Sunday, August 24, 2008

Capsule Prize Reviews: That's Bold

Like the shiny little prizes you get from a gumball machine, here are three titles I've picked up in a recent library jaunt involving brave teens defying tradition for notoriety, to stand up for a cause, or just to make some excellent music

PhotobucketThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart, had me sold at the promise of mischievous doings in the name of gender equality. Frankie's an incredibly likable heroine; she plays ultimate Frisbee, writes papers about the Cacophony Society, and falls in love with P.G. Wodehouse's writing. When faced with an sexist secret society, she infiltrates and turns it on its head. This is a fast-paced and fun story with trenchant insights about the screwed-up nature of teen socialization. However, no moralizing harpy is Frankie; she takes what she's learned and uses her wit and savvy to get a message out there; her secret reign as a Basset Hound is responsible for The Library Lady, The Night of a Thousand Dogs, and the Canned Beets Rebellion.

PhotobucketWide Awake, penned by David Levithan, has the quirk and charm of his less serious YA fiction. Duncan, our hero of this near-future novel, is thrilled at the prospect of a gay Jewish president. When Kansas declares a recount of votes, he travels with his town's Green Party team to protest, along with his furiously idealistic boyfriend, two self-proclaimed Jesus Freaks (who come from a movement that asked What Would Jesus Really Do?), and a couple of old-time dreamers from the 90s. Wide Awakes suffers at the hand of some heavy-handed lessons in politics and society delivered via the prospective president, his minions, and Duncan's peers. Despite this, it's little details (the non-shopping malls where you barter for self-shaping jeans and roasted marshmallow perfume, community-made pancakes, and the fact that pop music will always be painful to listen to), perfect emotional moments (including one of the best love scenes I've read in YA fiction, ever), and optimistic look at the future make it a good read for the curious and fans of Levithan's other work.

PhotobucketPlastic Angel, Nerissa Nield's first novel, is the sweet story of a budding folk-rock duo. Randi's a drifter on the edge of the popular crowd; Angela's an outcast for being too beautiful, too successful as a child model. With Randi's famous songwriting father's gift of a guitar and a certificate "good for FIVE lessons," she's inspired to turn around their boring summer by starting a band. Both girls are preternaturally gifted in music, and experience the joys of song scribing, secret recording sessions, and dressing like you don't give a damn under the gentle glow of their guardian glow-in-the-dark plastic angel. With Gellie's mom hell-bent on raising the next Lindsey or Miley, the two girls deal with family squabbles, social machinations, and some really heinous agents in pursuit of their dream. Gellie's mom is truly vile (SHE GAVE HER GUITAR TO GOODWILL. BITCH.) until intervention, and her adverse reaction to Angela's interest in music seems overblown, especially in this age of pop-superstars. Besides that sour note, it's a cute first work with some excellent emotional depth and fantastic descriptions of the joy that comes of creating music. Included with the book are sample tracks from This Town is Wrong, the novel's soundtrack--so you can actually listen to the songs the girls write in the novel.

*E. Lockheart's website and blog
*Read the first two chapters of The Disreputable History...
*David Levithan's website
*Read the first two chapters of Wide Awake
*Nerissa Nield's website
*Read an excerpt from Plastic Angel


Penny Lane said...

Awesome stuff. Again, i am tellin' ya you are saving me with all the book recommendations. Thank you also for that wonderful suggestion to the livejournal community! Thank you sweetie!!!

Also, i was reading bitch magazine today and thought of you ♥

carey said...

oh, nerissa. sometimes i reread that book and get really irritated at her awkward attempts to fit in every lyric from every song she's ever written, and sometimes i just reread it and smile because nerissa is Just That Awesome.

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