Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 29
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.
Who: Antony John, author of YA novels. Writing by night, he spends his days as a stay-at-home dad—the only job that allows him to wear his favorite pair of sweatpants all the time. He lives in St. Louis with his family and his first novel was Busted: Confessions of an Accidental Player.
Recent Work: The excellent Five Flavors of Dumb which Ana loved and reviewed HERE.
Greetings, Smugglivores. (Really, if you can’t be smugglivorous at this time of year, then when can you?)
2010 has been another fantastic year in the Wonderful World of YA lit, and below I’ll share a few picks that I think everyone should read.
As a bonus, I’ll toss in a few movies too. I’m a tragically slow reader, so movies represent a much shorter time-commitment for me. If you’re the same, here are three picks (all with teen leads because I simply cannot extricate myself from the world of YA) that you might have missed.
But first, the books . . .
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
I love the voice. I love the humor. I love the whodunit subplot. But most of all I love Will Halpin, an outsider (he’s profoundly deaf) who spends his time deconstructing high school life. (By the way, any book with a deaf narrator automatically intrigues me because my book has a—you guessed it—deaf narrator.) Seeing the world through Will Halpin’s eyes is sometimes uncomfortable, frequently hilarious, but always illuminating.
Revolution by Jennifer Connelly
As I say, I read slowly. So slowly that a book this long—it’s literally twice as long as the average YA novel—is a serious time-commitment for me. It’s the equivalent of watching all three Godfather movies in a single sitting (even the sucky last one).
The good news is that Revolution shifts between two equally compelling stories, and delves into French Revolutionary history so grippingly that I wanted to reach for my old eighteenth-century history textbooks as soon as I was finished. The writing is beautiful, the characters complex but credible, and as an added bonus there’s some hardcore music history in there, too. Any author who traces the lineage of the Tristan chord throughout musical history gets an A+ for effort from me!
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
One of the reasons I love YA today is that anything goes. If you can think of an issue, chances are that there’s already a YA book about it. Sure, some are heavy-handed and obviously didactic. But many treat a complicated subject matter with seriousness, subtlety, and respect.
Brian Katcher’s novels definitely fall into the latter category. Almost Perfect is about a potentially perfect (but also perfectly complicated) relationship. I don’t want to give away the hook, but trust me when I say Katcher has a rare gift for creating nuanced characters who we root for even when they let us down. Expect storytelling that is completely compelling, and which also somehow feels effortless. I am more than a little jealous, to be honest.
All righty. Now the movies . . .
Winter’s Bone (2010)
The premise—Ozark mountain girl tries to find her drug-dealing dad before the family home is taken away—gives you a heads-up that this is hardly the lightest and fluffiest release of the year. It is, however, one of the most moving. It’s atmospheric, tense, brutal yet unflinching, and the teen lead, Jennifer Lawrence, is amazing. (But don’t be fooled; despite having a 17-year-old main character, this is most definitely not a YA movie!)
An Education (2009, but I saw it in 2010)
Great coming-of-age story. The awesome lead (Carey Mulligan, who seems to be everywhere these days) completely nails the role of all-knowing-yet-hopelessly-naïve 16-year-old who falls for an older guy. Just as impressive are the adults that surround her: all flawed in completely believable (and often sympathetic) ways. Oh yeah, and Nick Hornby wrote the script, and he’s a pretty good writer, in case you hadn’t noticed.
Fish Tank (2009, but just released on DVD in the States)
Another teen (15-year-old Mia) falls for an older guy, only this one is having an affair with her mum. Not a lot of laughs here (see Winter’s Bone, above), but the drama never lets up, and somehow foul-mouthed Mia manages to come across as messed-up but not self-pitying. For anyone who pictures England as rolling countryside and afternoon tea, this movie will blow your mind.
In summary, then, I present three books with complicated and occasionally infuriating narrators, and a bunch of films in which teen girls get abused. Who says the holiday spirit isn’t alive and well!
Happy Smugglivus, one and all.
Happy Smugglivus, Antony!
Antony is happy to offer a signed copy of Five Flavors of Dumb to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment here – the contest is open to residents of the US and Canada ONLY and will run till Saturday Jan 1st 11:59pm (PST). One entry per person, please. We will randomly pick the winner and post it on our January 2nd stash. Good luck!