Sarah Dessen Week

It’s Sarah Dessen Week!!!!!!!!

We’re following suit with a couple of blogs we love, The Reading Housewives of Indiana and YA Bibliophile,  in celebrating Sarah Dessen Week.  Sarah’s new book, What Happened to Goodbye comes out tomorrow (holla!) and we are pretty much freaking out over here.  For the rest of the week we’ll deconstruct Dessen’s themes and distinct voice and analyze the strengths of her protagonists ( Snort.   I can’t even type that with a serious face).  Okay, actually we’re gonna spazz out about the awesomely awesome heroines, the totally swoony boys and pretty much slobber all over her books.

As our first order of Sarah Dessen-y business we are going to repost a review of one of our all-time favorite books, The Truth About Forever.  If you have not read it, please check it out…like now.  One word: Wes.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

(originally posted November 26, 2010)

The truth is, I love this book

Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she’ll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.

Here’s the scoop:

When Macy’s jerkface of a boyfriend,  Jason,  asks her for a summer break—via e-mail, no less—she is understandably shocked.  He doesn’t break up with her exactly, but he wants them to take the summer to review their goals so that when he returns home they can commence to make a decision regarding their future.  Yeah, I know.  Macy shouldn’t have put up with that.  But girlfriend did, though instead of pulling a Bella and acting half-dead, she surprises herself by accepting a job at Wish Catering.  The chaos and frenzy she experiences there offer a reprieve from her disappointment over Jason, and more importantly, over her father’s recent death.

Dessen is such a gifted writer. It feels as though the words flow from her books with such ease and simplicity.  She’s never overwritten and never tries too hard to honestly capture moments of sadness, embarrassment or humor.  She has the innate ability to transport her readers to normal places with normal circumstances while somehow making them all seem truly magical.  And with this book more than any of her other novels, she has created characters who are so wonderfully vivid and charming that I can’t help but wish I could crawl inside their world and live there.

Outside of Macy—who is so realistic in her need to have a perfectly planned life—there is Wes, the artistic Dreamy McDreamerson (Sa-woon!).  Wes is a boy who has a bit of a troubled past but is now responsible and devoted to helping care for his younger brother, Bert.  And Bert, oh Bert.  It’s impossible not to love that adorable dork head.  He drives an old ambulance (which he refers to as the Bertmobile.  Hello Cuteness!) and is all about Armageddon and end of the world stuff—and he’s serious about that crazy biz.  Wes and Bert have neighbors (who are also co-workers at Wish because it’s run by the boys’ aunt) Kristy— who encourages Macy to forget her bonehead ex so she can find a truly extraordinary boy— and Monica, Kristy’s little sis (I mean, how can I not love someone who mumbles phrases like “Donneven” and “Bettaquit?”    She’s like the freaking Donnie Brasco of Sarah Dessen books.  Fuggetaboutit).

Macy’s interaction with her new co-workers quickly goes from catering jobs to solid friendship.  She tries at first to be anti-social, preferring to go home and study for her SATs,  but finally bends to the pressure of Kristy’s constant invitations to join the group when they hit the town (meaning good old-fashioned keggers).  Since they’re together so often, Macy and Wes start playing an ongoing game called Truth (like Truth or Dare without the dare) and, as a result, they develop a close relationship.

This isn’t a story with intense physical action or complicated plotlines.  It’s about life, recovering from loss—both of Macy’s dad and of her perfectly mapped out expectations—and finding love;  not only the sweet romantical  kind, but the stuff that comes from being stripped down to your truest self and knowing you’re still accepted.  And even though there isn’t lots kissing, this book is still Swoon City.

Crush Intensity: 5/5  This is a perfect, sweet book that will always remain one of my all-time favorites.

Soundtrack: Oh man, the Strokes are the stuff eargasms are made of.  I think “Someday” is a perfect fit for The Truth About Forever.

Memorable Quote:

“Wes, come on,” I said. “Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?”

He rolled his eyes, leaning back on his palms.  “Let’s get back to the idea of you being perfect.”

“Seriously, what’s it like?”

“Being perfect? I wouldn’t know.”

“Not being perfect.” I sighed. “Being…”

As I tried to come up with something, he flicked a bug off his arm.

“…gorgeous,” I finished.  Two weeks earlier, this would have mortified me: I could just see myself bursting into flames from shame.  But now, I only felt a slight twinge as I took another sip of my beer and waited for him to answer.

“Again,” he said, as the parking lot girls passed by, eyeing both of us, “I wouldn’t know.  You tell me.”

LOVE. THIS. BOOK!

Donneven Think About Skipping This

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The truth is, I love this book

Sixteen-year-old Macy Queen is looking forward to a long, boring summer. Her boyfriend is going away. She’s stuck with a dull-as-dishwater job at the library. And she’ll spend all of her free time studying for the SATs or grieving silently with her mother over her father’s recent unexpected death. But everything changes when Macy is corralled into helping out at one of her mother’s open house events, and she meets the chaotic Wish Catering crew. Before long, Macy joins the Wish team. She loves everything about the work and the people. But the best thing about Wish is Wes—artistic, insightful, and understanding Wes—who gets Macy to look at life in a whole new way, and really start living it.

Here’s the scoop:

When Macy’s jerkhead of a boyfriend,  Jason,  asks her for a summer break—via e-mail, no less—she is understandably shocked.  He doesn’t break up with her exactly, but he wants them to take the summer to review their goals so that when he returns home they can commence to make a decision regarding their future.  Yeah, I know.  Macy shouldn’t have put up with that.  But girlfriend did, though instead of pulling a Bella and acting half-dead, she surprises herself by accepting a job at Wish Catering.  The chaos and frenzy she experiences there offer a reprieve from her disappointment over Jason, and more importantly, over her father’s recent death.

Dessen is such a gifted writer. It feels as though the words flow from her books with such ease and simplicity.  She’s never overwritten and never tries too hard to honestly capture moments of sadness, embarrassment or humor.  She has the innate ability to transport her readers to normal places with normal circumstances while somehow making them all seem truly magical.  And with this book more than any of her other novels, she has created characters who are so wonderfully vivid and charming that I can’t help but wish I could crawl inside their world and live there.

Outside of Macy—who is so realistic in her need to have a perfectly planned life—there is Wes, the artistic Dreamy McDreamerson (Sa-woon!).  Wes is a boy who has a bit of a troubled past but is now responsible and devoted to helping care for his younger brother, Bert.  And Bert, oh Bert.  It’s impossible not to love that adorable dork head.  He drives an old ambulance (which he refers to as the Bertmobile.  Hello Cuteness!) and is all about Armageddon and end of the world stuff—and he’s serious about that crazy biz.  Wes and Bert have neighbors (who are also co-workers at Wish because it’s run by the boys’ aunt) Kristy— who encourages Macy to forget her bonehead ex so she can find a truly extraordinary boy— and Monica, Kristy’s little sis (I mean, how can I not love someone who mumbles phrases like “Donneven” and “Bettaquit?”    She’s like the freaking Donnie Brasco of Sarah Dessen books.  Fuggetaboutit).

Macy’s interaction with her new co-workers quickly goes from catering jobs to solid friendship.  She tries at first to be anti-social, preferring to go home and study for her SATs,  but finally bends to the pressure of Kristy’s constant invitations to join the group when they hit the town (meaning good old-fashioned keggers).  Since they’re together so often, Macy and Wes start playing an ongoing game called Truth (like Truth or Dare without the dare) and, as a result, they develop a close relationship.

This isn’t a story with intense physical action or complicated plotlines.  It’s about life, recovering from loss—both of Macy’s dad and of her perfectly mapped out expectations—and finding love;  not only the sweet romantical  kind, but the stuff that comes from being stripped down to your truest self and knowing you’re still accepted.  And even though there isn’t lots kissing, this book is still Swoon City.

Crush Intensity: 5/5  This is a perfect, sweet book that will always remain one of my all-time favorites.

Soundtrack: Oh man, the Strokes are the stuff eargasms are made of.  I think “Someday” is a perfect fit for The Truth About Forever.

Memorable Quote:

“Wes, come on,” I said. “Are you seriously not aware of how girls stare at you?”

He rolled his eyes, leaning back on his palms.  “Let’s get back to the idea of you being perfect.”

“Seriously, what’s it like?”

“Being perfect? I wouldn’t know.”

“Not being perfect.” I sighed. “Being…”

As I tried to come up with something, he flicked a bug off his arm.

“…gorgeous,” I finished.  Two weeks earlier, this would have mortified me: I could just see myself bursting into flames from shame.  But now, I only felt a slight twinge as I took another sip of my beer and waited for him to answer.

“Again,” he said, as the parking lot girls passed by, eyeing both of us, “I wouldn’t know.  You tell me.”

LOVE. THIS. BOOK!

 

 

It Has Wings…and Remarkably Defined Abs

By Tee

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Are those feathers? Hello handsome!

 

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

Here’s the scoop:

Our heroine, Nora gets partnered up with the mysterious Patch (I know! The name.  Dear lord, it’s awful) in Biology where they are about to start their unit on—you guessed it—Sex Ed.  Patch has a certain bad boy magnetism about him and Nora is both repelled and drawn to him.  He’s hot in a dark, dangerous sort of way and seems to know everything there is to know about Nora, leaving her unsettled and nervous. Patch also has a weird Edward Cullen-y way of showing up wherever she is.  It creepyville,  so obviously she agrees to go on a date with him.

I wonder what's up with Patch...and what he looks like without a shirt

Aside from her issues with Patch, Nora is being stalked by some weird guy in a ski mask. She begins to wonder why these eerie incidents began only after she met Patch.  She pulls a total Nancy Drew by deciding to investigate him behind his back (cos, it’s hard to do when he’s bouncing back and forth between kissing her neck and acting like he might possibly be a dangerous criminal) to determine once and for all if he is trying to cause her harm.

Nora is also befriended by two other mysterious guys, Jules and Elliot.  They try to get to know Nora and Vee (how awesome is her name?  Hello?)  but something is amiss.  Nora can’t tell if she’s just thrown off by Mr. Ski Mask, by Patch, or if she’s just plain cra-zay.  Either way, girlfriend is a magnet for danger.

I liked Nora.  She had a funny inner monologue that, to me, seemed realistic.  She wasn’t overdone or outrageous at all but was, in every way, a believable normal girl.  The chemistry between her and Patch is dead on.  Nora knows she should make out with him immediately run the other way, but he’s there every time she turns a corner (yet again reinforcing to girls all over the world that stalker = love).  Still, Patch has a certain mystery and allure which he maintains while sometimes also coming off like a pompous jerkface.  Most importantly ladies, yes, there are some good swoony moments (ahem, shirtlessness). As she discovers more about him and his identity—look at the cover.  It’s not that hard to figure out—she has more questions than answers.

This was a quick, engaging read but I felt at times that it was far fetched. Once every character was introduced and Nora’s sleuthing began,  I found it difficult to believe that one girl could be central to so many people. To her credit, Fitzpatrick tied the loose ends together so that the story made sense.  And while at times it felt a little too similar to the paranormal ideas of late where the heroines rush to danger,  she breathed new life into the story by taking on a new mythical creature (or is it mythical?). She was also not afraid to give the reader many opportunities to truly dislike Patch rather than casting him only as the poor, poor tortured guy who really doesn’t want to be a monster.

Crush Intensity: 4/5

Memorable Lines:

The older woman waiting for admittance looked at me, then over her shoulder at Patch,  who was vanishing down the hall.

“Honey,” she told me, “he looks slippery as soap.”

“Good description,” I mumbled.

She fluffed her short, corkscrew gray hair.  “A girl could lather up in soap like that.”

Obvs, pervy old ladies are always awesome.

Bonus: The sequel, is called Crescendo.

Soundtrack: People are Strange (I’m thinking the Echo and the Bunnymen version over the Doors.  Don’t know why.  Plus look…it’s the Coreys).

The Best Series Evahhhhh!

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot

Look out War and Peace cos this shizz is epic

All she ever wanted was for her best friend’s brother to notice she was alive—and to pass freshman Algebra. But now that her dad’s told her she’s heir to the throne of the country of Genovia (and that her horrible Grandmere is going to be giving her princess lessons every day after school) Mia Thermopolis has enough problems to fill a lifetime of diaries….

I’m going to tell you a secret:  The Princess Diaries is my favorite book series of all time.  No, really.  I read these books so often I can probably recite them.  So let’s just say that I am totally restraining myself by not reviewing each book individually ( there are alot of them).

Let me start with the basics.  This series takes Mia from the beginning of her freshman year of high school—when she is a flat-chested, self-conscious girl unaware of her royal status—to the end of her senior year of high school where she has gained far more maturity and composure (ok, not really).  As the reader, you know everything there is to know about Mia because girlfriend spends a whole lot of time spazzing out and writing in her journal.

Mia and Grandmere wouldn't be caught dead like this

Even though Mia is the princess of  the small country of Genovia, her life closely resembles that of any normal teenager.  She has a huge crush on her best friend Lilly’s brother (moment of silence for the one, the only Michael freaking Moscovitz), she’s got hair that resembles an upside down YIELD sign and she’s barely passing Algebra (which is really bad since her mom is dating her Algebra teacher).   The only thing different for Mia is that she spends her afternoons enduring princess lessons from her grandmere; a chain-smoking, sidecar-drinking  bish with tattooed eyebrows who is nothing like Julie Andrews people. Nothing.

Throughout her high school years we see Mia transform from an awkward fourteen-year old to an adult—one that doesn’t necessarily have all the answers but who has made enough mistakes to know what not to do.  From crushes and insecurities to things like prom and The Sex, it’s hard not to recognize yourself in each journal entry.  Cabot has created an entire cast of characters to love, including Mia’s kick ass parents; her best friend Lilly ( love her and hate her); Boris (he tucks his sweater into his pants. How can I not love him?); Tina (the hopeless romantic); her big crush Michael, who is the ultimate hero because he isn’t annoyingly perfect; and most of all, Mia herself.

Guys, these books are hilarious.  Part of the time you’ll be laughing at funny conversations and lists the characters make and part of the time you’ll be cringing at the embarrassing things Mia says and does (two words: Sexy Dance).  Meg Cabot is also the master at throwing in pop culture references, including the best  reference of all, Star Wars. Her writing is funny and full of cringeworthy moments not unlike those most people experience growing up.  When it comes to young adult books, she is the standard by which all authors should be measured.

Crush Intensity: 100/5 Yeah, I know that makes no sense.  I’m at the Edward and Bella level of intensity with these books (yes kids, they are exactly my brand of heroin).

The Way I See It:

We'd need to nerd up Britt Robertson a bit

Mia is one of those girls who has no idea she’s actually cute because she’s so self-conscious and awkward.  Throughout the series she learns to deal with her height and flat chest so that near the end she actually comes into her own.  She goes from being a girl who tries to blend in with her surroundings to a beautiful young woman who is finally sure of herself.

We'd need a time machine, but Brandon Routh has something Michaely going on

The guy who played Michael in the real movie is adorable, but tiny in an I-Want-To-Put-Him-In-My-Purse-And-Carry-Him-Around-Like-A-Puppy kind of way and not in a Michael-Moscovitz-Fake-Man-Of-My-Dreams kind of way. If I were making the movie, I think someone tall with dark hair and eyes would have to play the part.  Neither of these actors look a thing like the Mia and Michael in my head but they embody something that could be like the real people (because they’re real, right?).

Memorable Quote: Gah !  There are so many!

Soundtrack: Why would I create one when someone has already done so?  PS.  I might have song #3 on my iPod.  Just sayin.

If I Could Make a T-Shirt: I would make a Skinner Box one obvs, to show that I am a fan of Michael’s band (because, yes…he’s a genius, he’s cute and he’s in a band.  Is there nothing he can’t do?).   There’s one on Meg Cabot’s website but it has the boy fit I so totally dread.  Grandmere would have a heart attack if she saw it.

Stalker Moment: (not normally a feature for us, but roll with me here) I took my then eight-year old daughter to meet Meg Cabot at a book signing because she is a huge Allie Finkle fan (Ms. Cabot’s middle grade series for girls).  I totally used my kid as a beard because most everyone there was between the ages of eight and ten.  When we got up to the table to meet her,  she was so nice and gave my daughter all kinds of advice on writing (she wants to be an author someday) and then she told me not to be embarrassed of my MM love because she wrote those books for her and her grown up friends.  So ha!  And then she signed my Forever Princess book and I spazzed out in the parking lot.  Good times.

Hunger Games is Mmmm Mmmm Good

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The odds of you falling in book love with this one are ever in your favor

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Dorothy, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…Nope, we’re in Panem, a place that exists in a future where clearly something went awry.  It sounds like those bothersome icebergs may have finally all melted.  Or maybe the Mayans were right.

Panem has been broken down into 12 Districts, each under the watchful eye of – cue the foreboding music – THE CAPITOL…buah, ah, ah! Originally the Capitol’s tyrannical power loomed over 13 districts but at some point District 13 said, “Enough is enough”.  Alas, the Capitol pretty much blew ’em up. It was an awful, no survivors-type ordeal and according to the live footage periodically broadcast on the Capitol’s one TV channel, the fires still burn from the crazy-ass nuke dropped years ago on the poor people of 13. Let that be a lesson to everyone…believe everything you see on TV.  The Capitol reminds the remaining districts of that egregious episode of rebelliousness by sending any child 12 to 18 years old to The Hunger Games, which can be equated to the reality show “Survivor” except it’s actually real. The object of the game?  Survive the rest of the tributes’ (a.k.a. contestants’) attempts to kill you. The prize? You get to live. How many prizes are there? ONE. Holy wild squirrel!  I know.

Our heroine, seventeen-year old Katniss, lives over yonder in District 12.  She divides her time between protecting and feeding her mother and younger sister Prim.  Katniss is masterfully written as a girl who is nothing if not a survivor.  The ability to handle the rigors of living in a place like Panem’s 12th District, a coal mining town, does not come without a price. Food is hard to come by and her family would starve if it wasn’t for her hunting expeditions with her best friend, Gale, the resident rugged, tall, dark handsome guy in the story.   (Word to the wise, get used to the weird names, peeps. Evidently the good people of post-apocalyptic America are too busy dealing with hunger and constant impending doom to choose proper names for their children.)  Gale be da man…immediately you realize you’re supposed to get a little weak in the knees for this silent, tortured soul.  These hunting expeditions illustrate just what a badass Katniss is, as going outside the District 12 fence is a BIG no, no.

On the morning of The Reaping, which is when each District randomly chooses their two tributes, Katniss’s worst fear is realized: twelve-year old Prim is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games along with Peeta—the son of a local baker—  Peeta, whose unfortunate name choice prompts visions of angry animal rights protestors outside of New York Fashion Week (or is it just me?) but who is actually a gentle, incredibly charismatic old soul. Oh also, BTW, he has the hots for Katniss. I’m leaving that carrot dangling for you. Enjoy.

Being the kickass broad that she is, Katniss rushes to take Prim’s place in the competition and the future of the Hunger Games is forever changed.  She and Peeta are given a  “mentor”, Haymitch Abernathy—a former District 12 Hunger Games Champ— who I happen to have a weird soft spot for (not in a crush way, just in a “smell you” way). Yes, he’s crass, rude, utterly obnoxious, not to mention always drunk as a skunk, but as one of the few survivors of these Hunger Games who now has the dismal job of training others heading towards their likely death, wouldn’t you take a nip of the cooking sherry too?  They train together, travel together, and eat their meals together but in the end, Katniss and Peeta, though they come from the same hardships, are expected to go to combat and try to kill one another.  Come on.  Kumbaya everyone!

The story holds much for the reader. Suspense, little study of human nature, a taste of some conspiracy theory and romance. The romance part is short, sweet and utterly delish. The author writes each character in this suspenseful saga well enough that my “grown up friends” (those who don’t generally dip their literary toes in the YA lit pool) felt this book made the crossover as a good read for people 20+. Love them or hate them, the characters read like a study on the effects of duress on the human psyche. Translation: though the characters are kind of transparent, it’s still mmm…mmmmm…a good read.

Crush level: 4.75 /5  What?  I know I have talked the highly acclaimed talk about this book, and it’s totally true, but I could use a little more romance which is icing, if you will, on a yummy terrific YA treat.  Beyond that I just could not stop reading this one…exciting, exciting, EXCITING.  When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about being reunited with him, er, it.  With IT.

Soundtrack: So, I hear there is a movie version of “The Hunger Games” in the works and I think the producers need to give me a call because there is a Linkin Park song, The Catalyst, that makes me think Chester Bennington was sitting on his couch imagining Katniss in her tribute costume.  I mean, come on, the song’s name is THE CATALYST…hulloh!?!  So, if you know the soundtrack creator for “The Hunger Games” please direct him or her to me because I can make them a soundtrack that will give them an eargasm like the one I had when I first heard the song.  It was so good, I almost dropped my crock pot on my toe (I was washing some dishes at the time, you see).