Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Love: One Book At A Time Edition

I'm easing back into this whole reading thing and I have to say, I LOVE IT.  Snuck in another book this week.

I also wanted to post today to say congratulations to the newly chosen Cybils panelists and judges for 2013!  I applied again but then went on extended blog hiatus so I wasn't surprised to find that I wasn't chosen this time around--and I also wasn't at all surprised to find that many of the awesome people I worked with last year on the YA Fiction Round 2 panel are back in action!  Congrats to everyone who was chosen--I can't wait to nominate some books and see what makes the cut this year!

What I Read This Week:

The Lucy VariationsThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sara Zarr's writing makes me feel like there is an inflating balloon inside my chest. Like when you make a pinata? Except I feel like it is going to keep inflating and crack open my ribcage from the inside.

The Lucy Variations, more than even any of Zarr's other books, made me feel--actually physically experience--the anxiety and excitement of being a teenager. I read chunks of this book with my teeth gritted against how awful so much of it felt, the way I have always ridden roller coasters. My limbs were tense, my stomach ached--not because Lucy was any more cringe-inducing than any other teenage protagonist, but because Zarr gets her so achingly, awfully right that it zaps me back into feeling all of those feelings (oh god all those FEELINGS--we don't give teenagers enough credit for being able to walk and talk, never mind go to school or have careers as concert pianists.)

I don't normally write in my books but I kind of want to read this again with a pen and a highlighter, because I stopped so frequently to celebrate a line or an idea. While my own experience is a long way off from Lucy's, her general story of pursuing a career in the arts, walking away from the arts, and finding a way back on her own terms has some things in common with my life. This is one of those books that feels like it belongs to me in a way most books don't.

That said, this is not a book to be reserved for the artsy set. As always, Sara Zarr creates a whole world here, with other people who have reasons for doing what they do, and who matter in the story and to the protagonist (yes, even her parents! And the rest of her family: her brother and grandfather and housekeeper. Zarr is a master of giving other people something real to do in the story, even the adults. In so many YA stories--including my own WiP, at the moment--adults mostly exist to give advice or create story obstacles; here, they are irreplaceable real people, part of the story because how could they not be.) If you've read Zarr before then you get it; if you haven't--please, please do.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I'm Alive!

Oh. Emm. Gee.  I don't even know where to start.  The last month or so is an absolute blur--a lot of hard work, a couple of unexpected bumps in the road, a lot of excitement.  Mostly just life stuff but all at once, you know?

Anyway, this is probably not a return to regular posts just yet.  Both of my schools had their first day last week, and this week marks the first week of my regular routine--one school in the morning, the other in the afternoon--teaching my regular classes.

I got to meet most of my students last week, and I asked the rest of them to email me a little bit about themselves this weekend, and I am so stoked for this school year.  I am teaching such awesome kids.  I'm still pinching myself that I get to teach at both of these schools.

I've been driving myself back and forth this week--got my license in mid-August!  As nervous as I was preparing for the driving test (and actually taking it) I find that I am not nervous at all driving on my own!  I'm sure I will be the first few times when I go out on the expressway around town, or on the highway, but I've got the home-work route down pretty well.  However, my new school owns two small buses (like, seriously, not large vans, but true buses) that we are supposed to learn to drive in order to take students places.  I am not keen to do that anytime soon!

But the real reason I am blogging right now is because I picked up Eleanor & Park off my shelf around 11:30 pm last night, and finished it around 11:30 am today, with sleeping in between.  And it. was. glorious.  Reading, how I've missed you!  (Although I did get to read Ready Player One, since it was my new school's summer reading!  I highly recommend it--it's totally a YA book in a lot of ways, although the MC transitions from HS to adulthood partway through.)

Anyway, here are some barely-coherent thoughts on E&P!

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the perfect book to sneak into the busiest and craziest month of my life. I've been missing reading and I don't know when I'll find time to read another book for fun; it's been at least a month since I read a book off my shelf just because I wanted to and I was hurting for a good story. I got a great one.

Eleanor & Park is a love story that reminded me of how things actually felt when I was a teenager. There was a delicate balance at school, in the lunchroom, on the bus. Your life in school is different from your life outside school; one can change while the other stays (outwardly, at least) the same. Holding hands can be life-changing enough to make anything else seem unnecessary, for days or weeks or months.

The thing I loved the most about this book was how well it captured the awe on both sides of the relationship. The how could this amazing person possibly be interested in me? that can be so toxic when it's one-sided but so lovely when it's mutual. The complete fascination with another person's ears, or hands, or laugh.

I also love that both characters had lives outside of their blooming relationship, and their lives affected the course of their relationship in large and small ways. Park kept eating lunch with his same friends; Eleanor made friends of her own to eat with; both of them navigated the waters of their families' reactions to the relationship as well as they knew how. Eleanor and Park love music and comics, sometimes the same ones, but not always. I love that they disagreed sometimes--that this wasn't a relationship based on the kismet of complete similarity of opinion (which is probably feigned by at least one party in 100% of situations that ostensibly fit that description.)

Mostly I loved how perfectly this story was told, and how much it swept me away with it.

View all my reviews