Google+ YA Romantics: 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Peek Behind the Curtain: Review Stats 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, I've been crunching some numbers.

How many books did I read in 2012? 

Answer: 200

You can see all of them here on my Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge Page.

I read 63 YA debut books, and you can see a list of those I read here.

How many books did I review in 2012? 

Answer: 120

Like a lot of bloggers, I complain that every book I read is part of a series. This year, it seemed like I read about a hundred dystopian YA books. And then there's that crazy idea that bloggers are all OUT TO GET FREE BOOKS.

With the help of Excel, Apple Pages, and some techie family members, I am out to dispel all those misperceptions. Because numbers don't lie. Unless I'm doing the math. But this time, Excel is doing it for me :)

Note: these statistics go through December 25. Books reviewed this past week release in January and are going to be counted with 2013 stats.

Question One: Where Did I Get the Books I Reviewed in 2012?

Okay, it's a little hard to read this graph. If I make it any bigger, it eats up my sidebar.

But, believe it or not.... in 2012, I bought over one-third (42 out of the 120) of the books that I reviewed.

My second major source of review books was Netgalley (34 books), swaps with other bloggers (11 books), Book Expo America (10 books), and my local library (10 books).

Question Two: What was the format of the books I read?

It did not surprise me that I read all formats pretty equally!

38 of the books I reviewed were e-ARCs
33 of the books I reviewed were paper ARCs
49 of the books I reviewed were finished copies

Question Three: What was the breakdown of publishers for the books I reviewed?
I'm doing two separate charts, the first for the so-called Big Six, plus Disney/Hyperion and Scholastic.

I reviewed 20 Penguin books, 18 HarperCollins, 15 Random House, 14 each from Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, 5 each from Little Brown/Poppy and Disney/Hyperion, and 4 from Scholastic.

This statistic really surprised me, because Penguin very rarely approves me on NetGalley or Edelweiss -- three times, say my stats. Most of those Penguin books were bought by me!

Now, let's turn to the mid- and smaller-sized publishers. 

I reviewed 6 Harlequin titles, 5 Bloomsbury, 3 each from KTeen and Harcourt, 2 each from Egmont and Candlewick and 1 each from Sourcebooks, Entangled and Flux.  Also one self-published title.

Question Four: What was the genre breakdown of books I reviewed?
Okay, this one drove me crazy. Due to the growing trend of genre-blending in YA, I struggled a little with this one. Where did I categorize books that were dystopian-fantasy with sci-fi elements? Or contemporaries with elements of magical realism? Or steampunk elements? To keep myself sane, I didn't overthink it too much.

I know I read a lot of contemporary/realistic fiction. But I was surprised that contemporaries made up less than half of my total books read.

Question Five: Is it true that I am in the middle of a million YA series?
It feels that way. But this one surprised me:

 Yes, I reviewed a lot of books that were part of series. 44 to be exact. But also even more standalones -- 67 of those! I'm sure that part of the explanation for this is that I read a lot of contemporary YA, which tend to be standalones.

And I'm loving the trend of the companion book -- I reviewed 9 companion books in 2012.

Okay, hope that was somewhat interesting. It was to me, at least!  
Are there any other stats you'd be interested in for next year? I'm making my 2013 spreadsheet right now.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Extra! Extra! 37

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekly post featuring any and all exciting blog news.

This weekend I'm linking up to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer


What Happened on the Blog This Past Week?

Tons of reviews!! And because it's Christmas week, you might have missed them:

Review of Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep
Was the latest installment in this mythology-themed series a hit or a myth?

Review of Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington
Did this ghost story send chills up my spine?

Review of Splintered by A.G. Howard
Did I love this Alice in Wonderland retelling?

New books received for review!
To find out more or add to Goodreads, just click the covers.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for these three:

The Murmurings by Carly Ann West Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin Linked by Imogen Howson

The Murmurings by Carly Anne West
Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin  -- guys, it's another Rebecca retelling!
Linked by Imogen Howson -- this cover is amazing!

And Disney-Hyperion and Harper Collins approved me for these!

The Rules: Paper Doll Project by Stacey Kade Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

The Rules: Project Paper Doll #1 by Stacey Kade
Nobody But Us by Kristin Holbrook

Last week's winners!

Winners of the Freebie Friday RAK giveaway:

Amy F.
Victoria P.
Kelly L.

What's coming up next week?
My 2012 reviewing stats -- all my secrets revealed! Including the fact that I'm terrible with Excel.

Reviews of Shadowlands by Kate Brian and Just One Day by Gayle Forman!

Freebie Friday returns for 2013!

Hope you're looking forward to a great week!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last Reads of 2012: Update and Scary Books Challenge

Well, I am happy to report that I will make my Goodreads challenge of reading 200 books in 2012. I'm currently reading book number 200.

So, in the remaining three days of 2012, I'm going to try to work on some blogging to-do stuff, so I can start the New Year all organized.

1. Put 2012 reviews on Goodreads. 
I read and appreciate others' Goodreads reviews, so I feel like I must reciprocate and get my reviews up there. The last time I did this was the summer, so I have some catching up to do.

2. Write 2012 Stats Post
I'm busy crunching the numbers on all the books I reviewed in 2012 -- format, publisher, genre, etc.

3. Write January reviews
I am a very organized person, but I'm not one of those bloggers who has their posts scheduled months in advance. If I'm lucky, I have a week of posts in the bank. But I'd love to start January with some scheduled reviews.

Scariest Books Challenge

Steph @ Fake Steph Dot Com is hosting a Scariest Reads of 2012 Challenge. You can find her challenge post here.

I used to love scary movies and books, but I'm a way bigger wimp than I used to be. Still, I'm crazy about suspenseful and creepy stuff. Here are some of my favorite scary reads of 2012.

The Hallowed Ones
Laura Bickle

I don't usually read zombie books, but the whole Amish zombie thing just got me curious. As you can see by reading my review, I LOVED this book. It was smart and scary.

by Gretchen McNeil

This book was not overwhelmingly scary, but I think it did a very clever job of adapting the original Agatha Christie book to modern times and to YA. My full review of Ten is here.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer
by Michelle Hodkin

To me, this book was almost campy-creepy, like the movie Scream. It took all those great B-movie tropes, like the insane asylum, the dead animals on the porch, etc. etc. and made them just awesomely creepy and fun. Check out my review of Mara Dyer 2 here.

I Hunt Killers
by Barry Lyga

I really loved this one. The whole "am I going to turn into my parents" worry takes on new weight when your dad is a notorious serial killer. I was enjoying this so much that I didn't even identify the killer, which annoyed me, because all the clues were there. Read my review, which defines both "mangst" and Cabot Cove Syndrome, here.

The Diviners
by Libba Bray

Because this book was sooo long, I listened to the audio version while I walked the dog. Let me tell you, there is nothing like walking through a deserted part of Central Park on a foggy day while someone is singing that creepy "Naughty John" song in your ears. I know I jumped a few times!  You can read my review of the Diviners here.

How is your end of year reading coming along?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Just Finished Reading .... Splintered by A. G. Howard

Freebie Friday will be on hiatus during the holidays!

by A. G. Howard
To be published on January 1, 2012
by Amulet Books.

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Read my FTC disclosure here.

My summary: Alyssa Gardner and her mother Allison are descended from Alice Liddell -- the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland. When Alyssa was a child, her mother descended into madness and was locked in a mental ward. Now that Alyssa is older, she's falling prey to the same hereditary demons: she can't drown out the voices of the bugs and flowers that speak to her. During one visit with her family, Alyssa's mother begins ranting about a family curse and buried treasure. On an internet site, Alyssa finds a strange message: if you want to save your mother, find the key. Suddenly, Alyssa falls through the looking glass, into a strange world where nothing is as it seems, and is drawn into age-old rivalries, racing against time to save her mother and herself.

My take: I don't think I've ever read the original Alice in Wonderland. My only familiarity with the story are other retellings: the Disney movie version and then the Tim Burton version. Based on that, I thought Splintered was a clever, imaginative version of the Alice story.

Let's face it -- Alice in Wonderland is a pretty trippy tale, and Splintered does a great job of taking the book's signature elements -- things like the looking glass, the Red Queen, the White Rabbit, the caterpillar -- and weaving them into a completely different story that's still true to the original. That old "girl who's afraid she looks/acts like her crazy/dead mother" isn't a brand-new trope in YA, but the "girl who hears bugs talking" certainly is. I loved the beginning of Splintered, which shows us Alyssa making bug collages, Alyssa plugging in earphones and heading to the skate park to drown out the bug voices, Alyssa visiting her mother in the mental institution. Alyssa's in love with her best friend, a fellow skateboarder and former juvenile delinquent named Jeb, who is in love with mean girl Taelor, who is just as annoying as the spelling of her name.

But most of the story takes place in Splintered's version of Wonderland. To me, this part of the book was strongly reminiscent of the fae fiction I've read -- rival queens and courts, tests to endure, characters under spells and curses. If you loved the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, Splintered will definitely be your kind of book.

I'm not the hugest of fae fans, but I do love a book that blends the historical with the fictional. While I was reading Splintered, I had all kinds of questions about the real Alice Liddell, and when I have a chance, I'm definitely going to do more research into her relationship with Lewis Carroll. I'll also be on the lookout for future books by A. G. Howard!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington

The Dead and Buried
by Kim Harrington
To be published by Scholastic Point
on January 1, 2013
Source: ARC swap with another blogger

My summary: Jade just moved from a small town to a fancy surburban neighborhood with her father, stepmother and younger brother. But when she walks into her new school, all she gets are stares and whispers. Donovan, the cute-yet-broody guy who is supposed to be her student tour guide, suddenly bolts. Jade learns that she's living in the murder house, the place where popular girl Kayla Sloane mysteriously died, and that Donovan is Jade's (presumably) grieving boyfriend. Things get even weirder when Jade's little brother tells her that he's seen the ghost of a girl in his room. Jade makes a deal with Kayla's ghost -- if she can solve Kayla's murder, Kayla will leave Jade's family in peace. But Donovan, the guy Jade's crushing on, is the prime suspect in Kayla's murder.

My take: There have been so many great, edgy YA ghost stories lately -- books like the Anna Dressed in Blood series by Kendare Blake, Velveteen by Daniel Marks, Break my Heart 1000 Times by Daniel Waters. If you love ghost stories as much as I do, you can check out my reviews of those books by clicking the links.

I've read and enjoyed Kim Harrington's Clarity series about a psychic teen sleuth, so I was excited to read The Dead and Buried. (This book is not part of the Clarity series, and I think it's a standalone.) Like Clarity, The Dead and the Buried definitely falls on the tamer side of YA ghost stories, a book that could be enjoyed by readers who are middle school age on up. (If you're looking for more great tween ghost books, you should also check out the fantastic Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator series by Jennifer Allison.)

As you may know, I'm also a huge fan of Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, so I was excited that The Dead and Buried also gives a nod to this classic tale of romantic suspense. Kayla, like Rebecca, was beautiful and manipulative. Jade, like the heroine of Rebecca, is living in Kayla's house.  The Dead and Buried isn't a strict retelling, like New Girl by Paige Harbison, but the similarities are there and the book emphasizes them by also having Jade's class read Rebecca in school.

Jade's jewelry designer mother died when she was nine, and Jade is thus obsessed with gemstones and their properties. She's also a really nice character -- good to her much younger half-brother, kind to Alexa, the nerdy school overachiever, even so "let's all be friends" that she finds herself in a sort-of love triangle with two guys: Donovan, the broody ex-boyfriend of the dead Kayla, and Kane, a hunky jock who's trying to win a competitive scholarship. Though there are a number of suspects in Kayla's murder, I did not guess the person responsible, and was hoping for a killer more in the mwah-ha-ha vein. But The Dead and Buried did have a couple of good spooky moments that included a Ouija board scene and a creepy ghost-possession scene.

All in all, I found The Dead and Buried a fun and entertaining read. I would have absolutely loved it as a young teen -- it reminded me a lot of those fantastic Lois Duncan books that I used to read and re-read when I was younger. I think The Dead and Buried will appeal to fans of Rebecca and to readers who like their ghost stories mildly spooky without being truly scary.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday .... Fairy Tale Retellings

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

As the year winds to a close, I'm working on a YA trends post. It looks like retellings will remain hot in 2013!

Here are two I'm excited about:

Of Beast and Beauty
by Stacey Jay
Random House
Expected publication date: July 2013

You might remember how much I enjoyed Stacey Jay's Juliet Immortal/Romeo Redeemed books. If you missed my review, you can read it here.  So I was super-excited to see that Stacey Jay is doing a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  Here's the Goodreads blurb:

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds. Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe. As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Then, you might remember how posting books on WoW is good luck for me. Well, I just put in a NetGalley request for this:

Strands of Bronze and Gold
by Jane Nickerson
Random House
Expected Publication date: March 2013

When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.  Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it is as if a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world. Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.

Crossing my fingers that I get approved for this one!

Are you anxiously waiting for a book? Tell me about it in comments! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hot Off The Presses: New YA Releases December 25-31

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Hot Off The Presses highlights great new YA releases for the coming week.

Merry Christmas!  If you're celebrating, I hope you found some books under the tree!

Since it's Christmas week and there are very few titles releasing Dec 25-31, I'll announce the titles as usual, but the giveaway will be next week.

Click on the covers to get to Goodreads!

Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep Full Moon Kisses by Ellen Schreiber Neverfall by Brodi Ashton

Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep (KTeen)

Full Moon Kisses by Ellen Schreiber (HarperTeen)

Neverfall (Everneath #1.5) by Brodi Ashton (Balzer and Bray/HarperTeen Impulse)

Also releasing:

Blood Kissed Sky (Darkness Before Dawn #2)  by J.A. London (HarperTeen)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep

Crimson Frost (Mythos Academy #4)
by Jennifer Estep
To be published by Kensington/KTeen
on December 24, 2012

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

My summary: Gwen's had a tough time over the past year or so. After her police officer mom died in a car accident, Gwen was sent to the Mythos Academy, a boarding school for kids with special abilities. Gwen is part gypsy and has psychometric powers -- she can read the energy field of an object or person by touch. In book one, Touch of Frost, one of Gwen's classmates is murdered and she investigates. In the course of that, she meets Logan, a  young Spartan who's as gorgeous as he is aloof and unavailable.

In book two, Kiss of Frost, she's convinced that someone's trying to kill her. In book three, Dark Frost, reapers attack Gwen and some classmates. Gwen discovers that they are trying to find and free the Helheim Dagger, an artifact that can be used to free the evil god Loki and plunge the world into chaos.

In Crimson Frost, Loki is free and Gwen is being blamed. Not just blamed, but publicly put on trial at the academy. By Logan's father. As she waits for trial, she has to have a babysitter -- an attractive Bogatyr warrior named Alexei. As sinister forces ally against her, will Gwen be able to clear her name, or will she be put to death for a crime she didn't commit?

My take: This is such a fun series. It's one part Harry Potter, with the boarding school for the kids with special powers, and the Professsor  McGonagall like character of Professor Metis. It's one part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, given the library and its Giles-like keeper, Nikamedes, plus the abundance of fight scenes. And it's a little bit Vampire Academy. In this book, Gwen feels a little Rose Hathaway to me -- she's accused of wrongdoing and feels that the whole world is against her.  If you enjoyed any or all of these books and are looking for a fun, fast-paced read, you should definitely check this series out. Jennifer Estep weaves mythology from all around the globe into one pan-mythological world.

In Crimson Frost, I thought that Gwen and Logan's relationship -- which has proceeded with glacial slowness over the course of four books -- might finally move into high gear. But just as they're finally going on a real date, poor Gwen gets approached by the Protectorate and told she's being accused of freeing Loki.

With the appearance of the very attractive Alexei, I was fearing a love triangle. If you're allergic to those, have no fear; that's not where this story is headed. There's a theft of jewels from the library early in the book. Though I did guess the identity of the person responsible for that -- a major new villain who is allied with Vivian, the murderer of Gwen's mother -- there was a very surprising plot twist that I did not see coming at all. Poor Gwen. Let's just say that I can see that there will be a book five in this series! Which is great, because I think that YA could use more books like these -- pure escapist fun, plenty of friendship and girl power, and just a hint of romance.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Extra! Extra! 36

Extra! Extra!

Extra! Extra! is my weekly post featuring any and all exciting blog news.

This weekend I'm linking up to Sunday Post hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer


What Happened on the Blog This Past Week?

Together with Patrick @ The Bookshelves and Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain I am hosting a LAST READS OF 2012 READATHON! 

 You can find out more and sign up here.

I also reviewed Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
I love literary YA, so I was a big fan of this Aussie contemporary about a fifteen year-old crushing on her college aged co-worker. I just wish that they'd kept all the original Aussie slang. Read my review of Love and Other Perishable Items here.

Want to know what YA books released this past week? Yes, there were a few. Check out this week's Hot Off the Presses for more information.

Current Giveaways:

This week's Freebie Friday was a special RAK edition -- I'm giving away a whole stack of great fall and winter 2012 YA releases. Entries close Monday morning.  If you want to put your name in the drawing, you can do that here.

What's On Deck in the Coming Week?

A review of Crimson Frost by Jennifer Estep, and (I hope) also Splintered by A.G. Howard. Plus Hot Off the Presses on Tuesday -- yes, there ARE books releasing in the coming week!

Recent Winners:

I had my huge $50 Shopping Spree giveaway and drew my winner on Monday. Who was it?

Eli from Eli to the Nth. Check out her blog -- it's great.

If you didn't win, I'm having another great Shopping Spree giveaway in early 2013!

I also had two Freebie Friday winners last week, each of whom got to choose one of my favorite YA reads of 2012 as a prize. The winners were:

Twisty J of Twisting the Lens, who chose The Diviners by Libba Bray

Bekka of Pretty Deadly Reviews who chose The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.

Hope you are having a wonderful end of 2012. If you're busy and just popping in, I understand. If you want to leave me a link, I'll visit you back!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last Reads of 2012: Update and Challenges

I'm one of the hosts of Last Reads of 2012 -- a readathon that encourages participants to finish those last few books they want to read in 2012.

This is not a competitive readathon, just a way to let you set whatever goals you have and try to reach them. If it's just to finish one book by year's end, that's fine.  You can sign up here!

How am I doing? Since the challenge started on December 17, I've read only one book. But I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done this weekend. I have 6 more books to read to make my Goodreads goal of 200 books read in 2012. I can do it!

As part of the event, we're also looking back on what we've read over the past year. Below are a list of challenges and my response to each. I also hosted a challenge on books that made me laugh or cry (or both) and you can find that here.

December 19th: Bitsy Bling Books  Best Underdog Books  

Saving June by Hannah Harrington (Harlequin)
This book wasn't really on my radar at all, but then I kept hearing about it. I went on the Barnes and Noble website and it was getting great reader reviews. So I tried it and loved it.

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie (Candlewick) AND
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Simon Pulse)
I also didn't know much about these two until I started reading for my YA On the Homefront series. But I was blown away by how much I loved both of them.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange (Bloomsbury)
This book about an overweight boy who intends to eat himself to death is an underdog book just by its subject. If you're squeamish, don't be. This is a great story that's not just about about weight issues, but also about technology and how it affects our relationships.

December 19th: Singing and Reading in the Rain  Standalone Sorrow. What? No Sequel?

I do NOT have Standalone Sorrow. In fact, I ran a series this year called Standalone Saturday that identified great standalones for those readers who are series-weary. Here are some of my favorite standalones of 2012:

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols (MTVBooks/Simon & Schuster)

In Honor by Jessi Kirby (Simon & Schuster)

My Life In Black and White by Natasha Friend (Viking)

December 20th: Lili Lost in a Book Sleep? What’s That For? Books That Kept You Up All Night  

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
Zombie apocalpyse meets the Breakfast Club. Loved this one!

Everneath by Brodi Ashton (Balzer + Bray)
A girl who comes up from the underworld to say goodbye! Shades of Persephone!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)
Such an intense and gripping book. I could not put this one down.

December 20, 2012 The Bookshelves Battle of the Teams

I'm so indecisive. But with these particular love triangles, there's just no question who the girl should end up with:

Twilight? Of course Edward. Poor Jacob never even had a chance.

Vampire Academy? Same with Rose and Dmitri. I love Adrian, but he and Rose aren't a good match.

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini? I'm totally Team Orion. Lucas is way too broody for me.

Clockwork Angel by Cassie Clare? I still need to read Clockwork Prince. So I should finish this post and get on that!

December 21st: Emily’s Crammed Bookshelf Best Debuts! 

Wow, this is such a hard one. I've read 63 debuts this year according to my Goodreads page and so many of them were fantastic.  Here are a few you might have missed out on:

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna (Balzer + Bray)

Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock (Katherine Tegen)

Slide by Jill Hathaway (Balzer + Bray)

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (Balzer + Bray)

Okay, time to stop reminiscing and GET READING!  How are you doing with your end of year reading goals?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Freebie Friday 30: Holiday RAK

Welcome to Freebie Friday! This week I'm doing a holiday RAK (random acts of kindness) giveaway. My shelf space is very limited and I want to make room for some new 2013 releases.

So ... I have a stack of fall and winter 2012 finished copies that I'd love to share:

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
Break My Heart 1000 Times by Daniel Waters
Blessed by Tonya Hurley
Miss Fortune Cookie by Lauren Bjorkman
Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

All these books were bought by me. Many of them have been read by me, but all are in beautiful like-new condition.

How do you enter? Just fill out the Google Doc and tell me which books you'd like to win.

Sorry -- this Freebie Friday is no longer accepting entries, but check back another week for a new giveaway!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Love and Other Perishable Items

Love and Other Perishable Items
by Laura Buzo
Published by Knopf BFYR
on December 11, 2012

Originally published in Australia as Good Oil (Allen and Unwin, 2010)

Source: swap

My summary: Fifteen year old Amelia takes an after school job in a local supermarket and immediately falls hard for Chris, a twenty-one-year-old university student. Chris, in turn, is obsessed with their co-worker Kathy, but only because he can't have Michaela, the girl of his dreams.  Chris is training Amelia at work, and soon the two of them are sharing their opinions on books, their families, and their views on life.  Can this supermarket flirtation go the distance, or does it come with a built-in expiration date?

My take:  Love and Other Perishable Items is one of those books in which nothing much seems to happen -- two major characters and not much plot. But by the time I'd finished reading, I realized there's a whole lot going on underneath the surface of the story. The writing is the kind of lovely prose that calls no attention to itself but is, upon closer inspection, really accomplished.

The plot of Love and Other Perishable Items centers around unrequited love. Amelia has a desperate crush on Chris. He seems to be pursuing their co-worker Kathy, but is actually pining for Michaela, who, after a brief relationship with him, has gone back to an ex-boyfriend.

Amelia and Chris ... where do I begin? She's young adult, he's new adult -- two characters at very different stages in life. She's just beginning to explore the idea of romantic love, he's had his heart broken. She's taking her first tentative steps toward independence, he's discovering that independence isn't always what's its cracked up to be.

I adored Amelia. She's totally out of place in high school, a kid who's actually interested in discussing the assigned reading. She's smart and observant beyond her years, which also makes her socially awkward.
Go easy on the fifteen year old boys, Youngster. They're doing the best they can.
At first, Chris comes off as mainly interested in drinking and women. But once the narrative begins to include his point of view through his journals, it becomes apparent that Chris is a romantic. He's a college student with vague dreams of independence but no idea how to achieve them. He feels that he had some sort of deep emotional connection with Michaela and is trying to achieve that with someone else, to no avail.

Chris and Amelia are separated by a six-year age difference. Later in life, this six year age gap might be insignificant, but at the time of this story it's an unsurmountable -- if not illegal -- chasm. But you feel the connection between these two. Both of them live way too much in their heads, both of them are pining for an epic sort of love that may or may not exist in real life. As Chris trains Amelia as a supermarket employee, the two of them debate two classic novels dealing with hopeless, unrequited love: The Great Gatsby and Great Expectations.
I hate that Pip still believes that Estella secretly loves him and that she'll come around one day. She won't.
I loved the fact that Amelia is studying love the way you'd study math or chemistry. She analyzes the relationships in books and she analyzes the relationships she sees in real life: Chris and Kathy, her parents, her friend Penny. But then she learns that academic ideas can often fail in the real world. She goes to a party with her older co-workers and feels completely out of place, especially as she has to watch Chris watch Kathy go off into a room with some other guy. These kind of scenes were excruciatingly perfect.

Though most of the book was that subtle and well-crafted, there were places I could hear the clanking of moving parts. Namely, the very didactic discussions of feminism. Don't get me wrong --I love a book that takes a nuanced yet pointed look at gender roles in society. But the discussion of feminism in Love and Other Perishable items was all telling and no showing.

In a letter, Amelia tells Chris she is angry that her dad travels so much for work, worried that her mom seems so unhappy, annoyed that her father asks her to clean up his lunch dishes. Then she suddenly connects her dad's insistence that she do chores to some wider pattern of gender oppression.  Chris writes back, launching into a capital-L Lecture about waves of feminist theory, segueing into an argument that white middle-class women aren't really oppressed like single mothers in housing projects and ... what?? To me, this part of the book felt much too heavy-handed.

Still, I thought Chris and Amelia were two of the most complex and fascinating characters I've found in YA this year. Does Amelia's anger at her absent father mean that she's a girl with Daddy issues and explain her attraction to a much older guy? Or is she attracted to Chris just because he's safe, a guy she can practice her flirting on without worrying about him actually making a move on her? And does Chris, with his pining for Michaela and fleeting attraction to Amelia, also seem to have a pattern for wanting unavailable girls? Might these two end up together ten years down the line? I loved the ending. It was perfect!

While Love and Other Perishable Items wasn't my very very favorite literary YA novel of the year -- I'd give that honor to either Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley or Small Damages by Beth Kephart -- it's definitely worth reading if you enjoy books that are complex and thought-provoking.

Unrelated complaint:

I was confused when I saw this passage from the Australian version of the book quoted on Goodreads.

"I am Chris, your friendly staff trainer. You’ll be with me for three hour shifts. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei. And I will give you the good oil."

I didn't remember that quote. Then I  found that in my American copy, the passage (on page 7) had been translated to this:

"I am Chris, your friendly staff trainer. You'll be with me for three hour shifts. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei. And I will share with you what I know."

I thought we learned from Harry Potter that Americans want the authentic slang. But nice job on the American cover. The Australian cover (below) is just all kinds of wrong for this kind of story.

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