Tag Archives: young adult

Review: Internet Famous

There’s a reason this blog went quiet for a while. You see, I was in a directionless rut, not really reading, not really crafting, just work, home, half-heartedly try to do something relaxing, sleep. Rinse and repeat. And if I wasn’t crafting, and I wasn’t reading–the two things that run deeper through my core of self than any professional affiliation–well, then who was I?

It never quite got to existential levels, but it did leave me in a funk.

It passed, gradually. A small project here, a modular hexagon for my scrap crochet afghan there, pick up a book and read the first few chapters… Gradually, I started coming back around to myself.

Reading mojo took a bit longer to get back. I tried different genres, started lots of books without finishing them, and stared at my checked-out library book shelf at home, just not “feeling” any of them. Until I brought home Danika Stone’s Internet Famous.

I adored All the Feels (as previously squeed over here), and this one promised to deliver more of the things I’ve come to expect from Stone–fandom, a sweet romance, and general nerd positivity–so I sat down to read.

internet famousFor the first time in months, I picked up a book that grabbed me and didn’t let go. This story follows Madi, a high school student enrolled in online coursework and maintaining a popular blog that serves as both community and revenue. Through that community, she has a supportive group of online friends who help her deal with her life, which is complicated by a mother who isn’t around much and a younger sister with special needs that tend to consume a lot of energy and focus at home. Through this community, Madi finds flirtation and romance with cute French exchange student Laurent… and a troll whose tactics escalate and get more personal as she and Laurent’s online flirtation takes off.

While Internet Famous does stand alone from All the Feels, there are some fun little peripheral nods to its predecessor, enough to wink to returning readers without requiring background knowledge for newcomers. And it does have several things in common with Feels, namely the significant role of fandom, internet community, and sweet, nerdy love stories, fitting together nicely thematically.

This one deals more with the downside of anonymity in those communities, but that is not at the expense of the genuine friendships and relationships that develop out of that community. A cautionary tale this is not, and as someone whose network of friends includes people from fan communities over a decade old, I appreciated the balanced depiction. Madi’s online friends feel as real and sometimes flawed (oh, Brian…) and supportive as any fandom community currently in existence.

The romance in Internet Famous was charming. Danika Stone writes lovely, genuinely sweet nerd book boyfriends. Laurent’s long-distance “dates” with Madi via messaging apps and photos gave me what I’m certain was a dopey grin on my face as I read. The relationship feels like one that grows out of friendship and blossoms into something deeper, which is apparently one of my bits of romance catnip. There were a few cheesy moments, but they read as a delightful homage to the ’80s teen movies Madi reviewed on her blog, and I ate it right up. This heart of the story is what kept me reading and what I apparently needed to break my reading drought.

If I have a criticism of the book, it’s that the villains are pretty thin. I don’t expect them to be as fully rounded as the protagonists, but the rule-stickler teacher whose rigidity helps the bully make Madi’s life difficult particularly stretches believability. I’ll give that a pass, though, as the seemingly oblivious adults in Madi’s life step up where it counts. I got my happy ending out of it, which is exactly why I picked up this book and exactly why it was so satisfying.

I’ll still keep coming back to Stone’s writing for the sweet, nerd-positive romances I adore.

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Not Quite Failing. Ish.

Remember how I was all about using this for accountability on my reading goals, how I was going to get regular content out of it all? *sigh* Yeah, me too. I blame the fumes of “thank goodness 2016 is over” for that youthful optimism.

The good news is that in spite of “blog regularly” being a fail, my own personal diversifying challenge is still holding up.

#ownvoices – I went the YA path for this one since my work YA/juvenile reading challenge was still underway, reading Diverse Energies, a collection of short dystopian stories with an emphasis on diversity in both authorship and setting. I went into it warily, not because short story collections are hit or miss (it’s a feature of the genre that I’m aware of), but because after the end of the Divergent trilogy, I threw the book across the room, lamented the hours I lost to it, and declared YA dystopian lit DEAD to me. Dead and buried. Deep as I could go. But this collection… well, it didn’t give me a hankering to read about another simplistically divided society with a (typically white) Chosen Teen to save it, but I enjoyed it, which is an acceptable enough outcome. Standout stories to me were the ones from Malinda Lo and Ken Liu, both very different in tone and content, but good enough to make me seek more of them out, and I went on to read Lo’s Ash per a friend’s recommendation and loved it, so hey, bonus points.

New or forthcoming – This title was a newly released one, Ellen Klages’ Passing Strangeone of Tor.com’s novella line. This story sucked me right in, but it wasn’t quite the story I expected. It opens with a compelling framework, that of an older woman retrieving a hidden and valuable painting from a hidden tunnel hearkening back to Prohibition days before quietly dying. And then we get to the heart of the story, which seems like a love story against the backdrop of 1940s San Francisco, following a core of several women, including Helen, the woman from the introduction and Haskel, the painter of the valuable work. There’s an initial whisper of a hint of magic, but it fades away, leaving a story that feels more like historical fiction as Haskel meets and falls in love with the lovely Emily, a singer from the local club, known, among other things, for being “a haven for women who loved each other could meet in public without fear or the shame of sidelong glances from ‘nice’ ladies.” Things are going lovely, for the most part, until someone from Haskel’s past shows up, and disaster threatens to unravel everything.

passing strangeAbout two thirds of the way through, I looked up from the book in surprise, wondering why it was classified as a fantasy since I hadn’t really seen much magic. Oh, it had been hinted at in a couple places, crept into the occasional conversation, usually contrasted against science in the process, both otherwise quietly unacknowledged. And then everything came together. I had been lost in the atmosphere and the air of forbiddenness foreshadowed in the reference to Prohibition in the introduction, that I had forgotten there was supposed to be magic. I’m not sure if that’s a matter of narrative unevenness, or simply a testament to the author’s compelling homage to San Francisco and the people who found sanctuary there. If you like immersive atmosphere in your fiction, give this one a try because it has that in spades, and if like me, that gorgeous cover piqued your interest, definitely pick it up because… I’m not going to spoil anything, but it’s a marvelous reveal when you realize what’s happening.

Different genre – I thought at first this might be a bit of a cheat to count Mixed Vegetablessince manga is really more of a form than a genre, but it’s really a story that isn’t in my typical wheelhouse to begin with, so we’ll count it. Look, I’m a reader of romance, and it’s my go-to when things get heavy and I want the assurance of a happy ending, but even then, I like a bit of angst burning in the background. So this story was, overall, much fluffier than I normally would gravitate toward, plus, well, cooking has generally been a chore to get through for me, not a creative process with its own merits, so the foodie angle of this romance was a tough sell to begin with. I tried a volume, and it was cute, but nothing that overwhelmingly drew me in. I’m not the reader for it, but the next time I see someone with an armful of romances and foodie-themed reads, I know the perfect thing to hand them.

And that was February in expanding my reading horizons. March was a near miss with a reading slump and crafting slump and, really, overall lapse in anything remotely resembling productivity, but I’ll have that post soon. Spoiler: even though I barely got any reading done (relative to my usual reading pace), I still managed to meet my goals, and I’ve got a theory on that I’ll talk a bit more about…

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(Maybe not actual bunnies)

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Project Intentional Reading: January Checkin

As I mentioned, my goals this year include monthly requirements intended to diversify my reading. January is done, and it was a resounding success.

#OwnVoices

The first category I dove into was #OwnVoices, that is, stories written about characters of some minority background, by authors of that background. January’s Own Voices read fulfilled both my own reading goal and a work challenge.if-i-was-your-girl

Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a young adult novel following protagonist Amanda Hardy as she adjusts to a new school, makes friends, and falls in love. She’s also transgender. Now, I tend to like YA problem novels, filled with angst and feels… and this… wasn’t. It was a sweet story of friendship and first love that didn’t ignore the threats facing trans women, but it also didn’t focus on the angst. I was pleasantly surprised by this, heartened that a book like this exists for teens who may previously have not seen their experiences reflected in novels, or perhaps worse, only seen them cast in the light of tragedy.

 

 

New or Forthcoming

when-dimple-met-rishiBookRiot lists are dangerous for my to-read list, and this list of “Faces of Color on 2017 YA Books” made my to-read pile explode. From this list, I was able to get Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi, courtesy of Eidelweiss. It doesn’t come out until May 30 of this year, but I can’t wait to squee over it with other readers when it does. The story deals with a topic that I haven’t seen much in YA lit—that of two Indian-American teens whose parents try to throw them together in an arranged marriage. Needless to say, this does not go over well with heroine Dimple, who faces uphill battle enough being taken seriously as an aspiring STEM professional without her overbearing mother focusing on her marriageability; Rishi is more open to the suggestion, old-fashioned and romantic without being conservative. The “arranged marriage” conceit may raise some eyebrows, but Dimple’s consternation at it will quickly draw in sympathy, and the day-to-day concerns of their shared summer program project are familiar ground for the genre. I did find myself wishing the secondary characters had been a bit better developed, but on the whole, this book left me smiling.

Non-typical Genre

true-gritOf all the categories, this one had me dragging my feet the worst, and really, it was my own fault, locking myself into what exact book it had to be. My library’s winter reading program theme this year is books-to-movies, so I decided to read Charles Portis’s True Grit for both the program and this category, since westerns are emphatically Not In My Wheelhouse. I’d started listening to the audio book a few years ago and got maybe halfway done, so this was going to be the year I did it, I vowed. And… it was pretty good. I don’t really like westerns, but I do love stories with fierce female protagonists, and Mattie Ross has moxie in spades. Her droll, driven voice made this revenge quest quite enjoyable, and I’m glad I got back around to it.

 

That was month one of my personal reading challenge done. February is well under way, though again, I find myself flying through #OwnVoices and New/Forthcoming categories and balking at atypical genre, so I think that area needs a bit more effort on my part.

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Review: The Raven Boys

I am not, by and large, a cynical reader—I dive into most books with an expectation of being reasonably entertained, and generally, I am. Occasionally, a book blows me away—Code Name Verity is the last book that I recall that did—but now I can add Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys to that list. When the last page was done, I just sat back and basked in the ride it took me on. By blurb alone, I probably would not have picked this book up, but people I trust kept saying I should, and I’m thankful for them. Continue reading

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