Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld reflections

With my seminar for this class tomorrow, and two enormous projects looming over the very near future, I wasn't able to read the entire book. It's a long book! But I'm really enjoying it. Enjoying it to the point that if the ending doesn't randomly suck, I'll probably go and buy the rest of the series and read it over the break between semesters.

I am a huge fan of dystopias. And this one seems to have more to offer than a lot of dystopias that I have read. Yes, they live in a closed society riddled with rules. But this one brings up other issues, like body issues, self-image, identity, and conformity issues. This might shock some of you, but I was called ugly as a kid, but that's nothing unique to me. How many times do you hear girls fighting and the worst thing they can say is "Well, you is UGLY!!!" </bad grammar>. How often do we (especially women) see articles declaring (like it's the first time we've heard it) that women who are pretty get better positions and better paying jobs just because they're pretty?

I like how this novel brings this to the forefront. Everyone gets turned into a pretty. Somewhere it said something on the lines of, there's only new pretty, middle pretty, and old pretty. Then dead pretty. But then there's just ugly, and that's not even really an option. I like how before the second part of the novel, the issue of choice comes up, but for a different circumstance that I wont spoil. But why can't you choose? And I wonder, just what is ugly for them? It's not really illustrated thus far, and beauty is subjective. We know that the main character has frizzy hair and thin lips, but that doesn't necessarily make her ugly, as in, hideous like Quasimodo. I find it's interesting that you cannot choose to not go through with the change. You simply do not get the choice to say "no thanks, I don't need it."

Thus far, I am really enjoying the novel.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mackey reading and *Burr* ....Twilight

I really enjoyed Margaret Mackey's "Salience and Fluency: The beginnings of stories” in Literacies across media: Playing the text. It makes me happy that young people, at least the ones in the study, are not partial to any one medium. Why? Well I hope it is because they are concerned with the story aspects of what is being presented to them. Though there were some comments that made me sad inside, such as the one person who didn't like Japanese animation or the one who did not like black and white films (another favourite thing of mine). Yet everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and at least they explained why they disliked some aspects of the mediums.

So before I go on, I would like to point out something I found strange. Cat’s Eye, if it is indeed the one written by Margaret Atwood, isn’t exactly age appropriate material for an 8th grade student, though if I personally knew the student and I knew they could handle it, and I knew the parent’s would not object to the themes, I would recommend this book. Then again, I read this book in high school and again in university, and a few times on my own since then, and it is one of my favourite books (I have a lot of favourite books, don’t I?) and I know that the story would have appealed to me in the 8th grade as well.

83 “They showed no signs of having an automatic preference for one medium over another; instead, they judged each text on its merits. Nobody either selected or rejected all the texts in a single medium without qualification.”

“Colin also took fluency into account with some of his decision-making. He rejected the black and white video of the old movie version of The Secret Garden: ‘I don’t really like movies in black and white because it’s kind of hard to decipher one thing from another.’” See, this guy actually has reasons for his dislike. That's more than I can say about A LOT of adults who look at something and just say they don't like it (I recall the first time I was watching A Tale of Two Sisters on television, and I was super into and my mother wanted me to do something upstairs, so I put it on upstairs, and the first thing she says is "turn it off, those Japanese movies are so boring." First of all, it's from South Korea, and it's a psychological horror film that was on for less than three minutes (if that), so it's not like she could judge from that. At least these kids are giving these materials a chance! </rant>  

Another thing is that I see how trying to guess a young person’s reading tastes can be difficult, especially if they cannot clearly articulate what they prefer, such as in the case of Megan on pages 83-4, wherein she does not like the big words in Anne of Green Gables, but she liked how The Golden Compass describes everything. The Golden Compass does get dense in ideas, but she seemed more inclined to keep reading The Golden Compass because the plot is more interesting.

And I appreciate Japanese anime, but I didn’t like the anime adaptations of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. While Kaze no Shoujo Emily is the more recent adaptation of the two I’ve seen and remember well enough to judge, the Emily adaptation just deviates too much from the book, though at times the animation if beautiful. 

I think I've wrote so much to avoid blogging about Twilight. So, fine. I'll do it. I don't like the text in print form. I find the non-existant plot boring. Meyer has a way of writing that is boring, yet has a way of hooking you, making you believe that at any moment, something will happen. I could have sworn that something  mildly interesting was about to happen all the time. But nothing ever does. I finished the book and felt like nothing had really happened. A guy stalks you and watches you in your sleep and you're like "Awwww! How cute!" Just to let you know, stalkers are scary. They aren't something that you go  "Awwww! How cute!"  to. The only remotely interesting character, in my opinion, is Alice. Can Alice have her own book, please? But in the end of Twilight it didn't make me want to read the rest of the books. Awesome. That wasn't a complete waste of my time. The movie (thanks youtube!) was an adequate adaptation in my opinion, though it was just as boring. Between the two, I prefer the movie because it ended my pain and boredom much more quickly. I have to say though, I can understand why young people like the book. It's a pretty basic romance (though there is nothing particular to vampires) with an otherwise boring and plain girl who moves and suddenly is so popular that everyone wants to date her. Isn't that a teen-agers dream? That what you once where will not follow you? 

And completely related to this topic is a youtube video from the "How It Should Have Ended" Channel. 

      (Just in case there's something wrong with the video here, it's also here.
 "Are you afraid she's going to play baseball better than you?" Yeah, Seriously Edward. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Alice, I Think

I read Alice, I Think and Why Angels Fly: Humor in YA Fiction by Janet Kleinberg and Lynn Cockett. I think it will be easier if I go into my comments about the article and gradually flow into my reflections about the novel.
The article came into something interesting about when you don’t find certain things funny. "“She was one of a dozen girls he would have liked to know better . . . know bed-der . . . much bed-der . . .” (Mazer 5). Cristina specifically said, “I know the author put that in there to make me laugh, but it didn’t.”"
I understand why the participant didn't think it was funny. I think as a young adult (and still as an adult) you don't want to be seen as a sexual object, and the reality is that our mothers/teachers/caregivers will always tell you that boys only want one thing. You would probably hope that the sentiment isn't true, and it isn't particularly funny to reinforce that idea, especially if you are meant to identify with the character being pictured like that. I haven't read that book, but I can think of Alice, I Think, when Aubrey comes over and she (and her mother and father too) worries that he will take her "into the womanhood tent." And it turns out that Aubrey isn't that kind of guy. Or rather, he can't shut up long enough to think about it. 
Can humour be a genre? I want to say yes, knowing that many people will disagree with me. I know that you can have humour in any genre, in any book. What about a book that is overwhelming humorous, and was written for the humour, and nothing else? If the humour in Alice, I Think was removed to leave just the bear plot, I don't think it would be even vaguely interesting. I can't decide what kind of humour I felt with Alice, I Think, though. Was it superiority, because I find her narcissism and her "I'm a mature intellectual now because I read The Fellowship of the Ring. I am on page 2" and her ego and her fashion sense to be absolutely hilarious? I hope it's not because I think I'm superior. I think I was supposed to find her home life with a hippie mother and father funny, along with the fact that she is home schooled, but I didn't really. I know that is a result of my own personal experience-I know a handful of home schooled kinds and they are fine socially and intellectually. So I don't find those facts to be humorous by itself. I find Alice funny because of her narcissism. She is a cultural critic, has a..."unique" sense of fashion, and at one point is convinced that everyone is stealing from the bookstore. Is she a sociopath like some people say? No. Dexter is a sociopath, if you need a comparison. Sure, the book isn't realistic in some aspects, but it was funny, and I think it was meant for the humour. The mother got into a fight with Linda, and yes, it was weird, but it could happen. I don't think the mother is "crazy" for fighting back. If you came out to three kids terrorizing your daughter in your car (which happened to me when I was younger) and if you, as her mother, tried to stop them, and the psycho one hit you first, and you want to lie on the ground and take it, be my guest. I'll be crazy. But I won't be wearing a muumuu or tie-dye scarfs.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Elsewhere Review

Fifteen-year-old Liz is the victim of a fatal hit and run, and this is the novel's beginning. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin is not the typical author's declaration of “this is what my version of heaven looks like.” It is something completely different, insofar as the afterlife goes. After waking up on the SS Nile, Liz is taken to the island of Elsewhere, where she lives with her grandmother Betty, who died before Liz was born. Here she will age backwards until she becomes a baby again and she will be reborn on Earth. This sounds appealing to those who die in their old age, but to Liz, she will never become a woman. And now she will never get her proper driver's license, go to prom, have children, or even see her sweet-sixteen. While she can see her family from Observation Decks, she can never be with them again. 
Elsewhere is written in the third person with an omniscient narrator that follows mostly Liz, but also other characters as well. Liz is a well-written character; her actions and feelings are believable for her age and circumstances, and she is the not over-the-top “stubborn teen” or unrealistically perfect. The secondary characters are all detailed and have secure places in the narrative. This book isn't about heaven, though some reviews refuse to see beyond these terms. This novel creates an imaginative world that is interesting to read about because it uniquely belongs to Zevin. The world of Elsewhere simply operates, whether Liz likes it or not, and she has to try to find herself in this “life,” when she never really got to experience her first life on Earth. The book is written with a clear simplicity and will interest readers who appreciate an imaginative setting that they can also recognize. 5/5 

 Zevin, Gabrielle. Elsewhere. Harrisonburg: Square Fish, 2005. Print.
$6.95 US/$8.95 Can. (Square Fish is an imprint of Macmillan.)  

Gabrielle Zevin writes young adult fiction as well as adult fiction, and her website is here, with the Elsewhere section here (this page also has the international covers, which is interesting to compare).   

Monday, March 14, 2011


A link on facebook was recently shared by a friend (Thank you!) and I thought I would share it here:
100 young adult books for the feminist reader
There are some interesting titles here that I would love to check out.

However, I wonder how accessible this list is to teens with overly sensitive parents who might object to their child visiting a website called "Bitch Media"/"Bitch Magazine."  On their about page they explain their name, but I still wonder because it is aimed at young people who are still under the thumb of their parents/schools.

Another place is the Amelia Bloomer Project Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18
It has a list of recommended titles, but you have to find the ones for young adult ages because there have elementary school level books in there as well.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

John Green "Paper Towns"

Just to start off, I should say that while I am a huge fan of the vlogbrothers on youtube, I hadn't actually read a John Green novel. It was on my to read list for ages. Now I have. And I'm going to do my best to create a pure and unbiased review.

It was awesome. Go read it NOW. End of review.

What I liked most about this novel was the pacing of the story. It pretty consistently stayed at a fast pace that kept everything rolling. The story never stops going forward, and I think that this will be appreciated by a lot of young readers. Except for a bit around the first chapter that I found pretty boring- but I know why, because I'm not a guy and I couldn't care less about prom, even when I was a teenager I didn't care and didn't even go to mine. Maybe because I'm not a boy? Maybe because I hate reading words like "honey bunny over and over again. But then the plot goes on and doesn't stop. It is interesting and hilarious at points-it's so hilarious just in case someone is reading this and hasn't finished it or will one day read it, I wont even mention the epic hilarity. Towards the end of the book, something made me laugh for about 10 minutes, and I'm getting a little giggly thinking about it now. Lately books just haven't been that funny to me. The novel also has a lot of discussions about human nature, personalities, and the like. And expectations of the future and other people. I think it hit me deeply because since high school I "upped and left" a few times and just stopped talking to people I once knew. I liked how the novel reveals people's perceptions about other people and their actions-Margo's parents change the locks, Q's parents are willing to guide her and help her out, some people just think she simply ran away and leave her be. People made these assumptions without asking her, which I think young people can identify with, because aren't people always making assumptions for you on your behalf? Your parents certainly do, but so do your friends, don't they? They see you as a snippet in time, and you cannot evolve as a person past that or else you're not the same in their eyes.

To sum up, I really enjoyed this book. I hope in a few years I can give a copy to my little brother.