Wednesday, December 5, 2012

(YA) Book of the Year: Tell the Wolves I'm Home

This is the review I wrote for but it is still totally applicable here. I just gushed less than I would ordinarily want to.

The Book: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

And it's About?

In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

In a Word, it was... Wowza.

It is totally amazballs that Tell the Wolves I’m Home is Brunt’s debut novel. As a story about family, jealousy, forgiveness, death and art, Brunt has given herself many balls to juggle in this coming-of-age story but she does so with the mastery of someone who has been writing for decades. It is a little weird in the start and does not entirely make sense but do not be put off. June is weird. She knows it and you will grow to love her for it.

The writing is simple but rich with details without being too lyrical and descriptive. June is lovely, so achingly awkward and strange. I wanted to fast-forward her out of those difficult 12-14 year old years so that she can see how unique and gifted she is in her own rite. Instead she lives in the shadow of her beautiful and exceptional older sister Greta, who tortures June as much as she tortures herself. Still, no one is good or bad in this book and there are no villans or heroes. The characters could all be real people: our sisters, mothers, uncles, friends.

As a South African reader, the story of Finn’s death and the stigma that follows the family as a result, might have had particular resonance. We are living in the height of an AIDS pandemic that has ravaged our country; tearing countless families and lives apart. And like the Elbus/Weiss family, we are also living in a society that still treats those with the disease as though they are lepers; capable of spreading the disease with the simple admission of having it. For many, the ‘short illness’ is as frightening today as it was in 1987.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is unlike any adult and young adult book I have ever read. Reading it, I was transported back to my 17 year old self; discovering magical realism through the haunting and evocative South American novels I devoured that summer. Reading those books felt like running a fever. It was the same for me with Tell the Wolves I’m Home.

Friday, September 28, 2012

YA in SA: YA Lit as Protest, Self-Study and Civil Participation

Last month, I contributed to a blog called Teen Librarian. The idea behind the YAinSA interviews on his blog is to help spread the word about South African authors (whoop whoop!). Matt, the Teen Librarian, feels that SA YA gets overlooked in the wider world which is probably true and bonus points he's trying to do something about it.

I wrote mostly about FunDza in my YAinSA guest post: YA Lit as Protest, Self-Study and Civil Participation

Of course, the concept of mobile novels is nothing new – especially if you follow the literary scene in Japan and China. The difference is that in South Africa, reading YA is not just a fun pastime. In the proud tradition of all of our literature, it is also social activism, civil participation, education and, for many, it could be a ticket out of the vicious cycle of poverty. It is just as Dr Seuss said: “The more you read; the more things you will know. The more you learn; the more places you’ll go.”

South Africa is a big, messy, cultural hotpot; youthful and full of big dreams. Couple that with technological innovation and the immense talent and generosity of our local authors and you get a body of work capable of drawing in young readers from all over Africa and the world.

Read more at Teen Librarian

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Some thoughts on Insurgent

Warning: This review contains spoilers of its prequel Divergent. If you haven't read Divergent yet, get right on that bro.

Insurgent kicks off right where Divergent ended with Tris and Four leaving the life they knew in the horrifying aftermath of the simulation attack that left hundreds dead including her parents. Tris and Four aren’t alone as they ride the train to seek refuge in the Amity faction: her brother Caleb, Peter, the rival who tried to kill Tris, and Marcus, Four’s estranged, abusive father have also escaped the Dauntless compound. Right from the beginning, this is not a happy camp. Everyone has a secret, especially Tris who is desperately hiding the fact that she was forced to kill one of her best friends during the attack. The group knows that Amity can only offer them temporarily sanctuary, if that, but they cannot comprehend the lengths that the Erudite will go to, to find and capture them. Or the reason why.

Much of this book lacks the pace and action of its prequel; lagging in the start as Tris is crushed by her guilt and grief and then limping along in the middle as the characters try to understand with little success what is actually happening to them. Tris is self-pitying, despondent and emotionally unstable in the first three-quarters of the book, behaviour that is very unlike Tris and very much like her popular contemporaries Katniss and Belle. This was disappointing, given the explosive nature of Divergent, but not entirely unexpected given the traumatic events of Divergent and that Insurgent is the second, ‘bridging’ book of the trilogy.

The clever ending makes up for the long wait for things to get really interesting and it will leave fans dying to know how it ends in the last, as-yet-untitled book of the series, due for release in Spring 2013. It was also fascinating to see how the other factions (including the faction-less) live, observe their customs and religions, and meet some of their members. The concept of Divergence and how it might work is also explored while we discover that there are some surprise secretly Divergent characters who have been living in the same constant fear of exposure as Tris all along.

One shouldn’t go into Insurgent expecting another Divergent: everything has changed, especially Tris. But if readers can push through the first half of Insurgent, it certainly ramps up substantially in the last quarter of the book and all the secrets that are uncovered ensure that many more changes are in store for everyone – Divergent or not – in the next installment of the series. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My 2012 Beyers Naude Memorial Lecture: The Song that Must be Sung

This was more-or-less what I presented at the 4th annual Beyers Naude Memorial Lecture at UFS on 27 July 2012

Thank you to the University of the Free State for humbling me with an invitation to be part of this incredibly important and prestigious lecture.

In the years since our young democracy reached majority age, 20.5 million young South Africans have not been able to fill the shoes of those who took on armies with rocks, policemen with photographs and injustice with a complete refusal to lie down and be rode over by the machinery of a fascist state. Today we need youth with the empathy to understand the immense challenges they face and the ability to act – not just recognise, not just understand – but to act to change them. Despite the sacrifices made by the young men and women whose shoulders we stand on, a 2009 paper for the Centre for Higher Education Transformation indicated that close to 42% of South Africans between the ages of 18 and 24 are not enrolled in educational institutions or employed. In 2010, Statistics South Africa reported that 49% of 15-34 year olds live in households with a per capita income below R555/month. These figures and jargon get tossed about from one policy document to a newspaper article to an academic paper and back to a national strategy document. The picture leaves the world with the impression of a violent, restless, hopeless generation trapped by the structural inequality that has replaced institutionalised inequality. Our state is failing our youth and our youth are failing the state.

Referring to the conditions within Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, Equal Education deputy secretary general, Doran Isaacs observes that “We twist and turn through what Edward Said called “magic thinking”, a style of reasoning that blurs the distinction between truth and fiction so as to make a man-made, deliberately constructed disaster seem like a necessary or at least an acceptable thing. It is the essence of magical thinking, he said, to make light of what is in fact heavy.”

My intention this afternoon is not to make light of these heavy matters as we all know well their magnitude and multitude. Instead, I wish only to recognise the role that my peers, the youth themselves, must play to push aside the magic thinking. This role will require the kind of empathy that breeds cohesion and the courage to act to achieve it: two sides of the same coin and two necessary qualities for fostering a generation capable of building the inclusive and equitable society we all hunger for.

Apartheid offered an opportunity for young people with these qualities to fight for something tangible, far-reaching and easy to understand. That context gave people who wanted to fight, something to fight for. In the absence of this obvious enemy, many of our youth have become apathetic, comfortable to complain or demand change but lacking the means or motivation necessary to do anything more than be indignant and despondent.

Over the last few years, broad-based political parties or youth wings of political parties have added their voices to these grumblings of dissatisfaction and anger from the youth but have similarly done little to nothing to address these challenges despite having the collective action power necessary to do so. Participation in these political youth movements has become a proxy for youth active citizenship but this participation is not a substitute for participation in civil society. The rhetoric of many of the representatives of these youth organisations has been that of entitlement and excuses. What jobs the youth are entitled to, what excuses corporate South Africa has invented for not creating them, whether Apartheid is a legitimate excuse for the continuation of many for the ills it has bred, what entitlements should be attached to the label of historically disadvantaged. This back and forth between the left and the right, Mangaung and Cape Town, has not furthered the more important post-partisan discourse that should be taking place. The central question of this debate should be: How can the youth collaborate, practically and sustainably, to collectively solve the challenges they face?

It is my belief that it is only through collective action that the youth can establish both the collaborative partnerships necessary for social cohesion as well as a nation with ethics. These partnerships the youth must establish need to be primarily with each other. With one voice, non-racial and classless, the youth can implement the changes they need to see in society. These collaborations need to focus on sustaining the individuals and organisations that establish them but also the projects that they pursue. They need to nurture empathy and foster action.

The young people of Tunisia and Egypt understood this as they flooded the streets of Tunis and Cairo to demand a future markedly different from their past. Despite facing the same generational exclusion from high-level macroeconomic and socio-political decision-making that South Africa’s youth face today, they refused to accept that there was no place or space or opportunity for them to make their voice heard.

Many non-profit and student-run organisations have realised this need to speak up, setting-up networks that pool talent, resources and institutional knowledge for mutual convenience and prosperity. The Funding Practice Alliance, also known as the FPA, is an organisation established on this premise. Made up of four organisations including Social Change Assistance Trust and the Rural Education Access Programme, the FPA aims to transform the relationship between civil society organisations and funding agencies and works with dozens of local development agencies within the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape.

Of course many of these kinds of partnerships will not be successful. Non-profits and small businesses share the same notoriety in South Africa: most are here one day, and gone the next. All things are not possible with hard work and motivation alone but certainly much more is possible with them than in their absence. Because there are young people who are capable of making it work, capable of both empathy and action. Their numbers extend well beyond the elite few whose faces grace magazines and newspaper top 200 lists. I know this because I have seen this, they come from rural Eastern Cape like my husband or the mountains of the Drakensburg like my varsity room mate or the northern suburbs of Johannesburg like my childhood best friends and they find each other.

At my alma mater, the University of Cape Town, many of them found me. The student-run organisation Ubunye was born as projects joined together to gain the critical mass they needed to get things done. I volunteered for Township Debating League, an organisation teaching critical thinking and debating to teenagers in predominantly black and coloured communities. A friend a few years ahead of me started Inkanyezi, a high school mentoring and leadership development project and my best friend was vice-president of TeachOut, a Maths, Science, Accounting and English tutoring project. These three projects formed Ubunye which now operates in 21 schools in Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Phillipi and Samora Machel with a volunteer base of over 500 local and international students. None of these projects could have made it on their own: Only through their partnership have they managed to achieve their aims and shared vision. But none of us, the individuals that worked on these projects, could have made it on our own either. We needed the support and advice of a collective. When one learner we had worked with for three years got pregnant and turned down a scholarship to UCT on the poor advice of a boyfriend unconcerned about what future he was pushing her into, we wept together and cursed our seemingly futile, pointless work. But when one of our kids from Khayelitsha got into a BSc at UCT and made it through his first year, passing all his courses as many from private and public schools alike do not manage to do, we celebrated together too. On days like those, it felt like we were doing something important. Today, Ubuyne has achieved the stability and continuity it needed to develop and grow in the long term and it did this through relying on each other, not on the university and not on the state.

We cannot wait for a state intervention or a government organisation to develop the capacity necessary to attempt to build infrastructure or determine our futures and our prospects for us. Case in point: the textbook crisis that has left an entire year of learners without learning materials for 7 months of the school year. Weeks before final assessments and matric exams all the textbooks in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape have still not been delivered due to delays and errors in distribution that have drawn massive criticism but could not generate the same rage, mass-action or legal action that resulted from a painting of our president.

For this reason, we must build our own networks, use existing public spaces - schools, universities, community centres - where we interact on a day-to-day basis as sites of coordination and collaboration and organise in the manner most swift and cost-effective, just as the freedom fighters of our rich history did, Dr Beyers Naude included. They did not have money, cell phones, Twitter or any institutional backing behind them. They could not have asked for these things nor demanded them. Similarly, no one would give them their freedom: they had to fight for it. And despite what recent campaigns doing the rounds on YouTube and Facebook might suggest, having the technology we have today would have been unlikely to make anything easier for them. Social media is not a proxy for political will or social activism. It is simply a tool, like a whisper or a passed note, for igniting a generation where the spark has already gone off. Those who wish to remain ignorant and do nothing are still free to do so in this digital age but those who have the empathy to act, now have a faster, more efficient manner to find each other and organise.

As I speak to you today, there are numerous youth movements in South Africa that are utilising these tools to form the partnerships they need to succeed. Through its mobi site and MXit site, the reading agency FundZa Literacy Trust is fulfilling its mission of popularising reading among South African teens and young adults. Every night, thousands of teens in informal settlements and RDP housing stay up well past midnight reading the work of South Africa’s most acclaimed authors - serialised and adapted to fit an audience reading on the tiny screen on a feature phone. What FundZa is essentially doing is creating a mini-library, available on any cell phone anywhere at anytime, and a giving young writers and readers a digital platform to engage with new ideas, new possibilities and each other.

Read a Book South Africa is a movement that exists solely on Twitter. On this platform, thousands of black South Africans are supporting and challenging each other to break the stereotype that if you want to hide something from a black person, you put it in a book. It is not for book-lovers; it is for people who want to collaboratively find in books that which those who read and love them have. Within a month of its inception over 4000 people had joined the cause, now there are 7906 of them: followers are simply encouraged to read one a book a month, that’s all, nothing profound. Just act.

Following the recent scandal caused when the exorbitant salaries of key National Youth Development Agency figures were revealed by the media, the Stop the NYDA campaign started on Facebook and has attracted over a thousand supporters since it began two months ago. The campaign encourages young people to share stories about how the agency has disappointed them, stop the government from giving the NYDA any further funding but more than that, their most recent status urges that: “It’s not enough to say "I support the campaign" or to "like a status". It’s not enough to simply talk through your keyboard by commenting on Facebook and Twitter. We need young people to get involved in getting the work done. Get involved!” Whether the mass action and collaborative partnerships take place in a physical or digital space, it’s never enough to simply agree or simply empathise. We must also act.

"Each Generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it" – Fanon’s words read like a prophecy but also as a challenge for a generation of young people chasing the ghost of social cohesion among a great number of competing and compounding issues. The struggle for this elusive cohesion began with the black faces peering from the ballot paper in 1994. It has continued in fits and starts for almost two decades and it is critical for it to continue for many decades to come.

Speaking at the Sunday Times Literary Awards in 2012, celebrated Kenyan author and academic, Ngugi wa Thiong’o explained that “The song that must be sung will be sung; and if banned, they will hum it; and if humming is banned, they will dance it; and if dancing is banned, they will sing it silently to themselves or to the ears of those near, waiting for the appropriate moment to explode.” Our moment is now. Let’s act. Let’s explode.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Could this be the best book ever? Sure sounds like it to me

You guys, YOU GUYS. SA YA writer Sally-Anne Partridge just wrote a review for Books LIVE about a book I think I am destined to marry. At the end of her review she says " Imagine Supernatural crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossed with Christopher Pike."

You guys, I love all those things! Supernatural is currently on my PVR, want childhood would have been complete without Buffy and let's be real Christopher Pike is the man when is comes to YA of the 90s.

Here's the full review:

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake tells the tale of seventeen year old Theseus Cassio Lowood, or Caz for short, who is a professional ghost hunter like his dad was before him.

After successfully doing away with the spirit of a murderous hitch hiker, Caz and his mother move to the small town of Thunder Bay which has a killer ghost of its own, Anna Korlov, better known as Anna Dressed in Blood, who died at sixteen when she was on her way to a school dance.

Anna turns out to be his most formidable ghost yet. A loner his whole life, Caz finds himself teamed up with a group of friends keen to help him get the job done – the prettiest and most popular girl at school, Carmel Jones; weird goth telepath Thomas Sabin, and jockish jerk Will Rosenberg, whose best friend Mike was Anna’s most recent victim.

Together they bind Anna and release her of her curse, but not before Caz discovers the real girl behind the ghost, and also unleashes the horror voodoo spirit responsible for his dad’s death.

It’s an unusual love story, a thrill-a-minute ghost story, and an unputdownable thriller. It’s the best book I’ve read this year and I don’t say that lightly. I loved that it started right in the thick of the action, its raw edginess and dark subject matter and its pace. Imagine Supernatural crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossed with Christopher Pike.

I must read this book.

Read more on Books LIVE

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spoiled Review

What do you get when you give the girls over at the Fug Nation
three-hundred and sixty blank pages with the potential for their
signature wit and satirical hilarity? Spoiled, the story following the
aftermath of what happens when blockbuster-movie sensation Brick
Berlin introduces his long-lost love-child to the smoothie-drinking,
designer-wearing, yoga goers of Los Angeles.

Sixteen year-old Molly Dix is thrown from lukewarm life in Indiana
following the loss of her mother to cancer, and plunged into the
Hills, where nothing is as it seems, and the most prominent two-face
appearance is held by her half-sister Brooke. It’s the ultimate war
between worlds and a refreshing take on the culture clash between a
humble home-grown girl and a trust-fund baby forced to meet common
ground, and with plenty of obstacles (including alleged alcoholism, a
Marc Jacobs wardrobe malfunction, all sorts of sly new allies and cute
but confusing boys) in the way.

What I loved about this book is that it wasn’t an imitation of the
ever-glmaourous and even more so melodramatic style of Cecily von
Ziegesar-like novels of the same calibre. There were no smouldering
eyes and pouty lips, or teenagers trying to exude sexiness whenever
the hormonal opportunity arose, there were no over-elaborate schemes,
no sensationalised scandal, it was a little less sex, drugs and rock
‘n roll, and a little more real. It was short, sweet, and I do admit
it had it’s terribly predictable bits, even for a book that you
already expected not to be even 60% original (if I had a penny for all
the books on my shelf dedicated to detailing the lives of country
bumpkins disrupting sophisticated civilian life, I’d be well on my way
to buying me some Christian Louboutins) there were some moments when I
did some dramatic, heavy-duty eye-rolling at the nauseatingly clichéd
situations and interactions, but not enough for me to mentally slit my
wrists and not nearly enough for those few moments to take away from
the overall brilliance.

And above all, the Fug Girls can write. Like, seriously, they can
really REALLY write. It has all their biting punchlines, it had the
witty deliverance, but it was also sincere in a way that I hadn’t
expected from mockers of celebrity fashion. It was heartfelt and
although the style is still cutesy and fun, it had a visceral quality
at times which was really great to see unfold.

Bottom line, if you want to read a hilarious, genuine, no-nonsense,
classic chick-novel  (my own little adaptation of chick-flick…*laughs
at own hilarity*) then Spoiled is it. As I said, do expect to roll
your eyes and stick a finger down your throat in a mock-gag from time
to time, but it wouldn’t reeeeally be a classic chick-novel without
the cheese-sauce, would it?

A review by the reviewer extraordinaire herself-Bu.

An Oldie but a Goodie: Black Rabbit Summer

The Book: Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

And it's About?

A smart, tense murder mystery twined with an emotional investigation of the ways love, sex, class, and celebrity can forever change friendships.

Thoughtful Pete, tough Pauly, twins Eric and Nicole, strange Raymond: As kids they were tight; now they've grown up--and apart. They agree to get together one last time, but, twisted by personal histories and fueled by pharmaceuticals, old jealousies surface. The party's soon over, and the group splinters off into the night. Into the noise and heat and chaos of the carnival. Days later, a girl goes missing. The prime suspect in her disappearance? One of their own, one of the old gang. Pete doesn't know what to believe: Could one of his childhood friends really be a cold-blooded killer?

In a Word, it was... Unexpected.

Black Rabbit Summer takes place over the course of a few hot days in the English summer as a once close-knit group of kids hang onto the last remains of their innocence and their friendship. The segzy and damaged Nicole calls up a reluctantly apathetic and thoughtful to the point of neurotic Pete to join her and their old friends for one last hurrah before it's time for them all to go their separate ways. In their early teens, Nicole and Pete had shared that half-formed, half-serious romance of the first years of high school: the kind where you like like each other and that's all you know about luff. Despite some fooling around, nothing really happened and Nicole's call reignites the hope that something might happen inside Pete.

For moral support, he takes his odd friend Raymond along to the meeting. Raymond is the sort of kid who you imagine might actually have a mental disability: he lives almost entirely in his head, is totally neglected by his parents and has only two real friends: Pete and the pet black rabbit that he imagines talks to him.

Even with Raymond briefly around to tag along and keep Pete (temporarily) out of trouble, the mix of alcohol and prescription drugs soon mean that the evening escalates quite rapidly. People go on their own mission as the group descends on the carnival, some never to be seen again.

In a strange way, I never actually thought of Black Rabbit Summer as a thriller and yet now, retrospectively, I see how that genre fits just as easily as realistic YA. I love books set on one day or in a single week so the format was always going to be a winner for me. I also love quiet, intelligent and sensitive boys as the central characters in novels so Black Rabbit Summer already had two things going for it from the start. What I didn't expect were all the lies, secrets, jealousies, lust, love and general complications of being a certain age that that quiet, intelligent and sensitive boy would uncover.

Between the police, a gang of CHAVs out to get him, the media, his missing friends and a growing feeling that things have gone too far to be resolved, Pete has a lot on his plate. Trying to solve the murder mystery is the last of his worries but he realises, just as the reader does, that if he doesn't find out what happened, what he did and what his friend's did that night, by the time the police do, it will be too late.

Black Rabbit Summer is about one night at the carnival, five friends who don't know each other at all, that time just before you knew you were now an adult, class, sexuality, celebrity and a talking rabbit. Five hearts out of five.

An Oldie but a Goodie: Looking for Alaska

I spend a fair amount of time evangelising about some of my favourite YA books and the reasons I got into reading the genre in the first place. Looking for Alaska is definitely one of those books that I feel best represents what realistic YA lit should be about: complex characters, a story that takes you away from yourself and the unsettling feeling of not really being able to shake the book from your bones, even weeks after you're read it.

The Book: Looking for Alaska by John Green

And it's About?

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

In a Word, it was... Enigmatic.

Miles is a bookish but sweet kid, sheltered and used to spending too much time indoors when he escapes the lonelinesssand unpopularity of his pre-private school life. Miles' private boarding school if about 300 times cooler than any high school any of us went to but more than that, he makes friends that you wish had been your friends. The smart, subversive and tough Colonel, Takumi, the token Asian, and, of course, Alaska. She's that damaged girl that every boy wants to fix: beautiful, furtive and artistic.

Shit happens. Much like at his old school, Miles becomes a target for a group of popular bullies. A prank ensues war between Miles' group of friends and those bullies; the "Weekday Warriors" (local rich kids that stay at the school during the week and go back to their "air-conditioned" homes in the weekends). Miles' escalating love and lust for the unattainable Alaska has all the hallmarks of your three-year crush on so-and-so circa ninth grade. And, in a brave move for a YA book in this day and age of self-censorship and children's books with morals, there was enough booze, cigarettes and sex in this book to remind me of my actual days in high school.

Still, it's all the things that don't happen that stayed with me long after I finished this book. Miles' vision of Alaska never quite moves into focus, she's right then but he is looking for her but he can't quite find her. The truth behind a terrible tragedy that befalls on of Miles' group of misfits is never really uncovered. Miles goes to Culver Creek to seek what the poet François Rabelais called “The Great Perhaps" but instead it almost swallows him.

It's pretty rare to find a debut novel with such a punch, nostalgia, humour and the cold comfort of knowing everything did not turn out ok.

In many ways, it's Simón Bolívar’s words “How will I ever get out of this Labyrinth?” that drive each character in this book. They are all crawling, stumbling, racing to find their way out of their own Labyrinth of adolescence, of high school, of poverty, of privilege, of suffering and of grief.

Looking for Alaska is about life at boarding school, unbearable loss, best friends, first loves and last words. Who wouldn't want to read about that? Four hearts and hug out of five.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Faction before Blood: What Would You Choose?

So, while trying to write my review for Insurgent for Day Job, I came across these people who have created a blog dedicated to Amity, the factor of peace and happiness. And of all the factions to dedicate a whole blog to? Team Amity? For reals?

But it did get me thinking: what faction would the people I am friends with choose?

Having taken the quiz on the official Divergent fan page, the natural authority on these things, as I suspected: I'm Dauntless. Yay! I have a feeling that I would have had to transfer though because I also suspect I would have been Erudite-born...

But what about the rest of YABC? Here are my guesses:

Dauntless: Bu, Victoria
Erudite: Zhe, Andre
Candor: Jane
Amity: Ti

That's what I think the aptitude test would have said, anyway but what would you have actually chosen?

Staying on topic: Veronica Roth has a blog and she did a five factions, five days thing. I LOLed.

Happy Divergent reading! (or Insurgent reading for some of you...)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bu Blogs About YABC's Awesomeness... and Why Sex-Lives are Also Awesome

The first meeting of Young Adults Book Club has been a success (photographical evidence included so you know this actually happened and I'm not making this up to make my life seem more exotic.) There was food and WINE, which I have a beautiful love/hate relationship with (the wine, not food), but am willing to swallow the potent, sickly sour grape-juice that’s been sitting in an oak barrel for a hundred years in order to give a false-air of sophistication.

Along with the cupcakes and liquor included some heated debates which ranged from actual YA novels (and even The Di Vinci Code) to the atrocities committed by North Koreans in World War II, although apparently the Japanese and the America’s took the cake for being evil, which is hardly surprising. Also, I picked up some significant lessons from people who are significantly older than I am.

Being the only person born in the vicinity of the 90’s, I picked up some knowledgeable info on what it's like to be a real actual adult:

1) Wine is awesome…drink it. Though not the stuff in the calibur of Four Cousins, because apparently the wrath of that hangover is not even worth it.
2) Jobs suck. Which means I’m shit outta luck, I was hoping high school would be the most hellish 4 years imaginable and then I can finally be a happy, healthy, sane person but clearly that's not going to happen when I have a real actual job.
3) I will have to deal with stupidity for what looks like, the rest of my life. 4)Earning 10 000-15 000 a month is apparently not a large sum of money
5) Sex-lives are also awesome.

I was blind but now I see.

read more of Bu's ramblings about YABC (unite!) and see the pics of our first meeting. yayness!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Go Fug Yourself

Holla lovers!

For those of you interested in reading Spoiled and want to see the tone of the writing, here's the website that the writers of the book started and write on. It's fun!


Bontle's Review of Divergent

Hi y'all, Welcome to YA Book Club's Book Blog. After what I shared last night, thought I should give you a proper review of Divergent so here it is, re-posted from the original I wrote got my day job:
There’s a lot of buzz around this book but for a changed, it’s warranted: this book really is an incredible debut by Veronica Roth. Tris’s life is transformed when she joins the fearless Dauntless faction. Unlike Abnegation, the faction Tris was born and raised in, Dauntless values courage over selflessness, kindness, knowledge or truth. The implications of this are understandably sinister and Dauntless is far from the honourable, brave faction Tris always imagined that it was.

Facing the choice that many young people must eventually make and having to figure out where she fits in to her world makes Tris believable but also likeable. She doesn’t have all the answers but she also doesn’t dwell on the uncertainty and teenage angst. She chooses to embrace Dauntless for what it is and learn all she can to make it through initiation. Being a young adult novel, there is naturally a swoon-worthy love interest and Tris still faces the ordinary problems of all 16 year girls; trying to accept their bodies and their shortcomings. However, the constant threat of death – or worse, failing in the Dauntless initiation and living a life without a community or a home, being factionless – makes the rest seem appropriately trivial.

The writing is lean without too much description or fuss and it’s paced perfectly to get the heart racing with violent and often brutal action from the moment Tris enters the Dauntless compound.   This best thing about this novel is undoubtedly the strength of its female characters. The Bella Swans and Katniss Everdeens of YA have not exactly been the epitome of strong, independent young women: often too caught up in love-triangles and their insecurities to notice that they accidentally become heroes. Tris Prior is a girl with insecurities and issues but also with focus and grit. While she has a somewhat controversial love interest in the form of her instructor, Four, her story is not about love and it’s not about her crush on a boy. Instead, it’s the story of a girl in a brutal environment, where children play with dangerous weapons for sport, people jump off trains for fun and everyone will have to conquer their greatest fears or literally lose everything they hold dear.

Tris’s mother, though initially seeming meek and submission, is just as compelling and complex as Tris is. In their own ways, they prove that it’s possible for a woman to be strong in many ways, to (literally) kick butt but also to be selfless, honourable and smart.   This is probably not a book that most parents would be happy for their 12 year old to read but it will be suitable for readers over the age of 16. While boys way enjoy it for the action, it will definitely strike a chord with any girl longing to find her inner Tris. It would be incredibly surprising if there wasn’t a Divergent movie in development already. And as a bonus, there’s no vampires, no werewolves, no drawn-out love-sickness and no backing down from this book.