Saturday, September 25, 2010

Evie tases her way to normal in PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

So, sometimes when there's tons of hype surrounding a book, I'm tempted to automatically discount it.  It can't be THAT good right?

So I'd heard Paranormalcy by Kiersten White was funny.  I'd heard Evie, the teen heroine, used a pink sparkly taser to "bag and tag" vampires.  I'd heard the book poked fun at the whole paranormal romance genre.

Guess what?  The peoples on the interwebs were right!

One quick stop at Kiersten White's amazing blog will confirm that this chick is funny.  Paranormalcy has the same light-hearted tone as White's blog, which is awesome.

Paranormalcy reminded me of the movie Clueless, in a way.  The main character and plot seem very superficial at first.  But it's written so intelligently that you can't help but laugh and root for the heroine as she learns to be less selfish and discovers something deeper about herself and about life.

I loved how White threw in a few jabs at YA vampire romances.  The opening scene is hilarious as Evie tases a vamp and rants about how ridiculous it is that vampires think they're sexy.  She even uses the word "shimmery" to describe a vampire in an ironic way and I couldn't help but think of that as a direct poke at a certain franchise.  I also loved when, towards the end of the book, a vampire tells Evie, "Why on earth would a vampire go to high school?"  Hilarious!

The romance is so sweet and refreshing.  There was no I-love-you-but-kind-of-want-to-kill-you,  No I-love-you-but-our-love-will-probably-destroy-the-universe, and No I-love-you-but-I'm-so-damaged-from-my-hundred-year-old-past-so-I'm-really-mean-to-you.

It was more like, I-really-like-you-I-hope-your-dad-doesn't-catch-us-making-out-on-the-couch and then some I-think-I-love-you-but-I hope-you-accept-me-for-who-I-am-with-all-my-weirdness.

White shows us that we can have a paranormal novel with NORMAL teens.  We can read about teens who get grounded, love shopping sprees, eat pizza, and go to prom.  They also happen to have paranormal abilities and, you know, murderous faeries hunting them.

If you love paranormal romaces, or hate them, read Paranormalcy.  You won't be disappointed.

I can't wait for Supernaturally!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Janie does it in her sleep in WAKE by Lisa McMann

Like any good addict, I have crazy dreams.  I fly, I swim, I bounce around from place to place.  I was a little disappointed with Inception and how normal the dreams were.

In Wake by Lisa McMann, Janie is sucked into people's dreams.  I loved the lyrical style of the book, especially the beginning when we slip in and out of people's dreams with Janie.  Our dreams can be very intimate and revealing, but McMann didn't hold back in describing the sleeping images flashing through teenagers' heads.

I also enjoyed the love story.  Cabel is my new literary crush, who knew scars could be so sexy?

I really enjoyed the first half of the book.  But the second half started becoming too unbelievable for me.


I just didn't buy that Cabel was an undercover teenage cop.  The way that was handled came across as very unbelievable to me.  Sure, I can believe a girl can slip into someone's dreams and control them, but I can't believe law enforcement would behave that way.

But the well written dream sequences and the realistic romance were enough for me to enjoy Wake.

The sequel, Fade, on the other hand is a different story.  As a high school teacher, I can be very picky about the way high school is portrayed in YA.  High schools are already dramatic conflict-flled places, we don't need over-the-top and outlandish crimes to be committed in order for teenagers to experience conflict and feel unsafe.

I thought Fade was completely unrealistic.  I get it, it's a fantasy, but if the story is based in the real-world, I need something real in that world to hold on to.

There are teachers who do horrible things.  We didn't need the over-the-top, sensationalized villainy in order for Janie to be in danger.  I think the story would've been scarier if the high school setting was more realistic.

I also didn't buy the conflict between Cabel and Janie.  It wasn't consistent with Cabel's character and teenagers aren't usually that cognizant of their feelings and why they behave the way they do.

I liked Wake, but was disappointed with Fade.  I won't be reading Gone unless someone convinces me it has at least one foot in reality.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cat Killer?

OK Junkies, I need some help.  I'm stuck.  All because of a cat corpse.

At our last meeting, my critique group hated the chapter I'd submitted.  I've never received such a negative response.  You see, in the chapter they read, a little girl accidentally kills her cat.

"You can't kill a cat!"  They shouted.
"Do you have to describe the cat corpse?" They asked.
"Really?  A dead cat?  You really want to do that?"

I didn't understand.  What's the problem?  That same night we read about dead grandmothers, suicidal rock stars, and murdered scientists.  Why couldn't I have a dead cat?

They informed me that people will hate me and hate my book if I kill a cat.  This seemed to be a basic rule of good craft everyone knew but me.  Show, don't tell.  Omit needless words.  No passive voice.  And don't kill any cats.

Basically, by killing a cat, I was killing my writing career.  They told me there's even a book on screenwriting called Save the Cat!  The book states that all you have to do to sell your screenplay is not kill any cats.  (I haven't read the book, but I'm pretty sure that's what it says).

I tried not to get defensive.  I tried to listen to their feedback, to process it, to see which direction my revisions should take.  And then I realized it.  I kill TWO cats in my WIP.  (And a baby bird, but I'm sure there's no rule on baby birds).

Well, I decided to stick to my guns.  I blew off the advice of my critique group.  They're probably all just crazy cat people or something.

Then I went to another meeting, with a different group of writers.  We discussed the atrocities of dead dogs in children's literature.

One writer even talked about an appalling scene in an adult novel.  She mentioned an extremely popular adult trilogy.  "I almost had to stop reading when they killed the cat!  It was just awful!"

I happened to have recently read the book she was talking about.  You mean the same book where the main character is raped and tortured in a graphic scene that has NOTHING to do with the plot?  You mean the same novel where dozens of women are raped and murdered, but the characters are more concerned about the Swedish stock-market?  You almost stopped reading because of the dead cat?

What's wrong with these people?

Then last week, I read Mockingjay.  SPOILER ALERT!

Of all the characters Collins killed, she saved the cat.  Buttercup survived.  Maybe there's something to this Save-the-cat theory.  After all, Rowling killed Hedwig but spared Crookshanks.

It's not like I'm some sadistic animal hater.  My dog and my cat are my only children.  I'm a freakin' vegetarian!  I don't eat animals, I just kill them in my fiction (but for important plot and character reasons, I totally swear.)  I just don't get why people seem to be more sensitive to the death of animals than to the death of humans in fiction.

So what do you think Junkies?
Do you hate books with dead cats?
Can anyone explain this never-kill-a-cat rule?

Is my WIP doomed if I kill a cat?  If I kill two?
Could I change my dead cats to dead dogs? dead babies?

Well, I might keep my dead cats because when the rejections for my MS start rolling in, at least I can blame it on the dead kitties, right?

*photo from here