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Smugglivus 2010 Guest Author (& Giveaway): Antony John

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!

Giveaway Details:

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!


  • brit
    December 29, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I haven’t read any of those yet, but I loved all 3 movies. Now I have to go add to my TBR list. (Mr. John’s book is already on my library list.)

  • Scribe Kira
    December 29, 2010 at 12:54 am

    Neat! I haven’t read this book, but i read this website’s review for it and it sounds super great!!! I’d love to read it! =o) 😀 😀 😀 😀

  • Ashley
    December 29, 2010 at 3:50 am

    I’ve heard so much buzz about Five Flavors of Dumb that this is an excellent giveaway. The recs in this post also seem interesting.

  • CC
    December 29, 2010 at 4:13 am

    WOuld love to read this one since it did make my TBR list. So, please send it my way.

  • Mia
    December 29, 2010 at 6:27 am


    I am also very intrigued by deaf protagonists. I’m pretty intrigued by deaf culture in general. I think it’s because of all those ASL classes I took in high school.

  • Merle
    December 29, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Five Flavors of Dumb sounds SO good. We need to see more deaf protagonists in YA, or protagonists with other disorders and such. It’d be a nice breath of fresh air and interesting to read!

  • Lisa
    December 29, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Would love to win since I have been wanting to read it for a bit now! Thanks for the giveaway.

  • rhapsodyinbooks
    December 29, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Great interview! I also love that in YA “anything goes.” Please enter me.

    nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

  • dana
    December 29, 2010 at 8:01 am

    After the warm recommendation on this blog for this book I can’t wait to read it… Have a happy New Year!

  • Amy @ My Friend Amy
    December 29, 2010 at 8:10 am

    I enjoyed Winter’s Bone as well…I’ll have to check out Fish Tank. 🙂 And please enter me into the giveaway!

  • Amy
    December 29, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Can’t wait to read this book!

  • Kaethe
    December 29, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Another reader eager to try Five Flavors of Dumb.

  • Su
    December 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

    I’m going to have to check out all those recommendations. Revolution, especially. Thanks for the contest.

  • Breanne M.
    December 29, 2010 at 8:37 am

    This is definitely on my TBR list – thanks for the contest!

  • Marie
    December 29, 2010 at 8:39 am

    The book sounds great. Count me in!

  • Michelle
    December 29, 2010 at 8:46 am

    All those movies look fantastic! I’m a bit of a sucker for “indie” movies, or rather, ones that aren’t blockbuster hits.

    Five Flavors of Dumb looks equally fantastic. Thank you for the contest! 🙂

  • Alison
    December 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Have been hearing great things about Five Flavors of Dumb. Would love to win a copy of my very own :).

  • C.G.
    December 29, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I want! I want! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  • TJ Mathews
    December 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Thanks for offering this. Winter’s Bone is on my kitchen counter in a little red envelope. You’ve inspired me to give it a look.

    Happy New Year! :mrgreen:

  • Lillian Maloney
    December 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I want to see Winter’s Bone so bad! Almost Perfect has been on my TBR list for quite some time; I’ve resolved to pick it up on my next visit to the library.

  • Ktobias
    December 29, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I got gift cards galore to every major book chain there is for Christmas so if I don’t win this here, it’s ok 🙂 This is definitely on my TBR list though.

  • alana
    December 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Fish Tank kind of sounds like the movie Somersault. It speaks to the differences between sex and love and how we sometimes trade sex for intimacy even though we know they are not the same thing. Great film.

    And I don’t know how I missed the review for Five Flavors of Dumb. It sounds great.

  • Kimberly Rixon
    December 29, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Definitely going to order this one from my library soon! Unless I win it here 🙂 Thanks for the reviews and giveaway!

  • Ashleigh
    December 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I wish I had thought of getting Five Flavors of Dumb for Christmas! I’m sure that reading that book would be amazing.

  • Antony John
    December 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for all the wonderful comments, folks . . . whatever side of the Atlantic you’re writing from!

  • Susan Laura
    December 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Some great recommendations — thanks! I am looking forward to reading Five Flavors of Dumb.

  • Lisa
    December 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Please enter me in the drawing! I would love to win this book! Happy New Year!

  • Stacy
    December 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I’ve heard such great things about Winter’s Bone. I really need to watch it!

  • Katie
    December 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I would love to read this book! Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Karen Mahoney
    December 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Can I enter on behalf of my friend, Renee? I think she might like this book – not that I won’t like it! I can’t enter (as I’m in the UK), but wanted to comment. Loved this post! I’ve added 3 things to my Amazon wishlist & just ordered Fish Tank.

    Thanks to Antony for a great post – happy Smugglivus! 🙂


  • Nicole
    December 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I think I definitely have to add those books to my to be read list.

    I’ve always loved Carey Mulligan since she was Sally Sparrow in Doctor Who.

  • jpetroroy
    December 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been meaning to read a bunch of these for a while now!

  • Jaime W
    December 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Great recommendations! Please enter me for the contest and thanks for the giveaway.

  • Laura
    December 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve really wanted to read Revolution for a while and it’s going on my library list (as soon as I get my card for the library here. I hate moving.)

  • Kaya H
    December 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    OH the reviews have been great on this ! I cannot wait to get me hands on it!

  • Teri C
    December 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Oh this has been on my TBR list since i started seeing it come up on blogrolls.
    I would love it.
    Those are some great books picks, and man that TBR pile will insulate my home one day, there are so many great reads out there.

  • Steph Su
    December 29, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    You make me want to find all those movies and watch them!

  • Amanda Lee
    December 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Five Flavors of Dumb was one of my favorite books that I read this year- absolutely fabulous. And it made my LIFE when I posted a review of it on Goodreads and Mr. John responded. 😀 Coolest thing I’ve ever had happen to me.

  • Mel
    December 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Oh man, Five Flavors of Dumb sounds so darn good. I really want to check that out.

    Also, I had never heard of Fish Tank before. That also sounds like a book I need to read!

  • Lindsay Elizabeth
    December 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Me! Me!

  • SaraC
    December 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    I loved An Education also! I thought it was a fascinating movie!

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    December 29, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I am a follower and email subscriber. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

  • Amy
    December 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Fish Tank looks interesting. I like the look on the girl’s face: very determined, very tough.

  • Jen
    December 29, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Please enter me! 🙂

  • Adrienne
    December 29, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I’m always looking for a new YA author I can recommend and pass around to my book club so count me in for the give away! Thanks again for a great smugglivus!

  • Tina
    December 29, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I have Revolution on my TBR, and now that Antony John recommended it, I’m thinking of bumping it up. 😀

  • Chimney
    December 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I actually saw Five Flavors of Dumb at the bookstore and it looked really interesting. I had never seen a book with a main character that was deaf before and I think it would be something that I would really like to read. The cover art is also really nice!

  • Jackie Dolamore
    December 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Count me in, Five Flavors of Dumb sounds fantastic.

  • Indigo
    December 29, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    As a deaf individual it’s a delight to discover a book written with a deaf main character. Thanks for the opportunity to enter this drawing. (Hugs)Indigo

  • Stephanie K.
    December 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I would love to read this book!

  • Marie
    December 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Looking forward to reading Five Flavors at some point, and Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin will now also go on the TBR list!

  • Jasmine A S
    December 30, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Oh, I’m so glad to see Dark Days Of Hamburger Halpin up there! I really enjoyed the book, and I felt like it isn’t known NEARLY as well as it should be.

    (And I would be delighted to win the book, y’know. 😀 Hence the commenting.)

  • Becky Levine
    December 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for reminding me that I want to put Josh Berk’s on my 2011 To-Read list! And yours. I came over from Kelly Fineman’s blog, where her review of Five Flavors of Dumb hooked me.

  • Etta
    December 30, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’ve heard great things about Five Flavors of Dumb, and it’s definitely going on my TBR list.

  • SylviaSybil
    December 30, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, it would be great to win it!

  • Lashawn
    December 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Very interested in this book!

  • diana mack
    December 30, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    love the title of that book!!!!
    also winter’s bone was fantastic…easily one of the best of the year!

  • Megan
    December 30, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    I’ve been looking forward to reading Five Flavors of Dumb!
    mearley1979 at gmail dot com

  • Lori T
    December 31, 2010 at 8:05 am

    I have heard so much great stuff about Five Flavors of Dumb and am really looking forward to reading it!

    Some great recommendations that I am adding to my list…which just seems to keep growing and growing.

    Happy New Years!!

  • Chelsea B.
    December 31, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I need to try those movies!

  • Tina
    December 31, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I love An Education! It’s a great movie; I’ll definitely check out the other ones mentioned. Thanks for the chance to win.

  • jennie m
    December 31, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    ooh i’ve been meaning to watch “an education”, i’ll bump it up on the list!

    thanks for the recommendations!

  • S.S. White
    January 1, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I’d love to win a copy of this!

  • Natalee
    January 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I enjoyed The Dark Days of Hamburger Halprin and LOVED Revolution. I’ve haven’t read Almost Perfect, but it looks good. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Five Flavors of Dumb and it is at the top of my to read list.

  • Amanda Isabel
    January 1, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    What a treasure trove of inspiration! Thanks for the post, and please enter me in the contest – I have had my eye on this one …

    apereiraorama @

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