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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tragedy Paper

by Elizabeth LaBan

tp      This was hands-down one of the most exciting Galleys I've read this year, and it wasn't even my genre! All of my bookmates in the club agreed with me, and I think together we can say that this book will be big. Enormous. Massive. This is the next thing. Every once in a while a book comes along that makes me supremely grateful I joined YA Galley two years ago, and this is one of them.
      The most delicious elements of this book are the quirky and contorted nature of the plot, which is mirrored in the beautiful writing. LaBan's writing has all the obsessively polished charm a debut novel tends to present, but she makes it seem effortless and graceful. Often a debut novel is defensive right off the press, going all out in order to get noticed, but The Tragedy Paper needed none of this posturing. It's fresh, appealing, achingly relatable, and subtly perfect. LaBan creates characters with problems and strengths at once; every character has a history, a psyche, desires, and dreams. While her plot has the potential to be oh-so-clich├ęd, she pulls it off with refreshing aplomb and the end result is like nothing I've seen before. The private school, the wealthy students, the perfect girl, and the self-conscious albino... her ability to make this combination original portends great skill and I cannot wait to read her works in the future. Running through the whole story is a chilling frisson of imminent tragedy. Best of all, this book runs on a literary device, one I haven't ever seen successfully used before. If nothing else, read this book to expand your literary horizons. And the cover's beautiful too...
     I would give this book a solid 5. It isn't the most amazing book I've ever read, but that in no way means it doesn't merit the highest praise; I have, after all, read some stunning novels. This book is right up there. It's a fresh, beautiful, crisp citrus granita served with sprigs of mint and the subtlest whispers of the hibernal Alps, a glorious and fragile respite from the pounding dullness of the summer heat.


By: D.J. MacHale

When I was reading SYLO I decided it would make a terrific movie.  It is action packed, captivating, and well paced -- for the most part.  The beginning was well written and introduced an island off the coast of Maine, Pemberwick Island.  The town is very close and everyone knows just about everyone else.  Autumn is coming on but the warmth of winter is still holding on.  One evening during an intense football game the team's best player, Marty Wiggins, drops dead.  Tucker, a bench player on the football team, witnessed the whole thing and even heard Marty's last words.  To clear his mind he went on a midnight bike ride with his best friend Quinn.  On this bike ride a mysterious shadow flying over the water makes an elongated sound before exploding knocking both Tucker and Quinn off their bikes as well as someone else off their bike.  The only other witness was someone sitting in a pickup truck that disappeared before the police arrived.  The next day Tucker runs into someone he doesn't know, Mr. Feit, who offers him a mysterious red sea salt.  Tucker eats a tiny bit of it and becomes impossibly fast and strong until it wears off.  Once the island gets over Marty's death and how bad Tucker is at replacing his position on the football team life goes back to normal.  Until the lobster pot festival.  Near the end of the boat race one of the competitors runs off course, crashes, and is found dead, but not from the crash.  At this point a branch of the US army, SYLO, invades Pemberwick.  The person in charge of SYLO, Captain Granger, is steely and ruthless.  He tells them that they are barricading the island because there is a virus that they don't want to spread from the mainland.  Tucker and Quinn don't quite believe this but nothing is confirmed until Tucker and Tori, another girl from the island, see something that puts Tucker, Quinn, and Tori in danger for knowing too much.

Overall the book was very exciting but had a couple of flaws.  At the beginning of the book Tucker notices how his parents react oddly to the news of the invasion and seem to know something more.  Even though Tucker notices it he willingly decides not to care.  This bothered me for a long time because odd things were happening on the Island and Tucker didn't care that his parents might know something more.  But, this was mostly taken care of when Quinn yells at Tucker for not asking more questions.  Another problem was what happened to Quinn, it's too fishy.  The next problem was Olivia.  Olivia is a girl visiting the island and gets stuck on the Island without her family when SYLO invades.  On the day of the lobster pot festival Tucker over hears Olivia yelling into her cell phone saying she had already been on the island for too long and it wasn't what she agreed to.  Olivia comes up with a lame excuse and Tucker believes her.  This happened right before SYLO invaded and Tucker  does not even take notice.  From that point on I was always suspicious of Olivia.  She didn't do anything else odd until she seemed a little too handy with gun shot wounds and nothing more is discovered about Olivia.  This leads us to the last problem: the ending.  Just about nothing is wrapped up.  It ends with the worst words in the world "TO BE CONTINUED..." I was not happy.  The characters finished the first step of their journey but don't find any of the answers they were looking for.  Obviously there is going to be a second book but there needed to be a little but more of a conclusion.  Also, hopefully this will be fixed before it gets published, but, there were some very obvious typos.  A couple of times it would have two possessive adjectives in a row -- it would say things like Mr. Feits his.  And then another typo was the name of a sort of important place.  It started out as WCSH but on the next page it became WCHS.

This book was between a 3.5 and 4.5.  It's not really a 4 though.  Some of the book was very good but some of it seemed a little off.  As a whole it is probably around a 4 but some parts were clearly better than other parts.  The book was like a bag of chocolates.  Its a bag of chocolates, rather than a box, because you can't really tell how many  chocolates you have.  The chocolates are very good but then randomly they are filled with something you don't like.  A lot of the chocolates have original flavors that you've never tasted before but are very good.  Then when you think you should be a third of the way through someone grabs the bag from you and says you can have it back in a year.  That person is not very nice.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reader's Pet Peeves

Teens can be picky readers. We're no longer the passive middle schoolers who accept bad grammar and repetitiveness. When we don't like something, never doubt that we can make a big deal out of it. We've had many a conversation about the little things that can drive us up the wall, so it is only natural that we would have a group meeting solely dedicated to complaining about things we don't like. These literary offenses range from tiny niggling annoyances to poor writing to the point of illegibility. The most common problem is reading about the same things over and over again; reading the same vampire love triangle romances and the same apocalypse dystopia. But no matter the problem, if they are avoided it would probably lead teens (us particularly) to enjoy more books.

It's not just the writing that will banish a book to the dusty rejection shelf. Everyone does this even if there's a proverb against it: we judge books by their cover. It can make the difference between hordes of people grabbing up a book and nobody grabbing it. A bad cover is not only uninteresting; it can repel readers like we avoid a filthy bathroom stall. Publishers usually have complete control over what the cover looks like, but sometimes they really need to get some outside opinions.

Take for example these next two photos of books. On the top are galleys that we agreed have interesting (if not superb) covers. On the bottom are galleys with covers that are clearly sub-par.

On the top we see clean text design along with stylish graphic design, appealing art, and appropriate colors. There are people in almost all of them, but they are all interesting due their posed actions or appearances. The boy on the cover of Wringer has a bloody tissue stuffed in his nose, a gash on his eyebrow, and his clothes are rumpled. This cover tells the story that he was beaten up, enticing us to find out more. Golden has the least interesting cover subject with simply an attractive girl. She doesn't tell anything about the story. However, a beautiful graphic was superimposed which heals all wounds.

When a cover is bad it's pretty obvious. We voted unanimously on nearly every bad cover. On the bottom there's an effort for original text design, but on Over You, The Tribe, and The Neptune Project the font is cheesy or cartoony. It just looks bad. Similarly, the art and graphic designs on these galleys are unoriginal, cartoony, or simply bad. The cover of The Neptune Project looks interesting at first glance, but on closer inspection the graphic design looks fake and cheap. I was interested in The Tribe when I read the back, but the front tells me that it's for middle school. The cover of Promise Me Something on the lower right has nothing going for it. Too often publishers think that picture of an attractive person with some scenery is all they need for a cover. It tells us nothing about the book, it's not interesting, and we're all secretly assuming that it's chic lit (which is, if you noticed, on that list of things we don't want to read).

By themselves bad covers don't seem harmful, but they wither in comparison to good ones. To drive this matter home, here is a great comparison of similar covers. One is a terrible cover while the other is excellent.
Both have a large white background, large title text, bold colors (particularly magenta), seem to be about a girl, and have sparse subject matter to look at.
We all hated the crayon-like font which subtracts from the cover of Over You. The only other thing to look at there is the fashionable girl who is nothing more than, well, a fashionable girl. Their strategy to make the title the same color as her hair didn't do much.
The cover of Spoiled is very similar, but the makeup arranged into the text is tasteful, artistic, interesting, and unique. It is basically everything the cover of Over You failed at.

Publishers, here's a T-chart to help you put more great covers out there and what to avoid.

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