Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 YA Reading

I'm finally doing one of those years where I actually keep track of every single book I read. For now I'm just using my phone, but I'll eventually update Goodreads. I'm hoping to get to 40 books. I'm a somewhat slow reader, so 40 books would be a good number for me.

Anyway, for Christmas I got this (from my dear friend Amy Del Rosso):

It's a t-shirt and the ARC of Grasshopper Jungle, by my very favorite author, Andrew Smith.

Luckily, I read an earlier ARC of this story, because I'm going to use my enthusiasm for reading this new copy to encourage myself to read three of my biggest kid lit gap books:

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier's groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic.

Before there was such a thing as Young Adult (three years before I was born, in fact), Robert Cormier wrote one of the all time classic books about teens. I'm reading this one now, and am duly impressed by Cormier's grasp of character.

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

I know all about this book. I even participated in the SPEAK LOUDLY Twitter campaign when it was (once again) being challenged, but I still have not read it. I know, I know. This one's up next.

Holes, by Louis Sachar

And so, Stanley Yelnats seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime. It is a place that once held "the largest lake in Texas," but today it is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug by the boys who live at the camp.

The trouble started when Stanley was accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated by basketball great Clyde "Sweetfeet" Livingston to a celebrity auction. In court, the judge doesn't believe Stanley's claim that the shoes fell from the sky onto his head. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Oddly, though, Stanley doesn't blame the judge for falsely convicting him. Instead, he blames the whole misadventure on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." Thanks to this benighted distant relative, the Yelnats family had been cursed for generations. For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats.

At Camp Green Lake, the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the treacherous warden is searching for something, and before long Stanley begins his own search—for the truth.

Fate conspires to resolve it all—the family curse, the mystery of the holes, the drought that destroyed Green Lake, and also, the legend of Kissing Kate Barlow, an infamous outlaw of the Wild West. The great wheel of justice has ground slowly for generations, but now it is about to reveal its verdict.

Having won a Newberry, I can only assume this book is more MG than YA, but the forced labor camp for young people aspect has often been compared to similar thematic elements in my own writing, so I figure it's another must read. No I have not seen the movie, and no I will not see the movie, since I can't stand Shia LeBouf.

What are you reading right now?


Rachele Alpine said...

Oh yes, you must read SPEAK! It's so good and such an important novel! Happy reading! Hope 2014 brings your wonderful things! : )

Old Kitty said...

Enjoy your fab reading picks for 2014! Happy new year!

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm a slow reader as well. Finally picked up the latest Neil Gaiman book.

A. B. said...

I have not read any of these three books either. But because of this post, I'm definitely putting them on my get-to-this list.

I've used GoodReads to track and catalogue my reading for the last 2.5 years, and I think it has made a difference. I keep upping my reading goals (because I'm a very goal oriented person) and this year I'm up to 120 books! Good luck with your reading!

Stephsco said...

Curious, what's a gap book?

I read Holes in one evening. My cousin who is a teacher's assistant and works with reading groups at schools, buys her dad a kid lit book every year for Christmas. Now that I'm into YA and children's lit, I think this is so cool. So I saw Holes and devoured it.

I think 40 books is an excellent goal! I used to all myself a reader and I read half that many books. I remember seeing on a message forum about five years ago someone saying they read 50 books a year. That's almost a book a week! Now that I'm more intentional with my reading time, I read that much. But it's definitely not "slow" to read 40 books IMO. The book bloggers are mega super readers. They aren't really fair to benchmark against.

Good luck with all your goals for 2014!

mshatch said...

Speak is a great book. I'm currently reading Greybeard. Nice to see you around :)

Bish Denham said...

I've read these books, all excellent. I'm a slow reader too and 40 to 45 seems to be about my average. I'd love to make it to the big 52, but a book a week is just a big too much, particularly if there are more than 200 pages.

Happy Three Kings Day!

Stephsco said...

Thanks for the explanation on gap books. I also haven't read Speak.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Oh I so want to get a copy of Chocolate Wars. I'm bad at finishing books sometimes myself.

Creepy Query Girl said...

This has been a pretty piss-poor year for me when it comes to reading. There were a few new books out from my favorite authors, and a few newbies, but otherwise I didn't have a lot of time for reading this year. I was just perusing the 2013 bestseller and YA bestseller lists and besides the shameful 50 shades books, I haven't read ANY new releases! It's time for me to get crackin'.

Munir said...

I admire your capacity of reading and your goal. Best wishes:)

I worry about young people of today for not having a desire to read. I try and jot down names so I can recommend them to my younger relatives and neighbors.
Thanks for sharing.
Happy 2014 !

Robin said...

I, too, have been thinking that THIS IS THE YEAR I will finally keep a journal of all books read. Maybe I will like it so much that it will stretch into forever...

mooderino said...

I use Goodreads as a way to keep track of what I've read. Nice to actually know what I thought of a book I read a couple of years ago (with my memory it's the only way).

Moody Writing

SA Larsenッ said...

I will simply bow to the three you've highlighted, here. I'm in full agreement. I never thought of it like this, but I guess I do use Goodreads to keep track of what I've read. Haha ... one part of my life I've been organized with and I didn't even know it. Wish that part of my life would tell the rest.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I loved Speak. I haven't read anything by John Green and it's my goal to read one of his books soon.

I keep track of my books on Goodreads and also in a Word document so I can keep track of the agents who represented the authors. Would love seeing more what you're reading this year.

Angela Brown said...

You've got a great list of books to read. I've only watched the movie, Holes, so I'm sure the book (as tends to be the case, will be great).

As for what I'm reading, I'm probably going to be doing a bit more reading in the MG genre as I work on my MG story. I queried it and didn't get much from it so I'm going back to see if there are some things I can do to make it better and just maybe get better results.

Good luck to you with you 2014 reading and activities :-)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

If you are keeping track anyway, you might want to consider doing what Melissa Sarno did and map out all the settings so you can see where you "visited" during the year.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Man even if you don't like Shia, you should totally still see the holes movie. Especially if you like the book because the movie is great

Suzie F. said...

Happy New Year, Matt!

I've been keeping track of the books I've read for the last few years through Goodreads and I list them on my blog. I just wrote a post on it recently.

I'm a HUGE fan of Laurie Halse Anderson. Loved SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS, and her new YA novel, THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY, comes out tomorrow. I'm psyched! She also writes great MG historical fiction.

Right now I'm reading Marie Lu's, CHAMPION. Happy reading!

Slamdunk said...

I think 40 is an admirable goal--considering you have a work and family life as well. That would be much more than I could handle.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Those are some fine looking books! The chocolate one turns my crank but I'm thinking it's just because there's, um, chocolate in the title (in case you didn't notice).

Right now I'm reading River Fairchild's new book and have a friend's manuscript I must start reading asap!

Steve MC said...

All three of those are favorites.

If you like The Chocolate War (and you will), it has a sequel that's very different, but still good.

And part of the magic of Holes is the language and phrasing, especially in those opening pages. It's almost more of a fable than novel.

P.S. Haven't seen the movie for any of them. :p

Nate Wilson said...

Good for you! (I'm referring to both the cataloging and the goal of 40. I'm too lazy to do the former and too distracted to do the latter.) I haven't read any of the 3, though I saw Holes (and enjoyed it, since I saw it a couple years before TheBouf started to bug me).

As for what I'm reading now, ask me again in a couple days once I've figured it out. Just finished a heavy one yesterday and need a short breather.

Good luck!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Fantastic! This year I'm going to be reading a lot more non-fiction (in particular stocks and investing stuff).

But I'm going to squeeze the Boneshaker in there somewhere.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Matthew - I too must read this year .. and there must be a lot of sense in reading YA and MG books - so much imagination in them ..

For now - I'm glancing through various exhibition guides whose shows enticed me ...

Cheers and enjoy your 40+ books - Hilary