Thoughts on Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

From Goodreads:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

If there was ever a book to skip reading and buy the audio, this would be the book.

This book is hard-hitting. I don’t want to say too much about it, because it’s such a journey of discovery that you’re part of as the reader. Ultimately, this is a book I’d highly recommend. It goes through the complexities of the consequences of each of our actions. How something as simple as staying quiet or going along with the crowd can be devastating for the one person who’s silently pleading that someone in the crowd is different.

Besides highlighting (in a very memorable, but non-teachy way) the signs you can look for in case someone close to you is in trouble, it also shows that suicide is really only the blame of the one who commits it. When it comes down to it, they are the only ones who could have stopped themselves, and looking for blame elsewhere just adds hurt upon hurt.

I can see how this book could have life-changing effects on people, both who might be suffering from depression themselves, or who might know someone who is. It’s a heavy subject, yes, but it’s well worth the read, I think. I highly recommend it.

For a peek at the impact it has made, check out the 13RW project.

Linger by Maggie Steifvater

Sometimes life gets in the way of even the books you want to read most. That’s what happened for me for Linger. Between getting married, getting used to being married,  moving three times, and general life? Well, I didn’t finish many books at all in the past year and a half.

But anyhow.

As a start, here’s my review of Shiver, the first novel in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series.

I loved Shiver, and reread it before starting this. What’s really fabulous about these books is the voice and the fact that Sam’s is so poetic, while Grace’s is very fact for fact—just like the characters themselves.

I have to admit, I was less enthralled both by my reread of Shiver and by a lot of Linger than I was the first time I read Shiver. But I blame this more on the timing of my reading it (I’d been reading a lot of whiny YA, and while Stiefvater’s angst is, as I said, much more poetic than the usual fare, it is still teenage angst).

A lot of what made this book slower than the first is that there is a lot of waiting in this book. The characters are waiting for a chance to be together because they’re separated by Grace’s suddenly-proactive parents, and a sudden sickness.

Meanwhile, we’re being thrown into the heads of Isabel and a new character Cole, and neither head is a particularly friendly place. Of course, I knew that going in… and I already loved Isabel, unlike some. From what I knew about Cole (read: that he had a massive fanbase) I knew he’d probably win me over… but oh, he takes some time.

This really is two stories woven into one by circumstance—Sam and Grace’s story, and Cole’s story, with Isabel commentating on both.

The end of this book makes everything worth it, though. The whole thing slips together beautifully—and Cole’s turning a new leaf of the redemption flavor is just as winning as it should be, mainly because it’s clearly the just the beginning of something.

Glad to say I already have Forever waiting in the wings. Hoping it’s a strong ending. With Maggie Stiefvater, I’m not too worried.

 

Music Monday – Save Me by The Pierces

“Save Me” by The Pierces

Background: This song is all about being crushed under the weight of secrets you can’t share. It’s about deciding whether or not to put your trust in people, and knowing for some things that it’s not the best idea. Would you have the strength to keep a dangerous secret if letting it out would put people in danger, or would you find someone you can lean on to take the pressure off of you alone? What’s the trade-off? Is it worth it?

My song history: I first heard this song on the killer episode “The End of the World” from the 1999 TV show, Roswell. In case you don’t remember it, it’s about four teenagers who are actually aliens from the 1947 Roswell crash. If you’ve never seen it and you love YA paranormal (okay, technically it’s sci-fi, but it’s special-powers sci-fi, not that kind of sci-fi) then I encourage you to give it a watch… it was way before its time. Anyhow, this song was featured in one of the most heart-wrenching episodes, and I’ve loved it ever since.

What drew me in: Really it was the utter perfection of how it fit into the Roswell episode. That show had a savant for music—one that was sadly butchured when the show went to DVD and 95% of the music was replaced. I loved the theme of the song, too, though. The narrator’s secrets have piled up so much that she is the “only one” who can save herself. It’s that forced independence that really rings true in the song, and a theme that is so very important in YA fiction—and life, too.

For my writing: This is the song I turn to for secrets. The whole song shouts about secrets that can’t be told—which is just what a secret feels like sometimes when you’re dying to share it… like it’s the loudest thing in your head. I haven’t used this song a whole lot in my own writing yet, but I’m building up towards something that can justify its implied importance. I love the character in the song—someone who is all alone in a fight, basically—and my stories—Jethro in particular—will definitely be taking me to places like that in the future.

What I’m Reading Wednesday – Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I have to admit, sometimes when it comes to reading, I feel like I’m playing a never-ending catch-up game. I’m not a fast reader (yes, you may gasp) and I like to reread books… which only puts me further behind sometimes. Right now the other two books I’m reading are rereads, gearing me up for finishing up their respective series (Fablehaven, and The Wolves of Mercy Falls).

But I’m trying to put newer books that I own into my reading circulation. Because let’s face it, I like talking about new(ish) books just as much as anybody else.

So right now, my newer book that I’m reading is Across the Universe by Beth Revis. If you’re not familiar, it’s about a girl named Amy who gets cryogenically frozen so she can travel 300 years asleep with her parents to help inhabit a new world. Only she gets woken up fifty years early… and someone’s done it on purpose. Now she has to adjust to life on board a ship with its own unique civilization, where someone just may be a murderer…

Oh, and if she ever sees her parents again, she’ll be double their age. Awkward… And devastating, considering she’s given up her entire outside life to be with them.

Anyhow. I’m about a quarter of the way into the book now. If you’ve heard all the hype about this book? Believe it. I’ve loved every minute of it. Revis has a sharp, crisp voice, and Amy and Eldest (the other POV in the book) are both very unique. I love, love, LOVE Amy. She’s feisty and not afraid to say what she’s thinking (which is good, because she’s going to have to ask a LOT of questions here really soon).

I have to admit, I fell so in love with cryo-Amy’s voice that I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy Amy’s chapters as much after she woke up. Well, she’s just woken up, and boy have I been proven wrong so far.

As to other reading… I’ve finally coordinated my Google Reader. Yes, I know I’m a jillion years behind. I had an account once, but it was full of blogs that I never really wanted to read… or at least that I don’t care to read anymore. Things that aren’t of interest to me anymore, but I thought might have been once upon a time.

Now I’ve cleaned those old blogs out and put in all of the blogs that I actually do want to keep up with. Personal friends, writers I respect and love, other writers that are struggling to get somewhere, just like me.

And I have the app on my droid, which I love more than I can say. Maybe for the first time since I was on Livejournal every day, I’ll actually be able to keep up with the blogs I care about!

What have you been reading lately?

Awesome August Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Awesome August Blog Hop, where bloggers from all over the Internet have come together to throw a summertime party!

Every blog on this hop is offering a fun prize, and entering is quick and easy. Simply follow the instructions on each blog, leave a comment, and bop right along to the next blog. You can win multiple times, so be sure to check out all the participating blogs!

ON MY BLOG, you can win an ARC of the upcoming Dystopian novel Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

From Goodreads:

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.

Mason’s mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police–who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.

Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

I haven’t read this book yet, but I’m so excited to! It’s a scarier, harsher dystopian society than some that we’re used to, and much closer to our world than most of the dystopes on the market. This book will be available November 1st from Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster, but you can win it and read it early!

To enter:

1. Subscribe to my blog.

2. Subscribe to Tales From the Hollow Tree, where Isabelle Santiago and I switch off offering free YA short stories every Friday.

3. Leave me a comment and tell me that you’ve done both things. If your e-mail isn’t available through your profile, I’ll need you to leave that, too – I can’t tell you if you’ve won if I can’t contact you!

This blog hop runs through Wednesday night at midnight, so be sure to enter before then! The winner will be notified by e-mail.

Now that you’ve entered my contest, come meet all my other blog friends and see what fun things they are offering!

Awesome August Blog Hop Participants

1. Tristi Pinkston, LDS Author
2. Karen Hoover
3. Michael Young
4. Kristy Tate
5. cindy Hogan
6. Julie Bellon
7. Margot Hovley
8. Laurie Lewis
9. Mandi Slack
10. Melanie Jacobson
11. Joyce DiPastena
12. Renae Mackley
13. Debbi Weitzell
14. Donna Hatch
15. Carolyn Frank
16. Marsha Ward
17. Stacy Coles
18. Bonnie Harris
19. Danyelle Ferguson aka Queen of the Clan
20. Diony George
21. Lisa Asanuma
22. Susan Dayley
23. Christine Bryant @ Day Dreamer
24. Stephanie Humphreys
25. Ranee` Clark
26. Tamera Westhoff
27. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
28. Heather Justesen
29. Rebecca Talley
30. Jennifer Hurst
31. Aimee Brown
32. Cheryl Christensen
33. Rachelle Christensen
34. Imaginary Reads
35. Andrea Pearson

Learn more about Awesome August Blog Hop here.

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Something Expansive

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

I don’t know that there’s one particular author who set off the inspiration for my WIP. I’d been reading a lot of young adult and middle grade fantasy of various types, and really what drove me to work on this story was the wish to write something expansive. Not “epic” necessarily… but definitely expansive.

If I had to point fingers, though… I think I’d have to single out Shannon Hale.

Despite what I just said, I’m really not much of a reader of fantasy. There is very little of it out there that doesn’t give me the urge to roll my eyes… especially high fantasy. Unless you’re J.R.R. Tolkein or Brandon Mull, you can keep your dragons to  yourself, thanks. And fairies? There was the occasional brilliant book (Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater) but mostly they seemed like a thinly veiled analogy for teen angst, which I didn’t care for. And unless it’s Harry Potter, don’t even talk about wizards.

But Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl reminded me of the fantasy that I loved—had always loved. Fairy tale magic. Subtle, natural magic. Magic like the whispering of words on the wind, or later on in the series, of the language of fire and water. The Goose Girl also had this wide, sweeping landscape and crossed whole nations. It had castles and communities and class-action suits. Okay, not exactly that last one, but close enough—a group of people who were fighting for equal standing, for recognition.

Shannon Hale’s world was so real that I felt like I’d been there, maybe in a dream. I wanted to create something like that. A dream-memory-worthy world. That sure sounded expansive to me. I didn’t want to retell a fairy tale, though. Too many people were doing that… or just about to do that. I wanted to write my own fairy tale. It’s one I’ve fallen dearly in love with, with elements from many of my favorite stories throughout folklore, but I’d like to think with my own special twist.

Other inspirations for my WIP include things like Willow, The Princess Bride, and The Polar Bear King, a movie that I loved to death when I was a kid. I wanted my world to stand alongside worlds like these… quietly magical, wonderfully alive fantasy. Even Robin Hood has had its influence here and there.

Another thing all these worlds have in common? The hero in the story isn’t quite what you’d expect. Sad girl, pirate, misfit… There’s a lesson in a lot of these stories that strength can come to anybody who stands up and fights for it. That’s something I wanted to write about, too. About extreme conditions, extreme need making even an outcast into a hero.

Wish me luck with it.

Here’s to You, Judy Blume.

What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? 

The book that did me in was Just as Long as We’re Together, by Judy Blume. Yes, I’m a Blume-r. I started a deep love of reading before I really could read—somewhere there is a VHS of me reciting the picture book Who’s a Pest? from memory when I was four years old, before I knew more than how to spell my name. I raced through book after book after book, reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. Fiction, nonfiction, mystery, fantasy, it all had me enthralled. I gobbled up classics like The Secret Garden and Little Women and The Hobbit.

And then, when I was eleven years old, a friend made me read Just as Long as We’re Together. I’d read Judy Blume before, though I didn’t realize that what I was holding now was the same author as the Fudge books—which I loved for a totally different reason—but when I read Just as Long as We’re Together, I knew I’d found the thing I really and truly loved. Teen fiction. Young Adult fiction.

I was too young to even be considered a Young Adult, but Blume’s stories struck such a deep chord with me—maybe because I was on shaky footing with the friends I thought would last forever, maybe because I was an “early bloomer” puberty-wise and Blume dealt with those sensitive subjects so deftly. I couldn’t get attached to the Babysitters’ Club or Sweet Valley High books that friends were reading and loving so much. They seemed so paltry—Blume’s characters seemed real. Three-dimensional people with souls and pasts and lives of their own.

And I wanted to be able to create that. I wanted to write books that people could walk away from feeling like they had new friends, new loves, new people dear to their hearts. Stephanie Hirsh and Rachel Robinson (with her own book as a sequel) are still a part of me today. Insecure teenagers fighting to define themselves and their beliefs and motivations—that feeling, that fight, is what made me want to be a writer. What made me want to examine the struggles of the heart and the complications of loving people but needing to be true to yourself, no matter what.

I drank those books down, every Blume I could get. Deenie. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Then Again Maybe I Won’t. It’s Not the End of the World. And then I haunted the YA shelves in my local bookstores—you know, back when it really was just a couple of shelves, usually hidden in the kids’ section?—looking every single time for something more. I was starving for young adult books. And there were a few out there… but mostly I was running across things like Lurlene McDaniels‘ books—where somebody always dies and everybody else is left tortured and ruined for it—and that kind of melodrama was not what I was looking for.

I just wanted good characters. Great characters. Characters that I wanted to stay up late at night on the phone with. That’s what I found in Blume’s books, and it took me a long time to find characters as great in YA again—though it’s certainly not hard now. And maybe it’s not because there were other kids out there like me… who heard that voice in the vast wilderness of literature and finally recognized something that was their own.

My writing has taken a different turn than the contemporary Young Adult that I started making stories up for when I was ten or twelve, but the heart behind the writing has been the same—has strengthened, really. I’m trying my best to capture the kind of power that goes behind emotions when you’re a teenager, and I love the way that fantasy highlights that, and I enjoy putting (hopefully) believable people into impossible situations and see how they deal with them. What’s most important to me is the honesty of the emotion.

So here’s to you, Judy Blume. Thanks for giving me my spark. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Review: Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

I really, really enjoyed this book. The editing is far from perfect in some spots, but the adventure is really, REALLY fun. I mean, it gets Indiana Jones-y. At times it’s also quite creepy in a very fun way. The Indian backdrop is amazing the culture, food, and temples so richly described that this is a fabulous get-away book. Really feels like a vacation. Kelsey is a bit silly (she exclaims way too much, at least at the beginning) and you want to slap her upside the head for refusing Ren so much, but she makes up for it with her last goodbye to him, which shows surprising wisdom…. surprising because she’s acted like such a GIRL about it the whole time. Ren’s pretty dreamy. Though he gets a little ridiculous too, when Kelsey’s being pouty.

What I love about this, though, is that Kelsey doesn’t just fall into Ren’s arms—even if they are muscular and attached to a very, very pretty face. She wants to be chosen… not just the only option. And again, I really loved the adventure aspect of this book. It was more fun than any YA book I’d read in a long time—no angsty dystopia or mooning, but well-paced action through a well-researched (really well-researched!) exotic setting. Fantastic. I have never wanted to go to India more, and that’s something great fiction should do, entice you outside of your comfort zone. Brava.

Really looking forward to where Houck is going with this. I don’t know that I would have had the courage (or the foolhardiness, depending on how you look at it) to go the indie route, but it’s obviously paid off for her! I’d like to read more about her story, and I can’t wait to read Tiger’s Quest. Especially if it has more Kishan in it… what? I love an underdog. Er… cat.

Booking Through Thursday – Series vs. Stand-alone

Series? Or Stand-alone books?

I have to say, I love a good stand-alone book. I really do. I like getting to the end of a book and having that nice feeling that the story is finished and the ending is real. A good, satisfying ending is something that I yearn for a lot of times, something that doesn’t always happen, so when it does it’s extra nice. I yearn for that nice closure, the kind that just doesn’t happen in real life.

Then again, I’m also a big fan of anticipation. Angst, too, but really anticipation. I like the wondering of what is going to happen. I have to admit, too, that I love characters I’m already cozy and familiar with. I like companion books for this reason, too… familiar faces in a group, even if it’s just a few.

But to pick one or the other? I don’t know that I could. I do know that I’m more likely to buy a series. Partially because I just don’t have a lot of cash around to spare at the moment, so if a new book comes out in a series I already know that I love, well, I’ll snatch that before trying a new author. Still… there really is something satisfying about closing a book and knowing that you’ve finished it—and its whole little world—for good.

So I can’t decide between the two. What matters to me is the writing, and the story. I’m a great lover of Story, as I’ve said many a time before. If a story can carry over three or four (or seven! Or ten!) books, then sure, I’d love to read it. If a series is being extended just because it’s a well-selling series… no thanks. I’m not a James Patterson reader, for example. And I never will be. Give me a good YA trilogy any day, though. Any day.