Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Sunshine: Debut Author Edition

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a set of books by Brent Hartinger!

I've been totally slacking off on my reading for the Debut Author Challenge, so this week, I read two books from the (long, awesome) list of debut YA books out this year.  I liked them both a lot, but guys, one of them BLEW MY MIND.  I can't promise that it will have that effect on everyone, because it was one of those books for me--you know, when you're reading it, thinking, HEY, [AUTHOR OF BOOK], GET OUT OF MY BRAIN!  Not that it's a book that you would have written, or anything, but like it's the book you didn't know you'd been waiting your whole life to read.  I'm pretty sure Starglass by Phoebe North is this year's Scorpio Races for me--the book that makes me feel like dancing around the house.  The one I just want to carry around with me and slip under my pillow (except, I can't yet, because it doesn't actually come out until JULY, which is killing me.)

Plus, look how pretty:

Anyway, here are my thoughts on What I Read This Week:

StarglassStarglass by Phoebe North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Um, please forgive me if I sound like I'm losing my mind, but...I am a little bit. That's how much I loved this book. And now I have to figure out how to talk about it without sounding crazy OR giving any spoilers?

Ok: here goes.

First of all, if you loved the Godspeed series by Beth Revis (beginning with Across the Universe) and you've been moping around because you want more great YA Sci-Fi set on a generation ship? Here you go. Starglass takes on a similar setting and similar issues, but in a very, very different way. The social structure on this ship is just as strict and incites just as much tension as the one on Godspeed, but it's set up completely differently.

The society and culture on board the Asherah is unlike anything I've seen in science fiction--maybe I haven't been reading enough science fiction, but I think this one stands out. It feels more human--there are still shops, and cats, and food (proper food, that people cook themselves) and people get to choose (to an extent, at least) who they will marry. Things are dusty and dented and there aren't computers everywhere or loudspeakers blaring commands--heck, there's a belltower, and someone to ring the bell! And, the culture itself is derived from Judaism--the aspects that remain are the secular ones, and in many cases, Jewish culture has been pressed into the service of what the ship's leaders feel is the greater good, but it's pretty neat to see how the Jewish origins of the ship still influence its culture. All in all, the Asherah feels a bit like a shtetl in space, which made my brain explode with its awesomness.

And then there's Terra. I love this girl. I love her bittersweet, complicated, but basically loving relationship with her best friend. I love that she really, really wants to mess around with boys because it feels good and she's a teenager, but that doesn't mean she's a flirt or goes bedhopping or any of the traits usually assigned to girls who enjoy that kind of thing. I love that even though she thinks hooking up is a really good time, she is also looking for her "bashert", essentially her soulmate, because who doesn't want that? But the book never looks down on her for enjoying getting physical with a guy she knows is not her bashert. I love that she talks about her cat a whole bunch. I love that she loves to draw, and that she wasn't magically perfect at it right away but that she got better over time. I love the way her relationships develop over time, with boys and with her family, her best friend, and her boss. She's complicated and she changes and I really loved her a lot.

And the ending! It was the perfect blend of satisfying and cliff-hanging. Obviously I am very excited for the sequel, but since that won't be out for AGES, I'll content myself with looking forward to the release of Starglass so you all can read it for yourselves!

I received a free advanced e-copy through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Dancing in the DarkDancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book to be really fascinating and engrossing. Ditty is growing up in an extremely strict orthodox Jewish family. They follow religious rules governing everything from food to clothing to technology: television and the internet are absolutely off-limits. But when Ditty and her friend Sara discover a TV hidden in Sara's mother's room, Ditty gets her first glimpse of ballet. She is immediately drawn to it and eventually winds up starting ballet lessons against her parents wishes (and without their knowledge.)

I thought this book did a pretty good job of portraying a variety of viewpoints toward extreme religious observance: Ditty's own spiritual journey is three-dimensional, as she weighs the beliefs she's grown up with and her love for her family against her passion and talent for dance. But she is also surrounded by family members who find real peace and joy in being strictly observant, a best friend who is willing to make small transgressions but balks at larger ones, a cousin who is being raised more permissively who encourages her to follow her dreams, and eventually non-Jewish friends and teachers at ballet school. Each of the half-dozen or so supporting characters has his or her own views, and none of them are portrayed as silly. I couldn't help but root for Ditty to keep dancing, but I thought the book was at least mostly respectful of the characters who felt otherwise.

I also appreciated the focus on dance, religion, family, friends, and Ditty's personal growth--in short, everything but romance. Not that I don't love a good swoony story ('cause I do!) but it often seems that contemporaries with a non-romantic focus have become the ivory-billed woodpeckers of YA fiction.

View all my reviews


  1. For some reason I thought STARGLASS was already out, and I was wondering why I wasn't hearing much about it. From the way you describe it, it seems like the kind of book that would garner rave reviews. As you know, I love a good sci-fi, so I'm glad to hear that you loved this one so much. :)

    1. Sadly, no, it will not be out till summer. Rest assured I will be posting reminders here when it is available!

  2. Right now I'm asking myself why the heck STARGLASS isn't on my DAC list. This seems like one I would have included, so I'm not sure how I missed it. After reading your review, I'll have to make sure I tack it onto the list anyway. It sounds like a very creative angle on sci-fi.

    1. Definitely add it! I'm excited and nervous--this is the kind of book that hits so many of my specific interests that I'm a little afraid that no one will love it as much as I did...but it's also so well-written with such a great MC that I think actually people will.

  3. Your review of STARGLASS totally sold me. I'd heard of it, but I didn't know not much about it. Knowing that it's similar to AtU makes me want to read it immediately, and knowing that you adored it makes me pretty certain that I will too. So glad you mentioned it, Jess!

    1. Yay! I'm so excited for it to come out so I can hear what everyone thinks of it!

  4. They both sound pretty amazing. "Ivory-billed woodpeckers of YA fiction" = hilarious, and such a good metaphor.


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