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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Launched from her regular feature column Fines Lines for Jezebel.com, this spastically composed, frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on favorite YA novels dwells mostly among the old-school titles from the late '60s to the early '80s much beloved by now grown-up ladies. This was the era, notes the bibliomaniacal Skurnick in her brief introduction, when books for young girls moved from being wholesome and entertaining (e.g., The Secret Garden and the Nancy Drew series) to dealing with real-life, painful issues affecting adolescence as depicted by Beverly Cleary, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume, Madeleine L'Engle and Norma Klein. Skurnick groups her eruptive essays around themes, for example, books that feature a particularly memorable, fun or challenging narrator (e.g., Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy); girls on the verge, such as Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret or danger girls such as Duncan's Daughters of Eve; novels that deal with dying protagonists and other tragedies like child abuse (Willo Davis Roberts's Don't Hurt Laurie!); and, unavoidably, heroines gifted with a paranormal penchant, among other categories. Skurnick is particularly effective at spotlighting an undervalued classic (e.g., Joan Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase) and offers titles featuring troubled boys as well. Her suggestions will prove superhelpful (not to mention wildly entertaining) for educators, librarians and parents. (Aug.)
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frequently hilarious omnibus of meditations on favorite YA novels.... Her suggestions will prove superhelpful (not to mention wildly entertaining) for educators, librarians and parents. (Publishers Weekly)
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Top customer reviews
I'm going to try and encourage my book club to read this book, paired with some of the YA adult classics she talks about. I also wish so many of these books weren't out of print. Time to get away from the kindle and get to the library, I suppose!
Speaking of the kindle - the covers of the books she is writing about show up really well. I actually was pretty amazed at that bit of formatting. What is not good - you cannot really tell when the normal writing begins/ends and when places where she is quoting passages begin/end. It's a little annoying but not insurmountable.
One thing to know about this book is that it's not about contemporary YA, although current readers might enjoy this look down memory lane. Skurnick is writing about teen classics by authors like Lois Duncan and Madeleine L'Engle, and about books that never belonged in the teen genre (Jean Auel? V.C. Andrews?) but were nevertheless popular with young readers. Not only did I enjoy reading about favorite books that I had forgotten about, but as a reading teacher, it was helpful to be reminded that controversial topics are hardly new to YA fiction.
While this book probably won't appeal to teens, it's essential reading for anyone who came of age with the Wakefield twins. If you don't know who the Wakefield twins are, then this probably isn't the book for you.
It's very hard, in writing, to convey the pleasure of reading -- but this book manages to do it. It's funny, engaging, and a page-turner -- and then sends you off to the bookstore for more.
Note: It's a review of the author's own favorite books from childhood and teendom, so it doesn't deal with any of the fantastic YA of more recent years. (Madeleine L'Engle, Judy Blue, Norma Klein, V.C. Andrews, not Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, Phillip Pullman.)
One unexpected pleasure: seeing the old covers of these classic books (many of which have gone through a million covers). Ah, that old A WRINKLE IN TIME cover! the original! and JACOB HAVE I LOVED! Delicious.
The teen years are incredibly important for most young readers and writers. A period of rapid physical and emotional growth mixed with a natural curiosity about the world makes for an explosive combination. Reading offers a window into other worlds otherwise inaccessible to young readers, expanding a capacity for empathy and imagination. Books are often the beginning of an education on what it means to be human.
The best essays in SHELF DISCOVERY reflect this passionate engagement with literature both on the page and out in the world. Skurnick writes about her first experiences with her favorite books and about what she has learned from them subsequently as an adult reader. Readers will find many of their favorite titles and authors here, including multiple works by Madeleine L'Engle, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary and Lois Duncan.
The book provides an inclusive sample of literature read by young people, ranging from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE to THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR. Most of the titles that appear here were published prior to 1990. Each essay is accompanied by a vintage picture of the book's cover, an overview of the book and its themes, and Skurnick's reflections on re-reading the book. While it can serve as a resource guide to books for young readers, it functions primarily as a collection of memoir-like essays about interacting with literature.
SHELF DISCOVERY does not stop short of addressing the more combustible aspects of literature for young people. It includes a chapter on books about puberty, a chapter on teen problem novels --- usually dealing with substance abuse or domestic violence --- and a chapter on sexuality. In her opening to a chapter called "Panty Lines: I Can't Believe They Let Us Read This," Skurnick even wryly defends banning books (a practice to which she is generally opposed). "How else would we find out which are the best ones?" she asks. While some of the titles mentioned were not originally intended for young readers, they are certainly books many people encountered for the first time in their teens.
I suspect the most appealing aspects of SHELF DISCOVERY will vary with the reader. My favorite part was Skurnick's passionate defense of heroines --- even the old-fashioned ones --- and the kind of emotional education they give to female readers. In her chapter titled "She Comes By It Supernaturally," she writes, "If we take the girls' new [supernatural] powers as a metaphor for puberty, we find that these changes...herald new insights about one's self, as well as a host of inviting developments on the horizon for friends, family, and future prospects... They are, in short, good news for the girls." The same could be said about most of the titles here, along with the (non-supernatural) skills and insights each heroine acquires.
It should be noted that almost all the books in SHELF DISCOVERY feature female protagonists. Readers are sure to question the inclusion of some books and the exclusion of others, along with the label of "classic" applied to titles now out-of-print. Some of the essays seem unnecessarily short. I would love to see Skurnick write longer essays covering all the books of a single author, or combine her insights on multiple books that share the same theme.
Reading SHELF DISCOVERY is a reintroduction to many of my favorite books and authors. It also allowed me to rediscover myself as a young reader. But the power of the book is not in the nostalgia factor of revisiting books I know and love. Instead, its strength is the dignity it brings to young adult literature and to the act of reading itself. Reading is often viewed as a solitary act. SHELF DISCOVERY is a reminder that reading connects us to other readers and writers, providing a common frame of reference through which we can share our own lives.
--- Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood
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