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Before Green Gables

Of course, because of my love for the original series, when I saw this in the library, I had to check it out. Though Budge Wilson's work not measure up its inspiration, I did enjoy delving into Anne's past, even if it was through the eyes of another author besides L.M. Montgomery. It belatedly provided a reference point to some of her - Anne's - thoughts, comments, and habits. It also made me want to go back and reread the original series again, though I withheld from doing so. My chief complaint about the book, though, would be the shifting of perspective without warning. Perhaps I am too picky, but I like clear division between one person's thoughts and another's, not going from one point of view to another in the space of just starting a new paragraph. New chapters don't have to be started but I do prefer the transition to be shown by a new, clearly designated section.




Ella Enchanted

Despite the fact that I work in a movie store, I have never watched this film. (Perhaps its nothing like the book, in fact. I have no idea.) As for Gail Carson Levine's book, it was a quick read, an easy read (other than the made up ogre, elf, giant, etc. speech), and it definitely felt like something that is meant for the younger ages of the young adult target audience. As for its subject, not only does it deal with a teenager who has lost her mother going on a quest to solve her biggest challenge, but there are many references to the Cinderella tale, especially towards the end of the novel. Personally, I prefer more substance, but I could still see the value of this work.




Roswell High: The Outsider

This is the first in a series of ten books by Melinda Metz published during the late 90's that were eventually turned into the popular television series Roswell. (Yes, I've watched the show. In fact, I own it on DVD, and I sometimes write fanfiction for it, too.) Anyway, I knew going into this book that I'd like it. In fact, I was thrilled to even find a copy of the first book through ILL, because the books are now out of print. Unfortunately, though, the other three books available to me through this service are not the next three in chronological order, so I can't read them. Unless someone's library has or can procure the whole series, I would be hesitant to recommend this book to readers, simply because they might have a difficult time getting their hands on all ten of the books (and the subsequent offshoot series that followed). Personally, I want to have all the books in my collection someday. Frankly, it surprises me that the books are so difficult to locate (trust me, I've searched through all the local library systems within about fifty miles that I could possibly have access to), because of the fact that they did spawn a popular television show. With that said, though, here's a little bit about Roswell High: The Outsider.

Three alien children from the Roswell crash of '47 come out of their pods in 1989 as six year olds. Ten years later, they're hiding amongst the human population of Roswell, trying to blend in and belong so that no one suspects that they're different, fearful of the government discovering them and taking them to perform experiments. However, when the leader of their threesome witnesses the girl he is in love with getting shot, he reveals his true identity to her by saving her life (and to her best friend who witnesses the event). You see, the aliens have special powers, one of which is that they can alter molecular structures. Once their secret is out, the aliens and humans work together to keep those hunting the aliens off of their track, resulting in adventure, romance, and, of course, when dealing with aliens, a lot of cool science fiction. (However, what keeps this book relative to ANY teenager is the fact that the three aliens are, when broken down to their simplest form, outsiders, something that all high school students can somehow relate to in one way or another.)




Coyote Moon

Although I've already discussed the final novels in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Volume One, the first was entitled Coyote Moon and was much simpler plot-wise, I felt. By John Vornholt, the story focused upon Buffy discovering that a traveling carnival was really a cover for a pack of shape shifting coyotes looking to offer human sacrifices in order to rise their former boss who died in 1895. (Through shape-shifting, they were able to drastically prolong their lifespans.) With the help of her watcher, Giles, Buffy was able to save Willow and Xander and prevent the were-coyotes from succeeding with their diabolical plan.




Night of the Living Rerun

The second of the first two that I previously skipped was by Arthur Byron Cover, and it pitted Buffy against her famed nemesis The Master again. In this story, The Master collected spirits from 17th century Salem to infiltrate the bodies of those close to Buffy, hoping that the spirits would re-enact the last events of their previous lives which were a series of actions that led to a ritual to raise the ultimate evil. Although I felt that this plot was developed more than the previous book, both of them lacked that certain Buffy-esque feel. There was a lack of metaphors with deeper meaning to the supernatural mysteries, and the dialogue was not as quick and zippy as it was on the show. With that said, though, speaking as someone who writes for the fandom, Buffy is not an easy show to emulate. For basic, beginner Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories, especially for those of the younger spectrum of YA readers, these would be good books to introduce the genre (and Buffy characters) with, I think.




The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening

By L.J. Smith, yes, this was the book that spawned the television show The Vampire Diaries, and, yes, I am a fan of that show, too. (I promise that I do read more than just books that reflect my television viewing habits, but, so far, the cookie has crumbled this way.) In this work, an orphaned high school senior (who, along with her four year old sister is being raised by their aunt) meets and is immediately drawn to a mysterious new stranger in town. Though she knows very little about him, she falls for him, and, eventually, after she wears him down, they start to date... only for it to be later revealed that he is a vampire. Despite the fact that they are of two different species, she still accepts him and wants to be with him, but, just as their relationship finally levels out and becomes real, his vengeance seeking brother comes to town, looking to take the main character away from her boyfriend and to punish his brother by doing this and anything else sinister and cruel he can possibly think of.

Although I enjoyed this book and would read the others in the series, I must admit that I actually like the television adaptation much more. The plot is more intricate, and the characters are not so one dimensional on the show. Even though I would recommend this book to readers interested in the genre, I would offer two strong warnings: one, if you like the show (like I do), you might be disappointed, and, two, I felt it was on the lower end of the maturity spectrum for the genre, perhaps better fitting a younger young adult audience.




Lock and Key

Before this past summer, I had never heard this woman - Sarah Dessen's - name before. Now, though, I swear, she is everywhere. My younger sister (20) - who is just starting to delve into the wonderful world of recreational reading - thinks she's the cat's pajamas. My 40 year old aunt stalks the bookshelves for the author's latest release. A girl that I have trained at work (17) has every single book the author has written, absolutely loves her. She told me so the first night we worked together. I've seen/heard several other high school students discussing her work while subbing this year so far. I accidentally stumbled upon her blog on LJ a couple of weeks ago, and our rather anemic local library has two of her works in their YA section.

Needless to say, I was curious as to why this woman was so popular.

I picked a random title - one of the ones the library had on its shelves, Lock and Key. Initially, I wasn't very impressed. In the first portion of the book, Dessen flows between the present and the past, but the time-line is vague, and I'm of the opinion that setting shifts should be clearly denoted by at least a separation of text. Now, this doesn't necessarily have to be a new chapter. Even in my own writings, I'm not that picky, but I also tend to show flashbacks in italicized print to differentiate it from the present storyline. However, once I got through this introductory portion of the book, I found myself slipping into the work and becoming interested in it... which, honestly, I had not expected to happen.

The general premise is of a seventeen year old high school senior who is abandoned by her mother. Her father split when she was a little girl, and her much older sister went off to college soon afterwards, leaving her alone with just her substance abusing mother. Through lies and manipulations by the mother, the main character believes that her sister abandoned her, too. For several weeks after her mother left, she lived alone in unsavory conditions until her landlords discovered her living conditions and reported them to social services. Suddenly, her sister is back in her life, and she's thrust into a steady home environment in a wealthy community.

Though her parents were not dead, in a way, she was an orphan, but I did not feel that this book fit into the archetype category as well as it fit into this one, because, although the work shows how she eventually becomes a part of a new family, the focus of this wasn't on the actual foster care system but rather upon the trust the main character must learn to have towards those people in her life, about the trust in herself she must find in order to enable her to trust others, and about the relationships she eventually builds with her sister, her brother-in-law, her next door neighbor (eventual boyfriend) who also finds himself in a less than savory home situation, her boss, and other people she encounters in her new, posh world that she never would have associated with before her mother left her.

I think that the best thing Dessen does with this book is keep it real. Whenever a slightly dicey situation would come about, I would cringe in anticipation of it being too cliched or juvenile, but I was pleasantly surprised when the author did not resort to these tactics I've seen in other YA novels (such as The Twilight Series). For example, when the main character is thrown into this life of privilege, she does not immediately take advantage of her sudden plush circumstances. She is hesitant to spend money on clothes, she insists upon working, and she struggles to accept the things people are trying to give to her. She doesn't immediately straighten out her life, twice slipping back into her old world by sleeping with a sort-of ex and also, on another occasion, getting extremely drunk and putting herself in a dangerous situation. And, when the two sisters eventually, finally, hear from their mother, the main character does not do the expected - she doesn't either immediately contact the mother to throw her faults back in her face and she doesn't just ignore her; she gradually decides upon sending a copy of her college acceptance letter, and that's it. Finally, what I think helped this book is that, underneath the exterior of a girl who has been abandoned by her parents, something most teenagers, I hope, have not experienced, this story is of an outsider learning to assimilate and trust, and that's something everybody has felt before - like they don't belong, making this book more universally relative than just another story about a modern day orphan.

3 Book Responses

Naked Heat by Richard Castle

Perhaps the coolest thing about the Heat series is the fact that it's written in correlation with the television show Castle. On the show, the main character, Richard Castle, is an author who works with a NYC detective, helping her to solve murder cases while he does research for his novels whose main character is based upon her. When the character on the show releases a new book, the network releases that book to the show's fans. I think this is so ingenious... and the books are entertaining, too!

Naked Heat is the second novel in the series. In it, a well-known yet unpopular muckraker is murdered, creating a suspect list of the wealthiest and most famous of New York City's elite. To add a twist, Rook, the journalist main character in the books modeled after Richard Castle, was doing an expose on the gossip writer at the time of her death, so, once more, he's roped into one of Nikki Heat's investigations. Weaved in between the mystery is more relationship development between Rook and Heat. It's fun, and the mystery is well plotted with both suspense and action. Plus, there's a little romance tossed in there, too.

The book can be enjoyed by those who are not familiar with the show, but, if you do watch it, I would highly recommend reading the novels, too, because they add to the show, and, I think, provide insight into Castle's character, especially in regards to what he is thinking and feeling for Beckett (the show's version of Nikki Heat). [As an aside, I hope this isn't too confusing. If you'd like some clarification as to who is who in the tv show and book, just let me know. Because of the parallels, unless you're familiar with the various relationships, it could get quite muddled.]


Portal Through Time (Book Three of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Volume 1) by Alice Henderson

Although I read the first two books included in this volume earlier this semester [before the blog], I wanted to talk about the third one as I just read it. Portal Through Time by Alice Henderson, I thought, was the best of the three offerings Volume One presented. It had the most complex plot (devotes to the Master were attempting to go back in time to kill slayers in order to change the slayer timeline and prevent Buffy from ever coming into power so as to allow the Master to rise), a deeper meaning (about the importance of history and how one seemingly small and unimportant event can forever change the entire world), and it contained the best use of language and vocabulary. Plus, Angel wasn't only just mentioned in this story; he was actually present (as was Angelus, too). And there were smoochies. Doesn't that always make a Buffy story better? ;-)


The Exile by Diana Gabaldon

Prior to last week, I had never read a graphic novel before. Now, I had seen some of the artwork before from one or two of the Buffy comics, but that was simply because online friends posted links on their blogs/journals. It's a genre that's very unfamiliar to me, one that wasn't presented much while I was in school. Even now, after my first experience, though I can see where some of the positives and joys of the genre, I cannot say that I am necessarily a fan.

The Exile by Diana Gabaldon (illustrated by Hoang Nguyen) is a graphic novel adaptation of the author's novel Outlander. However, rather than being told from Claire, a 27 year old, time traveling nurse and wife of the 1940's, point of view, the graphic novel is told from 22 year old Jaime's perspective as he returns to his homeland of Scotland with a price on his head. As he's trying to avoid the British army, he meets an out of time Claire who is trying to back to her life. During this period, though, he falls in love with her (and eventually she him as well), and they are forced to marry, due to the fact that others believe her to be a spy. Because of this reason - who the story is told by, I do not include the Outlander Series as Young Adult novels, but I felt the graphic novel could be stretched to work.

For me, it was enjoyable to see a visual representation of such beloved characters, and I had fun reviewing the storyline in the graphic novel format, but the Outlander book (and series) are so detailed, so rich, so complicated, that I fear the graphic novel adaptation is lacking much of what made its original source material great in the first place. Now, I already knew the storyline, so this wasn't as much of a hinderance for me while reading, but, if I had not read Outlander before reading The Exile, it might not have been as entertaining. I know that I certainly never would have picked up The Exile on its own merits; the only reason I read it was because I'm such a devoted fan to the Outlander series.

The artowrk is very rich, colorful, and mature at times. Nudity, sex, and violence are all included, but I felt that the presentation wasn't gratuitous or inappropriate, especially considering the original source material. Given the fact that Outlander is meant for mature audience and that it handles such adult concepts as rape (both male and female), adultry, and witchcraft (including burning at the stake) amongst other things, it only made sense that the graphic novel would have some mature content as well. And, from what I've been told, the graphic novel genre, which is generally geared more towards teenagers, is oftentimes very mature anyway; it wasn't just this particular example.

To summarize, if you're a Diana Gabaldon and Outlander Series fan, I would read the graphic novel; if you're interested by the ideas of the series and would like to see if it would appeal to you, perhaps try the graphic novel first, but, otherwise, I'm not sure that I would recommend this work. It seems like it has a more select rather than broad audience appeal in my opinion.

 

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