The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater first wandered across my field of vision when her novel Shiver began getting a lot of attention the same year I started book blogging. Five years ago, I was not, despite styling myself as such, as much as an omnivore as I am now. I was spending a lot of time “regaling” people with how Twilight descended into institutionalized werewolf pedophilia and viewing urban fantasy—especially urban fantasy romance—with deep, deep suspicion. So no matter how much good press Shiver got, I was determined not to engage.
Dune by Frank Herbert
read by Simon Vance and cast
The library at my high school didn’t have that much of a selection when it came to fiction—just three waist-high aisles. (This was not, as I briefly entertained, to cut down on canoodling; there were plenty of ceiling high shelves over on the nonfiction side.) But it was the only library I had constant access to until I was about sixteen, due to a family vendetta against the public library over a fine. (Not mine, obviously, but Madame McBride never forgets.) That was perfectly alright, since I wasn’t really reading much beyond occasionally inhaling a Jodi Picoult novel in a day, whatever was assigned for the school’s book club, and the occasional Heroes fanfic.
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Whatever I read after The Devil Finds Work was going to be, at the very least, a step down in enthusiasm. That stunning work of criticism is a remarkably tough act to follow, unless the follow-up is perfect, sublime trash. The Falconer, a young adult novel I picked up completely on a whim a few months ago while trying to pretend my interest in Scotland was not due to the Dreamboys and their famous alums (shut up!), is neither. In fact, it is the opposite of both stunning and sublime trash: it is forgettable. And that is always the worst thing a novel can be.
Sparks by S. J. Adams
As longtime readers know, I am an eighties freak from way back—way back being the original run of I Love the Eighties on VH1 in the early aughts, not, you know, actually the eighties. (Hence finding myself heavily distracted by the musical Rock of Ages at the moment.) Nonetheless, I somehow managed to experience the totality of adolescence without having seen a single Molly Ringwald film. Realizing that is how I ended up watching The Breakfast Club while having a sleepover in the theater department in college.
“So,” my friend Molly asked. “What did you think?”
I frowned. “They’re all assholes.”
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
There are few sure bets in young adult fiction—this is the genre where I learned that book series can be cancelled, holy crow—but when the hugely successful The Hunger Games and Divergent series have it as a common setting, that’s as close as you can get. (Incidentally, these are both series too lazy to have a series title, which bugs me.) But I’ve noticed that young adult dystopias tend to be a little lighter on the worldbuilding. Since the focus is on the story and the characters, the dystopia can be drawn in broader strokes, leading to Divergent’s factions, which can be endlessly picked apart.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
When I was in high school, I believed that the purest thing in the world could be found in the third verse of Scissor Sisters’ “Paul McCartney.” When Jake Shears declares that “I’m just in love with your sound!” and hits “sound” so perfectly and satisfyingly, there is simply no room for something else in the world. It’s communication that includes words, obviously, but goes beyond it, managing to pull your heartbeat into its own beat and rearrange you.
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
As ideologically mixed as I am on How To Be Gay, it’s nonetheless provided me with some fresh analytical lens. I knew what a subculture was, of course, but had never thought of it in context of its relationship to the culture at large. (It’s hard to take a step that far back to get a better vantage point.) A subculture requires a culture to be sub to. It can only be understood in the context of that grander culture, which it reacts, negatively or positively, to. Of course, this is getting complicated as the (American) monoculture continues to splinter, but the point remains.
Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends by Shannon Hale
Have I mentioned that I’m in stupid love with Monster High? Something about that doll franchise’s blend of adorable monster girls, increasingly outrageous fashion, and atrocious puns just makes me happy. The webseries’ emphasis on friendship and occasional horror certainly helps, such as designated mean girl Cleo being actually fiercely protective of her friends or Frankie Stein creating a voodoo doll boyfriend to impress her friends—who reveals his sentience by running off screaming after she’s dumped him in the trash. The franchise has been a hit with both adult collectors and the actual target audience. Mattel saw more money in them hills and spawned Ever After High, which is the same concept, but with the children of fairy tale characters in high school instead of the children of classic horror characters.
Stuart Little by E. B. White
read by Julie Harris
Honestly, I do try to vary my audiobooks, but, since I try to only revisit books I read before I was eighteen, I’m starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel after five years of book blogging. It is a truth I do not like to acknowledge that I was not actually much of a reader as a kiddo, although I staunchly identified myself as such. Given the political nonfiction that overwhelmed Fort McBride’s libraries, the bulk of my childhood reading actually came from school.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Ever since Netflix pulled the majority of Saturday Night Live’s back catalog (soul-crushing ennui!), I’ve put a little more oomph into my other big media project: watching the entirety of Star Trek and slowly growing more and more disenchanted with J. J. Abrams’ rebooted films. I’m in season three of Star Trek: The Next Generation right now, which I am loving. It balances very interesting, philosophical questions that can only be asked in such an imaginative setting with a hearty dollop of nuttiness. The episode that’s waiting for me on Netflix right now, “The Most Toys,” finds Data captured by a collector who sees him only as an object, not a sentient being with agency and choices. Of course, the episode also points out that this is complicated by the fact that Data is a military man, and even has the collector ask if Starfleet is all that it seems.