Archive | August 2012

Book Review: TRIANGLES by Ellen Hopkins

TrianglesLike many of Ellen Hopkins’s  young adult books, TRIANGLES has multiple protagonists, multiple points of view and no shortage of edgy subject matter. Unlike the books that Hopkins is known for however, TRIANGLES is aimed at adult readers. The three protagonists – Holly, Andrea and Marissa are fortyish mothers, two married, one not,  and each facing a kind of transitional crisis.

The issues explored in TRIANGLES – serious illness, infidelity, sexual addiction, homosexuality, parental neglect – will be familiar to fans of Ellen Hopkins, but presented in this adult context, seem not only very different  but somehow mundane. Not that this book is a boring read. It’s not. I found myself drawn into these women’s lives in the way I rarely am when reading books for adults. But I was struck at how these edgy issues that make YA books exciting and frightening made TRIANGLES kind of depressing. Maybe because I am in the exact age group of the protagonists,  but I felt a sort of world weary malaise as I read this. I suppose that means I can relate to the banality of being a forty-something wife and mother. I suppose that’s why I much prefer reading (and writing) about children and teens.

That said this is a worthy book for Hopkins’s first foray into adult literature. The verse is tight and rich with the imagery, word play, concrete forms and frankness for which Hopkins is known. I haven’t done a close comparison with her YA books, and maybe it’s my imagination, but TRIANGLES seems a more prose-ish book. There are certainly very challengingly poetic sections – each change of point of view is bookmarked by a poem that could be described as being from an omniscient narrator – but much of the book is presented in a fairly straightforward manner. I think this suits the new genre and audience; the self-indulgent adolescent philosophizing that characterizes YA novels (not just verse novels either) would not suit these more mature narrators.

Plot-wise, there is certainly plenty going on in this book. One of the many things I love about verse novels is how much material can be covered relatively few words. Hopkins books are never short (this one is over 500 pages) but I have often joked that if she wrote in prose, Hopkins’s books would be as epic as George R.R. Martin’s THE GAME OF THRONES. With the level of detail achieved, Holly, Andrea and Marissa’s stories feel complex and complete and though there’s a sense of resolution at the end, it’s far from neatly tied up. Above all the conflicts and complexities of TRIANGLES feel real; and real life, women like the three narrators surely know, is seldom neat.

TRIANGLES was released October 2011. I received my paperback copy in a contest not affiliated with the author or the publisher. I’ll be doing a giveaway of my copy later this year so stay tuned!

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MMGM: CUTE MIDDLE GRADE VERSE NOVEL COVER CONTEST – VOTE NOW

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) is the brainchild of author Shannon Messenger. Check in on her blog  each week for a list of participating bloggers. We at For Those Who Know are excited to get involved. We’ll be highlighting one or more middle grade verse novels most Mondays, so stay tuned. To kick of we thought we’d have some fun with a poll on middle grade verse novel covers.

Let’s face it, some verse novels can be a little…well…dark. And some have covers as dark as their plots. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a dark book and a dark cover. Nevertheless, I’m kind of thrilled to see some genuinely cute covers showing up in verse novels. Now admittedly these are all middle grade verse novels, but look at them! They’re adorable. I can’t help but have a little vote on them. Choose your favorite in the poll below. And while you’re at it pick up one of these cute little recent releases at your bookstore or library.

This entry was posted on August 27, 2012. 12 Comments

REVIEW: OCTOBER MOURNING by Lesléa Newman

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew ShepardOCTOBER MOURNING by Lesléa Newman could be described by a lot of words that are overused in book reviews. “Harrowing” for example certainly describes the book. “Spare” describes the verse. But neither of these words live up to what Lesléa Newman’s book really is. If I had to choose one word it might be “essential”. After reading this book I wonder how I ever understood the murder of Matthew Shepard without it.

Who would think that asking yourself “how did the fence feel?” would give you extraordinary insight into this tragic event? But Newman makes the fence’s point of view not only valid, but crucial, as though the story is incomplete without it. This is the case for all the myriad characters in this book, including the bartender, a passing doe and both of Matthew’s killers.

For such a notorious crime, one with such widespread ramifications, at first this might seem a short book, too short to fully encapsulate the story. But what Newman accomplishes with her book is something like a mathematical miracle, wherein the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  This is certainly an effect of the audacious creativity of the poetic forms. OCTOBER MOURNING includes a wide range of styles and techniques including lists, haiku, rhyming couplets, found poetry and villanelles. But the assortment of points of view is the genius in this collection. Perhaps the most affecting poems come from inanimate objects, such as the fence on which Matthew languished for eighteen hours, the clothesline with which he was bound, and the truck his killers drove.

As the fence itself says:

          some of them touch me
          in unexpected ways

I expected to be moved by OCTOBER MOURNING, because of the subject matter. I expected to enjoy reading it, because I love verse novels.  What I got from reading it that I did not expect was a much deeper understanding of not only this hideous crime, but why and how Matthew Shepard’s death became a symbol of the struggle for LGBT rights throughout the world.

OCTOBER MOURNING is described as a book for young adults but I feel that adults and mature middle grade readers will find it as terrific as I did. 5/5 stars.

I received an ARC of OCTOBER MOURNING from the publisher, Candlewick. I’ll be giving away this ARC next month so watch this space!

This entry was posted on August 24, 2012. 3 Comments

Rest in Peace, Ivan the Gorilla

Those of us who have had the pleasure of reading the verse novel THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate are saddened to learn today of the passing of Ivan the Gorilla, who inspired the book. Ivan, a lowland gorilla, was captured as a juvenile in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was eventually placed in a small cage by himself in a shopping mall in Washington State where he languished for twenty-seven years. After a public outcry about his lonely existence, Ivan was transferred to a zoo in Atlanta where he lived with and befriended other lowland gorillas. He was even noted to be quite a hit with the ladies, though he never fathered any offspring.

Ivan was 50 years old. He died during exploratory surgery after an extended illness. Goodbye, Ivan. You really were a one and only.

This entry was posted on August 21, 2012. 1 Comment

SIZZLING SUMMER READS GIVEAWAY: Win a verse novel for adults or kids!

Sizzling Summer ReadsYes! Another giveaway. Literary Addicts is hosting SIZZLING SUMMER READS and with over fifty blogs already signed up this looks to be a great hop.  Hop around the participating blogs from August 2- September 2 and see what you can win.  And don’t forget to enter right here by commenting and following this blog and/or me on twitter.  So, what can you win? This time I’m plugging verse novels for adults or middle graders. Here are the choices:

The Marlowe Papers: A Novel

ADULTS: The Marlowe Papers: A Novel
by Ros Barber

The Wild Book

KIDS: The Wild Book
by Margarita Engle

Visit these other blogs to enter more giveaways:
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This entry was posted on August 19, 2012. 21 Comments

August Verse Novel Reviews – Week 2

Publisher’s Weekly reviews MY BOOK OF LIFE BY ANGEL by Martine Leavitt

The Pirate Tree reviews EDDIES WAR by Carol Fisher Saller

A Reader’s Pensieve reviews the audiobook of GLASS by Ellen Hopkins

The Librarian of Snark reviews EXPOSED by Kimberley Marcus

Escape to the Elementals reviews YOUR OWN, SYLVIA by Stephanie Hemphill

Devour Books reviews A BAD BOY CAN BE GOOD FOR A GIRL by Tanya Lee Stone and HURRICANE DANCERS by Marguerita Engle

Ms. Ying Ling Reads and Crowding the Book Truck both review TOPPLING by Sally Murphy

The Jewish Journal reviews LOOKING FOR ME IN THIS GREAT BIG FAMILY by Betsy R. Rosenthal