Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Violet Hour

Whoa...that escalated quickly.  

The Violet Hour by Whitney Miller is a fast-paced YA horror novel.  Harlow Wintergreen is the daughter of the leader of a religious organization called VisionCrest.  She has been hiding something deep down, though- a voice telling her to do horrible things, and giving her gruesome, violent visions.  As she and others in VisionCrest tour Asia on a PR tour, the voice is gaining more and more control.  People are dying.  What is in her, and what can she do to save her friends...and herself?

This novel caught me right off the bat!  They had me at Harajuku...and didn't let go after bleeding and eye gouging.  I have to admit, I giggled a little bit at the first mentions of the voice- "Obliterate.  Exsanguinate." I just kept picturing a Dalek running around inside her skull.  That quickly dissipated, though, as things escalated.

There are a lot of music subculture things in this novel- to the point where I meant to look up the history of Japanese Punk (and in writing this, am reminded of that again).  Music plays a huge part in character connections.  If you have ever read the manga Nana, you'll picture it a bit in the first part of the book.

For the dystopian aspect- Japan is now the Socialist Republic of Japan, China is the most democratic country in the world, and people can be drugged up on a SOMA-like pill to function compliantly.  

At times a futuristic, dystopian story, at others a novelization of some Junji Ito creeptastic manga mixed with del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.  I pretty much loved it.  Kind of rethinking my desire to go to Asia right now, but...(just kidding, it's still totally at the top of my bucket list). 

I've always been intrigued by cults- not to join one, just their beginnings, followers, etc.  I did a grad school project with a YA bibliography about cults.  This cult is different, because it's not based on typical allegory or misinterpretation of texts...there's an ancient supernatural aspect. 

If you like Indie music, dystopian darkness, gruesome horror...this is for you.  Sure, there's an awesome sidekick, and a bit of a love story- but there's so much more.  

The Violet Hour is published by Flux.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Released: 03.08.2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ava and Pip

Wow! W-O-W! I've been getting all these awesomely wordy books lately! Palindromes, homophones, alliteration...makes an English major happy!

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston (who's also been the advice columnist at Girls' Life since 1994) is about two sisters who are very different.  Ava is the outgoing, spunky younger sister to Pip, a shy, quiet loner.  In an attempt to stick up for her sister, after her birthday is ruined by the popular new girl, Ava writes a story for the school library's contest.  As the story gets mentioned, things begin to change, and Ava and her new friend Bea may help Pip break out of her shell.

Told in diary format, 10 year-old Ava tells the reader about her quiet sister Pip (who is 13).  They don't look or act alike (much like my sister and me), and Pip was a preemie (also like me!)  As you can see, I connected with quiet, shy, Pip.  I even had to reschedule a birthday party when a girl who was more popular had hers the same day :-(  Ava's attempts to give her sister a voice are both heartwarming, and sometimes frustrating (much like real sisters).

Ava and Pip, and their parents, all have palindrome names.  Check one for awesome.  The family plays games like The Homonym Game.  Check two.  In order to keep Ava busy, her parents would give her pages of Os to turn into Qs.  Check 3.

The story has a great flow- I actually had to make myself stop reading and get to bed.  I wanted to see what happened next, and the entries are so short, you just keep reading...and reading. 

I know bullying and mean girls have been a hot topic for awhile, and rightfully so- it needs to be talked about.  But it's refreshing to read a middle-grade fiction about girls, Jr. High girls, that is more about being friends and helping each other.  On top of all the word-awesomeness, this is what made me love Ava and Pip.  Building each other up, and not assuming things about people.

One more tidbit about this book: it comes with a Common Core educator's guide, for all my teacher friends.  Just head over to the Sourcebooks website.

Ava and Pip is published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.  Review copy graciously provided by the publisher.
Released: 03.04.2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Skin & Bones

I think the majority of the population is aware of Eating Disorders, and how girls are affected by them.  Not much is highlighted, though, on how they affect guys.

Skin and Bones by Sherry Shahan is a YA novel that addresses this issue from the perspective of Jack (nicknamed "Bones"), a sixteen-year-old boy who is anorexic.  The story takes place in an eating disorder ward, where Bones and his roommate "Lard" gradually become friends.  As Bones navigates the rules of the ward, he ends up meeting Alice- a thin dancer who loves to break the rules.  At what cost will Bones try to win Alice?

On the one hand- I appreciated the novel taking the perspective it did.  Showing how one remark in fifth grade can have the impact it does; affecting the person years later.  And also how each character developed the disorder, and how they dealt with it.  In that sense, I compared it to the TV show Orange is the New Black- I was very interested in learning the back stories of the other patients.

On the other hand- I found myself so, so frustrated with some of the characters.  I get teen hormones, but really?  You know this person is dangerously close to self-destructing...just tell the guy in charge!  There were also a few times I found myself thinking "I wonder what someone who has gone through this recovery process would think of the novel."  I don't mean that in an "I don't trust the writer" way- more of a "I'd like to hear this from the perspective of someone I know who's been through this."

I appreciated the sick irony of  a Carpenter's song blaring from the radio as Alice wheeled in the room at one point.  Karen Carpenter lends herself to some foreshadowing as well.  I actually have written in my notes "I don't know if I should find this clever or offensive..."

Shahan includes additional resources at the end of the book- links to The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), and The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders Inc. (NAMED).  She also includes information about Eating Disorders in general.

I may contact my friend who has gone through this, and get her opinion on the book.  Overall, though, I enjoyed it.  I had many conflicting emotions reading it, and I'll chalk that up to the writing.  It also brought up some things I hadn't thought about before.  As I said, too, I like that Shahan wrote from the perspective of a young man. 

Skin & Bones is published by Albert Whitman & Co.  Digital ARC provided by NetGalley.
Release Date: 03.01.2014