It's been a very long absence. I've been MIA. I've just graduated from college (thank god!) and now I feel I finally have time to read and to write what I want, which is awesome.
So the (good, or bad) news is I'm starting a new blog. I've tried to revive this blog a bunch of times and I think I need to let it RIP. So RIP, 'lil blog. I've written an introductory post over at my new blog, The Ruminatarium, which will also be mostly about books, but not as much about YA.
It was so great blogging here. I'm a little sad to be officially signing off from In Which a Girl Reads, though I'm sure it's already pretty obvious that this blog actually died a few years ago. If you're reading this now, thanks for sticking with me until the very end. I've really appreciated your comments and your time. If you'd like to follow me over at my new blog that'd be lovely, but if it seems like it's not your thing, no hard feelings :) I wish you all the best!
Okay, I have to admit, my comeback so far has been kinda lackluster.
But, I am really going to be blogging pretty consistently (I hope) over the next four months. I'm going abroad in the fall, and it seems a good idea to keep a journal of sorts. Therefore this new blog I've started is primarily a study abroad blog, where I'll be posting about any adventures I might have (though to be fair, even though I'll be living in another country I think I'll still manage to live a pretty uneventful life, as I always do).
It will be much more personal. I haven't posted there enough to know exactly what form the blog will take; but generally I'm thinking posts will be about my life or thoughts (in contrast to posts here, which are supposed to be my thoughts only about reading and words). It will definitely have a much smaller audience than this blog, primarily composed of friends or family.
I know some of you have said you'd like to be updated on things, even if I'm not writing on topics normally featured on this blog. Because it will be so personal and will have more identifying info than here, I don't really want to leave the link out here for any random person who happened to this blog on accident to click. I have a short form below, just asking for your email and name. I'll email you the address of my blog if you submit the form.
Before you fill anything out: I would like to stress that just because you follow/read this blog, it doesn't mean you'll be interested in this other blog. Please, make sure that you won't be disappointed or irritated to find this other blog not to your interest, or not up to your expectations.
So I expect the overlap between readers of this blog and readers of the new blog will probably be only a handful of people. But I figure there are some people who follow here who would be really nice friends to have, and who I would not like to lose a chance to connect with, since internet buddies are just as important as real life friends.
Oh, another thing: somehow the google friend connect on this new blog I've started is already broken, and seemingly irreparably? (bad blogger! bad google!). So it'll probably be a pain to be updated unless you have an rss feeder or psychic powers haha.
If you decide to not fill out the form, I wish you the very best for the rest of 2013 and beyond. I hope you find lots and lots of lovely books to put on your shelves and have hot chocolate or coffee whenever you want and have fluffy puppies or kittens serenade you to incomparably sweet dreams etc.
It's been exactly a month since I've written that "rash" post. I really should stop writing posts about posting. Anyway, I've been sitting on a review that I wrote a while back but never posted here. And I figure why not post it here, even if it's kinda convoluted. I just...love...Frances Hardinge? Like I want to be her best friend and read everything she ever writes, and sort of brandish her books at people and smack them on their lil heads until they read them *cough.* We need more Hardinge love around here, is what I meant.
The main character of A FACE LIKE GLASS, Neverfell, lives and works in the cheese tunnels of
the underground city of Caverna. This city is home to masters of craft who make all sort of intricate and exquisite goods and wonders: wine, cheese, chocolate, and desserts. Some of these concoctions are so special they have magic properties. [*Cue Snape’s intonations from Potions Class voice here*]: there are cheeses that can bring back memories, wines that can make you forget, jellies imbued with the song of birds, and perfumes which sway your emotions.
Neverfell is pretty happy and innocent and lollops* all over the place and is clumsy and can’t keep still and is pretty likable because she is kind of like a puppy with too-big paws and a too-big tail. She's an apprentice to Grandible who is a Master cheesemaker, so she's got some serious skills with cheese. But she’s not allowed to go outside and has to wear a velvet mask on her face if she answers the door. There aren’t mirrors around, so she just assumes there’s something wrong with her face (such as hideousness)**. She longs to visit outside. She was discovered wandering around the cheese tunnels when she was 5 and that’s how she became an apprentice, but hasn’t left the tunnels since.
The city of Caverna is special in quite a few ways, and that includes its people: they’re born without the ability for fluid expression. Instead, they have to be taught Faces, so a whole system has arisen, a market if you will— sort of the equivalent of fashion or fads or 18th century wigs or etiquette— where Facemakers teach you appropriate faces for each occasion. It’s become an art, the arrangement of a face. Most people have a range of hundreds of faces to express what they’re feeling; they’re numbered and titled sort of like haikus would be. I imagined them to be the equivalent of a slideshow— a succession of still, rippling photos (if regular facial expressions are fluid and like a movie).
You can imagine the kind of deceit possible with these Faces, and the difficulty of knowing someone if they can wear a kindly face all the time when they’re really actually mean, or look innocent when they’re really guilty. Everyone is prey; everyone can manipulate. This idea of Faces fits in perfectly into the world of Caverna which is full of schemers who have lived far too long and are all vying for control and power in the deadly Court.
Of course, Neverfell manages to get out of the isolated cheese tunnels (in a Alice-in-Wonderland tradition, she follows a rabbit) and from then on, she’s irreparably out in the wild and the world. She realizes the reason she has to wear a mask and hasn’t been let outside: she’s the only one in Caverna who has a face with live expressions. Any one who looks at her instantly knows she doesn’t belong and is an oddity. She's also unable to lie with such an expressive face. Since she’s been so sheltered and is so completely trusting, she becomes the newest pawn in the wiles and games of the Court, peopled by the heads of clans (who make the True Goods like the wines and chocolates). It really is deadly: you can show up to a feast and expect a number of creative assassination attempts in between each sumptuous course, and that's all part of the fun.
The Grand Steward oversees this court. I'm mentioning the steward because I found his character to be especially imaginative in a book bursting full with fantastical things. In order to keep track of all the plots and schemes and rule, he has resorted to only keeping either his Left of Right part of his brain awake. One is logical, the other not. One side of his body goes to sleep and the other wakes, and such is the divide he has two different personalities and two different bureaucracies. Neverfell interests him—she interests many courtiers since she is a tool waiting to be used be anyone with dastardly designs on power, which happens to be a good portion of the Court.
We are awakened to the world Neverfell is living in just as she is. We learn the way the city functions on exploitative labor (just as children will one day realize how our world does too). We find out that people are not always what they seem, and are complex--just because they seem primarily one way or represent a particular way of being does not mean they are not capable of any number of unexpected, opposite things (their appearance as completely one thing is why they can do such opposite things).That sometimes what is decaying must be struck at in order to clear way for the new. Oh, and a lot of important things about friendship. All of which are things that kids should be thinking about or at least introduced to.
Also, funsie things like trap-lanterns (which light up the dark city, powered with the breaths of humans); a Kleptomancer (grand thief) prancing around the city and pulling off heists; and my favorite element of all: Cartographers who are so mad in their quest to map Caverna (which is a twisty, illogical, impossible maze of ever shifting, ever growing tunnels) they have bent their brains into a madness. You can only talk to them for five minutes because their madness is contagious and starts making sense; they are creating crazed, fragmented, love poetry and art for Caverna with their attempt to map and survey her completely and discuss her peculiar beauty.
Anyway, this is some smart and quality kid’s lit, and it’s really the best kind of stuff out there. I really especially loved how Neverfell transforms from a naive girl to— well— someone who can hold her own against people in the Court while still retaining her sweet personality.
I hope you got a sense of how inventive and strange and delightfully weird and whimsical this book is from me trying to say what it’s about; I haven’t read such an intricate and original book for a very long time indeed. Hardinge has playful style with her prose—you can really tell she loves words and that she’s having lots of fun with all her unusual combinations. You can feel her joy in her writing while the words teeter and majestically dance and cavort on the page and do little cartwheels once in while with their tongues stuck out.
I will say that this book has made me sure that she is my favorite living children’s fantasy author**. Physical copies of A Face Like Glass might be a little hard to find. But if you can get your hands on Fly By Night (her first book, set in an alternate 18th century England and which I like even more than this book, probably) you will be very happy indeed and then we can be happy knowing that we have both read a book, which unread, means your life is a little bit less full of eccentric lively lovely children’s fantasy, which is a sad thing indeed my friends.
* Yes, this is the book where I learned the wonderful word 'lollop.'
** I have to warn you, if excessive use of parentheses make your eyes bleed, this post is going to be unpleasant. Kinda not sorry though, since I'm a grammar rebel. *ducks*
***Diana Wynne Jones is my favorite children's author of all time, in case you've forgotten.****
****Not that I was expecting you to remember or anything! I love her though.
How are all of you? It seems a bit strange since I haven't posted here in such a long time --years-- so I don't know if I fit in this blog anymore-- it seems a little strange, foreign. I read a page or two of my past-postings, and it feels even stranger thinking I wrote those words because I don't remember them at all.
Some of this blog I've outgrown, certainly; my opinions on books and media (or life in general) are pretty changeable, and things I once thought great seem pretty lackluster or flawed now; or things I didn't as much appreciate I appreciate more now. I think I was 15/16 for most of the time I was posting here; I'm 19 now. So I guess I've changed in some respects. The last two years, since I've started college, haven't been so great in regards to reading, or thinking of books, or writing -- words and stories (except in TV form) have pretty much fallen by the wayside, so much so that usually I'll not finish a single book the whole semester.
Right now, I'm about a 1/3 of the way done with my summer break, and I'm finally getting down to some reading, although my concentration is awful, and it's difficult for me to finish a book now (I toss so many away after only being 1/2 or 1/3 done).
But it occurred to me that it was nice that I used to write down my feelings regarding books; even if I don't agree with these perceptions now, I'm still happy that there is even a record of them. My memory is terrible; if I didn't write things down, I would have no idea what I used to think before and what I think now. So I need to write; and writing is a type of thinking, and the way I best think.
So I have a small little hope to return to book blogging. I don't know how often I'll post: maybe once a week, maybe once a month. But if I ever read a book, and want to note down some particular feelings or revelations I had, I'll try my best to put them here, since it is already well-organized and easily found.
This blog will be pretty personal in my reviews, and they might not help you at all in deciding what to read; I won't be posting memes or doing any of the "traditional" book blogging things I used to do, and won't be sticking to just YA. This is simply going to be a place for my thoughts to have a small little home--I don't care if there are mistakes, or you don't like it (feel free to unfollow, or to scroll past). A glance at the followers button makes me a little scared of posting my thoughts here (so many people! so many strangers!)--but I'll tell myself not many people would read them actually--if it gets too scary, I'll make a new blog and post the link here.
Actually, I might do that--I'd like to start afresh, in some way--for now, I'll post here, and let everyone know if I move.
Nice to talk to y'all again! How has life and reading been?
Which you've probably figured out already since I don't post anything ever, am generally more elusive than nargles, and because this blog is more hiatus-filled than post-filled.
I'm now in college, and it's not as if I don't have free time--I do. I've just found that I can't read right now or talk about books in an interesting way.
It's hard to explain. I think I'm going through one of those periods where the way I think is changing. And this time, this feeling of WHAT DO I THINK? WHY DO I THINK IT? WHO AM IIIII? includes the reading and writing portions of my brain.
Hence, the hiatus.
Readers, thank you so much for looking at my posts and resisting the urge to gouge your eyes out while doing so. And for those of you who have left me comments-- I don't even know how to express my gratitude. I've gotten some comments on this blog that are really, seriously, the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. No one would say such things to me IRL, so it's encouraging that some of you have occasionally enjoyed what I have to say/ think my blog is worthwhile enough to read.
And some of you think I'm funny! (occasionally). No one in IRL thinks I'm funny!
I really can't say when I'll start posting here again, it could be soon-ish or a long time from now. In the meanwhile, I don't check my email for this blog or twitter or goodreads very often, though I do on occasion. I reblog things on tumblr, but it has very little to do with YA and basically no original material other than my incessant whining about life. If you'd like my url or just want to talk (though I'm a slow replier, I'll warn you!) you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meanwhile, I hope your life is considerably more chocolate-filled and book-filled and puppy-filled than mine.
(Young Adult Literature Ingnoramus)
1) a person who has read little to no YA books but still insists on discussing them in a authoritative way. (ie: "I've read Twilight and the whole YA genre is terrible.")
2) Often can be found spewing the following: "YA is badly written," "YA is not seriously written," "Everything in YA is lacking in complexity," "Adult fiction is so much better than YA," etc.
3) someone who complains about YA's content, usually for the purpose of saying (hysterically) that innocent young children are being corrupted by YA authors.
4) a person who can somehow make the phrase, "Oh, you read YA?" equivalent to, "You are an unintelligent and immature human being, and also I don't like you."
5) someone who finishes off a negative review of a YA book with "But what can you expect? It's YA."
I think we've all encountered a YA ignoramus, in real life, on the interwebs, or both. Unfortunately, they are not one whit like nargles, as they're quite real, quite common and seem to crop up everywhere. Also, they are generally unpleasant individuals, quite vocal in their complete disdain for YA, and usually argumentative when you jump in to protest that YA is not at all as terrible as they think.
My response to YA ignoramuses has always been to chirp in with something along the lines of "But YA is really a very diverse genre that is not easily dismissed and categorized. Of course there are some bad books, just as there are bad books in every genre. YA doesn't make much sense as a genre anyhow, there's mystery books rubbing shoulder with romances and literary books and everything you could possibly find in one contained area in a bookstore. People who write YA aren't always in agreement with what it is, other than it should (mostly) have coming of age themes. Don't you see how silly it is to say all YA is bad?"
I might as well be speaking in another language when I say the above.
Lately, if I encounter a YA ignoramus on the internet, I try to point them to this article (Are You Reading YA Lit? You Should Be), since it is far more articulate than I am. I don't know if it's working, not because the article isn't great, but because it seems like YA ignoramuses are content to be willfully ignorant.
I find the whole cycle baffling:
Most of these people haven't read any YA. Or very, very little of it. They read Twilight (or even hear of it, secondhand, the information regarding YA blurred and distorted as it would be in the game Telephone) and suddenly they're educated enough, experts even, and feel the intense need to discuss YA and make broad, often misinformed generalizations about the whole genre. They're qualified to write ridiculous posts on the internet. Or worse yet, articles (and yes, this did happen a while ago, but I have a feeling it will happen again due to YA's increased popularity) in places like the Wall Street Journal or Slate.
It's not that I'm against discussing YA in a critical manner. I've written some discussion posts that do point out things I wish there were more of/ less of in YA (ie one on YA romance, YA high school dynamics, and older YA protagonists), but I don't mean those posts as a definitive statement on all of YA, and I certainly believe that YA harbors some of the most wonderfully written and communicative and fully emotional books being published today. Of course there are duds. YA is a genre, not a gurantee of quality.
So I wanted to ask you all, what do you do when you encounter a YA ignoramus?
The YA community, when united, is capable of responding in a vociferous and wonderful manner via tweets and blog posts, as in the "YA too dark" debacle. But when you encounter a YA ignoramus individually, how should you respond?
In an ideal world, I would get every YA ignoramus to read some of the best YA books out there, such as Jellicoe Road or Looking for Alaska. I would like them to come back to me after reading maybe a hundred YA books currently being published (not just the ones published 5-10 years ago) and say that they still believe all YA is inferior to adult literature [insert other silly comments here].
But this doesn't happen often, as far as I've experienced. I link articles or suggest books, and I don't really see any evidence of change.
Would it be more productive to simply ignore them?
I've considered this, but not getting involved is a hard thing to do when you witness a YA ignoramus facilitating a discussion in YA on an online forum and disseminating their silly ideas to other people.
I guess there are several options:
a) ignore them completely
b) jump in and argue with them
c) jump in and smother them with book recommendations and/or informative articles
I feel like c) is the most positive response.
Actually, I think I'll ramp it up more. I'll troll the next "YA is awful" online discussion and post a flurry of moving passages/quotes from great YA books, positive reviews, and shout I LOVE YA on top of my lungs.
Yes, I'll try that next.
In the meanwhile:
What are your thoughts? What do you do when you come across a YA ignoramus? Please share.
I am writing solely out a desire to post something, anything. But mind has been too scattered lately to write a post that focuses on one thing only. Actually, to write at all, but the topic of frozen/vanishing words I think I should save for another post entirely.
To be honest, I haven't been reading much at all for the last few weeks, not because I'm a college kid and don't have time, but because I feel somehow disconnected from books. So I can't really talk about YA and yes I'm a sad excuse for a reader/reading blogger and really I don't blame you if you don't very much care for this blog anymore and I am surprised and deeply grateful that anyone at all still reads this blog (I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU WOULD) but I appreciate it <3
I've been wanting to keep track of things that I'm currently inspired by or things on which my thoughts are turning round and round, sort of in a loop (restlessly) and share it with whoever deems it worth their time to stop by.
IN TERMS OF MUSIC:
Chopin is currently my favorite person in all of time and space. I think it's pretty accurate that he's been termed the "poet of piano." You listen to him and it's just lovely complex heartfelt melancholiness, profound snippets of meaning and intense emotion sounding in your ear and guh I can not even explain to you how beautiful his compositions are I can't even--
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary."
-Atwood, Variations on the Word Love
My eyes were such that literally they
-Nabokov, Pale Fire
-Plath, Morning Song
“Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea. ”
What are some things you're currently in love with/obsessed with/ newly acquainted with?
I would like to read about teenagers out in the world struggling to transition because I find it laughable and weird that anyone would think transitioning into an adult would be easy or uninteresting or not meaningful material for a book.
It would be much easier to tell this story if it were all about a chaste and perfect love between Two Children Against the World at an Extreme Time in History. But let's face it, that would be crap.
Daisy is sent from New York to England to spend a summer with cousins she has never met. They are Isaac, Edmond, Osbert and Piper. And two dogs and a goat. She's never met anyone quite like them before - and, as a dreamy English summer progresses, Daisy finds herself caught in a timeless bubble. It seems like the perfect summer. But their lives are about to explode.
Falling in love is just the start of it. War breaks out - a war none of them understands, or really cares about, until it lands on their doorstep. The family is separated. The perfect summer is blown apart. Daisy's life is changed forever - and the world is too.
"Early the next morning I was strolling around as usual in my unpleasantly populated subconscious..."
-HOW I LIVE NOW (Ch 5, p. 17)
"I was wandering around as usual, in my unpleasantly populated subconscious..."
— Dodie Smith (I CAPTURE THE CASTLE)
I do hope Rosoff is paying homage to Smith's brilliant I CAPTURE THE CASTLE here. I'd like to think so, because HOW I LIVE NOW otherwise possesses a thoroughly original voice. If I really tried, I could summon up the similarities between these two novels: I CAPTURE THE CASTLE and HOW I LIVE NOW both have main characters whose voice renders them completely real as people, perhaps more than real. Both novels bring the English countryside (a la run down castle/manor) to life with glorious, ecstatic prose and touch on first love, albiet with rather unconventional love interests (bearded older man in love with sister/ cousin).
I first read HOW I LIVE NOW more than a year ago, when it was recommended to me by a friend (thanks, Vee!). I don't know what I was doing at the time, but for some reason, I didn't connect with the book. I barely remember reading it, though I do remember vaguely thinking "this is pretty good."
When I reread it yesterday, the aliveness and the vividness and the connection was there. As if this book had waited for me, patiently, resting in my bookshelf until the day I could pick it up in the right frame of mind and really appreciate it.
I appreciate it now.
HOW I LIVE NOW is one of the voice-iest YA novels I've ever read. The main character Daisy is humorous and LOUD and uninhibited and insightful. She narrates with run on sentences breathless with wit and CAPITALIZED WORDS to emphasize a point. There's not much dialogue, and the book is mostly her telling us what happened and what she thinks, but it works. It more than works.
At first, HOW I LIVE NOW has this sense of peacefulness (although mediated with Daisy's loudness) emanating through the pages. Her cousins, who she comes to live with in England, possess gifts that are related to us in a matter-of-fact tone but are actually quietly magical: Isaac and little Piper talk to animals, and Edmond can feel Daisy's thoughts. There's this light touch of magical realism when it comes to Daisy's interactions with her family, making everything feel sort of strange, but lovelily strange.
Later, Daisy falls in love with cousin Edmond, and though she acknowledges it's wrong, she talks of it as if it's inevitable and natural and effortless. I don't know if I really understood the Edmond/Daisy relationship. Was it just two alone souls reaching across to each other, yearning for love during a time of war? Was it lust? If Daisy is to be believed, this is love, though of an unorthodox kind.
Daisy and cousins spend a few golden months living without parental supervision (thanks to her Dear Aunt being stranded in Norway). They fish and swim and play and it's generally a bit like The Garden of Eden. War interrupts eventually, as it has a habit of doing. Daisy has hinted at it since the beginning. The enemy is unnamed, the public is confused, cites are bombed, people are dying. When war finally catches up, Daisy and her cousins are separated. There's death and violence, without sense or cause, graphic and mindless and sickening to read about. Daisy and her cousin Piper stick together, attempt to survive it all. It's here that Daisy comes into her own, and when I wanted to stand up and APPLAUD because she's so damn strong.
Really, the only problem I had with this book was the ending, and then the six-year jump that acted as an epilogue. The precursor to the time jump was abrupt and Rosoff, for whatever reason, had Daisy tell us about it only after it happened, which was disorienting to me. The six year-jump was interesting, especially since Rosoff matured Daisy's voice beautifully. But the ending almost felt almost like Rosoff laughing at us and saying "hey, these really cool and fascinating things happened, and sorry that you missed it, but here's this situation and ending that will hopefully tie things up for you."
Still, I really liked HOW I LOVE NOW. It's one of those books that's left an impression on me, one that I'll return to reread. Most notably, its narrator managed to escape its pages and become a part of me. I think that's when you know you've read a good book; when you can feel the edges of a character and the dimensions of his/her voice, and they've set up shop in your brain and they're as complete and solid to you as a person you might've talked to in real life.
Yes, I'm glad I reread HOW I LIVE NOW.
RECOMMENDATION: Highly recommended. It's a Printz winner, so I'm not the only one who thinks it's great.