Archives for posts with tag: relationships


We look back and identify ground breaking books: Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are, Snowy Day. Do we know they are groundbreaking when they first come out? In some ways, yes. The immediate audience was aware that these books did something different; they changed something in publishing. To me, David Levithan’s newest book, Two Boys Kissing (Knopf, $18.99, out today), feels groundbreaking. The book is about two boys kissing. The title is Two Boys Kissing, and even the cover image shows two boys kissing. This book does not blink. It does not compromise. Don’t like it? Avert your eyes, because this book is. And it’s phenomenal. Like the books listed above, Two Boys Kissing is groundbreaking not because it has an agenda. Not because it’s trying to prove something or change anything. But because it is so well written and is an amazing story. Inspired by true events, the story centers on two boys who are trying to set a new record for the longest kiss — upwards of 32 hours. But there are several other stories woven throughout and they all deal with boys at various stages of their relationships. The novel is narrated by a Greek chorus of gay men who died from AIDS in the 1980s and this is where things really start to get interesting.

The boys are blissfully unaware of this chorus in the same way that gay kids today are often unaware of the struggles of previous generations. At the risk of saying “kids today!”, that’s exactly what’s happening here, but it is entirely appropriate. Kids, all kids, don’t always know the past. Why should they? They’re kids. As frustrating as it might be for the chorus to see that they boys don’t really know their stories, that is the way it works. Each generation fights to make things better for the next one and that next generation reaps the benefit without ever knowing there was a fight.

As for the chorus, their nostalgia for their own lost youths, their admiration for the freedom within the gay community today, and their resentment that they never had the chance to experience that freedom is heartbreaking. Levithan elicits empathy and love from the reader for both generations.

As I’ve said before, he is a masterful writer. This book, like his others, is differently amazing. I finally had the chance to meet him for about 45 seconds and was able to say the one thing that I’ve always wanted to tell him, “I wish your books had been around when I was a teenager.”

Shop Indie Bookstores

Advertisements

In Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight (Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99, out in June), Rafe is tired of being ‘the gay kid’. He lives in a supportive home with parents who are activists on his behalf and for community in general. His school has protected him, and he regularly speaks at organizations about diversity and education. But he needs a break. He needs a change. He needs to feel like he can be himself without constantly working for ‘the cause’. Rafe applies to a boarding school out East and figures that going there will be his chance to not exactly go back into the closet, but maybe not be so publicly out of it. This isn’t the first YA book to deal with an openly gay teenager, who tries to put on a mantle of not being an openly gay teenager. Pink, by  Lili Wilkinson (winner of a Stonewall ALA honor award), tells a similar story about a girl who changes schools for similar reasons. Ava, however, spends more time questioning her sexuality and the ending leaves her story somewhat ambiguous. In Openly Straight, Rafe never doubts that he is gay. It’s not his sexuality that’s in question, it’s his identity. This story will appeal to anyone who has experienced feeling reduced to one facet of themselves, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’ : ‘the honor student’, ‘the athlete’, ‘the Asian girl’, ‘the popular one’, ‘the band geek’, ‘the fat guy’, ‘the new kid’, ‘the singer’, ‘the . . .’. We are all complex individuals. But as much as Rafe wants to be more than a label, he slowly realizes that denying part of himself turns him in to something else entirely: ‘the liar’.

Shop Indie Bookstores

9781250002358The Lover’s Dictionary, by David Levithan (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, $20) falls in to that ‘New Adult’ category that you may or may not have heard of. The designation is an awkward, to be sure, and is meant to denote books that are more mature than YA. New adults, presumably, are the 18-30 crowd. You can see the issues. Are ‘New Adults’ not actual adults? How does one go from being a ‘young’ adult to a ‘new’ adult? That evolution seems arbitrarily backwards. Anyway. Categories are always random and problematic, which is hardly the point of this post. The point is that all David Levithan books are worth reading. The characters in The Lover’s Dictionary are certainly older than the teenage protagonists in his other novels, hence the clarification that this book perhaps isn’t ‘YA’ in the strictest sense. In terms of content, there is nothing in this book that you can’t find in a YA novel and actually less because the most intimate moments are unwritten. The narrative format is unique and very intriguing. Starting with A “aberrant” through to Z “zenith”, the story emerges from the entries of the dictionary. I was almost skeptical. How could such a dry format yield and interesting story? But it does. Well. The narrator dictionary composer writes in the first person and refers to himself as ‘boyfriend’ repeatedly. We know his gender. His partner, however, remains in the ambiguous second person. I wanted to write a story like this when I was in college. I never did. It wouldn’t have been nearly as good. There is something remarkably satisfying in the snippets of story and a more patient reader would probably spend more time pouring over the word and the entry. The ones I did pay attention to were always clever on a variety of levels. The story and history of the relationship plays out non-sequentially throughout the entries. The entries are short, occasionally only one line, rarely more than a page. And yet, somehow this story is so full. Perhaps because the story is such a familiar one: falling in love, self-doubt, relationship fissures, the threat of break up. I love reading Levithan’s books because they always contain lines that break my heart. Not necessarily because they are sad, but because they are true.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I thought I’d compile a list of my favorite literary relationships. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some important ones, but here they are in no particular order.

Elizabeth and Darcy. Yes, yes. I’m one of those people. Every time I reread Pride & Prejudice I enjoy watching how their relationship slowly develops and how they influence each other’s perspectives. I like that they are both thoughtful even when it comes to their own errors and mistakes.

Nick and Norah. One of the things I love about Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is that the two characters from the book are quite different from the two characters in the movie, but I like both of them equally, although for different reasons.

Annie and Liza from Annie on My Mind. I didn’t read this novel until my first year out of college. I was living in New York and had was in the middle of the end (things never seem to just end) of my first serious relationship. This book is so lovely it broke my heart all over again.

Morgan and Arthur in The Mists of Avalon epitomize the experience of unfulfilled love. Bradley is genius at making you desperately want them to be together even though you know it can’t possibly be.

Vicky and Adam from A Ring of Endless Light and Troubling a Star. I’m not sure if Vicky and Adam ever really get together, but when I was in high school, I thought the scenes of them swimming with dolphins were unbelievably romantic.

Lola and Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door. I really thought this book would be a guilty pleasure and was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and appreciated watching Lola and Cricket’s friendship develop.

Celie and Shug from The Color Purple. I love it when you read a book that is really hyped and then discover that it’s better than the hype suggested.

Hazel and August from The Fault in Our Stars. See comments for The Color Purple. Also, Hazel and August know how to make life count.

Other contenders include Paul and Noah (Boy Meets Boy), Chester and Wilson (Chester’s Way), and Rosalind and Orlando (As You Like It). I’m sure I’ll think of others that I wish I had included as the day goes on, but who are your favorite literary couples?

As I’ve indicated before, there are many amazing YA books being published these days, but my favorite ones to recommend are anything by David Levithan and John Green, especially Will Grayson/Will Grayson, which is co-written by David Levithan AND John Green (Speak, $9.99). woot!

Two Will Graysons, living in two different suburbs of Chicago meet unexpectedly one night. Like all of Levithan’s books, the spectrum of sexuality is represented through a range of characters. Gay, lesbian, bi, straight, questioning, unknown: they’re all there and they’ll all supported and encouraged. This book alternates between the two Will Grayson’s, one written by each author. Levithan’s stories are refreshing because they don’t include the ‘traumatic coming out’ experience that is often a staple in lbgtq YA books. The characters in his books, regardless of their sexual orientation, are always interesting kids. Levithan’s Will Grayson is more melancholic than many of his other characters (Paul in Boy Meets Boy immediately comes to mind), but mostly because he’s a teenager, not because he’s gay. Green’s Will Grayson has his own issues with relationships and friendships. His spot on commentary about high school dynamics made me laugh out loud several times.

But don’t stop there, read all of their other books, too, because Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (co-written with Rachel Cohn), The Realm of Possibilities, An Abundance of Katherines, and, of course, the amazing The Fault in Our Stars are each phenomenal. And let’s all hope that they collaborate again soon.

Minus the teenager part, that’s me. home sick today. ugh. What’s even worse is that I wasn’t scheduled to work anyway. So I spent my day off, which is currently experiencing lovely weather, alternating between chills and a fever. I’m better now and hoping it was a 12-hour bug and not the nasty 48-hour thing that everyone else seems to have. So what to read when you don’t have the energy to do anything else? Well I just finished My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger (Speak, $8.99) and I really enjoyed it. Chapters alternate between three main narrators: T. C. Keller, Augie Hwong, and Alejandra Perez. Each section includes a variety of communication forms, email, text, IM, office memos, about some of which the narrators aren’t always aware. This range of communication offers a more comprehensive picture of these three freshmen’s ‘most excellent year’.

Set in Boston, T. C. and Augie have been brothers since T. C.’s mom died and the two families melded to the point where Mom, Dad, Pop, as well as extended relatives don’t bother to differentiate biological relations. During their ‘most excellent year’ T. C. and Augie maintain their close bond, but they both begin to develop new relationships. T. C. meets Alejandra, who has just moved to town, and Hucky, a six-year old, who alternates between foster care and a home for children with hearing impairments. Augie, more to his surprise than anyone else’s, meets Andy Wexler, who is just as surprised to be falling for Augie. Alejandra, who has spent her life as a diplomat’s daughter somewhat cut off from her peers, starts to make real friends and discover her own talents in theatre. Along the way, each of them fully begins to appreciate that families are made by surrounding yourself with the people who love and support you and that there’s always room for one more.

BomBomsAway

Out in the world

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

Random Acts of Reading

reviews, raves and a random assortment of book buzz

Her Cup of Tea

A crazy book nerd takes the literary world by storm!

And Then There Was One

a story of the truth

A Grumpy Young Woman Bookish Loves and Hates

Striving to find Bookish Perfection and Moaning along the way!

Family, Relationships and Personal Situations

FRaPS: Family, Relationship and Personal Situations are our specialty. Let us help you stay strong and full of life. Let's put an end to bullying and school shootings!!

suburbanprincessteacher

Funny but true stories from the school to the burbs.

The Jiggly Bits

...because life is funny.

Hockey Writing from Liz Bell

Hockey, Writing....

Before I Forget

STORIES WITH NO BOOKS

Woods Hole Blog

Check out our Website at www.woodshole.com, Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/woodsholema and Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Woods-Hole/351052088025

Alice in Readerland

I’m Alice, a young adult who reviews Young Adult (& sometimes Middle Grade) books. Join me in my adventures in Readerland!

bleustokcings

a girl who loves books,chocolates and INSPIRATION!