarian’s cap and weekends wearing her bookseller name-tag, I can tell you that it’s often possible for me to guess a reader’s preference when they walk through the door.(Again, this is Ms. Beth writing this post, so please don’t try to find the Book Jam Lisas working in either a bookstore or library, although we both frequent both.) After many years of experience, it is possible for me to make some predictions and assumptions–but it’s not foolproof. In fact, the best interactions I have are with readers interested in a book just because the topic interests them, because a friend suggested it, or because they heard an interview on the radio.


But truly, NOTHING makes me happier than an adult coming into the Young Adult section to get a book, not for a teen, but for themselves. Much ink has been spilt over this very controversy – adults who read YA. If you think adults reading YA are wasting their time or if reading in the teen section is not something you’ve ever considered, think about this:

  • The lines between adult fiction and YA are blurry — There is a large amount of crossover and sometimes a book that ends up classified in one section is often thought to belong in the other. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was published as YA here but as Adult in England, the opposite is true of Mark Haddon‘s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Take a look at the Alex awards for each years offerings of titles published as adult but of interest to teens; you could be reading YA and not even know it.

  • YA books remind us of what it was like being a teen — I admit to reading a fair amount of boy meets girl, or boy meets boy or girl meets girl. Something about the vulnerability mixed with the possibility and potential for more appeals to me. I love the ability of these teen characters to live in the moment and their willingness to take that risk. Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine that adults are ones doing the writing they manage to convey such honest teen emotions. Recently, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld and The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider became some of my favorites new books to recommend. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is being published in January and I hope everyone rushes out to read it.

  • There is often a shared feeling of experience among books in different genres — There are times when I read an adult book and I think “Hey, this feels just like book I read that was meant for younger readers. Somehow the author has managed to evoke that same essence”. Here are a few of my recent discoveries of superb pairings:

All the Light We Cannot See The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close = Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

Me Before You = Say What You Will

The Rosie Project = The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee 

  • There is more in the YA section then sex, drugs and gratuitous swearing — John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jennifer Smith, E Lockhart, Rainbow Rowell, Gayle Foreman… fabulous authors of realistic, contemporary fiction. Just kids, no fantasy or paranormal romance, with their honest emotions. There is a scene from Green’s The Fault in Our Stars when Hazel’s mom worries about losing her daughter, she questions whether or not she’ll be a mom anymore. To me that writing shows that divide for what it is: an aching, piercing line that divides, but one which we as adults can crossover to occasionally pretend that the world of choices after high school is still ahead of us. Many people say they wouldn’t go back again, but reading YA lets you relive some of the good parts.

The best part of reading YA is that these books are often told in the first person. The writer knows they have to grab the reader from the very beginning, so the first sentence often hooks you. Also, most books in this genre are not incredibly long and don’t require a huge time commitment. If nothing else, they are easily accessible but filled with thought-provoking ideas that linger after you finish reading. They contain multitudes– like some of the teens you know. Sometimes I read them in between other books, I think of them as palate cleansing. They take you out of your own head and that’s often why I read.

I ran into a mom and her teen-aged daughter the other day and we started reminiscing about the book club we had when our kids were in 4th grade. Wanting to invoke that feeling again, I asked if her daughter would be up for a Book Club when she went away to college next year and we started listing off fun titles to read. She asked if I had read When We Were Liars and I nodded my affirmation with a conspiratorial smile. Her mom looked intrigued and I thought, “Hey, my work here is done. Though my mission to have adults sample what YA has to offer still looms large”.  If you’re intrigued to find out more about adults reading YA, read on:


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Last week’s school vacation found us traveling the country with our families. And that meant we perused a few airport bookstores.

The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite and the Corruption of Our Great Universities faced us from the “featured books” table or shelf in most of these stores. Seeing that book over and over got us thinking. We then 1) remembered that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and 2) recognized that people all over the country, not just in elite colleges, are dealing with issues relating to sexual assault and the price of silence around these issues.

Then, since when we think, we think of books, we started thinking about books that have helped us think about sexual assault issues for an April post. So today, we highlight two GREAT books — and we really mean REALLY GREAT — that on some level deal with sexual abuse. Our pairing is a bit creative because sexual assault is not what we would say either of these books is about if you asked us to summarize their plots in a sentence or two. But, they both address the topic in some manner, and both are books we recommend as great reads.

Getting away from the fiction, we want to link to our superb local resource on these issues – WISE. We also encourage anyone reading this post to learn about sexual assault resources wherever you reside and read. Because as we recently learned, victims are closer to most of us than we realize.


Now, without further ado we say — whether you want to think about the important topic of sexual assault prevention or not — please read these two AMAZING novels (the second one is targeted towards young adults). We promise you will not regret a minute of the time you spend flipping their pages (electronic or paper).

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (2013) – A truly, truly, truly amazing debut novel about the pain and suffering inflicted during the Chechen conflict(s) and the power of love. From the opening pages describing the abduction and disappearance of a man from his home, Mr. Marra connects the lives of eight unforgettable characters – the daughter of the abducted man, the father of a despised informant, a doctor trying to hold together a hospital with only three staff members – in unexpected ways. With incredible writing and gifted storytelling, this is a superb read. I honestly can not praise it enough.

How does this book fit today’s theme? Without giving too much away, one of the characters falls victim to human trafficking as she tries to escape the war. This causes reflection on abuse of women during conflicts of all sizes. ~ Lisa Christie (seconded by Lisa Cadow)

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013) – Set during one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits — both from the wrong side of the tracks and smart enough to know that first love rarely, if ever, lasts, but willing to risk love anyway. When Park meets Eleanor, you’ll remember your own high school years, riding the school bus, any time you tried to fit in while figuring out who you were, and ultimately your first love.  I also truly believe, that when the book ends, you will think hard about children from the “other side of the tracks” and those from family situations that are less than ideal.

How does this fit with our theme?  One of the characters is abused by a family member. Again, this abuse not what the book is about, but rather an important plot line that makes you think about domestic abuse and how it hides. ~ Lisa Christie

 

 

 

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On a chilly November evening one week before Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, readers from Norwich, Vermont gathered to hear about some superb new books to give this holiday season (even if only to give to oneself).

This evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”.  This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, public librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles. This time, we gathered at the Norwich Inn, sipped drinks, and turned pages, all with the goal of raising money for the Norwich Public Library.  This time we focused on GREAT books for holiday gift giving.  Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their holiday shopping during the event, and most got a good start on checking off their lists.  And, we raised over $1,000 for our superb local library while increasing sales for our treasured independent bookstore.
This post lists all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter.  (Yes, we again limited the presenters to six words so we would not run out of room in this post, and they creatively rose to the challenge.) Each of their selections is linked to the Norwich Bookstore’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier.  Have fun looking, and enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished early from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone.

Our superb presenters included:

  • Lucinda WalkerLucinda has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library for 11 ½ happy years.  Her journey to librarianship began at the Windsor Public Library, where she spent many a long Saturday afternoon in their children’s room. When she’s not wrangling 7th graders at NPL, she loves skiing, making chocolate chip cookies and dancing with her family.
  • Penny McConnel – Penny has been selling books for 30 years and cannot imagine doing anything else.  She lives in Norwich with her husband Jim, a retired dentist.  When not reading or selling books, Penny can be found cooking, in her garden, singing and for two months in the winter enjoying life with Jim in California.
  • Stephanie McCaull – Stephanie’s most recent reincarnation is a book-devouring, nature-loving, dinner-making, stay-at-home, but rarely-at-home-mom to two kids and two dogs, but with a husband Philip to help. She lives in Norwich and loves daily crosswords, monitoring peregrine falcons and endless walks in the woods.
  • Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog.  Previously, she was the Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and Everybody Wins! USA, literacy programs that help children love books.  She currently works as a blogger, non-profit consultant and occasional bookseller. She lives in Norwich with her husband Chris, two sons & a very large dog.
  • Lisa Cadow – Lisa, co-founder and co-blogger of The Book Jam was our emcee for the evening. She is also the founder of Vermont Crepe & Waffle and the food blog Fork on the Road. She works as a health coach for Dartmouth Health Connect. She lives in Norwich with her husband, three teens, three cats and an energetic border collie.

COOKBOOKS: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO COOK UP A CULINARY SNOW STORM

 

Dinner: A love story by Jenny Rosenstrach. Selected by Stephanie – “Go-to” recipes +humorous narration = family winner.

Notes From The Larder by Nigel Slater. Selected by Penny – Readable Cook Drool Eat Classy Creative.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE

  

   

Reader’s Book of Days by Tom Nissley. Selected by Lucinda – An essential for all book lovers.

One Summer, America 1927 by Bill Bryson. Selected by Penny – Aviation, Politics, Baseball, Weather, History, Geology.

Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Penny – Beautiful. Children, adults explore illustrated geography.

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. Selected by Stephanie – Poetry. Dogs. Love. Perfect for gifting.

Shakespeare’s Restless World by Neil MacGregor. Selected by Lisa – Museum Director explains Elizabethan objects. Insightful.

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylander. Selected by Lisa – Great illustrations. Funny, yet reverent. Gift!

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION  

 

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Selected by Lucinda – She’s born. Lives. Dies. Lives. Ectera.

Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth GIlbert. Selected by Penny – Desire, Adventure, Compelling, Botany, 18th Century.

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH, BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

  

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Selected by Lucinda – Suspenseful mystery surrounds a reclusive director.

Solo: A James Bond Novel by William Boyd. Selected by Lisa – It’s Bond. Read it. Have Fun.                                         

Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Penny – Historic fiction. Ireland. Didn’t want to end.

ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE 

   

Benediction by Kent Haruf. Selected by Lisa – Slow-paced. Gorgeous prose. Great characters.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Selected by Stephanie – Lagos-NJ-London. Savvy immigrant perspective. Surprising. Engrossing.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. Selected by Lucinda – Coming-of-age & quirky. Highly entertaining!

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Stephanie – Crayons creatively air grievances. Giggles abound.

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS (AGES 8-12): THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS      

Wonder by RJ Palacio. Selected by Stephanie – Ordinary inside/extraordinary outside. Inspiring. Real.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION — FOR TEENS /TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM      

                             

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Selected by Lucinda – It’s 1986. Misfits, comics & love.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. Selected by Lisa – WWII Women Pilots. Concentration Camp. Important.

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Next month, Catching Fire – part two of the Hunger Games trilogy debuts in movie form; The Fault In Our Stars is being filmed and/or edited as we write this.  Divergent will be a movie before we know it.  These movie versions of books have us thinking about terrific young adult fiction.  And when we think, we tend to read.  So today we thought we would highlight some great young adult books that have not yet made it to the big screen.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (2013) – This novel offers a great way to think about fate and choices.  Plus, this has one of the most memorable opening chapter events of any book I have ever read.  If you continue past chapter one you will: 1) Get to know Ezra – the golden boy of his high school until a car accident ends his star tennis career.  2) Get to know Toby – a boy ostracized by his classmates ever since being the innocent victim of the horrific event in chapter one.  3) Meet Cassidy – the new girl in town with a huge secret that sets her apart.  4) Start to believe Ezra is right when he states that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them.  Yes, Ezra believes each life has a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen In other words, an event that is “the beginning of everything”. ~ Lisa Christie

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012) – OK, I lost sleep reading this one; I could not put it down.  It has young women heroines, WWII history, a glimpse into life in England and France, spies, and Nazis.  Pick it up and be prepared to spend a day reading. Note: This review is short as it is hard to review this book without giving away too much plot; and, surprise is important with this book. ~ Lisa Christie

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (September 2013) – I am not sure how the award winning author of Code Name Verity endured the research for this book.  She must have just kept thinking it was so much worse for the actual prisoners. But in this book, she takes on the German concentration camps, specifically Ravensbruck.  Ravensbruck is where her heroine Rose, an American ATA pilot, ends up after being overtaken by two German fighter planes.  What happens to her there is unthinkable; what she witnesses is worse.  But somehow, while this book caused me to cry quietly throughout, and then sustainably at the end, the message is one of hope, survival, and bearing witness so that the horrible, horrible things that happened in Ravensbruck, never occur again.  May all world leaders read this and govern accordingly.  But in the meantime, get this book in the hands of your favorite future world leader and yourself. (And yes, a few characters from Code Name Verity play a part, but mostly this is the tale of Rose and her fellow prisoners.) ~ Lisa Christie

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013) – Set during one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits — both from the “wrong side of the tracks” and smart enough to know that first love rarely, if ever, lasts, but willing to try anyway.  When you watch as Park meets Eleanor, you’ll remember your own high school years, riding the school bus, any time you tried to fit in while figuring out who you were, and your own first love.  I also truly believe that when the book ends you will think hard about children from the “other side of the tracks” and from family situations that are less than ideal. ~ Lisa Christie

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Ahhh, it’s time for summer camping and summer camps.  Whether your kids are going away by themselves or camping with the family, all kids will have more hours to read for pleasure during the brief weeks we call summer vacation.  To help you find the right books for your “campers”, we have selected our annual summer book picks for kids.  And no matter what your kids are doing, or whether you even have kids yourself, you might want to pick up one or two for yourself.  Enjoy!

Younger Campers

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill (June 2013)  – Fans of the Little House series are going to love this tale of Bo – an orphan adopted by two tough miners in 1920s Alaska.  The illustrations perfectly show both her exuberance and the wide variety of characters who inhabit a hard scrabble mining town in the Alaskan Bush. The prose is delightful as readers learn about mining camps, the hazards of Grizzlies, fourth of July celebrations and how Eskimos, Swedes, Finns, Russians, Creoles and others all mix together to form a town and many extended families.

The Expeditioners by Sarah Stewart Taylor (2012) – We have mentioned this before, but now it is a pick for Vermont’s prestigious DCF award for children’s literature, so we include it again here. This book introduces us to Kit the brain, M.K. the tinkerer, and Zander the brave — three siblings trying to figure out what happened to their father, an acclaimed explorer gone missing, and presumed dead.  Their other problem?  As they work to find their dad, evil government employees are after them.

The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen (2013) – The second book in Ms. Nielsen’s Ascendance trilogy, this time Jaron is the legitimate King with enemies all around.  Who can he trust?  What happened to his dearest friend and who is trying to kill him this time?  A truly satisfying installment in this series. The first book – The False Prince is in paperback now, and will cost less to mail if your kids have not yet started this trilogy.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012)I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” says August Pullman, a boy born with a facial deformity that has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Finally starting 5th grade at a prep school, he wants nothing more than to be treated as ordinary.  However, his classmates can’t quite let that happen.  The novel starts from August’s point of view, but switches to many others. The characters emerge changed, and you will too.

The Apprentices by Maile Meloy (June 2013)  – This second installment in Ms. Meloy’s Apothecary series takes up where book one left off, with Jane, Benjamin and Pip all having gone their separate ways. Pip stars in a BBC production; Jane is back in the USA with her parents attending boarding school in NH; and Benjamin is traveling with his apothecary father trying to contain the atom bomb, stalled in 1950s Asia.  What this book does well is bringing Cold War history to life, and creating characters readers care about.  Pre-teen readers will also like the romantic complications that occur as the trio reunites to stop evil from taking over the world.  As with Ms. Nielsen’s series, the first book in this exciting trilogy – Apothecary – is in paperback now.

Older Campers/Young Adults

 

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2011) – I finally got around to reading this young adult novel because my niece had it at the beach.  And, while it is impossible to read this without thinking about The Hunger Games, or (as my sister said) without reading it while simultaneously casting the movie in your head, anyone who misses the novelty of The Hunger Games will love this dystopian series, with its heroine Beatrice and her friends Will, Christina and Tobias.

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum (28 May 2013)  – I really need to remember to look to the PEN/Bellwether prize winners for socially engaged fiction whenever I need a good plot with great writing.  Alternating chapters and narrative voices, this latest winner looks at a “home” for kids with disabilities and their caregivers and their daily lives.  Throughout, you see their dreams and relationships blossom, fall apart and reconstruct.  The author use wry wit and humor to create memorable characters who live on in your head long after you finish reading the last page.  Billed as a young adult novel, adults will love it too.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013) – Set during one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits — both from he wrong side of the tracks and smart enough to know that first love rarely, if ever, lasts, but willing to try anyway. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own high school years, riding the school bus, any time you tried to fit in while figuring out who you were and your first love.  I truly believe that when the book ends you will think hard about children from the “other side of the tracks” and from family situations that are less than ideal.

Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl  (2009) – A gothic romance series for teens.  Lena Duchannes arrives in Gatlin, South Carolina making a statement with her clothes and the fact she lives with her extremely eccentric uncle (think To Kill A Mockingbird’s Boo Radley).  She also is dreading her 16th birthday for a variety of reasons.  Ethan Wate, born and bred in Gatlin, is from a family so established he does not have to worry about fitting in, he worries about getting out.  When they discover the voices they have been hearing in their respective heads are each others, a connection is formed and they work to change Lena’s fate.  Bonus — if you like this book, there are many others in this series.

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