Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Middle Grade That Makes You Think: WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

When I told  my critique partner, Kate Karyus Quinn, that I was rewriting my YA urban fantasy as middle grade, she recommended When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  She asked me if I'd read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle because it would help to understand When You Reach Me.

Had I read A Wrinkle in Time?  Only about five or six times. It's one of my all time favorite books.  It's the book that made me want to be a writer.  So with that caveat, my expectations were set pretty high for When You Reach Me and it did not disappoint.

A Wrinkle in Time is Miranda's favorite book too and she carries it with her everywhere she goes through New York City in 1979.  Miranda is a latch-key kid of a single mom who works hard and is competing to strike it rich on the $20,000 Pyramid, a popular 1970's game show.

The book starts off slowly, but Miranda's authentic voice drew me in immediately.  When You Reach Me reads like a quiet mystery, but when Miranda receives a note that could have only come from the future, the science fiction elements to the story unfold.

I love time travel, I love intelligent twelve-year-old girl protagonists, and I love smart books that give you all the little pieces to a large puzzle that fit so neatly yet surprisingly together in the end.  Stead has created a masterpeice of a smart but simple story.  Miranda's voice and her experience feel so real and honest that the speculative aspects of the story feel real as well.  This book made me think hard about paradoxes and the theories behind time travel without it ever feeling like a science fiction book.

If you liked A Wrinkle in Time or any time travel story, or are thinking of writing middle grade, I couldn't reccomend this book more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Give Away! Because I'm a Slacker

Edit to update:  Thank you so much to those who participated in my little give away.  I really appreciate it.  The contest is now closed, random.org has chosen and the winners are...Kate and Amanda!!!
I'll email you for your addresses and send you your books. Thanks so much!

I want to blog, I really do.  It's just...I forget.  Or get busy.  Or it's been too long that I'm embarrassed to start again and all The Doubts creep in and tell me no one is listening anyway, so why bother.

But no more.  I have a plan.  We writer peoples need plans to conquer The Doubts and here is mine:  From now on, every week that I don't blog, I will give away a book to one of you.

Give Away!
Because I've been especially naughty and I'm just now starting this new motivation/punishment system, this week I'm giving away 2 BOOKS!

How to enter:
All you have to do is leave a comment.  Tell me which of the books I've reviewed so far (or their sequels) you want and why.  The contest is open until midnight CDT on Thursday 9/22/11.  On Friday I'll have random.org pick two winners.  Sorry, open to US only.

Easy, yes?  Yes.

Ok.  So of all the books I've reviewed, which one do you want?

Monday, September 19, 2011


Hello my Junkies, how I've missed you!  Check back tomorrow for a book give-away in apology/punishment for my absence.

Have you read Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma?  Have you?  Hmmm? 

This is one of those stories that's difficult to summarize or even place into a genre without giving too much away. Nova Ren Suma classifies it as magical realism and that works for me.

The book is narrated by Chloe and she is the protagonist, but the story isn't so much about her as much as it's about her older sister, Ruby.  Actually Chloe's whole life, her whole world, is not so much about Chloe as much as it's about Ruby.

Chloe idolizes Ruby and is convinced Ruby can do anything.  And Ruby does.  She has the whole town wrapped around her little finger.  Chloe loves her for it and Ruby would do anything for her.

This book has a surreal, dream-like quality to it.  But much like the reservoir in the small town, danger lurks beneth the calm surface.

Ruby terrifies me.  Chloe loves her and trusts her, but Ruby is a little too powerful and too unstable for me to be comfortable.  And that's what's so great about this story.  We swim along, floating on Suma's beautiful writing, but in the back of our mind we know darkness is closing in.

Imaginary Girls has some of the things I love most in books: an unreliable narrator, a dysfunctional family, and a touch of magic.

It's a great read.  Check back tomorrow for a chance to win a copy.