First, thanks for the sudden insurge of alphabet meme fun. It helped a great deal. :)
Now watch me spend all night writing it up.
Second, with all the time I haven't spent on TV lately, I've been reading like a fiend. Early on at work, the other girls asked which authors I like to read, and my response was more or less "Bzuh? Favorite authors?" Um, with an entire library to pick through, I don't know how a person could possibly aim for specific writers. I just wander along the shelves until I see interesting titles/covers. I read far too many books to remember much about any of them. However, since I do write down all the books I read (twice - once by hand and once online), I do recognize some names that keep unintentionally making repeat appearances. Let's talk about them.
Really, I'm not even kidding; I thought Unwind was bad - I picked it up because it was Neil Shustermann and he made magic with Everlost, but this one? I kicked it aside like five times before I finished, annoyed as hell by the author's hardly disguised commentary on societal values of life (abortion is illegal, but babies can be "storked" i.e. left on doorsteps with the recipients legally obligated to keep it unless the mother is caught in the act, and anyone under 18 can, if their parents/guardian sign an order, be "unwound," i.e. completely dismantled - but not technically killed! 99.4% of you will be alive, just in different places - with your working parts neurografted onto people in need of limbs, organs, new skin, etc. At one point an older character actually laments that maybe it wouldn't have happened "if only more people had been organ donors," which I agree with and yet, HAMFISTED MUCH?) ... that was a really huge parenthetical aside...and yet in the end, I couldn't put it down until I'd found out everything that happened. It was chilling as hell.
The format of this novel, for example, which broke standard form in a good way. He wrote it as if it were a true story and he was merely novelizing what happened; his voice interjects from time to time, and it's also interspersed with video diaries and such. But not in that annoying, space-wasting way that women do when they do "innovative format" by e-mails and IM. This keeps the novelesque narration, but just hands off the voice. It's really rather remarkable.
I was in no way influenced by the fact that my brain decided to cast Billie Piper in Sara's role. Nope. OK, maybe a little, especially when, after flatly rejecting any further characters from Doctor Who, I decided that creepy protagonist, Jonathon Heat, could be played by Jason Isaacs (a/k/a Lucius Malfoy). The casting was odd in and of itself, though, because normally, unless there's a really striking cover photograph, book characters don't have faces in my imagination - their bodies just have indistinct, blank, flesh-colored spaces where a face would be. It takes a really good book for me to put that much effort into seeing real people.
I kept blinking and reminding myself that this was in fact 1981, because especially for a female author, there were a surprising amount of sexual references (everything but, pretty much, even if nothing was explicit). I found it funny more than anything, because it's sort of ahead of its time; its cover looks properly retro, clothbound and nondescript, and then there's this thoroughly modern stuff inside.
Mostly, though, what had me rolling was the pop culture references, as the main character's friend tells him that some women like the scrawny look as opposed to muscle. "Look at Peter Frampton and Rod Stewart." Cue helpless laughter.
I did love the book, predictable plot and all, and there were great description of the outdoors, as there always are. (her last installment I read was the 1910's-California-set And Condors Danced) That bit just made me laugh.
It's set in summer, for one thing, which is awesome. It deals with the fallout from her beloved cousin's suicide; they used to be best friends but grew apart in high school (o hay, that sounds sort of familiar), so there's depression and loneliness mixed up with suicidal tendencies. Win. There are plenty of memories interspersed in the text, which itself changes style a few times - drug abuse gets brought up here as well, as the girl abuses prescription medication, and when she floats off into her dream-like state, she often switches to third-person narration to talk about herself. Is kind of word-arty.
The girl is the opposite of her beautiful, smart, willowy blonde cousin; she's overweight and at one point diagnoses herself with "anorexia envy," but unlike just about every other book with this scenario, she never does get around to losing that weight.
(sidebar: seriously, I don't even know how many books I've read where a girl hates her size, tries various healthy and unhealthy attempts to get thinner, sometimes succeeds and sometimes doesn't, but ultimately finds that the weight just starts dropping off as soon as she finds other sources of fulfillment in her life)
She's in love with her best friend (a guy, so don't go jumping to other places), who adores her but also has zero interest in her romantically - another fact that doesn't change by the end of the book, which gets another point in my favor. As much as I love fluff, I also love books that deal in reality.
I don't know, I'm not describing it very well, but it was powerful to me, as it included just about everything I hope for in a novel and very little of what I don't.
Same goes for you, Speak, because at least The Giver was slightly intellectual. "Speak" just makes me angry on sight, because the first time I read it - long before it became popular - I remember thinking it was a complete mess; nebulous writing yet cliche plotline, and a completely unsympathetic main character. Rolling my eyes at it became a regular routine at the library after that. AND THEN SUDDENLY IT WAS ON OUR BOOKSTORE SHELVES AS AN ANNUAL STAPLE FOR THE "LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS" EDUCATION CLASS.
So, I read the first book. Before it became mega-popular. And as soon as I finished, I put it down with a satisfied slap and said "YES. THERE. THAT is how you sit down and write a damn good YA novel,
(sidebar: I...am sorry. I have this intense and nigh-unparalleled hatred for Meg Cabot; I'm not entirely sure why - maybe the undeserving length of the Princess Diaries series? No, I think I the camel-back-breaking straw was the content of Ready or Not - but she has become the symbol of all that I despise in YA fiction. Probably I should direct my hatred to whoever writes the Gossip Girls series, except that my brain will not actually acknowledge the fact that it is possible for something so horrible to exist).
Anyway. Then it exploded in popularity, and it came about that there were sequels, and I was all "Woohoo! I should read those someday!" Except that I now pass The Sweet Far Thing on a regular basis, and every time I see it, I feel this twitch of loathing. It may be that it keeps getting mentioned in all the same circles as Twilight, which contaminates it, and the slashy-subtext talk my flist has been having (seriously, did not see)is not helping. But mostly, I think I may just actually hate things that are popular!
I don't do current books, you see. Normally. I mean, I do now, because my college library gets infusions of new novels every year which hardly anyone ever checks out, but normally I am all about reaching for the copyright date from the 60's. The public library's new books are snapped up like hotcakes, which means I don't get around to reading most of them until at least 3-5 years after they come out. I read them, but only because the library insists upon regularly selling off its older stock (usually at branches far away, that I have no chance of getting my hands on. -.-) The idea of always reading books the year they're published is sort of baffling to me.
Anyway, with Harry Potter being the obvious exception, I am normally leery of anything with widespread popularity. People are idiots. Just like you should never follow the movie critic's guide at the cinema, because 89% of the time he is Wrong, you should never listen to the masses of sheep. Ergo, this book is undeserving of its praise and will make me angry if I waste time on it.
And I feel like I should just go back and read AGTB, and it would erase all those feelings, except that I have a dire and obsessive need to read as many books as possible every year. I've only got til the end of August and I haven't even hit 100 yet. I don't have time to waste on rereads!
Not that I want to take on the sequel at all right now. Someone should remind me why these books are awesome.
I have to go think about koalas now.