The year is drawing to a close, which means it's almost time to hand out the renowned Booklandia awards for best Booklandia content as voted on by the editor of Booklandia. What's that you say? The last thing we need? More awards. Well, fine, you aren't invited to the chips-and-cheese soiree. Let's just say that this issue has some strong contenders: Ilene Cooper's list of coosome twosomes uses Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park as a jumping-off point, while Ann Kelley gets all inclusive and whatnot with a read-alike list about gender identities. Read 'em, so then I can say, "You like us! You really like us!"
—Daniel Kraus, Editor, Booklandia (email@example.com)
Q&A with Jonathan Friesen
Good luck pigeonholing Jonathan Friesen. The author of Jerk, California (2008), Rush (2010), and Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace (2012) always keeps readers guessing, no more so than with his newest book, the dystopian Aquifer, which details a futuristic Australia in which two incompatible races must interface in order for the trading of the most valuable of substances—water.
Question: You've written in different genres, but this is your first full-on invented world. How much was the process different from previous books?
Jonathan Friesen: It was a vastly different experience, but the process started in ordinary fashion. I had a picture in my mind, this time of a simple fisherman pulling up a catch, and finding in that catch a decomposed body. As I followed the characters, I realized I needed a bigger canvas to tell their stories. In that sense, I "followed" my characters into this dystopian world. That made the process much more dynamic and exciting, as world building was pure discovery for me, a sense that spills out onto the page for the reader.
Question: What does Aquifer bring to the dystopia genre that you feel is unique?
Jonathan Friesen: A certain thought-provoking realization that every being has the potential for both intense good and unspeakable evil. In Aquifer, this includes the government and the controlling aspects of society, as well as Luca, the protagonist. This genre is often one of absolutes. The system is always bad. The young adult at odds with it, our hero. There is rarely a question of who has good intentions. Aquifer changes that paradigm. One of my goals was to make every character real, which meant giving all of them the opportunity to choose both right and wrong. I didn't give only good options to the "good" characters and diabolical options to antagonists. The result is a rich, real, and oftentimes unsettling story that closely mirrors the truth of who humans are.
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Before Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park
By Ilene Cooper
You've got your Romeo and Juliet, your Tristan and Isolde, and now there's Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park. They meet on the school bus. She has a cowed mother and an abusive stepfather. He feels weird because he's half-Korean and perhaps not the guy he wants to be. They don't like each other, and then they love each other. In rapidly alternating voices, they develop a relationship that is urgent, moving, and, of course, heartbreaking, too. There's something about linking names in a title that curls them tightly. What other couples have eponymously named books?
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. By Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 2012. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (9781442408920). Gr. 9–12.
When Aristotle and Dante meet in the summer of 1987, they are
15-year-old opposites: Dante is sure of his place in the world, while Ari feels he may never know who he is or what he wants. Dante is also open about his homosexuality, while Ari suppresses his. In this thoughtful read, Sáenz treats his characters carefully, giving them space and time to find their place in the world, and to find each other.
Beatle Meets Destiny. By Gabrielle Williams. 2010. Marshall Cavendish, $16.99 (9780761457237). Gr. 9–12.
He's Beatle because his name's John Lennon. She's Destiny McCartney. Their meeting is unexpected and intense and perfect and romantic. It's not until several chapters later that readers learn there's an impediment in the form of a girlfriend, Cilla, who happens to be best friends with Beatle's twin, Winsome. The story line is deliciously plotted, as delicate as the chair embroidered by Wallis Simpson, which Destiny steals from her neighbor, albeit unintentionally. Although it does lead to the woman's death. Bummer.
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Read-alikes: Calling All Gender Identities
By Ann Kelley
In Michael Cart's column "What Annie Wrought," which appeared in the September 15, 2013, issue of Booklist, he discusses great GLBTQ love stories in YA literature. Here, we take a look at YA novels featuring characters who identify as either transgender or genderqueer or who are gender ambiguous—both in their identity struggles and their own romances. Julie Anne Peters gave voice to a traditionally invisible minority in her groundbreaking novel, Luna (2004); in recent years, these voices have happily grown louder in literary representation.
a+e 4ever. By Ilike Merey. Illus. by the author. 2011. Lethe, paper, $18 (9781590213902). Gr. 10–12.
Neither Ash, a shy, bisexual pretty boy, nor Eu, a self-described dyke, can be reduced to a single aspect of their identities. During the few months of their intense relationship, they share music, a passion for drawing, and a variety of attempts to socialize with their families and other teens. Merey's soulful graphic novel explores genderqueer relationships, showing just how tenuous our understanding of identity, friendship, and romance can be.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. By Kirstin Cronn-Mills. 2012. Flux, paper, $9.99 (9780738732510). Gr. 9–12.
Gabe has a secret: he is really Liz. Born a female, Gabe is cautiously beginning his transition to male. Only his parents and his lifelong best friend, Paige, know. But when a girl at school discovers the truth and outs Gabe, things become difficult, if not downright dangerous.
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In this ongoing series, we make a clever list of YA trends, and you forward it to everyone you know. Got it?
5 YA Heroines Who May Result in Inadvisable Baby Names
- Anthem—from The Brokenhearted, by Amelia Kahaney
- Cricket—from Nantucket Blue, by Leila Howland
- Digger—from The Journey Back, by Priscilla Cummings
- Freesia—from Bubble World, by Carol Snow
- Reignbow—from When We Wuz Famous, by Greg Takoudes
In this running feature from Booklist's Likely Stories blog, authors dare to play Mad Libs with their own novels. Absurd? Brilliant? You be the judge. (And try to guess which author is behind the below absurdity before clicking through.)
Truck drivers go missing every day. They slip out of bedroom feather dusters and into repulsive cars. The leave good-bye alligators or don't get a chance to masticate anyone. They cross loan sharks. They hitch rides, nibbling themselves into overcrowded stilettos, sitting on scatterbrained laps. They dismember and french-kiss, or they shove their earthworms out of earwigs and give off vodka shouts. Girls make plans to nose-dive, but they also sparkle without meaning to, and sometimes people confuse one for the tattletale.
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Issue #4, November 21, 2013