Category: Introduction to a book

This picture actually does go with the book! This great photo is by mariobraune and I found it on flickr. Click the picture for more images by this artst.

It was bound to happen.  I hit a writing slump.  I’m questioning my premise, my characters, and my pacing.  There’s only one thing to do when that happens: read some other author’s fantastic writing so I can get horribly intimidated.  The least I could do I share my experience with you!

The book up for deconstruction is GONE by Michael Grant.  Like so many of the other books I read, this is the first in a series.  As of October 2010, three of the books have been published (Gone, Hunger, and Lies).  There are rumored to be six books in the completed series. GONE, the first book, was published in 2008 which means Mr. Grant is putting out one pretty sizable book a year.  Seriously impressive!

Mr. Grant has a small promotional website through HarperTeen with a short bio and a little bit on each of the books in this series.  There’s a perplexing little website called “the fayz“.  It’s a reference to The Fallout Alley Youth Zone–the nickname given by the children to the 100 or so square miles enclosed by a barrier where the adults are missing. The website looks like a journal kept by a character named “Sinder” who, as far as I know, doesn’t appear in the book.  The cool thing (besides the journal, which was cool and does contain spoilers) is that the site contains a link to an on-line version of the book.  So, if you’re curious and don’t want to add to the stacks of books in your living room (come on, fess up.  I know I’m not the only one with book towers.) you can read GONE from here.

GONE is the story of what happens in one small California town when every human being over the age of fifteen blinks out of existence.  Very much like LORD OF THE FLIES bullies vie for power in this new adult-less world.  Unlike LORD OF THE FLIES, we have a supernatural element in this book.  Some of the children left behind develop abilities, like super strength or super speed.  Of course this just lends a sharper edge to the power struggles.  And, not even get me started on the freaky animal mutations….

The main character of the story is Sam, a reluctant hero-type.  He’s a leader.  He’s a good guy.  And he knows that power is a corrupting force.  He doesn’t want any part of it.  Still, when a scary group of bullies from the private school on the hill come to town, Sam has to decide if he’s going to lead or if he’s going to submit.

One of several antagonists in the story is Caine, the leader of the private school crowd.  He’s charismatic and smart.  He’s also brutal and selfish but in the absence of leadership, the kids follow anyone willing to tell them what to do.  Immediately he and Sam have serious problems with one another.

There’s a pretty big cast.  There’s also a fairly big scope in the story-telling arena.  I thought I was going to read a book about society building.  What I got was much, much more.

On Friday, I’m going to take a look at the characters and setting in GONE. Then, next week, I’ll tackle plotting and writing style in separate posts.  I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts about this book with you!


To deconstruct TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN by John Marsden, I moved outside of my comfort zone in a couple of different ways.  First, the author of this book is Australian. The main character’s voice definitely reflected that.  Since this is my first Australian author (I usually favor American and British authors) the glossary of Australian slang terms at the beginning of the book came in awfully handy.  Second, as the title suggests, this is a book about war.  I’m not usually a big fan of war stories but I didn’t think THE HUNGER GAMES was going to be my cup of tea either, and I devoured the whole darn series.  So, on the recommendation of a co-worker, I decided to give the TOMORROW series a try.

Mr. Marsden runs a pretty awesome website.  Aside from being a national and international bestselling author, he is also a teacher.  He started and runs a school called Candlebark in Australia on 850 acres of natural bush.  In addition to that, he also seems to be an all around good fellow.  He made passionate pleas for compassion for refugees during 2010 Refugee Week.

John Marsden is best known for the TOMORROW series and the companion books, THE ELLIE CHRONICLES.  However, he is the author of other young adult fiction such as the award winning SO MUCH TO TELL YOU and non-fiction like THE HEAD BOOK.  Furthermore, TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN is about to come out as a movie.  You can watch a trailer here.

TOMORROW, WHEN THE WAR BEGAN is a story told from the point of view of Ellie Linton, an outdoorsy, capable teen living in rural Australia.  She and six of her friends decide to go camping for a week in the Australian bush.  Their destination is a secluded, overgrown crater in the Earth called “Hell”.  It’s so secluded, that the seven teens are completely unaware that their country, starting with their hometown, is being invaded and taken over by a foreign power.  When they do return to civilization, their town is bombed, the townspeople are prisoners, and the war has begun.

OK…so I have a confession.  I swore I wasn’t going to blog about a book I didn’t love.  So far I’ve managed that, even if I had to quick-read something new because my intended blog topic didn’t turn out to be stellar.  However, I wasn’t wild about TOMORROW.  It could just be me…I know someone who is finishing book 10 and couldn’t be more thrilled.  So don’t let my lukewarm reception turn you off if it sounds interesting.

It does have an appealing voice and an intriguing premise.  I’m going to look forward to talking about some of the aspects of the book that didn’t work for me.  I hope you get something out of the deconstruction of a book I wasn’t in love with.

Until Friday.

That gorgeous (and in this context, terrifying) photo was taken by tathamoddie and I found it on Flickr.

I haven’t really mentioned this on my blog, but I hate CATCHER IN THE RYE.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know.  It’s a classic.  It captures the adolescent trauma of being alienated and misunderstood.  Nonsense, I say.  Holden Caulfield was a whiner and no writer ever got so much acclaim for the portrayal of a less interesting teenager.  I have tried reading this book every five years or so since high school thinking I might grow into it.  Nope.  I still hate it.  So, when I heard that Stephen Chbosky drew from CATHER IN THE RYE as his inspiration for THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, I was all set and ready to hate that book, too.

How wrong I was.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky (shortened to “PERKS” by the students who have loved the book) was published in 1999.  Since then, it’s been on the top 10 list of most frequently challenged books by the American Library Association five times.  In Fayetteville, Arkansas it was challenged, along with 34 other books, as objectionable in an attempt to remove it from the school libraries there.  I’m not going to lie.  This book has some adult themes.  I would recommend this for the older end of young adult.  But I do recommend it.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is told from the point of view of a character who calls himself “Charlie”.  It’s an epistolary story, told in a series of anonymous letters.  Charlie is assumed name and he makes it clear that he only knows the recipient of the letters by reputation.  And if you think this is odd, Charlie is just getting started.  PERKS is the story of Charlie’s first year of high school.  His best friend committed suicide the year before, his social group has dissolved, and he finds himself lonely and confused in this new high school setting.  The thing that makes this story so charming is that Charlie is one of the most likeable main characters I’ve ever read (I almost wrote “met” there).  He’s too smart for his own good and incredibly sensitive.  He has a strongly developed sense of honor and fair-play.  He’s the kind of kid you’d like to know.

In his loneliness, he luckily falls in with a free-thinking, drug-using, pre-college group of friends who appreciate him for the strange little guy he is.  As the school year passes he struggles with the pain and hardships he sees going on around him: his sister’s abusive relationship, his closest friend’s traumatic gay relationship, his family’s complicated problems, and the painful relationships of the girl he loves.

About ten pages into this book my heart started to literally ache for Charlie and it hasn’t stopped yet.  I was grateful that he finds friends who accept him.  It hurts me that his family doesn’t get him.  I wanted to befriend this character because I wanted to have the experience of knowing him better.  And I still sit here and wonder what I would think if I had been the recipient of those anonymous letters.

So, next time I’m going to tackle the characters and setting of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.  I’ve already told you a bit about Charlie, so I’ll probably focus on the more peripheral characters.  Each one is interesting and I can’t wait to explore this book with you!

That great image is by Filomena Scalise and I found it on

I was doing a little research on my next book analysis subject, THE HAUNTING OF ALAIZABEL CRAY (which I am going to abbreviate HAC) by Chris Wooding.  Imagine my surprise when I found out it was categorized as “steampunk”.  I’ve heard the term but I didn’t know what it meant and I haven’t ever read anything in this genre until now.

What is Steampunk? Steampunk is a broad description for books set during the 1800’s where technology is more advanced than it would have been at that time.  It’s an alternate past scenario. It gives Victorian culture zeppelins or time machines.  Steampunk is a genre that still in the process of defining itself.  Here’s a couple of links if you would like to read more about steampunk:

  • A blog that has a nice definition and some interesting pictures.
  • The wiki definition (And do have a look at the discussion section.  I love a good genre debate!)
  • Steampunk has a convention and I understand there are tea parties!

In addition to falling under the steampunk umbrella, HAC by Chris Wooding actually has a bit of the fantasy/horror element as well along with a touch of romance.  When writers query their books to agents, one of the most common complaints I’ve heard is that the author doesn’t know how to label the genre of the book.  Here’s a prime example that cross-genre books do get published.

HAC was published in 2001 to great reviews and won a Nestle Smarties Book Prize among other awards.  There’s some wonderful information about the book on Mr. Wooding’s site.  In his description about writing this book, he says that he was living in London, hating it, and reading a bunch of H.P. Lovecraft. It really, really shows.

HAC is set in Victorian Era London.  The Prussians bombed the city thirty years earlier and out of the wreckage came the wych-kin.  They are these gross, supernatural nightmare creatures that haunt the city after dark.  Wych-kin have sprung up in all the heavily populated areas all over the world.  Only wych-hunters can find and battle the dangerous wych-kin.  Thaniel, a seventeen year old wych-hunter, and his mentor Cathaline discover a young woman during one of their patrols around the city.  The young woman is Alaizabel Cray.  She can remember nothing about her life and is possessed by the spirit of an evil being named Thatch.  As Thaniel and Cathaline unravel the secrets of Alaizabel’s past, they discover that she is hunted by a secret organization, called the Fraternity.  If the Fraternity finds Alaizabel, they will use Thatch to bring about the end of the world.

HAC reminded me a lot of H.P. Lovecraft.  It had kind of a plodding pace and was heavy on the description.  But the monsters were terrifying, the plot was intriguing, the characters were memorable, and the ending was larger than life.

So, next time I’m going to tackle the characters and setting.  This is another story where the setting is so essential to the plot that it’s almost a character, too.  In addition, the characters straddle the line between the modern and the Victorian.  When it works well, the juxtaposition can be almost dizzying.  I’m looking forward to trying to figure out how steampunk ticks!

The super-creepy artwork is by Shain Erin (Seriously, this artist constructs really messed-up dolls that are icky and awesome.  If this sounds like something you would like, you should check it out!) and I found it on flickr.

I’m in love.

My mother introduced us.

This week, my Mother sent me THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak (Thanks Mom!).  I couldn’t wait to blog about it.  I’m going to have to watch my blog post lengths because there’s so much to talk about.  My mother read THE BOOK THIEF as part of her book club and told me that everyone had something good to say about it.  I understand why.  Realistic characters, some of which I would love to know; a beautiful, almost poetic writing style; and a compelling plot.  This book has it all.

THE BOOK THIEF isn’t Markus Zusak’s debut novel; he has three previous novels.  The most notable is I AM THE MESSENGER, the winner of the Printz Honor for excellence in young adult literature.  THE BOOK THIEF was published in 2005 and has won a variety of awards as well, including the Printz Honor and Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year.  It’s definitely worth your time to check out his website.  There, he talks a little bit about his writing routines and admits that it took him seven years to publish a book (Oh, thank you for that little bit of hope, Mr. Zusak!).  Also, I wanted to link you to my favorite version of the cover art because I just thought it was so cool.  By the way, that’s not the cover art above–just an image I liked. 🙂

THE BOOK THIEF is the story of a girl named Liesel.  After her mother is accused of Communism in Nazi Germany, she and her brother are shipped to couple in a small town outside of Munich.  Sadly, her brother dies on train ride to their new home.  While he’s being buried, two things happen: Liesel steals a book called “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” and she’s catches the interest of Death, himself.  The rest of the book follows the next four years of Liesel’s life as she struggles to learn how to read, to make sense of the kindness and unkindness of humanity, and survive in the throes of World War II era Germany.

Two things separate this book from other historical fictions of Nazi Germany.  First, this story is about a lower middle class German family.  Many of the stories I’ve read or seen from this era are about Jewish families or take place in concentration camps.  By placing the story in a non-Jewish German family, it really gives the reader a unique viewpoint.  Second, the point of view character in this book is Death.  It really, really worked.  Death was a weary, curious, sympathetic character, completely confused by humanity.  I thought it was a very interesting choice.

You might have noticed that the subject matter in this book is pretty heavy, even though it is classified as young adult.  I think this book is for the mature young adult reader.  THE BOOK THIEF is classified as young adult for some of the same reasons that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD might get the same designation if it was published today.  They both have a protagonist in the tween to teen age range.  However, the themes–death, guilt, doing the right thing even when it’s the hard thing–are mature.  I think this could be enjoyed by any adult reader and might not be the right choice to woo a reluctant reader.

Like I said above, I’m really looking forward to writing the blogs about this book.  Like usual, my next post will discuss characters and setting, the following one looks at plotting, then my last one for this book will be about Mr. Zusak’s writing style. I’ll see you Wednesday!

The gorgeous photo is by szlea and I found it on flickr.

I decided to go for a change of pace.  My next analysis will look at INDIGARA by Tanith Lee.  I chose INDIGARA for two reasons:

  • Tanith Lee’s bio mentioned that she’s published nearly 80 novels, 13 short story collections, and over 250 short stories.  Holy Cow!  At the pace I write, if I published my fist novel tomorrow, I would probably be around 110 years old before I got out my 80th–literally!  I had to have a look at the finished product of such a prolific writer.
  • The books that I write are not issue books.  I appreciate the sensitivity and craftsmanship it takes to write a book like SPEAK or TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY, but when I write, I like to world-build.  I like fantasy.  I like to pull someone into my imagination.  INDIGARA felt like it had some of those same characteristics and thus had plenty to teach me.
  • And finally–I’ll admit it–I judged a book by its cover. I had two books in my hands at the bookstore and was looking for a third.  I decided to get something I didn’t know anything about.  The cover art (the image above) by Daniel Dos Santos sucked me in.  It promised dragons and castles with a futuristic looking dog.  And, is that a gunslinger I see?  How do you say no to that?

Tanith Lee has a fairly simple but downright interesting website.  It feels like a blog and has lots of pictures, which always makes me happy.  Ms. Lee has gotten a number of awards, including the World Fantasy Award and the British Fantasy award.  However, unlike my usual analysis, she didn’t get any awards for INDIGARA.  In fact the book actually gets mixed reviews from on-line reviewers (WARNING: SPOILERS  The mixed, the bad, and the ugly).  Nonetheless, I liked INDIGARA.  For the next three posts I’ll try to explain why.

INDIGARA is the story of Jet, a 14-year-old girl, and her robot dog Otis.  Jet’s sister, Turquoise, lands a roll in a big budget movie in future movie-making Mecca, Ollywood.  So Jet, Otis, Turquoise, Mom, Dad, and a third sister named Amber move to Olliewood.  Bored with the whole movie-making scene, Jet escapes to the Subway, an underground city that’s a haven for unused sets, unproduced scripts, and washed-up stars.  One night, when fleeing from a group of sinister hobos, Jet gets sucked up into a pipe that delivers her to the world of Indigara.  She becomes quickly aware that the sets and scripts and shadows of the washed-up stars have congealed into a world that is the embodiment of an ongoing B movie.  Jet, with the help of her trusty robot dog, has to figure out if she wants to go back to the real world and, if so, how to pull it off.

So, as a fan of B movies, I thought this book was pretty darn funny.  It has its bumps and rough spots–sure.  If you try to take it seriously, you’re going to be aggravated.  But if you read it with an appreciation for cheese, you might just find yourself giggling like I did.

So, Friday, I’ll take a look at the characters in this story.  They’re designed to be stereotypes, much like you would find in a B movie.  But every once in a while you see a glimmer of depth that makes the story all the more amusing.  Until then.

The cover art image is used with the permission of the artist, Daniel Dos Santos.  Visit his site for more of his fantastic artwork.

As promised, my next book analysis is going to be TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher.  When I’m picking a book, I try to keep my ears open for young adult novels with some buzz around them.  I like award-winners and especially best-sellers.  If I’m trying to write a best-seller, I figure there’s no better way to seed my brain.  However, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY kept coming up and I kept passing it by.  Suicide is a tough subject matter and TH1RTEEN R3EASONS WHY unapologetically analyzes why one teenaged girl commits suicide.  But I finally buckled down and did it, so here goes.

TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher was a New York Times bestseller, got a Georgia Peach Award for young readers, and the Young Adult Library Services Association selected the book as a best book for young adults, a best audio book for young adults, and a quick pick for reluctant readers.  I’m also very interested in debut novels and this happens to be Mr. Asher’s first book.  Talk about a doozy.

The author has a website which, since this is his debut book, focuses on TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY.  There are reader reviews, audio excerpts, and a link to Mr. Asher’s blog.  Have a look at his blog if you get the chance.  Along the right side of the screen he shows the cover art for TH1RTEEN R3EASONS WHY on international versions of the book.  It’s pretty interesting.  I think my favorite is Italy’s cover.  Also, there’s a link to Hannah’s blog, the main character and the suicide victim in the novel.  Of course her blog makes a whole lot more sense if you’ve read the book, but I will note that it includes the phone number for a suicide hotline, which I was glad to see.

So, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY is the duel story of two lead characters.  Hannah Baker is a girl who has recently committed suicide.  She leaves behind a set of audio tapes that details the thirteen reasons why she made this choice and, as it turns out, each of those reasons is a person.  Some guy or girl who influenced her life her in the last three years  as she spiraled into despair and depression.  We pick up the story as the tapes come to Clay Jensen, one of those reasons why.  By every account, he seems like a decent guy, tortured by the death of a girl he had a huge crush on but never really had the courage to get to know better.  He listens to the tapes, listening for his name and dreading hearing it at the same time.

This book is unsettling.  There’s no other way to put it.  I was expecting something that would make me cry but this book didn’t do that.  Liking Hannah was hard for me.  If you think about the premise of the story, Hannah is a little bit sadistic.  Clay is completely likeable.  It gave me this odd sense of distaste for someone I really should have been sympathetic towards.  And I think that was on purpose.

So, next time, I’m going to talk about the characters and the setting.  This book is almost entirely character sketches.  Fourteen people moving into and out of each other’s lives.  And it looks at the very interesting question of how the small things you do affect others in a big way.  I know that more than one teen wrote on Mr. Asher’s website that this book made them want to change their lives and be better people.  What more could an author ask for than that?!?

Wow.  Just wow.

Now that I have that out of the way, I should say that THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins is the first book in a series.  So far all of the books that I’ve deconstructed have been stand-alone novels.  But that’s a little misleading to what I really love to read and write.  I love a good series.  If you can hook me with the opening book in a series, I’m yours for the whole ride.  And so far, both of the novels I’ve written and the one I’m currently working on were complete stories with potential to be a series.

When it comes to this blog, though, I’m only going to look at the first book in a series.  In a series, the first book better hook you.  It better be rewarding story with not just a satisfying ending but also a big enough world to spawn more stories.  For me, at this point in my writing experience, first books of series are what I really need to study the most.

So, I decided to take a look at THE HUNGER GAMES.  It came out in 2008 and got a bunch of accolades, including winning the Cybil Award, being a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, it was a New York Times bestseller, a Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller, and a Wall Street Journal Bestseller.  Suzanne Collins has also written the wildly popular OVERLAND CHRONICLES which scored plenty of awards as well. You can see Ms. Collins’s sparse but informative website here.  There’s also a pretty awesome UK based HUNGER GAMES site with very cool illustrations, downloads, games, and sample chapters from the first two books.

THE HUNGER GAMES is dystopic sci-fi.  The United States is divided into twelve districts that surround Oz-like, all powerful capitol city.  As punishment for a civilian uprising that happened sometime in the distant past, each if the districts are forced to send two of their teenagers as “tributes” to the capitol city every year.  These teens fight to the death in a televised game that’s a cross between Survivor and Lord of the Flies.

Our main character is Katness Everdeen and you just love her.  She hunts illegally outside of the district gates to feed her mother and sister after her father dies.  Nothing is dearer to her than her delicate little sister Prim.  She’s hot-headed, honest, resourceful, and an absolute survivor.  When Prim is selected by the lottery to be the female tribute from her district, Katness volunteers to go in her place.  It’s virtually a death sentence and she knows it.

Along with Katness, a boy named Peeta Mellerk is selected by the lottery to be the male tribute.  He’s the exact opposite of Katness: he’s charming, witty, and non-violent.  He’s the son of a baker so, although he’s limited to the stale leftovers in his bakery, he’s never really gone hungry.  His talents offer little hope for survival in the Hunger Game arena but he’s adept at manipulating the audience that eagerly watches.  And the sponsors that send lifesaving gifts.

Besides Katness and Peeta, there are a whole cast of well developed likeable (and, oh yes, hate-able) characters.  There’s Katness best friend and hunting partner, a boy named Gale.  It sets up possibilities for a very interesting love triangle.  There’s also a small, crafty little tribute that Katness takes a liking to named Rue.  On the other hand, there’s an enormous, privliged tribute from a wealthy district named Cato.  He really has a grudge against Katness and it makes for some great tension.  There’s also the complicated character of Haymitch.  He survived the Hunger Games many years ago and must mentor the new tributes every year.  And every year he watches them die.  And so he drinks away his pain.

Aside from these primary characters, there are a total of twenty-four tributes, a number of which get at least some character development.  There is the team of stylists that make Katness and Peeta presentable for television.  And there are more than a few interesting people back in hunger-ridden, overworked population of Katness’ and Peeta’s home district.

I’m really excited to work on this book.  It absolutely took my breath away.  It’s a great read and even a good re-read (I admit to reliving my favorite scenes several times since I finished the thing).  So, it should be a lot of fun analyzing the characters, setting, plotting, and writing style with you!

OK, I know this books has been out since 1999 and I’m about the only person who reads Young Adult Literature who hasn’t gotten around to this one.  I can make excuses: I usually read fantasy; I tend to steer away from the depressing; I was totally wrapped up in HARRY POTTER for the last decade.  While all of that is true, I’m still sorry I didn’t get around to this sooner.

I picked up SPEAK because it was an award winning debut novel.  It was a national book award finalist, A Printz Honor Book, and a New York Times Bestseller.  It was made into a movie starring none other than Kristen Stewart.  Because it’s on the older side, Ms. Anderson’s website advertises her newest book WINTERGIRLS, also an issue book, but this time about eating disorders.  She also writes young adult historical fiction, including the titles CHAINS and FEVER 1793.  So I can see I’ve got some reading to do!

SPEAK is the story of Melinda Sordino, a high school freshman who’s a social outcast on her first day of high school.  Her childhood friends won’t talk to her.  Everyone seems to be mad at her.  And at the beginning of the book, it seems like it’s because Melinda called the police at an illegal party over the summer and got a lot of people in trouble.  But there’s a lot more to the situation than that and you spend a fair amount of the book finding out the truth.

Melinda is the main character and since the story is told in the first person and she is a pretty solitary girl, she bears the bulk of the story.  Which, really, is an amazing thing.  I don’t know if I could turn my thoughts from a year in high school into something engaging and artistic.  Yet, Ms. Anderson really makes it work.  Aside from Melinda, there’s Heather, a new girl from Ohio who wasn’t part of what went on over the summer and wants to fit in with almost sinister ambition.  And David Petrakis, the high school brain and Melinda’s unlikely friend.  On the adult side of things is Mr. Freeman, the free-thinking art teacher and Melinda’s parents a distracted pair with a tenuous marriage.

So, in my next post, I’m going to cover the characters, which you might guess is going to be pretty heavily weighted towards Melinda.  I’m the kind of writer who likes a cast of characters, and certainly with a character being in High School, the other kids are there.  However, because Melinda is so solitary, it almost feels like she’s the only person in the book.  I’m going to try to see if I can figure out why it works.

The next book I’d like to look at is FEED by M.T. Anderson.  Mr. Anderson has written a variety of kids books, including but not limited to the young adult series THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, the teen book BURGER WUSS, and a middle grade book WHALES ON STILTS.  Seriously–I know how to pick ’em.  FEED has gotten an obscene number of awards and recognitions, including the New York Times Book review notable book of the year, Publisher’s weekly Best Children’s book of the year, and the American Library Association best book for young adults.

M.T. Anderson has a very cool (and droll) website with little extras like wallpaper (under the subheading “more gimmicks”–I think I LOVE this guy).  You should go and check it out, if only to see the gorgeous website layout.  Also, I’m going to direct you to his page about FEED because he includes a brief essay about his inspiration for the story and a note for writers about revisions.

Feed is a dytopic fantasy about what would happen if corporations could put a wireless internet-style feed directly in everyone’s head.  Characters in this world can do everything through their feed: play games, go to school, watch shows, IM chat, and most importantly buy things.  Everyone who’s anyone has a feed.  And our main character, a teenaged boy named Titus can’t imagine life without his.  That is, until he meet a brainy girl named Violet on a weekend excursion to the moon.  She didn’t get the feed until she was seven, so she can remember a time without it.  When she and Titus fall in love, she challenges all he knows about being connected to the feed.

FEED really focuses on the two main characters, Titus and Violet.  Titus has a circle of over-privileged friends–two guys named Mary and Link and three girls named Loga , Calista, and Quendy.   But really, they can almost be grouped as one character, “the friends”.   And I think that’s on purpose.  Also, Titus has an annoying younger brother who is only referred to as “Smell Factor” and two parents that are reminiscent of middle upper-class suburbanites.  Violet’s father is introduced late in the book–an intellectual with only a rudimentary feed and a bitterness towards the technology.

On Monday, I’m going to tackle the characters in this story.  Despite the strangeness of the setting, the people are very familiar.  They really anchor you into the story. Until then….