Adaptation by Malinda Lo

Adaptation“She remembered the bird in the headlights, and she remembered waking up twenty-seven days later.  But the more she tried to focus in on that thing that had happened between those events, the more it slid away from her, slippery as an eel.”

Birds all over North America are mysteriously throwing themselves in the paths of planes, causing crashes and widespread mayhem.   No one knows why: some kind of bird plague?  Terrorism? Weather abnormalities?  No matter the cause, the results are scary: flights are grounded, people are hoarding supplies, and conspiracy theories flood the internet.

Does the government know more about the crashes than they will admit? When they crash in the Nevada desert in the middle of the night and wake up in a government facility nearly a month later, Reese and David realize there may be some truth to the conspiracy theories.  Both received medical attention, but even the doctor won’t tell what kind of treatment, and they are forbidden from telling even their parents.

Back home in San Francisco, the mysteries continue: Reese is plagued by recurrent dreams, and David is having strange symptoms.  The pair are also quite sure they are being followed, but by whom?  Who could possibly be interested in the boring lives of two SF teenagers?   In the midst of the confusion and anxiety, Reese must also sort out her feelings for a new friend, Amber.  Sure, they like each other, but does Amber know more about the bird crisis than she will admit?  Can she be trusted?

Meet Malinda Lo’s third book! Her first two, Ash and Huntress were companion fantasy novels, and were fantastic in themselves, but made even more so by Lo’s treatment of GLBT characters.  In Adaptation, she does what she does best: placing a realistic cast of characters with diverse ethnic backgrounds and sexualities in the midst of a great story. Here’s a cheer for having a super-rare bisexual character in a YA story! (And here’s what Lo herself has to say about bisexuality and young adult literature.) Lo subtly educates her readers about queerness: coming out, what terms could be hurtful, how to support a questioning friend-absolutely fantastic information that is hard to come by in the real world.  She gives us a rainbow of characters and then shows us how to treat them all with respect, all while avoiding preachiness.  Bisexual teens, gay and lesbian teens, questioning teens, all plopped in a world where it is safe to be queer.  I read her stories and am awash with gratitude.  I am so grateful for her writing stories that make queerness a non-issue, and books that help questioning teens find their way.  Seriously-it’s a desperately-needed public service, friends.   *Dusts hands, climbs off soapbox*

Aside from the diversity-awesomeness, this is a captivating thriller, full of plot twists and secrets and speculation.  She’s already working on the sequel, due this fall.  I can’t wait!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.malindalo.com

Lo, Malinda. Adaptation. Little, Brown: New York, 2012. 386 pp.  Ages 15 and up.

This is the part when I tell you what books you might like to read if you liked this one!  But friends, I’ve got to tell you-I’ve been hunting for at least an hour and you know what?  There aren’t too many!  Here are some that feature GLBTQ characters and fall into the speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) category.

Cycler-A fantasy about a character who switches gender, featuring a bisexual boyfriend!

Vintage-a gay ghost story

The Beckoners-I have it on good report that this is a good non-coming out queer novel.

Sister Mischief-an all-girl hip hop band featuring a bisexual character! You’ll love this one!

The Water Wars-no queer content,, but plenty of excitement and conspiracy.

 

 

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Sprout by Dale Peck

“I have a secret. And everyone knows it. But no one talks about it, at least not out in the open.  that makes it a very modern secret, like knowing your favorite celebrity has some weird eccentricity or other, or professional athletes do it for the money, or politicians don’t actually have your best interests at heart.”

Sprout’s mom died of cancer when he was twelve, and then he and his father moved from New York to the absolute middle of nowhere.  Now he’s a Kansas resident, a freak with defiantly green hair, living in a vine-covered trailer with his semi-alcoholic father-who just so happens to be dating his English teacher.  To make it even more awkward, Ms. Miller has also been coaching Sprout in the fine art of essay-writing.  She sees Sprout’s talent with words, and wants him to enter the statewide essay contest, where he might have a chance to win a scholarship.  However, there’s a catch. (There’s always a catch!) She recommends that he keep his sexual orientation secret, and not to write about it for the contest, saying that it could hurt his chances for winning.  Sprout’s not sure what he wants to do.

Then, there’s Ty, with his terrifying father who believes the end of the world is coming.  Ty’s family moved to Kansas to hide from the apocalypse and the taxmen.  Ty’s father is not someone you want to anger, so when Sprout and Ty develop feelings for each other, it is a dangerous situation indeed.  They spend the school year sneaking around, kissing in the woods and in the janitor’s closet, all the while afraid of being caught.  It’s a complicated life: full of out-in-the-open secrets, a pregnant best friend, ostriches, electric fences, and a bloodthirsty St. Bernard.

Sprout’s voice is funny and sarcastic; I think you will love the interesting words he uses.  (I learned what a nidus is!) While this book is a little less realistic than other realistic fiction novels, it is fun, creative, and engaging.  I did find the characters to be a little crowded-it was a little difficult for me to keep track of Sprout’s best friend, his former make-out partner, and the back stories of both main characters.  However, it doesn’t bog down the story, and the many eccentricities of the characters will make you smile, I think.  You know what else will make you smile?  Quotes like these: “I stared at him. We’d started out with the cave canem and ended up with the horsemen of the Apocalypse, except they were ostriches, not horsemen, and then something about plums and Methodists.”  Hilarious.

I am usually very liberal in my appraisal of young adult literature; I think it is normal and healthy to discuss issues like sex, drugs, drinking, and suicide.  However, I did take issue with the presentation of drinking and driving in the novel; it just seemed unnecessary to the plot.  It would still have been an excellent book without the inclusion of that particular scene. I would cautiously advise against using this as classroom reading; it would be well-placed in a high school or classroom library, but I imagine that it would be a fairly controversial choice for assigned reading.  That said, this is a fresh and amusing read, and it does focus on one of my favorite trends in literature: GLBTQ stories about characters who have already dealt with and accepted their own sexuality.  It also won several awards; it was a Stonewall Book Award finalist, as well as a Lambda Literary Award winner.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://dalepeck.com/

Peck, Dale. Sprout. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. 277 pp.  Ages 16 and up.

If you liked this book, I think you would also like Getting It by Alex Sanchez, and also Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.

 

 

Totally Joe by James Howe

“Ok, fine, I’m not a boy like them, but I’m still a boy.  The thing is, boys-by which I mean guy-guys like my brother Jeff-have always been a total mystery to me. I mean, how do they know how to do all that stuff, like throw and catch and grease car engines? Besides the fact that I don’t have a clue how to do any of those things, on a scale of 1-10, I have, like, below zero interest. Way below.  Try negative a thousand.”

Joe’s writing his alphabiography for a school assignment.  It’s a story of his life with a section for each letter of the alphabet, starting with A, for Addie, his best friend, through Z, for Zachary, the boy that might someday become his boyfriend.  His alphabiography is almost like a journal: he talks about his crushes, about his family, how it feels to be bullied.  He’s a great cook, is horrified by the thought of kissing, and favors loud Hawaiian print shirts.  He has a boyfriend, Colin, who is just not quite ready to come out of the closet yet, and there are some guy-guys who’ve been picking on him, but Joe strives to be positive.

I usually end up reading more high school level books, and this is written for the younger crowd, so it was a refreshing change.  Actually, refreshing is the perfect word for Joe, himself.  He’s optimistic, self-confident, and his indomitable spirit permeates the book.  I love his language: creative, casual, and approachable.  His character comes off as so earnest and friendly, that you want him to be real. Furthermore, James Howe has done a wonderful job handling the bullying issue without allowing the novel to be consumed by it.  The result is a light, pleasant, and encouraging read.  I think you’re going to like it!

For the record, James Howe is the author of my much-beloved Bunnicula series!

Happy reading!

Howe, James. Totally Joe. Athenum Books: New York, 2005.  189 pp. Ages 10 and up.

Publisher’s website: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/James-Howe/20539048

This is the companion book to The Misfits, so that is a great place to start if this sounds like a good book.  However, I read Totally Joe first, and it was just fine on its own!  Also, look for Addie on the Inside, coming out soon!

 

 

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole

“I shouldn’t have come to a gay beach.  That was wacko of me.  Here I am, terrified of people thinking I’m a tortillera. I was thrown out my school and my house for loving a girl, and what do I do?  I come to a gay beach for the first time in my life.  I’m just the most brilliant kid on the block.”

Do you know how I know when to put a book on the All Time Awesome-est List?  It’s when I’m seriously let down when the book is finished, when I feel like there’s no way the next book will compare to it.  Well, here it is, friends: meet the new addition to the List: Mayra Lazara Dole’s Down to the Bone.

On the last day of eleventh grade, Laura gets caught reading a love letter in class at her Catholic school.  Worse still, the letter is from a girl, her secret girlfriend of two years.  The nuns drag her to the office, call her mom, and in the same day, she gets kicked out of both her school and her house.  Worst of all, her girlfriend gets shipped off to marry a guy! So that’s no school, no home, and no love…you’d think it would be the end of the world, but Laura works it out, with the help of a colorful (and still authentic) cast of characters

This book sparkles with enthusiasm.  Laura is sassy, funny, and passionately devoted to her friends and little brother.  (She even sneaks in to see him at his school when her mother refuses to let her visit).  During the course of the story, she has to make some difficult choices: coming out, when it might mean that her mom could never speak to her again, or just trying (like her ex-girlfriend, Marlena) to find a guy and live the straight life, because it’s too scary to lose everything.  However, even though she’s really struggling with her identity and feelings, the book doesn’t ever bog down into the “This is Just a Coming-Out Book” pit.  It’s fresh-and that’s mostly thanks to Laura’s hilarious commentary (Dole is a master with dialogue!)  and the great supporting characters.

I love it!  I love it because it features a Cuban lesbian as main character.  The food, the Miami beach culture, the Cuban influences, and the slang all make this book delicious and fun.  But I love it even more because it’s a very honest portrayal of the coming-out process.  For example, Laura tries hard to date a boy, but she ends up just feeling like she can’t get close to him emotionally, even though she doesn’t dislike kissing him.  The story lets you get close to Laura in that way, by following her thoughts, and she’s so positive and funny that you just fall in love with her!  I also like that Dole lets the readers get a little nervous:  I know that when Laura is waffling about coming out to her mom (I won’t ruin it for you, though), I was rushing through the book, because I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the Brave Thing.

This is an ALA Rainbow List  (a great list of GLBTQ books for young people) Starred selection, and was also nominated for the ALA Best Books list, as well as the winner of the Americas award, for its portrayal of Latinas in the United States.  Good stuff!

Happy reading!

Author’s website: http://mayraldole.wordpress.com/  (She has a blog on Goodreads, too)

What’s even better is that she has a new book coming out next year! Wooohooo!

Dole, Mayra Lazara. Down to the Bone. New York: HarperTeen, 2008. 351 pp.