Friday, February 28, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 6

Talking about book banning on a book blog is a decidedly strange feeling. We're all here because we love reading. We love it enough to write books, edit them, hand-sell them, review them; maintain book blogs, go to library school, and befriend perfect strangers from across the world because that same paragraph rips both our hearts in two. We're readers, and the idea of banning books, in the readerly world, is functionally a suggestion to ban air. You don't need to explain why you're against it. It's more curious--and suspicious--if you're for it.

There are ways in which it's a really vital conversation: The Russian government criminalized any writing that speaks positively about homosexuality right before the opening of the 2014 Olympics, and teenage poet Tal Al-Mallouhi has been in prison for four years because of the poems and posts on her blog.

But there are some ways in which I really, really wish the conversation about the freedom to write and read was one in which we held ourselves--writers and readers--to a higher standard. Just like any form of discrimination, it's easy to attack the obvious problems first: Books taken out of libraries or schools; books taken off the shelves with plenty of media coverage. Those books which suffocate quietly because of discomfort with what they have to say are a harder thing to get a handle on. There are many ways to stifle a voice. As editors, readers, writers, reviewers, fans, bloggers, we're complicit in a lot of them.

When a publisher's art department takes the brown protagonist off a book cover and puts a white secondary character on it because conventional wisdom says non-white covers don't sell, that's a tiny banning; it's a tiny statement that certain kinds of stories shouldn't be here, or have to be disguised. It's a tiny statement to the readers who'd see themselves in there that they shouldn't read, or write.

When a black teenage girl and voracious reader is steered by a librarian from the adult books to the kids' books, again and again and again, it's a tiny book banning. It's a message that because of who that girl is, what she looks like, there are books she can't and shouldn't read.

When two YA co-authors are told by a literary agent that their book will be represented if they rewrite the gay protagonist into a straight one, or YA editors tells authors that their male/male romance stories aren't acceptable unless they're made male/female, that's a tiny book banning too. If those authors had listened, no one would have been able to read their books.

When a Sri Lankan author at a reading confides that nobody wanted their speculative work, but people were more than happy to take the almost-standard story of living through the Sri Lankan Civil War.

When an intersex author is rock-certain that their book about an intersex character will have no place at a major press, even though mine somehow found a way through, and they are not coming from nowhere on that one.

When a reader walks into a bookstore and say they want a hard SF novel--but not one by a woman, and if you give them that stuff you don't know your science fiction.

When white readers think there is nothing that books about black, Asian, or Middle Eastern characters could possibly say to them that matters; because they don't read books by those kinds of people.

So many books are banned every day, around the world. Most of them aren't pulled off library or bookstore shelves; they never make it to those shelves, or never make it off them into a reader's hands. I think what we forget is that book banning is a buildup of small acts: Not the big bonfires of Fahrenheit 451 or school board challenges that take whole swathes of titles off shelves.

It's when you put your damned self between a reader and a book.

Even and especially if the reader is you.

In honesty, I'm a bit afraid of sending this post to be published. I've rewritten it five times, taken much too long dithering with it, and gone back and forth about whether I'm being just way too hardassed about the whole thing.

But the problem is, every single one of the examples I put down up there really happened. We talk a lot about how important books are, how banning books is like banning air, but even as people who love books, who love how they heal or break your heart, we are keeping readers from the books they need. We are keeping books from finding the readers they were meant for.

Looking at yourself unflinchingly--as an individual, as a community, or as an industry--is sometimes the hardest thing to do. It's painful to see yourself coming up short; to really take a good, long, hard look for biases, for stereotypical thinking, for prejudice flying under cover of marketing decisions or personal opinion.

To ask if we're doing our best to make sure that the freedom to read means all the stories. Not just the ones that are about you or me.

But it's necessary, and I think, at this point, about time. All we really control in life is the acts that come out of our own two hands and the words that come out of our own mouths. We make our choices. We should be making good, kind, and curious ones.

This Freedom to Read Week, let's not make it about the other people: The ones who pull books off library shelves; the ones we look down upon; the ones who don't understand. Let's make it about us.
Let's count up the women authors, authors of colour, international authors, LGBT authors, authors with disabilities, anyone who's not exactly like us on our reading lists, and if we find we're not reading those books, let's read them and discover what they have to say--whether it's comfortable for us or not.

Let's review them. Let's find the ones that have paragraphs to break your heart open, and give them to our friends.

Let's pick up those books with brown people on the cover or gay teens in love inside, and prove to publishers that yes, people will too buy them.

Let's ask people what story they'd love to read, and make that story happen however we can.

We love books. We love reading. We love the freedom to read.

Let's make sure, in 2014, that the freedom to read's equally free for everyone.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 5

Banned Books… dun dun dun.

Those two words seem to be kryptonite to writers and readers alike. They seem to evoke feelings of negativity in the writing world. But, if you step back and put on a “parent” hat, you start to see the idea of banning of books to be a necessity. Which side of the coin is right? Is there really a “right” side? Let me tell you of my personal experience with banned books.

When I was young (maybe 7) my sister and brother were in high school. I grew up in a very small town in Illinois that had less than 10,000 people at the time and my mother worked at the high school. She came home enraged one day that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was set to be discussed by the school board to put on the ‘banned book’ list. Along with some of the works from Poe, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. The reason these books were going to be banned from the school was a) the town we lived in was highly religious and b) parents didn’t want literature to corrupt their children. My mother was furious that “The Scarlet Letter” was going to be banned because it dealt with out of wedlock pregnancy and adultery. Even though these are uncomfortable subjects, even in 1985, these things were common place in society and my mother felt like the school board was being hypocritical.

Ultimately, my parents and others that shared their view, were overruled and The Scarlet Letter was placed on the banned list at my sister’s school. My sister and brothers ended up reading the novel at my mother’s insistence. (Thank you mom for encouraging all of us to think outside the box. You’ve made me a better writer that likes to push the boundaries.)

As a parent to a 9 year old boy, I don’t want him reading Stephen King at this age… but does that mean I want his books banned? No. In fact, I’d encourage my son to read as many books, from as many genre’s as he can. Books that address uncomfortable subjects, opposing views, and imaginary world’s help our children and our society grow. I’d rather have my son have a wild imagination, than one that is black and white.

Every written word is worth reading so you can understand the inner-workings of the human mind. Shutting out a book because it doesn’t agree with your view is only stifling yourself and your potential to grow. Are there books out there that have made me uncomfortable to read? Yes. Are there books dealing with Taboo’s that make me nervous for my child to read? Yes. But, I can’t put him (or myself) in a bubble. The world is getting smaller and smaller every day thanks to social media and cable TV. I think my son could view worse things on YouTube than to read The Scarlet Letter… but that’s just my two-cents.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 4

Satanist for a Day

The child finds a book from the many on the shelf. The child climbs into the second branch of an oak tree. She reads the book alone – allbyherselfforthefirsttimeever-yes!
She is free. She is home. She discovers fire.

Last December in Huff Post Books, Oliver Tearle recapped the twelve most interesting facts his blog site Interesting Literature: A Library of Literary Interestingness uncovered in its inaugural year.

Discovering Roald Dahl was a chocolate taster as a kid and Kurt Vonnegut once owned a failed car dealership delighted me. Endless interestingness. Delicious, these little known facts to a bibliophile like me. On Terle’s list was this:
“In Russia in 2009, Winnie-the-Pooh was banned because a senior official was found to own a picture of Pooh wearing swastika-covered clothes. This is one of the weirder stories surrounding the banning of classic children's books in various countries. Another notable 'banning incident' occurred when Dr Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham was outlawed in the People's Republic of China between 1965 and 1991 for portraying 'early Marxism.”
This was a surprise although I knew Milne, Seuss, Dahl, and Sendak and countless others have been challenged over the years for many different reasons.

Banned kids books are not rare. From my vantage point, children’s’ writers are particularly vulnerable. There’s a certain breed of hungry guard dogs-think Cerberus and a pack of his relatives-- lurking behind every fire hydrant, ready to mark out the parameters of moral, political, and socially acceptable territory. They’re often judge and jury when it comes to what books “our” children SHOULD be allowed to read. Trouble is, the road to helland all that.

So I’m in good company. My own experience having a book challenged was weird and interesting to say the least. At the time, however, I couldn’t see much humour in the situation. I haven’t shared the story often and never in print.

Halifax 1992. At the end of a long day I come home, start to make supper, ask my children what they did in school. Typical, normal every day stuff. The phone rings and I soon fall down a rabbit hole into a bizarre nonsensical world. The woman on the other end asks first, is this the author?
“Yes,” I reply.

“Well, I'm Mrs. XX, a librarian at XX Elementary School.”

“Yes?” I say, hoping it will be an invitation to do an author reading there. Readings have become my major source of income and I need them if I’m going to keep on being a writer.

“I’m phoning you with some distressing news, “she says, “but I want you to know the librarians are all on your side.”

“My side? My stomach clenches, as if ready to take a fist.

“It seems that there’s a group of parents in XX community who are asking that your book Sleeping Dragons All Around be removed from all schools libraries in the district.”

“Pardon me?”

Sleeping Dragons All Around, published by Doubleday Canada, illustrated by Michel Niedenoff has been out three years. It’s my second book, and it won the Atlantic Booksellers Choice Award, the first children’s book to take that honour. The book gained some national recognition thanks to Peter Gzowski and Morningside. Enough encouragement for me to think pursuing writing full time might feasible if I cobble together other enough other paying jobs. This year, I accepted a one-year contract with CBC radio. Sleeping Dragons is, ---my little darling. Yes, I love her.

“I don’t understand exactly what you’re saying. “

“Well, this group has written a letter to the School Board and have signatures on a petition against the book.”

When there’s only silence from me punctuated by little squeaking sounds of disbelief, she continues.

“It’s ridiculous, “she says, “but they're objecting on religious grounds. The book is considered blasphemy. And um. They’ve accused you of Satanism.

“Satanism. Satanism! I shrieked, loud enough for my sons to poke their head into the room.

“I’m a Satanist?

“They have several reasons but take issue with the naming of one of your dragons.”

“Satanist?” I‘m weak in my knees.

“Beelzebub. You named one of the dragons after the devil. “

“Oh. My. God.”

“Yes,” I sputtered indignantly, “I called one of my Dragons Beelzebub because I love the sound of the word and Beelzebub was in the tub and blew bubbles and –it’s called alliteration! Wordplay! And I was studying Milton's Paradise lost at the time, in university and the book is based on a line from Keats, and no one not ONE person has mentioned this in three years. “I’m angry now. Unfortunately, when I get angry, my inner child gets louder. Useful to access when you write kids books but not so effective as an adult trying to defend myself. My voice, even to my own ears, is like a ten year old wailing but Mummy; it’s just not FAIR.

The librarian wasn't laughing.

“Well, it's really important that you fight this. If you want to go public with this we’re behind you at the library. So are the teachers who use your book in the classrooms. This is a perfect opportunity to talk about how ridiculous this kind of challenge is, about censorship and intellectual freedom and freedom to read. We could get media involved.

You know it would end up being good publicity for your book. There’s usually a great demand and increase in sales for challenged books.“ He voice is kind and I don’t doubt her for a minute.

“Satanist? I mumble. The word’s velcroed to my tongue. “I .. need to think about this,” I say.

I tell my children what’s just happened and they laugh hysterically. “Oooh, Mama, the devil made you do it,” they chant.

“Not funny.” I phone my best friend and in heartbroken tones, explain the situation.

“Me a Satanist,” I say, “all I've ever done is try to write books for children.” There’s dead silence on the other end of the phone. Then there’s an in breath and a convulsion of laughter.

“You- you’re not seriously taking this to heart, are you?” she manages to snort out.  She's the friend who’s always been able to ask questions that save me hours of therapy.

“Um, no, um, no no, of course not.”

“Maybe you should go public with it.”


But I didn’t. I phoned the librarian, thanked her for supporting me but my feeling was that people like this WANTED publicity. Going to the media would provide a forum for them to espouse their twisted views. I had faith, I told her, that the school board would not listen. Sleeping Dragons All Around is a good book, inspired by my own son and his fear of the dark. My own fear of the dark, I said "That’s all."

I wasn’t going to fear those bible-thumping zealots. My idea of God was sketchy, but I figured she’d be on my side. The librarian was maybe a little disappointed, but she said she understood and respected my reasons.

So in the end, there was no big brouhaha and the group was silenced and denied their request.

Sleeping Dragons celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2009 and was reissued, this time by
Nimbus Publishing as Doubleday Canada stopped doing picture books. The book has had such a long and rich life, and so many stories.

Think teachers acting out the dragons when I go a school. Beelzebub,Grade Two teacher in bikini and snorkel in a real tub being pulled by the Grade six teacher. Satanic and X– rated? My favourite story was the mother who told me they had a sleeping dragon game in their house and the Dad was the dragon chasing after the kids. I hope the kids, now grown, will pass that along.

The most poignant moment for me was the time I met a mother who told me the book was her son’s favourite book and had given her so many happy memories of when her son was little. He was one of the boys in red, a Bathurst basketball player killed in the tragic traffic accident in 2008.

Every Freedom to Read Week I think about writers in prison for what they have written, of children in refugee camps, countries where reading is a dangerous and subversive act, journalists who have been killed for telling the truth, populations who read only propaganda, poets who are gagged into silence. It’s unbearable.  How grateful I am to live where I do.

But… I also take it personally and know that closer to home and in the present, we still have to be vigilant and protect our intellectual and creative freedom.

Freedom of the imagination, freedom to read.


The child in the tree sighs as she closes the book. She looks out to the sea from her perch. She traces the letters of the author’s names with her fingertips. Imagine writing a book like House at Pooh Corner. She begins to dream. She’s just been corrupted forever.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 3

There’s a character in my YA novel Apparition called Kip who is a little irreverent. That’s just the way he is. My heroine Amelia first meets him at a Halloween party where they are both wearing Bob Marley masks (pure coincidence) while all the other kids are dressed either as zombies or vampires. Kip surprises Amelia with his take on zombies:

“Jesus was a zombie, for Christ’s sake. That’s what Easter’s all about.”
“I never thought of it that way.” Holy jeez. He’s different.
“Are you kidding? Don’t you know about the ‘resurrection of the body’ stuff in the Bible? The Bible’s all about zombies.” 

“No, I seriously never thought of that.”

That’s just Kip being Kip. And yet, as the author, I worried vaguely about including that little exchange in my book. I wondered whether some Christians might take offense. Then some well-meaning person warned me that it might make it difficult to get my book onto reading lists in American schools. That made me gulp, and I asked myself whether I really needed to have Kip say it. I decided I did. Apparition hasn’t made it into American schools yet, but I’m not sure it’s Kip’s fault.

The point is that there’s more to the threat of censorship than book banning. There’s self-censorship, brought on by the fear that offending some people might hurt sales, the publisher’s bottom line, and eventually even my own already sad bank account.

But what really concerns me is not that some parent might take offense to the mild reference to the idea of the risen Jesus being a zombie, or even zombie-like. What bothers me is when people aren’t allowed to read something that others consider irreligious or irreverent. Being free to be irreverent about religion, about politics, about industry, about customs, in other words, about dominant views in society, is a critical part of every society that aspires to be democratic. The belief runs deep, even in western religious traditions, that the so-called “sacred cow” as fair game.

Those who take offense are always trying to protect their position, their interests and their power. I don’t blame them for wanting to, I just don’t think they should be allowed to shut other people up.

I’ve always had a soft spot for 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, no stranger to pissing off religious authorities, who declared in his Theologico-Political Treatise that governments should have the authority to restrict the actions of their citizens. No problemo, he argued. But he added one small caveat: their citizens must be free to think and say (and write) whatever they will. What he counted on was that a society that allowed freedom of expression was the surest way to shape and foster a democracy, to keep its politicians clean and its laws fair. Because in order to effectively control people’s actions, you must also control their thoughts, and even better, push thinking itself right out the door. What keeps thoughts free is when they are engaged, agitated and inspired by their free exchange through words, speech and print. Free thoughts and words are the foundation of a just society.

So book banning, censorship, and even the pressures to self-censor, are the enemies of democracy. And offending those with the most power in society, even and sometimes especially religious power, is a right that we must safeguard. Not for the sake of my character Kip necessarily, but for the sake of the next Salman Rushdie, and everyone in between.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 2

Naked Girls For Everyone!
(Context And Why It Matters)

In my seven years as a YA librarian I’ve only had to deal with one book challenge. As far as statistics go, I think I’m doing pretty well. After all, across our three-branch library system I have over 11,000 YA, graphic novel, and manga books filled with all the cursing, drinking, drug use, and sex that turns small town parents’ hair white. I knew when I took the job I would eventually do battle with a book challenge, and I was ready for it. I was fully armed in the Right to Read and Intellectual Freedom, and even had a sword of self-righteousness grasped firmly in my hand.

And then the dragon came gliding across my desk, and I realized there was something I hadn’t prepared for: Guilt and a desire to just give in.*

Maybe it would have been different if the challenge was against a book I knew and loved, but as I read what a mother had written about why she didn’t think her son should be able to pick up this particular issue of Teen Titans off the library shelf, I felt like I had done something wrong. I felt like a bad librarian and person because there was indeed a naked girl** in that book and it was sitting in the YA area of the library. What had I done? How many children had I scarred for life?

Luckily, the story doesn’t end there. (It would be a fairly tragic Freedom to Read Week story if it did.)

After reading the reconsideration form, I went to work. I checked out the book and the three issues leading up to it and read them all that night. I looked up reviews and reached out to other librarians who were familiar with the material. I spoke with people in the Teen Titan fandom to understand the storyline and character’s background. And by the time I was done, all my guilt was gone. I felt confident as I typed up my recommendation to keep the material. Not only did I think it was okay for the book to remain, I felt like it needed to be there.

The difference between the day the form was turned in and the day I responded was context. A naked girl on her own is a little shocking, but a naked girl in the context of a story focusing on grief and some of the not-so-healthy ways people might cope with it? Not only does it make sense, it becomes important, not only for the story, but for the reader’s personal journey as well.

A lot of times when you see people up in arms about a book they’ve deemed “inappropriate” you’ll notice they only talk about a few pages, paragraphs, or even one or two lines. They gasp in horror at an oral sex scene,*** not seeing how it’s an observation on how sex acts without emotion are empty and meaningless because they haven’t taken the time to read the book and learn the context.

As readers and literary advocates, we often look down our noses at the book banners**** who call for the removal of books from our libraries and classrooms. We scoff at their ignorance and paint them as the most villainous of bad guys, and I think that is the wrong way for us to look at the situation. I believe if you were to take a step back, to examine the context of the situation, you wouldn’t find a person whose heart is filled with evil, but someone who genuinely thinks they’re doing the right thing. These are simply people who haven’t learned the importance of context. They don’t see how literature can use situations we might find uncomfortable to read to teach us about ourselves and the world we live in. And that’s why events like the Freedom to Read Week in Canada and Banned Books Week in the United States are so important. They’re an opportunity to educate those well-meaning book banners about the importance of context.

This week, I encourage you to not only talk about the banned books you’ve read and loved, but also about why you love them. Talk about why the story is important to you. Give the world a little context. It can go a long way.

* I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you read a reconsideration form and decide to move the book to another section or whatever it is the patron is asking. I’m saying that I was ready to give in without fully examining the situation, which was not cool. Not cool at all.

** For the record, all the naughty bits were covered.

*** Yes, I’m talking about an actual YA book. It’s a very well done and important oral sex scene. Trust me.

**** By the way, book banners would never categorize themselves as such. “Concerned citizen” is their preferred moniker.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Freedom to Read Week Day 1

Teens Need More Access To Books, Not Less

Books saved me; I don’t think I could have survived my child- and teenhood without them. I certainly couldn’t have survived with my soul intact, with goodness and hope still in me. Novels gave me escape from the abuse and torture I was living, and they also helped me know that I wasn’t alone (in some ways), that there were good and kind people in the world (even though I didn’t experience much of that in my own life), that I could fight evil and cruelty and have a chance of overcoming it, and that I could hope for love even if I was unloved. If I hadn’t had books, my life would have been without hope, relief, or goodness; I really don’t think I could have survived. As it was, I wanted to die almost all the time.

When you feel like you’re the only one who’s been through something horrible or who feels a certain way, it can be incredibly painful. I was always looking for books that would tell me I wasn’t the only one who was living through horrific experiences such as incest, rape, torture, mind control, cults, self-harm, being held captive, bullying, attempted suicide, and being queer in a homophobic world. I was always looking for books that talked about the things that no one ever talked about. Books that would let me know on a much deeper level that I wasn’t alone, that there was hope, that I could get through. I didn’t find that as a teen, and that’s a big part of why I write what I do. I write the books that I needed as a teen and couldn’t find. I write for the teens who desperately need those books now, the way I did. And I write for the readers who may not have been through those things, but who may become less judgemental and gain greater compassion by reading about those experiences from an inside view. Because that’s what books give us—a glimpse inside someone else’s life and soul for a little while—in a way that I don’t think we get in any other medium. Books are powerful, safe ways to learn about the world, or to discover that you’re not alone, that you’re really okay as you are.

So I’m always distressed when people try to ban or challenge my books or those of any other author’s. It’s happened a few times that I know of with SCARS (and probably a lot more that I don’t know of, where the book has just been quietly removed from the shelves),
and I worry that it will happen with STAINED, too, since it also deals with painful issues (abduction, imprisonment, rape, psychological abuse, bullying). What I think about when people try to ban my books are the letters I still receive—every week—from readers telling me that after reading SCARS they stopped cutting, got help, talked to someone for the first time about their self-harm or sexual abuse or being queer, or that they didn’t kill themselves because of my book. And the letters I'm now getting about STAINED, from readers telling me that it helped them feel stronger, like they can face the abuse or trauma they have in their own lives.  Those teens are living through hell right now, and they need to know that they’re not alone, that someone else has been through it and survived and so they, too, can get through it and be okay.

To prevent a teen who *needs* a book—who might not have any other way of knowing that they’re not alone, not crazy, not to blame for abuse or trauma that’s happened, who may need that book to heal, to stay alive, or to gain greater compassion and understanding for themselves or for someone else—to keep them from reading a book that may be their only lifeline or hand through the darkness seems cruel to me. Maybe not intentionally cruel, but I think it does harm to keep someone from something that can bring them healing and relief, that can help them be kinder to themselves or to someone they know. I think book banning and challenging probably comes from fear, misinformation, and ignorance—but I wish people would be more compassionate, thoughtful, and aware of others’ needs, and know that if they don’t like a book or are afraid of it, they can put it down; they don’t have to try to keep others from it.

I am so thankful for the many librarians, teachers, and book bloggers who help get books into the hands of teens who need them, and for readers who help get the word out about those books. What you do matters.

About the Author:
Cheryl Rainfield is the author of the award-winning SCARS, about a queer teen sexual-abuse survivor who uses self-harm to cope; STAINED, about a teen with a port-wine stain who is abducted and must rescue herself; and the award-winning HUNTED, about a teen telepath living in a world where any paranormal power is illegal. Cheryl Rainfield is an incest and torture survivor, a feminist, and an avid reader and writer. She lives in Toronto with her little dog Petal.

Cheryl Rainfield has been said to write with “great empathy and compassion” (VOYA) and to write stories that “can, perhaps, save a life.” (CM Magazine) SLJ said of her work: “[readers] will be on the edge of their seats.”

Find the Author:
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle:
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend, Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

What can I say about this book? I’m sitting here wracking my brain because the feels I have for this book surpass almost anything I have ever felt for a young adult book before. Grasshopper Jungle is a story about small-town America, homophobia, friendship and love. It was amazing, it was weird, it was incredibly addicting, and it is a rare piece of green covered gold. It is shocking, it is vulgar and at the same time it is incredibly hilarious. It cannot be lumped into just one genre, because what starts off as a contemporary novel quickly shifts into a science fiction story about six feet tall, man eating grasshopper-like beasts that consume the world. It is about the private inner struggle of a boy in love with both his girlfriend and his male best friend. Andrew Smith is one of those amazing authors that are rare gems in the reading world. What I absolutely love about his writing sooo much is that you can tell that he writes for himself, instead of popularity (I mean obviously he has that too, but that doesn’t dictate to his writing style). He writes marvelous, intricate stories that never follow the norm, Andrew is a leader among equals as he forages a new path for young adult authors.

This book starts off with two sixteen-year-old best friends, both of whom are male, one of whom is definitely gay while the other is unmistakably confused. This day is just like any other day for these boys except this time when they get beaten up by bullies, they decide to reclaim their lost clothing and skateboards from the roof where they were tossed by said bullies. They discover the roof access to the store below and decide to go exploring. This is the beginning of the end. What they discovered is the strange results of a mad scientists mind. Bits and pieces of biological experiments floating in jars, just sitting on a shelf. Unknown to the boys they are followed and one of the experiments is stolen and accidentally dropped, initiating the infestation. Soon anyone who comes into contact with the strange substance becomes a host to a giant man-eating bug.

Luckily for the boys, they have a relationship—one is friends with, while the other is dating, yet confused about his sexual attraction for his male best friend—with a girl who is the stepdaughter of the man who is the younger brother of the mad scientist. And together the boys and girlfriend discover an underground “bomb shelter” of sorts. It was built, years ago, in preparation for the infestation to happen again. It was built to house the new strain of humanity while above ground the world is being destroyed by giant, man-eating bugs.

I can’t even put into words just how good this book was. Just go out and read it already.

My Bookish Wants & Gots (77)

My Bookish Wants & Gots is a feature over at The Book Vixen. I list the books I want - which can be old, new, or upcoming releases - and the books I recently got.

Feral Curse by Cynthia Leitich Smith
The adopted daughter of two respectable human parents, Kayla is a werecat in the closet. All she knows is the human world. When she comes out to her boyfriend, tragedy ensues, and her determination to know and embrace her heritage grows. Help appears in the lithe form of sexy male werecat Yoshi, backed up by Aimee and Clyde, as the four set out to solve the mystery of a possessed antique carousel while fielding miscast magic, obsessive strangers, and mounting species intolerance. Paranormal fans will go wild for this rousing second Feral adventure.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes
Auranos has fallen and the three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia—are now united as one country called Mytica. But still, magic beckons, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the world...

When the evil King Gaius announces that a road is to be built into the Forbidden Mountains, formally linking all of Mytica together, he sets off a chain of events that will forever change the face of this land, forcing Cleo the dethroned princess, Magnus the reluctant heir, Lucia the haunted sorceress, and Jonas the desperate rebel to take steps they never could have imagined.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Forgotten Fridays (84)

I invite and welcome anyone interested to post their own Forgotten Friday and join in the fun! I feature a book that I have read and have forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Some books might recent reads and some might be older reads, but I hope this helps these (sometimes forgotten) books earn a spot on your own TBR pile!

Tithe by Holly Black
First Published: October 2002
Series: Modern Faerie Tales

Sixteen-year-old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother's rock band until an ominous attack forces Kaye back to her childhood home. There, amid the industrial, blue-collar New Jersey backdrop, Kaye soon finds herself an unwilling pawn in an ancient power struggle between two rival faerie kingdoms -- a struggle that could very well mean her death.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thursday Thirteen (33)

Thursday Thirteen is a weekly meme with a simple theme: each Thursday you blog a list of 13 things. What kind of things? Any kind! Just come up with a list theme and run with it.
*All of my lists are in no particular order.*

Memorable Book Series Couples

1. Faythe Sanders and Marc Ramos from the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent

2. Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers from the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

3. Catherine Crawfield (Cat) and Crispin Phillip Arthur Russell III (Bones) from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost

4. Riley Jensen and Quinn O'Connor from the Guardian series by Keri Arthur

5. Lacey Sherlock and Dillon Savich from the FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter

6. Cat Dupree and Wilson McKay from the Cat Dupree trilogy by Sharon Sala

7. Tiffany Bramble and Deacon Chalk from the Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty-Hunter series by James R. Tuck

8. Aisling Grey andDrake Vireo from the Aisling Grey: Guardian series by Katie MacAlister

9. Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptman from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

10. Elena Baxter and Artur Loginov from the Dirk & Steel series by Marjorie M. Liu

11. Honor Donovan and Jake Mallory from the Donovan series by Elizabeth Lowell

12. Abigail Drake and Alexsandr Volstov from the Drake Sisters series by Christine Feehan

13. Cynna Weaver and Cullen Seabourne from the World of the Lupi series by Eileen Wilks