Maybe it’s because school has let out and kids are flooding the library, but I’ve been reading mostly lit for the teen set this week.
“Twisted” by Laurie Halse Anderson is a coming-of-age story about a geeky teen who Did A Bad Thing on the last day of school and had to work a tough landscaping job over the summer for punishment; he comes back to school in the fall with a newfound set of muscles and a dangerous reputation, attracting all sorts of attention, especially from the cutest girl in school. His throughly dysfunctional parents put enormous pressure on him, and he has to grow up in this unknown territory without much help from those around him who all think he’s someone other than who he really is. “Twisted” is an excellent read and Anderson does a good job of getting us into the main character’s head without being patronizing or ever resorting to (too much) cliche.
Similarly, her novel “Speak” about a high-school girl who struggles to communicate is a bit more serious in tone and subject matter – both books deal with Serious Issues and aren’t for the small fry – and is similarly well-written. I eagerly recommend both.
Scott Westerfeld’s take on the vampire novel, “Peeps“, took me pleasantly by surprise. Expecting an ennui-laced blood-and-roses novel, I got a stylish, smart, science-based thriller with engaging characters and a original take on the vampire mythos. Like Charlie Huston’s “Already Dead” which I reviewed a few months ago, it treats vampirism as more like a disease. In this case, main character Cal is a carrier, a rare example of a person who has the superhuman abilities of a vampire but doesn’t have the need for blood. He’s in NYC, working for a centuries-old organization which tracks down and captures those with the full-blown disease. His search for the mysterious woman who originally infected him quickly spirals out of control and soon becomes a race to safe the city. My favorite thing about the novel is that Westerfeld sneaks in some excellent science into the fray, with small chapters devoted to examples of parasites that exist in nature and how they relate back to the story. (Yes, he even talks about the dreaded penisfish.) “Peeps” is extremely well done, and I’d be surprised if Hollywood eventually doesn’t take a crack at it.