HBO’s Girls

I’m an avid watcher of the show Girls, and I occasionally read Slate’s commentary on the show. I know some people hate the show, and I agree that the second season was uneven. In fact, there were times that it didn’t even feel like the same show it was in the first season.

But count me as a Girls fan. Sure, the show is visceral, uncomfortable, awkward, and even gross at times, but isn’t that the point? The show brilliantly depicts just how hard it is to be a (fairly) fresh college grad with no direction, limited funds, and too much self-esteem.

College, especially for privileged kids who don’t have to pay their own way, is a pretty cushy environment, an idealized world where anything can happen. To be spat out into the “real” world–to a less sheltered environment where trash has to be dumped and urinary tract infections happen and book contracts have to be fullfilled–is a shock that makes people do weird things (such as date a pretentious not-at-all-talented artist named Booth Jonathan and/or pee outside of a train station).

Girls feels pretty real to me, even if the events are exaggerated and sometimes don’t make a ton of sense (the OCD storyline seemed to come out of nowhere, as did the weird interlude with Patrick Wilson). True, the show is gritty and often gratuitous, but I think that’s what I like. After all, isn’t this what life is really like?

Hannah and her friends are privileged, which makes them easy to hate, but I feel sympathy for them. The world isn’t such a surprise when you’ve lived in it your whole life, but it has to be jarring to be go from being a special snowflake to just another hipster in Brooklyn. I think the only truly unlikeable people here are the parents!

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The Countdown

I’m one chapter away from finishing my latest revision of my latest novel, a Stepford Wives meets Mad Men meets Canby Hall meets The Handmaid’s Tale mash-up. For those of you who are counting, this is my eight millionth draft.

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I’m Back!

I took a little blogging break, but I’m back! (I know, I know–you haven’t been holding your breath).

My favorite end-of-year activity is perusing all the best of lists, making notes of all the movies and books I need to get to. In the spirit of awards season, I submit my 2012 nominees.

Best Movie I Saw in 2012

Life of Pi (As good as the book–I swear.)

Best Movie I Saw in 2012 That I Thought I Might Hate But Actually Loved

Les Miserables  (Imagine I just sang the title.)

Best Documentary I Saw in 2012

Queen of Versailles (I wanted to hate these horrid, vapid people with zero awareness of the world around them, but they were oddly charming.)

Best TV Show I Discovered in 2012

NYC Prep (How did I miss this gem when it first came out?? It’s about hateful rich kids! Who say sassy things about each other! And go to dinner parties!)

Best TV Show of 2012

Downton Abbey (I’m over Bates this season and into Branson.)

Best Book I Read in 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (It’s loaded with delicious plot twists. You better block out a weekend for this one).

Best YA Book I Read in 2012

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth (The author treats issues of same-sex attraction with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. And she’s really honest. )

Best Blog Reader Who Never Stopped Asking Me When I Was Going to Update My $#@*& Blog Already

April Durrant (hi, April)

So what about you? What made your Best of 2012 list?

 

 

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World’s Worst Blogger

I nominate myself for that title.

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YA Literature in the Classroom

So I’m just a few weeks out from the end of spring semester, and my YA lit class is closing in on our eleventh novel for the semester. If I had to vote–and I don’t know why I would–I would say that Shine by Lauren Myracle yielded the best discussion, even though a lot of the students weren’t crazy about it.

I read all of the books (except two) for the second (or third or fourth) time, and I think the one I enjoyed the most this time around was The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I forgot how funny that book is.

My students’ favorite–based on my nonscientific study, which involved studying their facial expressions in class and reading their weekly responses–seemed to be The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. We’ll see if Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker can unseat Alexie.

My latest task, which I’ve been neglecting, is selecting books for a summer creative writing class. I need a good YA book that deals with angst, preferably in a funny way. It’s ridiculous to think that it’s only March, and I’m probably already behind on my summer schedule. I better go watch Downton Abbey until I forget about that.

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How Do You Make a Day Longer?

I’m trying to finish a draft of my second novel. Between that and my real job, I’m having trouble keeping my head above water. What’s the best way to make a day longer? I can’t cut back on my sleep or I get wonky. So what’s the most nonessential thing you can cut out of a day? Hmmmm.

I’m pretty tied to things like brushing my teeth and reading before I fall asleep. I already skimp on exercise more often than I should. And, as you can tell, I let blogging and other online social interactions fall by the wayside. Plus, I really hate to get rid of things like hanging out with my husband or having Wednesday lunches with my colleagues. I’m thinking there’s only one way to make my day longer without giving up things I love: I have to cut my day job back to 40 hours a week…and stick to that. Short of buying myself a punch clock on ebay (and I’m considering it), how do I make sure that I only work 40 hours a week and write for 20. There must be some magic method that I just haven’t figured out yet.

I need to hire one of those closet organizers to organize my life…

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Adolescent Literature

I’m teaching a class in YA literature next semester. I’m trying to decide which books to include on the syllabus. I want a couple “classics,” but I want the bulk of the reading list ot be contemporary. In particular, I want to look at how YA books today treat issues of gender, race, class, and power.

So here’s what’s on my short list for consideration. I haven’t read all of them yet, so I’m on a quest to find out what others think about these books:

1. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

2. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  by Sherman Alexie

4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

5. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

6. Sold by Patricia McCormick

7. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

8. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

 

 

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Guest Post at The Bookish Type

Thanks to Casey for letting me post about books on her very cool blog!

My Favorite Dystopian Novels

I’m glad to see the resurgence of dystopian novels lately.  Who wants to read those pie-in-the-sky utopian novels, right? It’s much more fun to think of a totally messed-up future than to think about one filled with unicorns and rainbows. For whatever reason, we seem to be attracted to thinking about our potential dark sides.

One of the reasons I love dystopian narratives so much is that they remind me that things could always be a lot worse. So here’s my top ten favorite dystopians and the reasons why I wouldn’t want to live in those worlds (even though the books are terrific):

10. Wither by Lauren DeStefano—I’d make a rotten polygamist wife. As soon as I figured out how to get my sister wives to do all the cooking and cleaning, I’d willingly give up all rights to the husband in return.

9. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta—This one’s a bit of a cheat because I haven’t read it yet, but it’s high on my list. Post-rapture living could be pretty depressing, especially when you’re among the ones left on Earth.

8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury—Any world where they burn books is not a world I want to live in.

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry— Dying before I can qualify for a senior discount is a real downer. I’m seriously waiting for the day when I can take advantage of all those sweet elderly deals.

6. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood—There’s no way I can live without my Kindle and
air-conditioning. This world isn’t going to work for me.

5. Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle—Yeah, it sounds great…until the apes cage us. This is why we must be nice to animals.

4. The Uglies by Scott Westerfield—Being pretty—without a lot of work—sounds good, but I suspect we’d all miss our bad hair days. How can we appreciate beauty without a pimple or two and a crossed-eye or something?

3. 1984 by George Orwell—There’s no way I could function in a world this controlled. I’d never be able to follow all those rules.

2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins—Katniss has some sweet skills; I, however, would be in trouble if my name was drawn to fight in the games. Ten minutes in the ring with some of those kids, and I’d be crying for my mommy.

1.  The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood—I can’t imagine living in a world where my sole job could be giving birth tobabies for gross old theocrats. Ick. This is the book that taught me why feminism matters.  Plus, I look terrible in capes.

My debut novel, The Predicteds, isn’t technically a dystopian novel; it’s more like a prequel
to a dystopian world. It explores the very cusp of a technological change that will potentially have far-reaching effects, depending on how people respond. In the world of The Predicteds, scientists have invented a computer program called PROFILE that can predict a teenager’s propensity for violence. While the characters in the novel tentatively open their lives to PROFILE, we have to wonder how that little opening—the acceptance of something so dangerous—can forever change the world for years to come.  The Predicteds takes place on the very edge of what could become dystopian world, one that may not be so far away.

Now that’s scary.

 

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Guest Blog Posts: From Watch YA Reading

I’ve just completed a really fun thirty-day blog tour. Just for kicks, I’m going to re-post those blog posts here, and I’ll include a link to the blog host.

The first blog post was at Watch YA Reading, a great book site run by five super-smart ladies: Caitlin, Kate, Christine, Katie, and Leiah. Thanks to Christine for sending me some fun questions to answer. Here’s the interview:

1)  The Predicteds sounds amazing. Where did the idea for it come from?

Thanks! I hope people like the concept and the story. The idea came from a really tragic event that happened here in Salt Lake City. A few years ago, a teenager opened fire at a mall, killing several people and injuring many others before he killed himself. That led to a lot of questions about whether or not the people closest to the shooter could’ve
known—or predicted—this horrible event. And if they could, then what responsibility would we have to keep these people from harming others? That led me to the basic premise of The Predicteds: In the book, a computer program can now predict who is bound to commit heinous criminal acts. But what happens next? How do we treat people? And what happens if the person you love might be the next villainous murderer? Big questions!

2) How does it feel to see your very first published book and know people are reading it?

It’s very exciting. And I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who’ve shown so much support. YA readers are truly the best. It’s also kind of tough, though, to have the book “out there.” I think it must be a little bit like putting yourself up on Hot or Not (you know,
that web site where you can rate pictures of people as a hot ten or a gross one). It’s sometimes hard to separate yourself from the book itself. I feel like it’s another one of my body parts now. It’s like my liver, and I’m terrified of having my liver on display!

3) Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you kind of stumble into it?

I’ve always wanted to write, but I think I stumbled into fiction. I have a PhD in English, so I’ve always done academic writing, and that didn’t leave much time for fiction. When I finally made time to do it, I realized how much I’d been missing. Fiction is way more fun than peer-reviewed journals. I still think academic writing is important, but fiction suits me better. I like the process, I feel more creative, and I love the interaction with readers.

4) Who would you say is the author (or book) that has inspired you the most in your writing?

Oh, gosh. Every single book I’ve ever read has inspired me. Seriously. I read all the time, and I’m often in awe of other writers. But I distinctly remember feeling like I just had to write after reading some of Nick Hornby’s books. For example, after reading About a Boy, I just knew I wanted to meet some quirky characters and throw them in a plot and see what happens. I can’t say that I’m anywhere near the writer Hornby is, but it was after reading a book of his that made me sit down and write. I guess I just decided that I
couldn’t die without having written a book.

5) Do you have plans to continue writing after this?

Absolutely. I’m always writing. I’m not sure I could stop. If I wasn’t writing fiction, I’d be writing something else, even if it was something nobody ever read.

6) Is The Predicteds a series or stand-alone? Because I see potential for a series, if not following the same character, then at least within the same world.

Right now, The Predicteds is a stand-alone, but I’ve always envisioned it as a series. After telling Daphne’s story, I want to go deeper and find out how PROFILE impacts the larger world around her. This book starts at the very beginning of this new world, and I think everything is going to explode before too long! I’d love to keep going.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the chance to guest post on Watch YA Reading!



 

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It’s That Time Again…

I’m pretty excited for the first day of school. It’s my favorite day of the whole year. I’m happily sharpening pencils and buying new notebooks.

In anticipation for all the school reading that will occupy me come fall, I need to relax this week and read a great book that features school. Any suggestions? What’s a good book that’s either set at a boarding school or features school as a significant setting? Ideas?

I’m looking forward to making a list with my fresh pencils and new notebooks!

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