Wednesday, May 13, 2015

[sample sip.] Ness, Patrick: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

sample sip. is a tagline for the knee-jerk, i can't wait until the release date thoughts i have right after finishing an arc. it's not a full or final review. nothing is full or final here. except for my patience with myself.


Hitting Shelves: August 27, 2015
Walker Books

What if you weren’t the Chosen One?

What if you’re not the one who’s so often the hero in YA fiction; who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend might just be the God of mountain lions...

Well. This was a wild ride from start to finish.

Before I start off with the rambling, I'm going to do something very unconventional. Not that anything I've written here has ever been conventional. I'm dedicating this post, like it's a finished manuscript or something I plan to publish.

I'm all full of feels right now, you see, and it feels appropriate.

In the middle of finals and BEA prep and goodness knows what else is currently slipping my mind, I owe my even taking a break and reading this title to my best friend Moira. She asked me if I'd heard of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, I admitted that I'd just been approved for an e-ARC, and for the first time since I first started attending BEA and actually called her at one point while waiting in line to meet Libba Bray, just to ground myself in the midst of all the...BEA-ness, she asked me if I could bring a copy back for her.

Just this ARC.

You guys, Moira is the Jared to my Mike. Or maybe, the Mel to my Mike would be more appropriate. She's like family, and she's better because I got to choose her. (Let's just ignore the fact there are fundamental differences between me and Mike, and Moira and Jared. You get the idea.) She's my voice of reason, the one who often uncurls me when I've become a fisted wad of anxiety. So, far be it from me to deny her a future possibility of an ARC for review when I had a copy on my Kindle.

So I started reading it right then and there.

And thus, it's all Moira's fault. Like most things are. Including this blog.

Now, first things first.

I am a ridiculously picky contemporary reader. I've talked about this in other posts and I think at least one guest post and to the air in front of me, but ever since I was actually a teen (like, circa 2007-ish), it's been really hard to whet my reading appetite with anything that wasn't fantasy or historical or involved dragons and heroines with shiny swords.

That said - The Rest of Us Just Live Here is the first book to have me hanging on every word since probably How to Say Goodbye in Robot.

(How to Say Goodbye in Robot is the holy grail of contemporary favorites for me. It hasn't been knocked off its pedestal yet).

You can probably already tell by the summary, but Patrick Ness is a pretty cool sort of author-guy and he decided that writing about the Chosen One(s) isn't as exciting as writing about all the people who have to deal with living in the same world as the Chosen One(s) and their invaluable quests/prophecies/what have you.

So, we're in a small town in the state of Washington, where there are vampires falling in love with humans and vice versa and kids being chosen to save their world and the school constantly being demolished by some catastrophe or other...

And we're following the lives of a group of friends who are discussing the new boy in class and their homework projects and graduation.

It's like being in Forks and not having it be all about Bella. (Seriously, this town reminds me a lot of Forks, which I'm not sure was meant on purpose or not.) Or, maybe, being at Hogwarts and not getting to hear about the Golden Trio except in snatches of rumor and third-person eyewitnesses - if Hogwarts were a high school where indie kids are the ones constantly having brushes with danger and everyone else tries to look out for themselves and worry about the important stuff like, you know, that big argument with a parent and anxiety over life as we know it and painful, deep, unrequited love.

As if that wasn't juicy enough in the best way, the chapter headings. I could write a whole, full review on the chapter headings. Just try me.

(I'm already sitting on my hands because I'm trying to remind myself that this is a placeholder review and a reminder to myself to actually review the whole thing when it releases for once, and I really want to because I was so fascinated with the possibility of discussing nitty-gritty details and I might even do a trial vlog for you guys, that's how hyped up I am.)

To me, the biggest selling points you can use on someone to recommend this book are the little "meanwhile, back in the fraught life of our current Chosen One" intervals you see in every chapter heading (it's the greatest thing), and the dialogue. Ness absolutely has his teen speak down and it's all very real and there's humor and there's also angst (though some angst was more hard-hitting to me than others, but remember that I'm not and have never been a teenage boy, so it might be very powerful for them) and as a result, some of the lines in this title are solid gold.

"Which Finn?" my sister says. "Aren't all the indie kids called Finn?"

"I think there are a couple Dylans," Henna says, "and a Nash."

"There are two Satchels, I know that," I say. "A boy Satchel and a girl Satchel."

(I'm sorry if no one else thinks that's worth a few karats. But I did. You can chalk it up to finals taxing my nerves, if you want.)

And, if all of that wasn't good enough, there's diversity. I guess some people would call it "casual diversity". I call it life. Henna's biracial. Jared's half-Jewish. There are enough people alluded to, here and there, for you to know that THIS IS REAL LIFE AND THERE ARE DIFFERENT, REAL PEOPLE HERE.

There are also discussions about eating disorders and OCD and anxiety and how it feels to constantly want reassurance and feel like a needy, greedy mess because of it. I totally felt that, and I'm saving the quote that made a lump rise in my throat for the actual review, because I'm going too far here already.

And, just so no one comes after me with the pitchforks once they get a copy of this and say, "You really oversold this one in that ARC sneak peek/reactionary "I just came home from university and sat down and wrote this in half an hour when I should have been studying" post of yours, Kaye!"...

You know what, guys? It's not positively perfect in every single way. I can admit that, and that might just be my bias as a picky reader. I'll have to talk with you about all of this and all the questions I still have and what I originally expected and how not getting all of it was absolutely okay at a later date, but I'm absolutely aware not everyone will like this.

But I think you'll find it a little hard not to.

At least a teensy bit.

(And if all of this coming from me doesn't make you at least curious?

Try reading it to the very end and seeing that nice, lovely blurb from that nice, lovely person known as Angie Manfredi. I cannot say how much I trust that lady enough. She's good people, and she's good people who knows her YA titles.

So, if you won't take it from me, take it from Angie. Who, you know, is a librarian and full-fledged professional while I'm still here procrastinating on papers and having passionate outbursts about post-colonial South Asia.)

Full review to come. 
 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Diversify! - [Let's Level] The Real Issues of Muslim Representation, Part I

This afternoon, the wonderful Angie Manfredi (librarian extraordinaire and diversity advocate) linked me and author Aisha Saeed to the 2015 official poster for Banned Books Week. This poster is currently available in the ALA Store and can be viewed there, but for my readers, I’m also adding it below.



Angie wanted our reactions as Muslim women, and mine was almost instantaneous. I spent another five minutes trying to give ALA, and the designers, the benefit of the doubt. But it soon became clear that I just couldn’t. It was just too blatant, and many other friends, both Muslim and non-Muslim, reacted with the same discomfort and anger.

If you look at the image, you can see that the design forms a veil over the model’s face. That, coupled with the fact that the model is otherwise dressed rather “skimpily”, in Angie’s words, quickly draws the mind to the usual stereotypes about the oppressed, repressed Muslim woman, smothered by her veil and her “backwards” faith.*

(I’ve heard this directed at me so many times, but typing it out always gives me another little twinge of irritation.) 

Added on top of this already problematic suggestion is the accompanying text: a big, red “Readstricted,” and the fine print that reads, “Warning: Banning Books Restricts Our Freedom to Read.”

I’m not going to lie: in 2015, coming up on the anniversary of the initial #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, from an organization that has a young hijaabi librarian that I personally know as one of its 2015 Emerging Leaders

I am not amused. I am not amused at all.

Since I know I can get incoherent when on a tear, I’m parsing this down to two main points. 

(Honestly, I’m a big fan of three, since three is a magic number and all, but…let’s stick to the basics of this situation and why it’s concerning.)