Tuesday, August 17, 2010

While I Was Out, Part 2

Summer classes definitely got the best of me. I read four plays? And almost read a textbook cover to cover? Yeah, I know, that doesn't cut it. Oh well.

Just because I'm not updating, don't assume I'm not reading. I keep track of everything over at librarything, in case you're interested. It's a pretty cool place to check out.

That said, let's talk YA, shall we? First,

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Published Dec 2009 by Bloomsbury
240 pgs, $12.23 (list price on amazon)

Written in very simple prose, Dolamore gives us high fantasy that we can still relate to. At it's heart, Magic Under Glass is a doomed love story about wizarding caste systems, blackmail, international relations between fairies and humans (which I feel may have had some interesting, but not completely thought out, insights into today's War On Terror), and drawing inspiration through art.

While the general idea is fairly original, much of the plot is not. There are elements taken from classic gothic novels - specifically Jane Eyre - which could have been clever, but really comes off as uncreative. It's a cute story, and captivating at first, but not strong enough as a whole to be something I would recommend to a friend. I think I was more interested in researching the controversy behind its original book cover than in the book itself.

And because no good fantasy book can stand alone (sarcasm), the sequel, Magic Under Stone, is due in 2012.

Plot Development - 5
Character Development - 6
Depth - 5
Voice - 6.5
Average rating: 5.6

The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci

Published Feb 2006 by Candlewick
176 pgs, $12.47 (list price on amazon)

As a critical and sometimes-voracious YA reader, I often wonder why books are always written from the nerd, geek, or generally "uncool" point of view, and never from the popular girls'. Then it hit me: there are PLENTY of books written by and for popular girls; those are just the kind of books I don't even give second glances at the library! (ie, Gossip Girls)

With this book, Castellucci writes about the cool girl for a more nerdy audience by taken her rich, IT-girl protag and making her so dissatisfied with life that she signs up for an internship at the zoo and makes friends with the "lame" crowd.

This book has a lot of secondary characters, and only one of them - the star of the show - seems to be completely idealized. Guess what? It's not the protag. Main character Libby flounders from being COMPLETELY UNLIKEABLE to sugary sweet. This is probably true to life, but as a reader, it was hard to root for anyone when her popular friends are beyond rude, her nerd friends are devastatingly uncool, and Libby herself can't figure anything out till the last couple chapters.

Honestly, one of the most interesting plot threads for me was her father quitting his job to pursue playwriting - a dream he put on hold when Libby was born. Being practical versus following your dreams is a bit of an overarching theme that almost anyone can relate to and is probably what made this book more than just another IT-girl book that I wouldn't be caught dead reading. (The cover art certainly makes it look like one, thank God I trust Castellucci otherwise I may never have read this.)

As a side note, I gave this to my 14 year old brother - and he liked it! Chick-lit as a label is dead.

Plot Development - 6.5
Character Development - 6.5
Depth - 7
Voice - 6
Average Rating - 6.5

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