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diversity checkmark

“Representation and diversity are not buzzwords or trends or something you do to experiment or to ‘be nice.’ They are important and vital necessities to storytelling and should be approached with respect and consideration and humility. Something you work on because you genuinely want to make the world a better place for others.”

So said Miriam Forster on Jennifer Laughran’s tumblr. Related to Hannah Gómez’s tweets about the diversity checkmark in book reviews.

It reminded me of a VOYA review of Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman. Brugman’s writing is spectacular, Solo is one of my fav books and I really liked Alex as Well. Malinda Lo blogged about Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews last year. VOYA’s review of Alex as Well horrified me. Lo said,

This review presents this critique especially bluntly (emphasis added):

“The topic of intersex individuals and those with gender identity issues is receiving much attention lately, in news as well as in young adult literature. Alex’s story is certainly distressing, and teens need more resources on these topics. This novel, however, is overwrought and comes across as a cautionary tale of worst-case scenarios. Limiting the book to a few core issues would have made it more genuine and heartfelt. Sadly, it comes across as an afterschool special. Recommend this title to teens requesting books on gender identity issues only if they have read everything else in the collection.” — VOYA review of Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

Excuse me!?! Malinda Lo continues:

“I don’t have any definitive proof that there’s an invisible ceiling on the number of issues a YA novel can contain, but reviews such as those above do police the boundaries of what is acceptable in a realistic YA novel.”

What she said. Read Alex as Well now. You’re welcome.

reading dog

Rules for Reviewing

I have depression and when writing my thesis it was particularly bad. I came to the disconcerting conclusion that I couldn’t write a single coherent thesis sentence, but I could read book, after book, after book. Sadly none of these books were part of my lit review. Runaways is listed in my Literature Cited (as opposed to my Reference List) but reading all the vols I’ve got one after the other without a break in between (and this wasn’t the first time, so I already knew what happened) didn’t improve my thesis.

After whinging to my doctor about my inability to write a thesis, but my perfect ability to read a book (as long as it had no connection to my thesis) he told me that while depression makes thinking complex thesis thoughts pretty much impossible, reading, for me, is as automatic as breathing. This leads to the interesting hypothesis that if I stopped reading would I stop breathing? For my continued existence I’m not going to test that one out.

Continue reading “Rules for Reviewing”

Inky Goodness

Matata the reading Bengal cat by Justin Atkins on Flickr The longlist for the 2009 Inkys has been out for a while, but I’m experiencing some thesis induced insanity at the moment and the Inkys just remind me of all that YA reading I have to catch up on. You may notice Matata the reading cat has a predilection for classics, but she’s not averse to YA in between. I think she could out-read Inky the dog any day of the week.

When I first saw the list I thought the best book of recent times, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, outranked everything else, even the books I hadn’t read :P

Skim by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki But then I read Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki which utterly captivated me and The Hunger Games moved down my list. I hadn’t noticed Skim was on the Inkys list at first, but how could such a masterpiece of word and image (my two fav things) not be. I didn’t think its graphic novel-ness was the deciding factor in my opinion. But perhaps it was because it’s the combination of the words and pictures which I love so much, especially the full and double page spreads of illustration, with Skim’s diary creeping across the scene. My favourite is Skim and Lisa trying to summon the dead boy’s spirit in the woods, and missing him because they’re facing the wrong way (right). Its partial repetition on the end papers makes for a beautiful book design.

My favourite words in Skim are repeated in the blurb. The Inkys page also has them, but they missed the most important line (you can’t trust a dog with ink on his paws)

I had a dream
I put my hands
inside my chest
and held my heart

to try to keep it still

The unusual angles, tantalizingly crossed out words of Skim’s diary and obscuring of Skim’s face so much of the time, until she finds herself and an unexpected friend, combine to make a work of art on a very different level to The Hunger Games. And I much preferred the UK/Aust cover to the Canadian.

Continue reading “Inky Goodness”

Confabulating Beastly Hunger Games

Beastly by Alex Flinn The other day I mentioned Beastly by Alex Flinn and mistakenly said it was by Suzanne Collins. I would love to read Beastly by Suzanne Collins, but sadly it’s only available in a parallel universe.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins I enjoyed Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (although I only read the first in the series) but her latest The Hunger Games is much darker and thought provoking. I read Beastly and The Hunger Games in quick succession and they morphed into one in my rantings about the Productivity Commission’s report on removal of parallel importation restrictions on books. I said the copy I read was printed in the US. Subsequently I looked more closely at the paperback Beastly and found no mention of where it was printed. I’m pretty sure it’s a US produced book due to the not-so-white paper and a second barcode on the inside front cover, which I don’t think Australian produced books have. Most books state where they were printed, as did the hardback of The Hunger Games I read (printed in the US).

I have a thing for pictures in books (in case you hadn’t noticed) and when a book has no pictures, I have to make do with the cover, thus I’m passionate about cover design. Despite my non-existent design skills, I have an amazing ability to establish just how lacking someone else’s design skills are :P which is what I’m about to do with Beastly and The Hunger Games.

I wasn’t particularly enamoured of the cover designs of either book. They’re both true to their contents but the “futuristic” font of The Hunger Games grated and the rose on Beastly annoyed me. You can’t really see this from the small pic of the cover, but it had some strange texture thing going on, which I obviously didn’t get. The roses in the story are real and the cover rose just looked photocopied. (Spanish cover is way better.) But I don’t hate everything, if you remove the dust jacket of The Hunger Games the golden mocking-jay on the plain binding is stunning.

Continue reading “Confabulating Beastly Hunger Games”

The Inkys are out there

The longlist for the 2008 Inkys has been released. Not being a teenager, I can’t vote, but I can opinionate. I was looking through the list, thinking, how many books have I not read? but it was mainly the first few I’ve missed/couldn’t be bothered with. My to-read list has grown.

airship over manhattan by scott westerfeld Obviously I think Extras by Scott Westerfeld should win. I preferred his three previous ones, but the theme of beauty being the reason for existence is still there. Fame is added as another reason, with similar consequences if it’s all you live for. Westerfeld’s onto other topics for his next book, which I’m glad of. As much as I love the Uglies series, it could only be stretched so far. And thank you to Mr Wester for providing pics for the stealing. If you’re thinking (like me) the above photo looks kind of photoshopped, click on the larger version and it looks more realistic, but I’m still not totally convinced :)

Continue reading “The Inkys are out there”

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