Sunday Salon: 3 Quick YA Reviews

I've had some YA books hanging around on my "read" list for a while now, and I think it is about time I review them.

Title: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Date: 2011
Genre: Young Adult, dystopian

323 pages.
Where I got it: The public library
Challenges: None

I'm going to start this review with a couple of pieces of information: 1. I am a little burnt out on YA right now; 2.  I LOVE the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty.

Did I love Bumped?  Not exactly, but I liked it. The world that McCafferty creates is slightly terrifying, but well-drawn.  Her invention of slang is impressive. The story is about Harmony and Melody, a set of twins from wildly different backgrounds.  Melody is all set to be "bumped" by one of the hottest guys around.  Harmony grew up in a religious sect, and is getting ready to start a family of her own with her brand new husband... before she shows up at Melody's house, that is.  The world where their reunion takes place is a place where adults are unable to reproduce and teens are seen as valuable assets for their reproductive capacity.  I really want to say something intelligent about how this book offers a critique of the culture we've created where teenage girls' sexuality is entertainment.  It does that.  It also says something about reproduction as a form of production, and the potential horror that causes. The end of the book is set up for a sequel, and I'm hoping that the sequel lets us get to know and like the characters a little better, because the world of the novel does make me want to keep reading.  Overall: B+

Title:Sisters Red
Author: Jackson Pearce
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Date: 2010
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale

Where I got it: The public library
Challenges: None

I wanted to read Sisters Red because it was another of the titles removed from Bitch Magazine's, 100 Young Adult Books for the feminist reader.  The novel is a rewriting of Little Red Riding Hood that begins when the March sisters- Scarlett and Rosie- and their grandmother, are attacked at their cottage in the woods by a Fenris (basically a werewolf).  Scarlett devotes her life to revenge after she is injured in the attack while protecting her sister.  I can see the critique of the book from a feminist perspective, because Scarlett turns into somewhat of a monster herself, incapable of seeing beyond her attack.  I think this is a dangerous myth to perpetuate, especially when we consider the underlying allegory of rape that runs through the book.  Because of Scarlett's scars, she is miserable and can't see herself as loveable, so she becomes what she hates- a perpetrator of violence.  Susan Brownmiller's book,  Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, talks about the rape plot and the gender dynamics in the original fairy tale, and it would make an interesting companion text if one were reading this text for feminist reasons.  Beyond those critiques however, I did find that this was a well-constructed and atmospheric rewriting of a fairy tale (and I really like fairy tale rewritings).  I also thought that the acting on the audio was top notch.  Overall: A- (with mixed feelings)

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publisher: Listening Library Audio
Date: 2007
Genre: Contemporary YA

Where I got it: The public library
Challenges: None

Jay Asher's book is having a real moment right now, and I know that I am in the minority when I say that I didn't really like it.  I find the concept of the book- a series of tapes left behind by Hannah after committing suicide, explaining to all of the negative forces in her life how they have impacted her- to be intriguing, and the book did have emotional weight.  Asher attempts to show that suicide isn't the result of a single incident or event, but that the culmination of small things has a big effect.  This is an important message in the era of cyberbullying, and it is a good message for all of us to be cautious and considerate of what we say and do unto others.  However, I think that it continues to be reductive to suggest that someone who commits suicide can trace back every moment that led to the event.  This may be true for some, but not all sufferers of depression.  And just on a storytelling level (and I've read this elsewhere), I didn't really believe in the characters.  Clay- the narrator- seemed like more of a device than a fully developed character.  He didn't need to be the vehicle to tell Hannah's story, and I think that her story would have been more powerful if she had just been allowed to tell it herself, without the cleverness of the device that frames it.  Overall: B-


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