Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Choker-- a Virginia Reader's Choice nominee in the high school category for 2013-2014

Choker, by Elizabeth Woods, is the story of friendship gone wrong... one friend getting a little too possessive of another friend.  Plenty of creepiness and suspense:  if you've seen the movie The Roommate, you know what you're in for.

Cara and Zoe were best friends when they were younger, until Cara's family moved away in fifth grade.  Now 17, Cara comes home from track practice one day to find that Zoe is in her bedroom, on the run from a troubled situation at home involving her stepdad.  Cara agrees to hide her, and at first it's great to renew their friendship.  Cara has tried over the past several years to stay out of the way of the popular girls at school, especially Alexis and Sydney, who make fun of her, and having Zoe around bolsters her self-esteem.  But then Sydney dies-- an apparent accidental drowning in the pool.  And not too soon after, Alexis disappears.  Cara feels more and more uncomfortable around Zoe, who vacillates between wanting to help Cara become more popular and resenting the time Cara spends with anyone other than herself.  As Zoe's behavior becomes more and more bizarre and possessive, Cara becomes convinced that her old friend knows more about what happened to Sydney and Alexis than she's letting on.  This dark roller-coaster of a story will have readers grabbing their seats as they race to the finish... with a surprise loop-de-loop at the end.

Thoughts on Lauren Myracle's The Infinite Moment of Us

Just finished The Infinite Moment of Us
Lauren Myracle tends to write humorously and poignantly and in a way that makes you sit up and pay attention. I loved Shine, and the several that she wrote before that one-- Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks and all those other kind-of-lighthearted-but-kind-of-not stories that show how well she gets teens. That's why reading this one was a disappointment on several levels. Wren and Charlie are two-dimensional characters whose dialog sounds like a scripted after-school special. Wren's BFF Tessa and Tessa's boyfriend P.G. (who goes from being a sleezy pick-up artist to the best boyfriend of all time in 30 seconds flat) are both too good to be true. And Myracle's kind of in-your-face insistence on including a couple of fairly graphic sex scenes gave me the impression that she was trying to create a more contemporary Forever. I probably would have found the sex scenes less gratuitous and more important to the story development if Wren wasn't SO blushing and giggly every time Charlie looked at her.
Not a terrible story... but not what we've come to expect from this author.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The World According to Hey-Soos

One of my favorite things about Deadline was the interplay between main character Ben and a figure he starts meeting in his dreams around the time that he is diagnosed: Hey-Soos.  When he tells his therapist Marla about Hey-Soos, she has this to say:  "You're aware that H-e-y-s-o-o-s in Spanish is spelled J-e-s-u-s."  To which Ben replies, "I am aware of that, but I'm pretty sure he spells it this way.  I mean, he didn't say that, but in the dream, I know it." 
Ben's response to what Hey-Soos looks like?  "Like he should be pronouncing his name the other way.  You know, sandals, bathrobe, got that hippie thing going.  Dark, could be Mid-Eastern or Latino.  Definitely a guy who gets harassed by Homeland Security."
And whoever Hey-Soos is, he's got some solid wisdom to impart to Ben.  You'll have to read the book yourself to get the specifics, but my man Chris Crutcher is a pretty amazing guy to have created this character who helps Ben slowly get his act together.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Finishing up thoughts on Deadline and The Fault in Our Stars

Finished reading (or listening to) Deadline.  Here's my two cents from my Goodreads review:

I listened to the audio version of this story at roughly the same time that I was re-reading
The Fault in Our Stars. Both involve main characters dealing with terminal illnesses, and both are quite brilliantly written, weaving substance in with a variety of emotions and plenty of humor. I do think that Crutcher pulls back from the more painful emotions toward the end, making the last couple of chapters come across as somewhat glib. Nonetheless, Ben Wolf's quest for knowledge and truth will resonate with teens.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Main characters with an incurable disease

Tell someone you're reading a great book about a character who has just found out he or she is dying of an incurable disease, and your friend may think you're a glutton for punishment.  But some of these books are among the most life-affirming and lively that I've ever read.  I'm currently reading two:  John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and Chris Crutcher's DeadlineThe Fault in Our Stars is actually a re-read since my adult book club is discussing it at this month's meeting and it's been a while since I read it.    It's been good to reacquaint myself with Hazel and Augustus.  And as I'm listening to a great audio production of Deadline, I've decided that Ben Wolf may be my favorite Chris Crutcher protagonist ever.  The thing about both of these books-- and so many others that follow a similar vein-- is that the characters so fully embrace the time they have left.  They've taken the knowledge of their illness and made the decision to make each moment count.  Sure, the story is likely to have some tears by the end as you've gotten to know the characters... but if you avoid these two, you're missing some great humor and truly compelling storytelling from two masters.