Posts Tagged ‘YA literature’

I am behind on everything.

Even though I’ve been swamped with work, writing, and life, I somehow made time to read 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Mmm-hmmm. It’s that good. Gorgeously written in a hypnotic don’t-go-anywhere kind of way.

One problem with reading a lot – and writing -and talking about writing – and thinking and talking about plot – is that it’s really hard to be surprised by a book.

This one surprised me.

From goodreads:

17 and GoneSeventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.

With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.

It’s not what you think. It’s better.

The writing is amazing and magical. The story is captivating, compelling, and surprising. The things that it made me think of  and realize, the reminder of the real world beyond the book, that made my heart ache.

Head and heart literature, my favorite kind.

Highly recommended.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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I finally read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. I’ll be honest, I resisted this one for a while. Despite the buzz, the praises, the raves, the Love with a capital L, the fact that I loved her other books (Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Everybody Sees the Ants), I just wasn’t picking it up.

Then my friend Tam reviewed Ask the Passengers for Bookbrowse and I caved.

I’m so glad I did.

The official description:

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.

As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.

In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to questioneverything–and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.

My thoughts:

  • As someone who was transplanted to a small town in 7th grade and went to another small town for college, the small town setting felt real. It’s hard to be “different” anywhere, but it seems to me it’s especially hard to hide in a small town. I wasn’t especially different in any glaring way, but I sure felt watched. And I saw others suffer the burden of their different-ness. 
  • I ached for Astrid as she struggled with the idea of falling in love. First loves are tricky and confusing and exhilarating – regardless of the who or what gender. It’s not easy to know what to do, how to act, who to tell ~ and then throw in the fact that some people will hate you for who you love, well, that’s tough stuff. Personally, I loved how her falling in love felt so familiar.
  • And, I loved how we are reminded that love is separate from physicality. Even though Astrid realizes she’s in love – she’s not ready for sexual intimacy. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with the fact that those explorations are nerve-wracking and awkward. Those moments are huge and kind of scary. That’s what is captured here so beautifully.
  • Astrid has a habit of sending her love out into the world. Specifically, to the airplanes that fly overhead. This idea sounded kind of hokey to me and, quite honestly, was one of the reasons for my resistance towards this book. Figures it became one of my favorite parts of the book. After Astrid sends her love and questions out to the universe, we read a short interlude in the perspective of the person in the airplane – who “received” her message. These vignettes serve  as peeks into other lives and other kinds of love. They are amazing, trust me.
  • I also loved how we see so much of Astrid’s life – beyond falling in love. We get to know her (kind of messed up) family, her best friend, her work place and co-workers, her school – it’s a wide wide lens, yet lots of close-ups. The world is so real.

Okay. Now go read a fantastic interview with A.S. King (do you see how her name spells “asking” – ? !) on Tam and Sharry’s blog, Kissing the Earth.

And for those who are working on the craft of writing books for young people – I find this very very interesting. As read on Bookbrowse’s Beyond the Book exploration, A.S. King did not go to school for writing. Instead (edited for length):

She began writing after she spent six straight months reading a book a day. … Fifteen years and seven novels after she sat down at that typewriter, she got her first book published.”


Sarah Wones Tomp


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People are people.

That’s why certain universal truths ring true regardless of geographic or historical placement. But, of course, there are also many cultural customs and norms that vary from place to place, time to time.

And then there are the particular cultural customs that define a particular group – within the very same larger culture. Groups like sports teams, academic focus groups, hobbies all form their own rules, lingo and customs.

One of the fabulous things about being a parent is being introduced to new group cultures. I never would have known about the habits and rules of competitive divers. Or gymnasts. The superstitions of baseball players – and dugout antics. Having my sons participate in Boy Scouts helped me to understand what about this organization appealed to my father – why he stayed involved when my brothers lost interest. And why it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Same for Girl Scouts – something I never participated in as a girl. Peripherally, through their friends, I’ve gotten a peek into lots of other group cultures too. (My SBB may soon tell you about one she’s learning about.)

Books, too, help us to understand groups we don’t physically participate in. I’m only mid-way through Dare Me by Megan Abbott, but I’m fascinated by her chilling portrayal of cheer team culture. My daughter was briefly a cheerleader but it didn’t own her like it does for these girls.

Scary stuff! Emotionally and physically. They’re working hard to be the best. It’s teen girls under the influence of a charismatic coach. And beautifully, painfully written.

From Chapter 1:

After a game, it takes a half hour under the showerhead to get all the hairspray out, To peel off all the sequins. To dig out that last bobby pin nestled deep in your hair.

Sometimes you stand under the hot gush for so long, looking at your body, counting every bruise. Touching every tender place. Watching the swirl at your feet, the glitter spinning. Like a mermaid shedding her scales. 

After, you stand in front of the steaming mirror, the fuschia streaks gone, the lashes unsparkled. And it’s just you there, and you look like no one you’ve ever seen before.

You don’t look like anybody at all. 

Later, there’s this explanation for the team:

By day, we walk as if in a force field, surrounded only by one another–our great colored swirl of cheerness. It is not aloofness, superiority. It’s a protection. Who in this ravaged battlefield doesn’t want to gather close her comrades?

Amazing stuff here. Oh so worrisome. They are ALL headed for a big tumble, I can feel the ground shaking.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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Right here and now, my hubby is perfect (for me). I love my three children more than my teen self would have ever thought possible. Luna is the best dog ever. I have friends I adore. Life is good.

On my recent visit to my mother, I had the chance to look through my old high school yearbooks.

Perhaps I’m an odd one – I loved high school. Looking back, I cringe a bit. As a mother, I frown disapprovingly. I made all kinds of mistakes and messes. There are plenty of moments I prefer not to dwell on. Moments I wouldn’t mind taking back and re-doing. But, at the same time, some of those moments are the ones that shaped me. The ones that made a difference.

I’m looking forward to reading a new anthology: Dear Teen Me. Over 70 YA authors give advice to their teen selves. I’m sure it will be entertaining. And enlightening to see what sort of experiences influence the books. Those experiences – especially the cringe-worthy ones are the reason we have something to say.

If you knew the future, would you try to change it?

Just finished reading The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler.

Book jacket description:

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long – at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. And they’re looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right – and wrong – in the present.

It’s an interesting premise wrapped around a sweet simple story of friendship and love. Good one for discussion.

I’m too grateful and too superstitious to want to change my teen years – so carry on, messy me. But, you’re lucky to be alive.

Sarah Wones Tomp


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