Review: The Girl With All the Gifts

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The Girl with All the Gifts
by M. R. Carey

★★★★☆

Of all the things to be startlingly, physically terrified of, zombies is probably one of the stupidest. (Alligators, my mother’s worst fear, at least exist in large enough quantities not that far from where she lives.) But something the opposite of magical happens at the intersection of an overactive imagination and anxiety, and you end up spending high school sleeping facing the door just in case. (This was after sleeping with my face to the window in middle school, when alien abduction was much more of a concern.) But it’s eased in adulthood. I remain petrified of the things, but in an exhausted kind of way. The last great nightmare I had about zombies involved gauging whether or not I could make it to my car from the grocery store in the zombie apocalypse. “Oh, great,” I though to myself, as a errant zombie shambled through the lot.

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Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

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With last Friday’s release of Maleficent, an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation of Giambattista Basile’s “Sole, Luna e Talia”, it might be tempting to think that we’ve hit a saturation point for fairy tale retellings. Tempting, but incorrect. I can’t speak for everybody else, of course, but I adore fairy tale retellings. It’s an extension of my love for the art of adaptation. When you’re retelling a fairy tale, the basic structure is there for you to follow or subvert, forcing you to dig in a little deeper. Adaptation, after all, is its own criticism—you have to decide what to discard, what to use, and what, to you, is the heart of the story.

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Page to Screen: Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Saturday Night Fever
based on “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn

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In 1980, which was still practically the seventies, Paramount wanted to capitalize on the popularity and success of John Travolta. To do so, it started sending out double features to movie theaters featuring Grease and Saturday Night Fever—both rated PG.

Now, as every musical theater kid learns at some point in their development, Grease is a pretty good argument for the development of the PG-13 rating that was introduced with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But this is why people think of Saturday Night Fever, a beautiful, painful film, as fare appropriate for the kiddos. This film codified and perpetuated the late seventies and disco the same way Clueless codified and perpetuated the nineties. It’s easy to think of it as a kitschy disco time warp, especially when there’s a supposedly kid-friendly cut of it floating around in the great pop culture subconscious.

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Review: To All My Fans, With Love, from Sylvie

To All My Fans, With Love, from Sylvie by Ellen Conford

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While the modern phenomenon that is young adult publishing coalesced into its current third stage evolution during the mid-aughts, there has always been fiction written for and about adolescents. (I’m avoiding the word teenager, since teenagers were invented in either the 1890s, if you follow Jon Savage, or the 1950s, if you follow Back to the Future.) With the sheer number of young adult books being published every year, however, it’s easy to for the young adult novels of the twenty-first century to bury the young adult novels of the twentieth century.

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Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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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.

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Reading by Ear: Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert
read by Simon Vance and cast

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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.

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Review: The Falconer

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

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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.

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Review: Sparks

Sparks by S. J. Adams

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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.”

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Review: The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

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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.

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Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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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.

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