Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is up with non-fiction?

So I've been reading quite a bit of non-fiction lately and I'm starting to become a little concerned. Not by the quality because I've read some pretty well-written, thoroughly researched, and engaging non-fiction but what's up with citations? All of these books are using source notes instead of in-text citations or footnotes. This worries me- particulary when it comes to teens using these books for their own research projects and papers. After all, how can we expect teens to learn how to properly cite sources if the books they are citing do not use a method that makes the types of material that require citations easily recognizable to students? After all, how many of them are going to check the source notes after every page to see what is cited- especially when there is no indication within the text that it is cited anywhere? I realize that source notes are acceptible (and generally prefered) in academic research, but I think that these authors and publishers need to recognize their audience and remember that as they are determining how they will handle citations.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sloppy Firsts and series

Where do you all shelve the 4th book of McCafferty's series? I have it in the adult section while the first 3 (Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, Charmed Thirds) are in YA. I did this when I first started here after looking to see where other librarians had shelved them.

I wonder, though, about series like these. I know the main character gets older and therefore gets into more mature stuff in the 4th books. The same could be said for the last Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books... and Breaking Dawn as well. These kids grow up! So, do we expect readers to follow the characters out of the YA section and into the adult stacks?

I know the same debate started happening with Harry Potter and the 7th book.

But isn't the whole idea that kids grow up and get into more mature situations? I mean, not all characters can be like Nancy Drew and remain the same age forever, right?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hunger Games vs Battle Royale

When The Hunger Games came out, we all eagerly tore through it, turning pages late into the night because we just couldn’t put this book down. We told our friends about it, our coworkers, any teen who came into the library. And somewhere along the way, as we were breathlessly raving about this amazing, exciting book, someone interrupted us with a question:

“Isn’t that the same story as Battle Royale?”

Most of us probably cocked our heads to one side and stared dumbly, confused, at the questioner. Battle Royale? Well, it’s hard to say, since we hadn’t seen it or read it. Then the internet picked up the story: “Suzanne Collins totally ripped off Battle Royale!” I was curious, but dubious. I had to take one for the team and find out.

Battle Royale is the story of a class of 40 Japanese high school students whose bus gets detoured on a field trip. The students wake up in an unfamiliar classroom and are informed that their class has been randomly chosen for that year’s program, which means they must now kill each other until only one student remains. Each student is given a backpack containing food, water, and a weapon of varying quality (from machine guns to forks) and released. Alliances are made, then broken; friends are betrayed and killed, sometimes intentionally.

The basic plot is similar to The Hunger Games, but there are some other similarities that grated, as well—there are two instances in Battle Royale in which a character is severely wounded and is nursed through the injury by their crush. There are regular announcements of which students have been killed in the last six hours. Even the black backpacks of supplies seemed a strong match, though I was willing to view this as a coincidence.

By the midway point, though, the two books part company. By the end, it's not the same story at all. It's a similar story, definitely, but Battle Royale's strength is that most of the 40 characters manage to be sympathetic characters. We get back story on just about all of them, find out who they were before they were thrown into this crazy game, what motivates them to do certain things, and we even see their individual battles against each other. There are a couple of factions we return to multiple times, the ones who are clearly our heroes, but with only one or two exceptions we don't have villains. In The Hunger Games, nearly everyone who wasn't from District 12 was a villain, someone to be avoided and distrusted, and that was easy because we didn't know who those other characters were. The emotional punch that each player’s death packed for the reader was tempered by our lack of connection to those characters. In Battle Royale, on the other hand, we get to know all these characters--they're classmates, some dating back to elementary school. There are histories here, friendships and crushes and romantic entanglements, and that investment in who each student is makes the killing that much more horrible.

Plot and characters aside, there are two other major differences between these books. The first is the writing: while both books are nearly impossible to put down, the writing in The Hunger Games is vastly superior. Battle Royale has the occasional fantastic sentence but is written with a lot of “basically” and “of course” and “in other words;” whether this a failing of the author or translator is anyone’s guess. The other major difference is the level of violence. Sure, we saw some unsavory things in The Hunger Games, but it’s got nothing on Battle Royale. The gunfights were bad enough, but the graphic descriptions of hand-to-hand combat were particularly brutal. It's not the violence that's gratuitous, exactly, but the lengthy descriptions of it, and even that goes a long way toward world-building and accurately conveying the horror of the situation.

In an interview, Collins said she based her story on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur—the idea of sending seven boys and seven girls to be killed every ninth year led her to the annual Hunger Games competition. I’m willing to believe that’s true, at least in part, but I do still harbor a suspicion that somewhere along the way she saw Battle Royale. She may have forgotten about it, and almost certainly didn’t draw on it consciously (I wouldn’t go so far as to call plagiarism), but the similarities seem a little too similar. Maybe both books are based on Theseus and the Minotaur and the similarities are just coincidence. Either way, I’m looking forward to Catching Fire, the second book of The Hunger Games, to see some fresh material from Collins—and to find out what’s in store for Katniss.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just can't stop thinking about it

Wintergirls... I'm not sure there are any words that effectively describe the physical and emotional response I had while reading this. The story is painful and horrible to read... but you just.. can't... stop.
Laurie Halse Anderson never fails to disappoint- I think her writing is only getting better. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend moving it to the top of the must read pile.

3 cups of what?

So I'm on the committee to choose the High School summer reading book -- yes one book for the entire high school.

The high school librarian came up with a list of suggestions and one of them was Three Cups of Tea. I tried, really I did. I just couldn't do it. Should I slog on or give up? Please can I give up??

I'm taking much more interesting choices to the meeting -- Sunrise over Fallujah is my first choice at the moment.


Since it's been hard to get people together, I'm taking my and Alissa's idea digital!

Let's share our thoughts on the teen books we read... recommend good ones, slam the bad. No one has time to read them all (right Alissa?) so we might as well help each other out.

This is an open blog so please pass it along and I can make people authors as they join.