Friday, March 27, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 9780670011100
Starred review in: PW, SLJ, Booklist

Lia has severe depression, which she releases by cutting herself and making sure that she never eats. Her depression starts to spiral further out of control when her estranged best friend Cassie calls her 33 times before she dies, alone, in a motel room. Lia controls her guilt and depression by cutting herself even more and making sure she gets to her goal weight... but it's never enough and now Cassie is haunting Lia, reminding Lia that she is a "wintergirl" caught somewhere between life and death and that it would be "wicked cool" if she joined Cassie as a ghost. Should Lia keep on her self destructive path, or should she start to save herself?

"Wintergirls" was haunting.. and wonderfully written. Readers will flock to this book; first, because it's Anderson and second, because it is a real life struggle. The reader travels with Lia and understands how rage at her parents, competition with a friend, self loathing, and ultimately sadness mark Lia's development into the destructive character she is.

Anderson does what she does best, and perhaps that's why it seems so closely comparable to "Speak". Written as a diary of day to day thoughts, Anderson tells Lia's story lyrically and honestly. The most haunting moments are the ones where Lia speaks with pure honesty.. when she slips and lets us know that she does want food, that she does care for her family, or about the guilt of being the trigger to Cassie's death. The journey that one is taken on is hard; one deals with Lia's highs and her impossibly, desperate lows. One cringes when Lia surfs the sites dedicated to ProAna and starvation or celebration that she weighs 0085.00.

I began by saying that "Wintergirls" is haunting, but it's a lot of "ghosts" in this book that stay with you... Much like the "ghosts" that stay with Lia throughout her story.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 978-0-385-90631-9
Starred review in: (PW)

Mary's mother tells her stories about the ocean. Something Mary wants to believe in but has never seen, having lived in a fenced in community in the middle of a forest all her life. The Forest of Hands and Teeth-- where the Unconsecrated, ravenous and relentless flesh eating zombies, push at the fencing looking for a way in. Their bite infects and dooms any who get too close. Under the secretive Sisterhood's guidance (boot heel) and the Guardians' "protection" the people live restricted but seemingly content to be grateful and alive, able to further humanity. Mary is curious and less content. When her mother (like her father before) is lost to the Unconsecrated and her brother Jed casts her out, Mary finds herself living amongst the sisters. She quickly learns she's not cut out to join their ranks but more importantly that the sisters have knowledge they haven't shared and what they're capable of when threatened. Sister Tabitha, head zealot, thinks to have Mary married off to a childhood friend, Harry, knowing full well Mary is in love with his brother Travis. (Less soapy than it sounds.) The fence is breached before the ceremony by a newly turned, mysterious and seemingly impossible visitor. The Unconsecrated level the village and Mary, with a small band of other survivors (including her brother, beloved and betrothed) flee into the fortified and supplied path formerly forbidden but now the only escape out of the village....but through the forest. Mary hopes it leads to the ocean, to a place free of Unconsecrated, to safety and not to their deaths.

This will be one of those Printz contenders that will be an easy sell to teens and some adults as well (yes, I know this isn't BBYA etc.) but there it is. It's The Village meets Resident Evil or something of that ilk....but....

It's also well written. The world overrun by perpetually hungry undead feels real enough for the reader to fear the forest and tuck their toes under the blanket. The danger is palpable. As is the restriction of the village for a young woman who thinks for herself. That fence keeps villagers in as much as it keeps Unconsecrated out. Ryan's description and pacing grips. But mostly, it's Mary and her journey. Everything she lives through and the emotions these situations evoke are believable and often as raw as those gaping wounds the Unconsecrated leave if they catch you. Loss, numbing fear, rage, rejection, restlessness, love, desire, hope... Everything Mary feels the reader feels with her. Ryan isn't afraid to give and take that hope or sacrifice more along the way. It's unsettling like the moans of Unconsecrated clawing at the fence.

There's horror! There's romance! I won't mention the saga-that-shan't-be-named but here's one paranormal book with a love triangle (square?) element, where if your beloved's not a good thing and it won't end sparkly.