Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

rollergirlOkay, Internetland, I’m going to share a little known fact about myself here. I play roller derby. Well, sort of. I’m still just a Freshmeat (roller derby slang for new player), but I do play! My derby name is Dewey Decimator and my number is 025. If you’re a librarian, you’ll get the jokes. The reason I’m telling you this is because I’m reviewing Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson today and in my opinion as a player of the sport I can tell you that this book is a pretty accurate representation of roller derby! Not like some other forms of pop culture out there *cough*Whip It Movie*cough*…

Roller Girl is a graphic novel about a 12-year-old girl named Astrid discovering roller derby. The story starts out with her mom taking Astrid and her best friend, Nicole,  to a roller derby bout. At the bout they find out about derby skate camp and Astrid is very excited and can’t wait for her and her Nicole to go together. Unfortunately, Nicole doesn’t want to go to derby camp, and goes to ballet camp instead. The story follows Astrid as she stresses over not being good at derby, starts drifting away from her best friend, starts making new friends, and in general just discovers who she wants to be.

There are a lot of important themes in this book that young adults will find relevant. Friendship is a big one. Astrid and Nicole are drifting apart and Astrid is making new friends, but she’s having a lot of anxiety about it as well. Coming-of-age and self discovery is another important theme. Astrid is trying to discover who she wants to be as she prepares to start junior high. Bullying is another theme that plays a lot into the story. Astrid has been bullied basically her whole life, and continues to be bullied by “the popular girl”. I feel that roller derby is a sport where like-minded people can gather and feel accepted for who they are and that’s why Astrid seems to find herself on the track.

This book does a really good job explaining the sport, but sometimes I felt it was a little too much. I’m sure it’s just because I already know about the sport that I think this, and I know for someone who isn’t familiar with the sport that they would find the explanations very useful. This book also accurately describes how difficult roller derby can be. I don’t think my legs stopped hurting for a whole month after I started roller derby. It’s a very physically demanding sport. Great exercise though! If you’re interested in roller derby I encourage you to do an internet search for your local team! Most teams are online somewhere these days. Also visit the Woman’s Flat Track Roller Derby Association website (https://wftda.com/) for more information on the sport and a list of leagues! Or if you’re in Canada, go here: http://www.crdinfo.ca/

Just for fun, here’s my derby headshot:

025-dewey-decimator

Advertisements

Pantomime by Laura Lam

pantomimeOriginally, I picked up this book because it had an interesting cover. I don’t usually judge a book by its cover but in this case the cover just looked so intriguing that I had to pick it up! When I read the back of the book I was further intrigued! I really enjoy gaslamp fantasy novels, The Night Circus  by Erin Morgenstern being my favourite from this genre (it’s so good everyone should go read it right now!). Even though Pantomime falls nicely into the gaslamp fantasy genre it remains unique. Never have I ever read a book with such complicated themes set in a world like this. This book takes fantasy, circus, magic, and rolls in themes like self acceptance, coming of age, LGBTQ+, and intersexuality.

This story is about one person. Gene is a noble girl with a secret. She is both male and female – intersexual. If her secret were to leak out it would be a scandal and she and her whole family would be shunned from society. Then she displays strange magical abilities – last seen in mysterious beings from an almost-forgotten age – The Vestige. Gene discovers her parents are not her real parents and plan to have an unwanted medical procedure performed on her, so she decides she needs to run away from home. So, Gene takes on a new name and becomes Micah Grey, a boy who joins the circus and becomes an aerialist. Micah trains hard and falls in love, but the dark side of the circus forces him to run for his life again.

Honestly, while I really enjoyed this book I felt the story was a bit slow and a little confusing at times. The story hops between Gene’s life as a noble, and Micah’s life in the circus. As the time lines get closer and closer to merging (ie, when Gene becomes Micah) it can get a little confusing as to when things are happening. Despite the slow pace I felt it really picked up near the end as Micah’s secret is exposed and he needs to flee for his life. However, beware! The cliffhanger at the end is real. My library system doesn’t have the second book yet (Shadowplay – 9781509807802, published Jan. 2017) so I have to either buy the sequel myself or wait patiently… heavy sigh.

Another thing I felt was a bit confusing was the Vestige, the ancient civilization that disappeared, leaving only magical artifacts behind.. I felt there wasn’t enough backstory about this and would have appreciated a prologue or foreword describing it in further detail. Perhaps in the next two books more about the Vestige will be revealed as more magic like Micah’s is awakened..

I felt that Laura Lam did a really good job at portraying Gene’s confusion about whether she is male or female. Gene doesn’t quite feel like a female, but not quite a male either. Which is why she is so easily able to slip into Micah’s world. Gene/Micah is a Kedi. An intersexual creature from legend that is the only creature in the world who is whole.

I also liked how Lam described Micah’s confusion about his feelings for both Aenea, his female aerialist partner, and Drystan, the white clown. Micah kept asking himself “Do I like Aenea as a boy or as a girl?” Eventually he decided it didn’t matter and just lets his emotions take over. Despite being in love with Aenea, Micah is still too afraid to tell her about his secret – that he is a Kedi – for fear she will be disgusted with  him and reject him, like someone from Gene’s past did recently. At the end of the book Micah’s secret is revealed! But you’ll have to read the book to find out how both Aenea and Drystan react. #troll

I gave Pantomime 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads because of the unique and interesting premise and characters. Would have taken half a star from the overall score if i could have due to the slow pace and sometimes confusing order of events.

Writing this review has been difficult because I’m not sure which pronoun to use for Gene/Micah. Gene is the female, but Micah is the male. I’m not sure which gender neutral pronouns to use. Further research is required.

 

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

When I was a kid I loved this The Babysitter’s Club spin-off series that was a set of diaries called The California Diaries by Ann M. Martin. I could not get enough of these books and every time I found one at the library I would grab it and hold on to it for dear life. Because of these books I have tried on many occasions to get into the habit of writing in a journal. It’s never been a habit that sticks. This blog is the closest thing to a journal I have, although I love to buy pretty journals. Someday I may write epic things in my journals but not anytime soon.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger has a similar format. The book is written in journal style and includes some emails, instant messages, letters, etc. and instead of being from just one person’s point of view it switches between three people. T.C., Augie, and Alejandra. I usually really love journal style writing, but in this book, because it incorporates different styles, and various points of view, I wasn’t as big a fan. I liked the book, but I didn’t REALLY like it.

The plot goes a little something like this:

T.C., Augie and Alejandra are assigned a journal assignment for school and begin writing down the events that happen in their life and the emotions brought about by them. We find out that T.C’s mother passed away when he was only a small child, and he and Augie became best friends and self-proclaimed brothers shortly after. Alejandra is the daughter of the former ambassador of Mexico, and never really fit in at home or at school. She feels she’ll let down her family if she doesn’t pursue a career in politics, but all she really wants to do it be a performer. At school people think she is a snob because of her status, and the “name dropping” that sometimes happens. She’s met a lot of celebrities.

T.C. falls for Alejandra and tries all sorts of schemes to get her to like him back, however she’s a little too wise for that and all she wants (cause she secretly likes him too) is for him to just be himself. Augie is just starting to figure out that he’s gay (much to nobody’s surprise) and has developed a crush on a boy on the football team who seems to reciprocate those feelings.

One of the biggest plot points in when T.C. meets Hucky, a deaf six-year-old boy living in a home for deaf children. At first T.C. thinks that this little boy is some apparition of his late mother because he’s telling T.C. which pitches to swing on, resulting in T.C. getting a lot of hits. He finally discovers that this little boy is in fact just a boy and tries to befriend him by learning American Sign Language. As T.C. and Hucky develop a relationship it allows T.C. to be able to accept his mother’s death, and helps Hucky, who loves Mary Poppins and wants more than anything for her to come live with him, realize he’s not alone.

There are two gut-wrenchingly sweet parts in this book that I want to mention. Well, there are actually more than that but I’m only going to mention the two. First, there’s a scene where Augie is talking to Hucky and Hucky asks if he could be brothers with Augie and T.C. as well. Augie responds by saying that he already is, and sometimes things like that happen without even trying. The second heart-wrenching scene is when T.C. and Hucky sneak to New York to meet Julie Andrews and she tells Hucky, as Mary Poppins, that she can only go live with children who are alone, and since he has T.C. now he’s not alone anymore.

So what is this book really about? Self discovery? Coming of age? Learning that if you set your mind to something you can accomplish anything? Sure, it’s all of those things. It’s also a story about love and friendship and how no matter what happens in this world there are always people who love and care for you and will support you through anything, even if you think you are alone.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Here’s another LIS 515 reading list book for you, Internetland! This time around I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and again it’s not the type of book I would have been drawn to on my own. While I enjoy young adult novels I think this book is a little too young for me. Don’t get me wrong, the book was okay, but I think the writing was meant for someone with a much lower reading level than myself (says the University Masters student… not many people have the same reading level as I do).

So the basic plot outline is this: the story follows Junior, a reservation kid, as he decides to change the direction his life is taking by transferring to a different high school, off the rez. On the rez, Junior feels like a traitor for leaving, and everyone treats him as such. In town, he’s called Arnold and he’s treated like something dirty. Racism at it’s finest in this book, folks. Junior/Arnold goes through many trials and tribulations throughout the course of this book and yet somehow manages to portray his sadness, frustrations, and happiness through the cartoons he loves to draw.

Okay, good things about this book:

  • It’s realistic. As much as I hate to admit that reservation life is as bad as Junior/Arnold makes it out to be it really is in some parts of North America. I live in a small city in central Saskatchewan and there are a few reservations around. Poverty is a major concern. Some of the people living on the reservations would be better off living in a concentration camp. Harsh, but true. When Junior/Arnold says that people think Native Americans are rich because they own casinos but they really aren’t, he’s right.

  • I like the way the cartoons are incorporated into the text and I feel they really add to the story. They show the reader Junior/Arnold’s sense of humour.

  • Junior/Arnold’s struggle to figure out who he is and what he should do was articulated really well. The reason I’ve been calling him Junior/Arnold is because he can’t figure out who he want’s to be until the end of the book when he and his best friend make up. Junior/Arnold needs his best friend, Rowdy, to accept him and his leaving the reservation before he can accept it himself.

Things I didn’t like were that Junior/Arnold is constantly putting himself down. Sometimes jokingly, and sometimes seriously. It was hard for me to read him constantly putting himself down as well as the other characters in the book. Junior/Arnold beat down his whole life, metaphorically and literally, and now the only way he can think about himself is in the way other people see him. This was hard for me to read because I used to think in the same for a long, long time.

So overall, I guess this book was okay. It was sometimes tough to read because of the emotions the story makes the reader feel, but the cartoons, humour, and simple writing style make this book pretty enjoyable.

Money Boy by Paul Yee

 

Money Boy cover

Money Boy by Paul Yee

Yesterday I finished reading Money Boy by Paul Yee. The story follows Ray Liu, an eighteen year-old Chinese immigrant who moved to Canada four years before the story begins. Before Ray’s family moved to Canada his father and mother divorced and his father remarried. He lives with his father, and step-mother, and I think his step-brother, but it’s never really clear if Ray’s step-brother Jiun actually lives with them or with his own father. Ray is frustrated living with his Chinese Army veteran father because he likes to be lazy and his father wants him to do better in school, and favours his step-son over Ray. Ray is also confused about his own sexuality, and when Ray’s father catches him looking at gay culture websites he is thrown out of his home and must learn to live on the streets of Toronto. Ray meets some other gay men and makes friends with them and wonders about becoming a money boy, a gay man who sells his body on the streets, in order to earn enough money to live on his own. At the end of the book Ray goes home with his father to see his grandfather, and comes out to his family and friends.

I have issues with this book.

One: Ray likes to play an online role-playing game called Rebel State and throughout the book Ray talks about his involvement in the game and the related forums. I get that this is the only place where Ray feels welcome and important, but frankly, I didn’t see the relevance between the story and the game, so those parts of the book were tedious to read and, in my opinion, unnecessary. Also, at some points in the book Ray thinks his game is more important than his own survival which, to me is silly and juvenile.

Two: Ray’s personality as a main character also bothers me a lot. He feels he is entitled to everything (brand name clothes, computers, money, etc.) and he’s simply a spoiled brat and blames things that are happening to him on someone else. When his wallet gets stolen and the bank won’t let him withdraw his money because he doesn’t have his step-mother’s signature he gets angry and blames her, but if he had listened to the Downtown Outreach worker that first night and NOT slept outside like a moron, his wallet wouldn’t have been stolen in the first place. Ray is also very naive about his situation. He never takes responsibility for this own actions. He actually thinks that becoming a prostitute is a good idea, and doesn’t fully grasp the severity of his situation, and is too proud and stubborn to ask for help from his friends. He is dead-set on proving he can take care of himself and even said if he were in China he’d be on his own by eighteen, and he thinks everything would be better if he were back in China. Honestly, I don’t think he’d survive a day on his own. Another thing about Ray’s personality is his immaturity. The most prominent example of it is when he’s in the library and wants more computer time and the library workers refuse he goes and pulls the fire alarm to get back at them. Frankly, Ray is the type of teenager who made me want to shoot myself after a day of substitute teaching in a high school.

Three: The language. I understand that the language is meant to be choppy to imitate the broken English of an immigrant, but the swear words “rot” and “fart”? Seriously? Whenever I tried to learn a new language, the first things I would learn were the swear words! What teenage boy calls people “fartface”? An immature boy stuck in an eight year-old mentality. Or a writer who doesn’t want to offend his reader’s parents. That last thing about the writing that annoyed me was when we read a dialogue between Ray and someone, such as “She asked me “[insert question]?” but I didn’t understand so I didn’t say anything”. If the author truly wanted to reader to feel what it was like for Ray he should have made it so the reader couldn’t understand the dialogue as well. The way Yee wrote the dialogue makes the reader not believe that Ray didn’t understand.

Four: The target audience. I feel this book has a very specific target audience: Homosexual teenaged boys who emigrated from China. I am not a homosexual teenaged boy who emigrated from China, so I found it hard to relate to this book.

There was literally nothing I liked about this book and I think dragging my face against concrete would have been more enjoyable. I don’t see how this book won so many awards, but I guess to each their own. I definitely would not have finished this book if I didn’t have to for class.

Sandpiper

Hi Internetland! I know, I know. I’ve been slacking on my blogging duties. I suck.

Anyway, I’m a little behind on my blogging yes, but that just means that I have many-a-post to write this week! I’ll be using this blog in an upcoming presentation I will be doing with a partner this week on the pros and cons of using podcasts and blogs to promote reading in schools. Personally, I think using blogs rocks. ‘Nuff said, yo.

Sandpiper by Ellen WittlingerToday’s post is about a young adult novel I read called Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger. It’s an interesting story about a girl named Sandpiper who has a reputation for giving (cover your eyes if you are under 18) blow jobs to pretty much any boy who asks. Sandpiper breaks up with her current “boyfriend” of two days and that’s when she meets a boy that everyone calls The Walker. The Walker is the only boy in town who doesn’t want to be around Sandpiper for the reasons she’s used to.

This story is about Sandpiper, or Piper as she likes to be called now, as she starts to realize (with The Walker’s help) that she is worth more than what everyone thinks she’s worth. Another theme of the book that my classmates and I talked about was the issue of whether or not oral sex is real sex. Sandpiper is under the impression that it is not but her father tells her at the end of the book that it is  indeed and that seems to give Sandpiper a wake up call.

As for the actual writing of the novel… Well, it’s well written but I felt it was really predictable. I had pretty much figured out The Walker’s story before it actually came up in the book, and the climax of the novel was typical. See, one of Sandpiper’s ex-boyfriends gets a bad case of the crazies and goes after Sandpiper and her family. Seriously, this kid goes mental and throws a rock through her living room window and when she tries to run he tries to rape her.

Well, that’s Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger. It’s a good read and it can really get you thinking. I recommend it.

Bye Internetland!

The Beast 2

Evening, Internetland!

I just finished The Beast by Walter Dean Myers and I’m glad it’s over. It wasn’t particularly hard to read but I just didn’t feel overly connected to the story or the characters. It was predictable, boring and bland.

So when I left off Spoon just found out that his girlfriend Gabi was a drug addict. Well, Gabi’s mom, who had stomach cancer, died and Gabi disappeared. Will Spoon find Gabi in time to go to te funeral? Will Gabi be able to face her family and her boyfriend knowing that she is a drug addict? Will Spoon and Gabi live happily ever after? Yes, Yes and No.

Once Gabi deals with her problems Spoon goes back to school and then he goes to collage. They still love each other though and she goes to visit him. Yawn.

One thing I’ve noticed about Spoon is that he uses his imagination a lot. He’s always imagining scenarios. He imagines how his girlfriend will react to certain things. One time I remember the most is when he’s at his rich friend Chanelle taking a shower and he gets all lusty for her even though he is on his way to visit Gabi and he imagines Chanelle coming into the bathroom, in the shower with him, then them going to the bedroom… yeah. Nice guy.

Anyway, The Beast by Walter Dean Myers. 4 out of 10 I say.

Thanks, Internetland!