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Thursday, October 14, 2010

YA Bloggers Want...Books That Pass the Reread Test: Steph Su

Smart and book-savvy Stephanie Su of Steph Su Reads is one of the people who make me really, really want to move to NYC because of the cool people there - I was lucky to meet her in person at the blogger-created Teen Author Carnival.

I have a lot of admiration for Steph, so it made me ridiculously happy when she loved Tell Me a Secret.

Welcome to What YA Bloggers Want, Steph!

*****

It's hard for me to quantify exactly what I want to see more of in YA--it's actually a question that will tie in with my thesis work! Very exciting!--so I'm going to talk about several of my all-time favorite YAs, which have all withstood the important "reread" test, and how they exemplify the kind of writing that I want more of.

POISON STUDY by Maria Snyder: This plot-driven, high-quality-character book has one of the most successful original fantasy premises I've discovered in recent years. It's not necessarily more or less complicated than other fantasy premises that have emerged in the past half decade, but Yelena's narration doesn't get bogged down in descriptions and explanations; instead, those unfold effortlessly in the crisp writing. On top of that, Yelena is extremely smart in situations that would've broken me down. Every time I reread this book, usually at least half the book goes by before I come up for my first breath of air!

FAT CAT by Robin Brande: One of those gems of YA lit that I wish more people knew about. What is it about Cat's story that I can't get enough of? I like that she's smart, but from the very first chapter the reader can simultaneously empathize with her AND see the potential for growth in her. I'm in awe of this sort of literary duality, because it is often much easier to portray a character as either totally put-together or completely broken.

The Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty (Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, etc.): Arguably my favorite series of all time. McCafferty's introduction to us of her memorable characters is effortless: the use (and misuse) of class superlatives was a clever way of painting the characters from Jessica's snarky POV. Every sentence has its purpose in these books; that is something easier said than done in writing!

So what do these mini-analyses conclude? I'm not too sure, but I think it has something to do with minimizing the distance between the characters and the reader. The best kind of fiction writing for me is often "invisible" yet indispensable... kind of like the stage crew in a no-hitch performance. :) The first read-through should be inexplicably all-consuming and un-putdownable; subsequent read-throughs should reveal the painstaking work that the author has put into the book to make it read effortlessly. Hey, no one said writing is easy, and good writing will not be!

*****
Thank you, Steph!

Readers, what books pass the all-important Reread Test for you? What do you think sets them apart? Would you reread a book you didn't really care for the first time in order to find the hidden gems? Let us know! (Plus we're doing a drawing for this week's prize soon! US addresses only.)

By the way, this What YA Bloggers Want series is in honor of YALSA's Teen Read Week and National Book Month!

8 comments:

  1. Re-readability is not terribly important to me because I have way too many books to read, but it does help me narrow down my favorites because those are the ones I would re-read despite all the unread books I have. I think I mention them in my post for this series so I won't mention any here.

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  2. I'll be honest I usually reread the books I buy eve if I didn't like them. In fact, I like a book better the second time I read it because suddenly all the foreshadowing stands out. I just love that!

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  3. I am not a big re-reader. Partially because I have the memory of an elephant and can therefor mentally flip to my favorite chapters, or favorite moments from a book, and partially because I don’t have the time. Lol.
    There are some books I would consider re-reading, a few I do, and some where I turn to my favoite places to remind myself of how I felt when I read it the first time. Books, even told in the present tense, are filled with memory, aren’t they?
    I reread Ten Girls Who Changed The World once a year. I’ve loved this book since my muddah (my Gaelic heritage coming out in me) gave it to me when I was nine. Since then, I’ve wanted to be the eleventh girl, I suppose.
    I’ve reread The Lottery Rose by Teri Hunt, I think this is what got me started on loving children who’ve grown up hurt.
    I’ve reread my dad’s favorite book, Where The Red Fern Grows several times, and I always cry. Always. It’s like a law, or something.
    I would reread any Sarah Dessen book, I would reread Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt.
    I’ve flipped through Twilight and The Hunger Games since reading them, and plan to read THG again next fall, while my dad rereads Lord of The Rings.
    I have a huge list of books I want that I read as a child (keep in mind that as a “child” I read 400-600 page-long books) that I now want to have to read to my kiddos. The Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard, Mandy and The Last of The Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards.
    They are few and far-between, but I have them, as everyone should.

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  4. I like the reread test, because even if, like James, I don't have a lot of time for reading for pleasure, but if I would *want* to reread it, than that's definitely the mark of a good book. Speaking of Shannon Hale, I would love to reread BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS sometime. I adored that book.

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  5. I have to reread books all of the time because I am a teacher. It is interesting to me that there are some books that I've dreaded rereading, and others that I can't wait to get to. Books like The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part-Time Indian, Of Mice and Men, The Merchant of Venice, The House on Mango Street, and Speak top this list. I think that there's at least one character in each of these books that is like a real person to me. Lennie Small, Shylock, Melida Sordino, Arnold Spirit, and Esperanza are real to me. I get emotional and goose-bumpy and fall in love with these people every year. I hope that I can continue to feel this way about my rereads as I continue teaching!

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  6. If someone asks me for my favorite books, I automatically go to the ones that I've read more than once. I can count on my fingers the number of books that I've read two times or more. It just has to be really, really fantastic! When I re-read books, I love to find pieces of information that I missed the first time around. The Harry Potter books are so good about this. Every time I read them, I notice a new little hint placed in them that foreshadows events to come. The other books I've re-read are Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr, and The Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins. Hmm...I'm seeing a trend of Kick-butt females.... :D

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  7. I don't usually reread that many books...mostly because I'm always trying to find new books to hook my eighth grade students' interests. However, I do find that I've been rereading when it comes to series books. I prefer to start a series after all of the books are out so I can read straight through because I hate waiting a year for the next book because I fall out of the story; however, if I do have to wait, then I'll reread the series before the newest one comes out. Case in point (and a series I'll probably reread again several times) The Hunger Games.

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  8. hmmm...I don't really have a re-read list of books but I usually buy books that I will re-read so one would be Harry Potter series.

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