Sister Mischief by Laura Goode

“But you have to use the love you still have for Rowie to create some things yourself.  You fell in love.  That’s brave.  Find the courage it took to do that and use it to write something that makes other people feel something.  It isn’t just about getting everyone’s attention, about shocking them and making them laugh.  It’s about giving people a reason to think about something they’ve never thought about before, something only you can make people consider.  It’s about moving people, honey.  About telling your truth.”

Meet Sister Mischief, a hip-hop group straight from Holyhill, composed of four of the baddest ladies around.  There’s Esme, MC Ferocious, a Jewish lesbian who takes care of the verses; Marcy, DJ SheStorm, the toughest straight girl on the drums; Tess, the gorgeous vocalist and former Lutheran-supergirl…and Rowie.  Rowie, the gal that Esme falls desperately in love with.  Rowie, who shatters Esme’s heart when she decides to date a nice Indian boy instead.

In the midst of the heartbreak, there is an epic struggle with school administration.  The principal has forbidden hip-hop and related clothing, and worse, refuses to allow Sister Mischief to run a queer student organization.  The girls wanted a forum (in the center of all-white, all-straight Minnesota) to discuss issues of race and gender, but meet intense administrative resistance.  When your love leaves you for someone she thinks her parents will approve of, and your school is as homogeneous as it can be, it’s hard to keep your chin up.  With the help of her friends and her super-supportive single father (he’s the one who gave the amazing pep talk I chose as a quote), Esme sets about changing the world to make room for herself and her friends.

This book is full of biting wit, stellar wordplay, and the entire roster of Who’s Who in Hip-Hop History.  Laura Goode plays with sounds and text, peppering the book with song lyrics and word combinations that beg to be read aloud.  The structure is great, too; she intersperses the book with text messages, in the form of footnotes.  While you’re reading, you’ll come to a footnote and then skip to read it at the bottom of the page.  It’s so clever; it feels exactly like you are getting these texts in real life.  You know how you’ll be reading and someone sends you a text, and you stop right away to check?  This is the book version of it, and it’s really interesting and not at all distracting.  Oh, and aside from mentioning (in a natural and not-pushy or pretentious way AT ALL) every incredible hip-hop artist in existence, there are also tons of quotes and references to queer writers and books, which is fantastic.  This book reads like a thousand arrows pointing to other awesome works, so readers will find it rich with new things to read and listen to.

Structure aside, you’ll love Esme’s vulnerable, sassy narrative and the strong bond between the girls.  Furthermore, teens will love that it takes them seriously:  this is a story that completely affirms the intensity of emotion and passion of which young people are capable. My favorite part, though, is the post-race, post-gender tone of the book.  While many people feel that being “post-race” involves never mentioning race or color, I feel differently.  I think that when we ignore race and self-consciously refuse to discuss it at all, it is 1. inauthentic and denies reality and 2. furthers the gap between cultures, as it makes us reluctant to share and learn from each other because we feel it isn’t appropriate to ask.  Race and sexual orientation are central to the text, and Goode handles it like a master; while including a diverse cast of characters, she avoids the trap of the “token lesbian/Jew/Indian/etc”.  Also, huge props to the incredibly positive feminist message!

Hip-hop fans and anyone who’s ever had a broken heart or felt out of place will love the stuffin’ out of this awesome book!

Happy reading!

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

Goode, Laura.  Sister Mischief. Candlewick: Sommerville, MA, 2011. 367 pp. Ages 15 and up.

If you liked this book for the musical and literary references AND the queer content, then Hard Love is probably perfect for you, because it has all of those elements, plus is a super-award-winner!  And, in the other direction, try Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.  It has no hip-hop, and takes place on a remote island, rather than in a high school, but is full of the same wit and sass as Sister Mischief.

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Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Image“‘And in the meantime and always,’ she counseled me.’–Focus on your strengths’

‘Which is?’

‘Taking pictures, yaar! You are very lucky to have a passion like this and be so good at it.  Now use it.  You know what you want to do.  Now do it. Acts of love will lead you to more love.  Turn your pain and confusion into beauty and power, like I am trying to do with this breakup. ‘”

Dimple is a seventeen-year-old Indian American, and her parents have found the perfect husband for her.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t looking for a husband, nor is she intrigued by the idea.  However, when her supertwin best friend decides that she is interested in Dimple’s future husband, things get sticky.  In the meantime, Dimple sorts out what it means to be South Asian, but raised in the United States. She learns her parents are actually people, with pasts and dreams and hopes for her.  She uses her camera (she calls it “Chica Tikka”-Third Eye. Isn’t that beautiful?) and, in the process of developing her photographs, she tells the story of what it is like to be living in the space between two cultures.

All right.  I’ll admit it. I picked this book up once before and abandoned it because it felt like it was a billion pages long.  However, once you’re into the story, the very lush language and descriptions don’t weigh it down.   It’s a story that meanders, rather than slams you upside the head with a bunch of plot devices, one after the other.  If you approach it with that in mind, I think you’ll love the descriptions of clothing and food and music; they’re very poetic and as I was reading, I felt like the author was also an artist, because of her celebration of detail and composition.  This is a lovely book for summer reading; it begs to be read on the porch or a picnic blanket.

I especially loved Dimple’s relationship with her parents.  Through the course of the story, she begins to learn more about them as human beings-her mother was a beautiful dancer as a young person; her father prays daily for Dimple to find a loving life partner-regardless of gender.  (Dimple isn’t a lesbian, but there are multiple queer characters in the story, so you won’t be disappointed.) It’s a really beautiful thing you realize as you become an adult: the process of growing from dependent child to an equal and a friend of you parents is very special, and it’s often overlooked in young adult literature.  In this book, it is sensitive and nuanced and was one of my favorite threads in the story.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.thisistanuja.com (She’s in the process of making a new website, so this isn’t so interesting at the moment-check back later, all right?)

Hidier, Tanuja Desai.  Born Confused. Scholastic: New York, 2002. 514 pp. (Yes, that’s really how long it is!)

All right, this book was hard for me to match with others, so bear with me, please!  It fills a place in literature that just doesn’t have a lot of content yet.  But, if you liked this book for the queer content-you know, the issues of being a minority of a minority, you might try Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole: the tone is a little lighter, and the protagonist a bit younger,  but it’s about a Cuban-American lesbian and it’s really funny.  If you like the specifically Indian queer content, you might try Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal.  I haven’t read it yet, but it is recommended on the ALA’s Rainbow List.  Do you know of any others?  I’d love to hear!

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.

Girl Goddess # 9 by Francesca Lia Block

“They like to dance together better than dancing with boys because they can be more sexy and free and not worry that the boy is feeling self conscious.”–Pixie and Pony

“The most beautiful people are the ones that don’t look like one race or even one sex.” — Winnie and Cubby

“No other kid at my school lived with two women who slept in the same bed and kissed on the lips all the time.”   –Dragons in Manhattan

” I am bringing lost girls back from underground.” -Orpheus

My beautiful sister brought me this book back from San Francisco, and I am in love with it, an unashamed crush that makes me want to fly kites and sing enthusiastically and leave positive body image decals in fitting rooms.  Yeah, it is that good!  Have I ever steered you wrong, my dear friends?

This is a collection of nine short stories, which I was already inclined to love, because I believe the short story is so often overlooked as a genre, and it is a great way to entice readers who are, perhaps, intimidated by a longer format, and disdainful of the shorter, though often more opaque, poem.  Isn’t that sneaky?  Besides,  this collection is stellar.  The stories all center around girls and young women, all told with a lush, almost magical, voice.

La’s poet mother is dead, Tuck has two mothers, Winnie is in love with her boyfriend Cubby, who loves other men, and Pixie and Pony are the best friends to ever grace the pages of a book.  These are their stories: full of sparkly hope, growth, and language that makes you think of paintings and constellations and water glinting off the ocean.  You can finish the book in a few hours, but you will probably want to hold on to it for days.  If you know a girl, or you are a girl, (I am pretty sure that is everyone. Just sayin’!) you should read this book.  Here’s why: this collection is special because it returns the magic to femininity and celebrates that power inherent in young women, the strength that society so often likes to overlook .  What I loved most was the contrast of the setting (often a gritty city landscape) and the tapestried beauty of the characters’ inner dialogues and relationships with others.  The stories are straightforward in plot, and feel like little snapshots in a photo essay entitled “Being a Person”.

Francesca Lia Block is the author of many amazing books, including Weetzie Bat and The Rose and the Beast.  She won the Margaret Edwards lifetime achievement award, which is actually code for Super Amazing Goddess Writer Who Makes the World Better Just By Existing.  Everything she has ever written is now on the top of my to-read list, and I am mailing this beautiful book to a friend who is going to love it, as long as she promises to mail it to someone else after she is finished.

On a side note, do you remember when I reviewed The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, and someone described it as “magical realism”?  I loved Bender’s style, and Francesca Lia Block gives me the same feeling.  I think you will like it!

On an even more unrelated side note, I got my student visa and am leaving for McGill in Montreal for library school this week!  Oh sweet goodness, I am going to be a librarian!

Happy Reading (and I love you)!

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

Block, Francesca Lia.  Girl Goddess #9. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 181 pp.  Ages 13 and up.

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp

“Man my stomach feels twisted in knots.  I just hope I get to Memphis ok so I can see you P. My hand is mad killing me too so I’m going to end this letter.

I just heard an announcement that we’re getting close to some place in Idaho where we’ll get like a half hour to walk around and get something to eat.

Maybe that lady with the shower cap will give me another cigarette if I’m nice to her? Maybe I should tell her my name is Shirley?

Love,

Jamie

P.S. I can’t believe you’re dying.  Please don’t die.”

Jamie, or Punkzilla, as his friends call him, has to get to Memphis.  His older brother, Peter, is dying of cancer.  Peter wrote and sent him enough money for a Greyhound ticket to visit.  So Jamie leaves the streets of Portland, and sets out across the country, trying to make it to Memphis before Peter’s death.  Jamie writes Peter throughout the journey, carefully documenting the entire trip for him, in a series of unmailed letters crammed in a fat notebook.

It’s quite a trip, too: stories of being jumped in the bus station bathroom, being mistaken for a girl repeatedly, losing his virginity, musings on his history of petty crime, God, and the nature of the world, and wrenching descriptions of hunger and loneliness fill the epistles.  The tales are frequently seamy (Peter admonishes Jamie to be honest, and not hold anything back in the letters), and the sheer danger of the situation is apparent.  Jamie has some chilling run-ins with child predators, and puts himself at risk of harm repeatedly.

That said, there is a distinct buoyancy to the letters:  Punkzilla’s disarming tone evokes Charlie’s voice in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the two works: the epistolary form, the intimacy that first person narrative creates, the outcasted speakers, the brutal honesty of the letters.  I instantly adored Jamie (just like I felt about Charlie!), and I love the way Rapp uses filler words and little punctuation and creative grammar to craft Jamie’s voice.  It’s really great, and creates this perfect image of a skinny kid, trying to be street smart, gone AWOL from military school and on the way to visit his dying brother.

This book is a Printz honor book!  Please check it out! I read it in two hours, as my mom and I were driving through the blazing white heat of New Mexico, as she moved me back home to wait for my Canadian visa to come through.  I was alternately crying over leaving my friends and panicking over the future, but the experience of reading such a great road trip book while I was actually on a road trip was incredible.  Come on, guys! Get in your cars (or on your bicycles/llamas/covered wagons/flying batboats) and let’s go on a trip-and take this awesome book with you!

Happy Reading!

Rapp, Adam.  Punkzilla. Candlewick Books: Somerville, 2009. 244 pp.  Ages 15 and up.  Drugs, sex (including abuses of power by adults), violence, and general mischief.

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

“Of course I knew.  It was the reason I was no longer comatose after an entire life of sleepwalking.  It seemed that, all of a sudden, Marisol was necessary to my existence, but of course, I didn’t mention that to her”

John’s parent’s divorced six years ago; his father left them for the high-flying bachelor life in the city.  John’s mother never touches him-not a hug, pat, or even accidentally, while passing the butter.  It has left John cold, sarcastic, and (even though he might not want to admit it) profoundly unhappy inside.

That is, until Marisol swoops into his life: a skinny, Puerto Rican lesbian, adopted by do-gooding WASPy parents.  They bond over their respective zines, which, for the uninitiated, are short, self-produced magazine publications.  They meet for coffee (which John learns to first tolerate, and then even like), and go to a concert.  The two talk for hours about feelings, parents, being different, and everything friends talk about.

However, things get complicated when John develops feelings for Marisol-those kind of feelings.  Even though Marisol is a lesbian, John falls for her, and can’t help but wishing there was more to their relationship.  The two have to navigate around their attachment, while at the same time, John is trying to renegotiate his relationship with his parents, and find who he really is.

This is a lovely, honest depiction of a growing friendship, especially when Wittlinger delves into John’s romantic attachment to Marisol.  It feels like this sort of situation happened to me at least five times when I was growing up, but it isn’t often that you see an author exploring those mixed-up love feelings.  These sections of the book really shine, and make it an award winner, I think.  She takes these miniatures of life, and examines them and works with them, and fills an entire book.  Fantastic, and not easy to do, I’d imagine.

Another great thing about the book is the references:  poetry, Ani DiFranco songs, inserts of various zines (art included), and the entire lyrics of the song that the book took its title from. It’s called Hard Love, by Bob Franke.  Here’s the Youtube link; I think you’ll like it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ejMPz5yOb0

All in all, this was a delightful book.  It reminisced on the awkwardness of the high school years, without dwelling on them.  And the relationships and characterization of John and Marisol are realistic and relatable.  I can see why it won some of the big awards: a YALSA Best Book, Lamda Literary Award, plus the prestigious Printz Honor nomination.  You don’t want to miss this one.  Even the dedication rocks:  “for everyone whose first love was a hard love.”  I can relate.

Happy Reading!

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

Wittlinger, Ellen. Hard Love. Simon & Schuster: New York, 1999. 224 pp.  Grades 9-11.

I know I usually recommend other books, but right now, I am still formulating my choices for this one: John reminds me so much of another character I’ve read, I just need to search my brain archives so I can tell you!

Huntress by Malinda Lo

“The whole situation should be terrifying, but she felt a helpless surrender to it.  Here she was on this journey to a place that didn’t exist on their maps, and all around unseen things seemed to stare out at them day and night.  But there, not two feet away from her, was a girl who made her feel light-headed.”

Here’s the brand new Malinda Lo book, fresh off the press just this April!  I saw it at the library yesterday and spent all my spare seconds reading it.  Not that it was hard–I definitely didn’t want to put it down.  I feel like Malinda Lo really exceeded all of my expectations when it came to this book.  Even though it’s her second book, it’s set a few centuries before Ash, in the same land.

Here’s the story:  the Kingdom is in trouble.  The sun has faded to a nondescript gray, crops are failing, and people are starving.  Those worst off are beginning to revolt.  At the Academy, the leaders cast the stones of the Oracle.  Two seventeen-year-old girls, Kaede and Taisin, are chosen to undertake the perilous journey to the city of the Fairy Queen.  No one is sure what danger waits ahead, or even exactly where to go: some of the maps haven’t been updated in decades, back when the fairies and the humans had much more contact with each other.  So, with several escorts, the girls make their way over miles of terrain, facing cold, fear, wolves, a horrifying changeling baby, and worse.  As they travel together, the girls grow closer, and end up falling in love.

All right, I have to apologize.  My description of the plot is so, so lame compared to the actual story.  That’s why Malinda Lo is out there writing incredible adventure stories, and I’m just  here on this little blog, telling everyone how awesome she is.

Because, you know what?  She is awesome.  I want to live in her world, where there is no hate or homophobia and falling in love is just falling in love.  She makes a safe space for us, and I so appreciate it.  Many GLBT books deal with hatred, homophobia, social relationships, family tensions and bullying…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  However, in Lo’s world, there has been a paradigm shift, far away from all of that.  It’s just normal.  Some people are gay and some people are straight, and there’s really no discussion about it.

Here’s what she has to say about the world she creates:

“The difference is: in the world of my novels, being gay doesn’t matter.

What that means is that the characters are able to fall in love without dealing with homophobia. They don’t have to come out, because sexual orientation is never assumed in their worlds, and falling in love with someone of the same sex is seen as perfectly natural.”

Beautiful.

Besides all of that lovely business, the adventure is tight: no wasted words, no irrelevant plot detours, just pure action and excitement.  Halfway through the book, I started panicking that it was going to end.  It’s not a tired account of the same old symbols, either: Lo mixes in the I Ching, fairy tale elements, and an ice fortress that reminded me of a fantastic Celtic folk tale I read one time.  I can’t wait for her to write something else!

Happy Reading!

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

Lo, Malinda. Huntress. New York: Little, Brown & Co, 2011. 371 pp.  Ages16 and up.

If you liked this book (and you’ve already read The Hobbit, which it partly reminded me of), you should try her first book, Ash.  If you’ve already read them both, and are looking for more fantasy, I really like the author Robin McKinley.  However, if you’re searching for more GLBT fantasy, I am actually not sure what else is out there.  If anyone knows of something along those lines, please share!

Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

“‘I’m trying to jumpstart the world.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘I’m trying to remind the world to be what it knows it should be.'”

Elle’s beautiful, aloof mother dumps her in a New York apartment alone, just shy of her 16th birthday.  The reasoning:  her mother has a new boyfriend, and he’s just not interested in having a teenager hanging around.  So Elle gets her own apartment, conveniently out of the way.  After she moves in, she meets Frank, her next-door neighbor.  Right away, she notices something different about him.  She finds herself drawn to him.  He’s a great listener, and Elle really hasn’t had anyone to really listen to her in her life before.

When her new group of friends point out that they think Frank is transgender, Elle becomes very upset.  During her sheltered life, she has never been exposed to any of the GLBT crowd before.  She’s not sure what to do, and for a while she avoids Frank and her friends at school.   She has a lot to think about.

That’s the point of this book: what Elle is thinking about.  It’s not a plot-driven story; it’s more about how Elle’s thoughts develop and change.  I like that, actually.  It gives the story a quiet, introspective feel.  The language is simple, almost sparse, and feels thoughtful in the sense that these are Elle’s thoughts, her first-person narrative.  She honestly discusses her preconceptions, hurts and fears throughout the book.

I am always grateful to see books about transpeople.  One of the most powerful motivators of hatred is fear and ignorance, and it’s a step in the right direction to be exposed to many different types of people in this nonjudgmental way.  That said, I would really like to see more of these books about GLBT characters to be written by GLBT authors.  I’m not saying that this would have been a better book had the author been transgender herself, but I would like to see more of our voices out there.

All in all, a quiet, pleasant read.  Happy reading!

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

Hyde, Catherine Ryan. Jumpstart the World.New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.  208 pp.  Grades 8-10.