18 Nov

YA Cafe: What YA Book are You Thankful For?

Posted in Book Club, Reading, Teen Lit, YA Cafe

Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature. I’m your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.  Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs.

November’s Theme: YA Appreciation Month!

Today’s Special: Book Club!  What YA Book are You Thankful For?

First of all, let me start by saying that when it comes to YA, I’m thankful for all of it.  The amazing books that shook me to my core.  The fun beach reads that kept me entertained on vacations.  Even some of those forgettable books that all blur together in my memory.  For me, YA is what I read and what I love, so I’m thankful for all of it: the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

But if I had to choose one book that really resonated with me and turned my mind upside-down it would have to be Blankets by Craig Thompson.  First off, this gorgeous graphic novel instantly spoke to my visual side.  Add to that the part where Raina sews the quilt for Craig (which totally appealed to my love of all things craftsy) and I was sold.  But it was the whirlwind romance between Craig and Raina that resonated with me most.

In this book, we see how two teens can go from connecting like soul-mates to having that romance fall apart.  And this all takes place in the span of a few short weeks.  Their romance reminded me a lot of college romances.  Something about being together on a college campus speeds up the pace of relationships.  Add in the fact that most college students are either teens or in their very early twenties, and you get the kind of whirlwind relationships like the one you see in Blankets.  You can get together, fall in love, fall apart and never speak to each other again, all in a matter of days.

What spoke to me most in this book was (SPOILER ALERT) the end, where Craig and Raina break up for good and Craig destroys everything (minus the quilt) that reminds him of her.  Having grown up in a very tight family where loyalty is king, I’ve been raised with this mindset that you either love someone to pieces, or they’re dead to you.  There’s no in-between.  So when Craig destroys his mementos of Raina, I could relate to that impulse, that desire to get rid of all the memories and start fresh.  After all, that’s how I dealt with all my romantic relationships.  Until I met my husband.

Lawyer-hubby likes to joke about something I said to him early in our relationship.  I don’t remember this incident, but apparently on our second date, I told him that I didn’t break up with boyfriends, I “obliterated them from my life.”  I know… charming, right?

That was ten years ago, and I’ve learned a lot since then.  About forgiveness.  And second chances.  And shades of grey.  A lot of this learning has been thanks to this amazing man who’s stood by me despite my “moments.”  When I read Blankets in 2008, not only did this book remind me of relationships from my teen years, but it also showed me how far I’ve come since then.  And that’s a lot to be thankful for.

What about you?  What YA book are you thankful for?  Tell us in the comments or by tweeting with the #YAcafe hash tag.  And don’t forget to check out Ghenet’s post to see what YA book she’s thankful for!


28 Oct

YA Cafe Book Club: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Posted in Book Club, Literature, Reading, Teen Lit, YA Cafe

Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature. I’m your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.  Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs.

Today’s Special: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

This month we talked about FEAR in YA and for today’s book club, Ghenet and I have chosen out books that we think represent this topic.  For my pick, I selected The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, a psychological thriller with a bit of a paranormal twist.

***SPOILER ALERT: This post may contain spoilers!***

First, let me set the scene for my esperience reading it.  I pulled this book off the shelf the weekend Hurricane Irene hit in New York, thinking “We’ll be stuck inside all weekend and the power might go out so I need something really good for hurricane reading.”  We live in a highrise with wall-to-wall windows and while we didn’t have to evacuate, we were advised to brave the hurricane in some part of the apartment far from the windows.  Since the worst of the storm was at night, we pulled out our sleeping bags and curled up in the hallway for an indoor camping adventure.

Anyone who’s ever spent a hurricane in a highrise knows how loud those storms can be.  There was no way I was getting any sleep, so I pulled out The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and my reading light and I started reading.  And I couldn’t stop.  I read almost the whole thing in that one night as the wind whooshed around the building and the rain pelted the windows.

What makes this book so scary and suspenseful?

It has an unexpected villain.  For most of the book, the protagonist Mara Dyer is her own worst enemy.  The story starts with her waking up in the hospital with no memory of how she got there and discovering that her best friends are dead.  As the book continues, Mara begins regaining bits and pieces of her memory, leading her to believe that maybe she was responsible for her friends’ deaths.  As readers, we’re used to thrillers where the antagonist is a character apart from the protagonist, but in this story, it appears that Mara is both protagonist and antagonist, which is a unique twist.

The author takes major risks in terms of TRUST, but the payoff is worth it.  Last week when we talked about suspense, I emphasized how important it is for the reader to trust the author.  In this book, Michelle Hodkin takes some big risks in terms of playing with our trust.  First off, because Mara can’t remember key events in the story, we can’t fully trust her as the protagonist and narrator.  An unreliable narrator is always risky.

But that’s not the only risk the author takes.  Characters we think are the “good guys” turn out to be more sinister than we thought and characters we’re convinced are evil turn out to be in Mara’s corner.  No one is what they seem to be.  This is a risky move for an author because we can’t trust the narrator/protagonist and we can’t really trust the secondary characters either. So, who do we trust?

We trust the author.  Ultimately, this is what all good writing comes down to: you don’t have to trust any of the characters as long as you know the author is in control and knows what she’s doing.  This trust is what allowed me to keep turning pages, even when I had no idea where the story was going or which character I should be rooting for.  I knew I could trust the author to pull it all together at the end.

Speaking of endings… this ending had one crazy cliffhanger.  Normally, a cliffhanger ending would really annoy me as a reader.  I like having some sort of closure when I finish a book, even if I know it’s part of a series.  With this book, though, the cliffhanger ending didn’t bother me as much.  Again, it all comes down to trust; by the time I reached the ending, I knew I could trust that the author had a master-plan in mind, so I was able to accept the cliffhanger.  Because the author did such a good job of earning my reader-trust, I was willing to give the ending the benefit of the doubt, trusting that there is some good reason for that cliffhanger.

What about you?  What scary book did you choose to read this month?  Tweet the title using the #YAcafe hash tag!

Check out Ghenet’s book club post on her blog: All About Them Words.  And don’t forget to join the conversation on twitter!

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