Lena Prodan–The Suicide Year

The What: Nameless Protagonist (no, really, zie doesn’t have a name) lives on a military base. Hir father is physically abusive, hir mother is mentally unstable, and zie hirself is transgendered and suicidal. Add in fairweather friend Eric, their mutual crush Alex, and lots of drug-soaked trips to the local porn theater between church group hiking trips, and you’ve got yourself a premise.

The Good: The main character is easy to care about. Zie has so little to look forward to, and receives so little love and affection from the other characters, that it was impossible not to root for hir in hir quest to hike the Appalachian Trail and find love. Prodan gets props from me for finding a new story to tell in the often repetitive world of YA lit: I can’t say that I have ever read nor heard of another story whose protagonist is a nameless, overweight, female-to-male pre-or-non-op transsexual military brat.

The Meh: Numerous typos inhibited my enjoyment of this book. Sneaky grammar problems would be one thing, but “sheer” instead of “shear”? Underscores where there should be spaces? Letters left off of the ends of words? Torquere Press, I bet I could do better than that. Freelance offers welcome. : p  In terms of the story itself, it’s… it’s missing something. It lacks the alchemical touch that turns good components into a good story, and would be best for YA libraries with a substantial GLBT collection.

Hand It To: Fans of hardcore gayngst (gay angst, for yall uninitiated out there), violently emo teens, Ellen Hopkins fans.

Review Minis: Less Words, Just As Much Fun!

Hello, noble readers! In the interests of writing *some*thing about the heaps of books I’ve been nomming my way through of late, I decided to do mini-reviews. I’ll do one sentence each of my usual categories, so hopefully you’ll be able to get the flavor of the book even in this brief format.

Bizenghast, volume 6: Having conquered enough restless spirits, Dinah prepares to meet her new protector at the mausoleum, but new discoveries mar the experience. The art is better than ever, the vibe is deliciously macabre, and–one word–Edaniel! Unfortunately, the problem of uneven and difficult-to-follow plot development continues to dog the series. Hand it to Goths, fans of American manga, and anyone who likes cosplay.

Black, White, and Jewish: Rebecca Walker spent her formative years bouncing back and forth: between parents, between coasts, and between cultures. Her honesty is heartbreaking, and her experiences as a “Movement Child” are unlike anything I’ve read before. I would have enjoyed the book more if she had shared more of her adult reflections on her childhood; as it stands, she tells much of her story without unpacking it. Offer it to fans of memoir or feminism, or Nancy Pearl’s character readers.

Blood Roses: Francesca Lia Block brings us another book of magical realist urban fairy tales, this time in the form of short stories. The language is beautiful and shimmering, as always, and teenage girls will relate to the intensity and awkwardness that Block’s protagonists bring to their relationships. For longtime Block readers, there may be nothing new here, but the shorter story lengths may attract readers daunted by page count of the Dangerous Angels anthology. Suggest it to fans of magical realism, high school girls, and readers with an interest in urban glam.

Graceling: Katsa is Graced, meaning that she has a superhuman ability; her Grace is killing, which her uncle uses for his own nefarious purposes. Katsa’s journey from property to person takes her through literal and figurative lands, and the writing is good enough to make this fantasy plot feel fresh. Teens with conservative convictions may find the heroine’s takes on marriage and abortion to be off-putting. Try it on fantasy fans, older teens, and fans of non-conventional romances.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading

Hello, Stone-Bow readers! It may seem from my sluggish review pace that I’ve not been reading lately. Not so! Here’s what I’ve been reading lately, or rather trying to read:

Psyche In A Dress, Francesca Lia Block: I finished this book and loved it, but for some reason my brain won’t weave a complete review. In brief, it’s a collection of poems, it takes place in LA, it’s chock-full of Greek mythological figures, and it’s shiny. I liked it a lot; Block’s style inspires me, and if I ever finish a book, her influence on it will be evident. On the frustrating side, maybe it was just me, but I found it hard to keep the narrators and their storylines clear. Even so, I wish there were more books like this one, with its beautiful language, quick reading pace, and familiar stories recast in modern times. Delicious.

The Game, Diana Wynne Jones: Neil Gaiman had a lot of great stuff to say about this book. I generally dig Neil Gaiman, and I lurved Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle. However, I couldn’t get into it, and finished maybe 50 pages before deciding that this moment in life and this book are not meant to go together. I’m not sure why. The writing is good, the main character’s family is entertaining and chaotic, and there’s the promise of magic lurking in between the lines. It just didn’t add up to something I couldn’t put down, or indeed bring myself to pick up, so I will try again later.

The Alchemyst, Michael Scott: I want so much to like this story. Explosions, surprising discoveries, secret identities revealed, the stink of magic in the air: it should be great, no? But the writing kept irritating me to the point that I couldn’t keep reading. It had Dan Brown Syndrome, in which narrative sentences end with unnecessary exclamation marks! It gets annoying! Dang! Maybe I’ll try again when my litsnob dial isn’t cranked to 11.

Currently in the reading pile: M. Alice LeGrow’s Bizenghast 6 (insert infinite squees here) and Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man (good for my temporarily heightened litsnob sensibilities). I’m also savoring Tessa Rumsey’s The Return Message because I don’t want it to be over.

Alright, I think that’s it for now. Have a safe and happy Saint Patrick’s Day, all!