Book Review: Kill the Boy Band

Book Review: Kill the Boy BandKill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That's why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him-his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear. From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make-or break-the people we call "celebrities."

This is one of those books I wanted to like so much. When I heard about it, I was super excited, but the reality is the book just doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s highly problematic.

Before I truly dive into what I had issues with, I want to mention that Moldavsky does weave an interesting murder-mystery tale. I was intrigued by the basic plot and it held my attention enough to finish the book. However, whatever potential it had was lost in passages that upset me.

I’m not going to go into the fat shaming because Sarah over at Women Write About Comics did a good job of that already. Anything I would have pointed out, she already has. I will admit that the tackle scene did not bother me as much as everyone else. Mainly, it’s because by this point, I was already outraged by the fandom passages, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, the passage that did get me was this:

Her appearance was one of Apple’s main hang-ups. That was what she saw in the mirror everyday and the conclusion she always jump to when things didn’t go right in her life. And, I’m certain, it was always a reason she chose Rupert P. —-  out of all the Ruperts —to love the most. I had a theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band has a lot about a person…..I think April loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.

I think that boy bands don’t worry about having a snaggle-tooth of an ugly member in their otherwise perfect row of teeth — boys — because they know that there are girls like Apple out there. Girls who really don’t like themselves enough to aim higher.  (p 82-83)

No, just no. No. No. No. And I know, there’s a spark to truth in girls thinking they can’t aim higher, but this is because society continuously tells girls like Apple they’re not good enough. Can we please just stop pushing this ideology? Please and thank you.

All right, so fat shaming. Check. Making fandoms look like crazies? HUGE CHECK. I’ll be honest, this is where the book lost me. I know people will come at me and say BUT IT’S A SATIRE, but it didn’t work well as one for me. There are too many moments that speak of reality and what is actually happening in the world of social media that are quite scary. For example, threatening tweets. Here’s the passage about the type of things that Isabel sends:

Isabel’s infamous tweets range from the cartoonish and impossible:

I’m going to pull ur tongue out of ur mouth wrap it around ur neck n strangle u w it so hard ur eyes will pop out. i will pee in the sockets.

To the quaint:

get your funcking hands off him bitch I will cut u. # RupertLIsMine  (knife emojis)

To the cryptically disturbing:

I watch u in ur sleep. (p 24-25)

To me, these are too real. I know people who get tweets like this–or worse. There is nothing funny about them. It’s scary and disturbing and wrong. I suppose if you didn’t know social media well enough you would think they were over the top, but they’re not and they’re many people’s reality. And while the main character does seem to condemn those tweets, that type of attitude is basically what Isabel is all about.

The picture of fandoms that Moldavsky paints wildly varies depending on where you are in the book. At one point we get this

There was no point being a fan these days if you weren’t willing to go the extra mile for your idols. It wasn’t enough anymore to send them fanmail and kiss the posters above our beds. These days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars. The fandom landscape was peppered with land mines, and there was no other way to navigate it but to walk until you hit one. You come out the other side a little crazier, yeah, but you’re also stronger. You are a true believer. You’ll do anything for the object of your affection. (p 32)

And then no more than 30 pages later we get this

Other people may have seen fangirls as crazy teenage girls obsessed with a fad, but they couldn’t understand the small but important joy you can get from indulging in these fandoms. They didn’t understand that a new gif of Rupert K. grinning at you could be the difference between a crap day and a beautiful one. They didn’t get the friendship that forms, the community of people who shared in your same joy. Maybe it was obsession, but it was also happiness; an escape from the suckiness of everyday life.  (pg 63)

So, which is it? Are they crazy obsessed teenagers or just a community that finds joy together? I suppose you could argue for both, but that second quote? Man, that’s what fandom is all about. That quote really hits at the heart of what they are and why people love and cling to them. When I saw that passage, I had hope that Moldavsky was going to give me something good. Instead, she goes back to painting them all as crazy. In fact, when a plea is sent out to the fangirls by one of the Ruperts to help find the missing Rupert, the girls start climbing the scaffold and busting into the hotel. I suppose you could argue that the over-the-top is where the whole satire/humor comes in, but to me, it felt more like shaming than anything else.

There are many other passages that I could point out and use, but I fear they would make this review even longer than it is. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other issues with race, sexual assault, and homophobia that are being pushed aside because it’s a “satire”. I know this will be a controversial review, but I just can’t support or recommend a book that is this problematic.

Final Verdict: Kill the Boy Band tried, oh did it try, but sadly it failed miserably in my eyes.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1

Okay, I’ve challenged myself to read a book-a-day this month. Each week I’ll do a post on what I’ve read. I figured it’s a way to keep me honest and share my thoughts in a quick style.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton
Release Date: July 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 256
Source: Library

A spine-tingling collection of ghost stories! When a boy finds himself drawn into an empty house one cold night, he enters a room in which twelve unusual-looking people sit around a table. And the thirteenth chair is pulled out for him. One by one, each of those assembled tells their own ghost story: tales of doom and death; of ghostly creatures and malevolent spirits; of revenge and reward. It is only at the end of the night that the boy starts to understand what story he must tell . . .

None of the short stories are super creepy, but most of them are a fun read. This is a great one for those in 5th – 8th grade, especially if they love Goosebumps. The end is a bit open ended and it would be an interesting discussion to see what teens thought happened to Jack at the end.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1FLAWD by Emily-Anne Rigal Jeanne Demers
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher

When you look in the mirror and only see your flaws, it can be hard to be your best self.   FLAWD is your new cheerleader—an energetic guide to seeing your flaws as the doorway to something more.

Through dynamic stories and advice from teens and celebrities around the world, FLAWD will help you to: ·       SEE yourself as perfectly imperfect. ·       TREAT life as playfully as possible. ·       THINK about what really matters. ·       EMBRACE all that makes you, YOU. ·       UNDERSTAND influence and how to use it. ·       KNOW you can be part of a flawd and powerful transformation.   Even though we exist in a culture that thrives on bullying us into believing we're never good enough as we are, FLAWD affirms that you are good enough, ready enough and important enough to be a flawd light in the world.   Are you ready to become fearless with your flaws and change the world by being yourself? Then FLAWD is the book for you.

“Not only does Emily-Anne have strong convictions and a beautiful soul, but she has taken action against bullying. Her actions have had such an immediate and enormous impact on the world already.” —Lady Gaga

From the Trade Paperback edition.

This one was so-so for me. It had some fundamentally good advice, but none of it really clicked for me. I like my advice/self-help/esteem booster books to be one where I’m constantly marking pages. I have a few spots I marked, but not a lot. I’m not sure if this is one of those miss the marks because I’m an adult or one that just really missed the mark period.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1If You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Pages: 240
Source: Library

After a car crash steals the lives of two people they love, Becca and Johnny become obsessed with a common cause. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this. As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other. Or so they think. In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they’ve come to believe about the crash. The question is: will they learn the truth before it’s too late? No, the question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

I wanted to love this book so much, but couldn’t. I’m going to do a longer review on this later this week, but the amount of passages I marked for being problematic bothered me. It was a fast-paced read that I would have easily given to reluctant readers had it not caused me to be so grumbly.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: The Scorpion Rules #1
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 384
Source: Library

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

I love, love, LOVE the concept of this book. I’ve noticed this one is a hit or miss for most people. I’m still not sure where I stand on it yet. The plot I loved, but there’s something about the relationships that is nagging me. I want to do a longer of this one, but I’m waiting for one of my friends to read it first and hash out what I’m feeling with her. I also want to go back and read some of the passages to see if I can get a firmer grip on why they bother me. It’s still one I recommend checking out, even with the possible problematic bits.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 2 (manga) by Satoshi Wagahara
Series: The Devil is a Part-Timer #2
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Old Friends, new enemies! In the Sasazuka neighborhood of the Shibuya district of Tokyo, newly minted part-time burger-flipper and former Devil King Satan (now known as Sadao Maou) clashes with Lucifer, a fallen angel who used to serve him! But how will the onetime king deal with his rival now that his magic power's run dry? Now that the devil is one of us, he's going to have to get creative!

I didn’t love this vol as much as vol 1. There’s a lot of new characters and it’s a little hard to keep track of them all. However, I still love the premise of the Devil King Satan becoming a good guy basically because he lost his powers and feel in love with the human world. This whole questioning what is evil and what is not and if there can be a grey area is fun. So, while this one wasn’t as fun as the first one, I’m still highly interested to see where the series goes.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
Series: Tokyo Ghoul #2
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Unable to discard his humanity but equally unable to suppress his Ghoul hunger, Ken finds salvation in the kindness of friendly Ghouls who teach him how to pass as human and eat flesh humanely. But recent upheavals in Ghoul society attract the police like wolves to prey, and they don’t discriminate between conscientious and monstrous Ghouls.

This is easily becoming one of my favorite mangas. I know vol 2 may be a little early to say that, but man, I am loving it so far. This was was less gory by far than the first one. To me this is neither good nor bad, but I know some people had a bit of trouble with the goriness of the first one. This is another manga that is pushing what is good/what is bad lines. With Keneki being both ghoul and human now, he doesn’t know quite where to put his alliance. It’ll be interesting to see how he changes as the series continues.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1First Love Monster by Akira Hiyoshimaru
Series: First Love Monster #2
Release Date: October 27th 2015
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Kaho isn't a thing. You can't treat girls like objects. Although high schooler Kaho and fifth grader Kanade have started dating, Kaho is constantly at the mercy of Kanade's childish whims. And when a mysterious hottie with a Kansai accent--whom Kanade happens to call "Aniki"--arrives, will unimaginable trials await the couple's blossoming love?! A fast-paced super-love comedy filled with madcap heart-throbbing mayhem!

This manga is just….weird. I just don’t know how to feel about it. I mean, it’s a high schooler dating a 5th grader, which just ew. However, I love the innocent sweetness  of exploring your first love time thing. There’s absolutely nothing “more” happening (even though she thinks it’s coming at some points), but it’s still just a bit creepy. I’ll give this one a vol or two more before I abandon it completely.


Book Review: You Are Not Here

Book Review: You Are Not HereYou Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz
Release Date: October 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

A startling novel about love and grief from the author of the acclaimed memoir I Don't Want to Be Crazy. Annaleah and Brian shared something special - Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn't need anyone else. It didn't matter that their relationship was secret. All that mattered was what they had with each other. And then, out of nowhere, Brian dies. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely. How can you recover from a loss that no one will let you have?

On the surface You Are Not Here is merely another verse novel about death. Girl loves boy. Boy dies. Girl grieves, letting her own life disappear with his. The story is hardly new nor groundbreaking. Death and grieving is a common and slightly overused thread among the YA world.

However, go deeper and the real story begins to appear. A story of an instant connection, a secret love, and a world that is all theirs. However, when Brian dies suddenly of a heart condition, she learns that that secret bubble they created comes at a price. She realizes that she barely knew anything about him. Even worse, she’s not sure if they were really boyfriend/girlfriend or if anyone in his everyday life knew about her. A fact that forces Annaleah to remain an unknown face among the sea of his family and friends; forcing her to grieve alone and question every aspect of their relationship. She’ll have to decide if holding onto that love is worth losing everything else along the way.

While Schutz does a good job of revealing Annaleah and Brian’s story by alternating between past and present, I’m not sure I ever formed a deep connection with Annaleah. I understood what made her tick, but I still wanted to shake some sense into her. While there some sweet moments between them, it was overshadowed by the games he played and how he kept her at arm’s length. He was a jerk, a player, and mainly kept her around as a booty call. Instead of kicking him to the curb, she waited for him to call and deem her worthy of his attention. Even after his death, she is willing to throw away friends who truly care about her and while she does redeem herself in the end, it felt a little too late for me.

Teens, on the other hand, will enjoy the fast paced verse. The story is compelling and will hold their attention with ease. You Are Not Here will be well loved by those who have experienced their own loss due to death or enjoy the true-to-life stories. While not as gritty as Hopkins, this is still a nice recommendations for her fans. I would also suggest Twenty Boy Summer and I Heart You, You Haunt Me as good read-a-likes.

Note: This was my first book read from my Off The Bookshelf Challenge.  I did overall like You Are Not Here, but I will pass this one on to my teens. It’ll be a nice addition to my summer reading free book selection and I know a teen will enjoy/appreciate it even more than I did.

Book Spotlight: Skeleton Creek

Book Spotlight: Skeleton CreekSkeleton Creek by Patrick Carman
Release Date: Feb 2009
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 240
Source: Library

The first book in the breakthrough series from bestselling author Patrick Carman, featuring text and technology in an innovative new way. Strange things are happening in Skeleton Creek . . . and Ryan and Sarah are trying to get to the heart of it. But after an eerie accident leaves Ryan housebound and forbidden to see Sarah, their investigation takes two tracks: Ryan records everything in his journal, while Sarah uses her videocam to search things out. . .and then email the clips for Ryan to see. In a new, groundbreaking format, the story is broken into two parts -- Ryan's text in the book, and Sarah's videos on a special website, with links and passwords given throughout the book.

After 6 days of school visits with 800 teens this was hands down the favorite. As a non-traditional book I don’t think this book gets a lot of push among libraries, which is a shame. Carman has created a fun interactive book that is sure to get even the most reluctant readers excited. Part journal (Ryan) and part videos (Sarah) this book has that spooky element that my kids love.

I did show one of Sarah’s videos (password: theraven, jump about half way through) during the visits, which was truly sold the book. The room erupted in talk once it was finished and they begged me to show it again, especially the boys. It was fun to see the teens get so excited and walk out talking about it as they headed back to classes(even when it was the first book talked about). In fact, they were so excited about this book that both school librarians had to go and buy it afterwards for their library so the teens could check it out next year. (End of the year = school library closed) I’ve even been told that several have already come into the public library asking to check it out.

While Skeleton Creek was the top favorite, there were several other that stood out among the 20 different books I book talked. They were: Divergent, Blood Red Road, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets, Meanwhile, and True Meaning of Smekday. If anyone would like to know more about those books, just leave a comment and I’ll cover them on Thursday!

Book Review: Prom and Prejudice

Book Review: Prom and PrejudiceProm and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Release Date: Jan. 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher

Lizzie Bennet is attending Longbourn Academy, a top boarding school, on scholarship. Normally, this would be a good thing...if only the scholarship kids weren't hated so much. Add on that Lizzie is also the "new" kid and her life is complete hell. While the other girls become obsessed over prom, designer dresses, and the prefect date, Lizzie tries to keep her focus on school and her part-time job. That is until Will Darcy,who has just returned from his semester abroad in London, enters her life. Handsome Darcy, who Lizzie is drawn to, until she learns he's as snobby and pretentious as the other rich kids; the ones who think her lack of money makes her beneath them. Can Lizzie look beyond a bad impression and found her perfect match? Or will her pride keep her from discovering love?

The Short of It: Very cute. Eulburg does a fantastic job of retelling a classic while adding her own twists. Adaptations can be hit or miss, but this one got it just right.

Plot: It’s no secret that I’m a Jane Austen freak, so to say I was a bit nervous picking up this one is a bit of an understatement. Surely, this could not compare to the original and leave me sorely disappointed, right? Wrong, oh so wrong. Eulburg takes the beloved favorites like Darcy, Lizzie, Bingley, and Jane and transports them into the present. Yes, there is a bit of predictability in that you know Lizzie and Darcy will end up together, but journey is not quite the same. There is definitely echoes of the original story, but Eulburg adds in her own twist and turns and slowly makes it her own.

The only thing that nagged me a bit was the prom emphasis felt a bit out of place. I know that it was the big to-do at the school, but really wasn’t for Lizzie. She was more worried about surviving the year rather than what shoes to wear. I know for some of the secondary characters the prom fueled their motivations, but it wasn’t the meat and the bone of the story. With the title, cover, and even had it opened I thought it would play out much differently than it did. Although, while misleading, I am glad that Eulburg shaped it the way she did.

Characters: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I took an instant liking to Darcy while I wanted to kick Lizzie out of a window a couple of times. Talk about your role reversals. Lizzie jumped to conclusions and was slow to forgive mistakes. I hated how she was unwilling to give Darcy a second chance even though he repeatedly tried to show he was a good guy. She refuses to drop her rich = snobby belief. I understand the girls at school, except Jane, treat her awful, but Darcy missteps are not in the same ballpark. I do like that she is big enough to admit when she is wrong though!

Now that said, Darcy is not without his faults. He does snap judge himself, but he does try to make amends even before he knows how the girls have been treating her. But don’t worry, he still kind of has that haughty I’m better than you attitude, however, his good guyness shines more often than not. Honestly, I may have loved him even more than the Darcy; perhaps because he wasn’t as priggish and I felt as if he were someone I could be friends with. I will say that he has to be my favorite character in Eulburg’s story.

Romance: As with the original, there is a lot of push and pull to the romance. Okay, mainly push. Lizzie’s first meeting with Darcy didn’t exactly go swimmingly and her distrust only grows from there. Darcy tries to show he is interested again and again, but her distrust and self-doubt get in the way. However, even during all this, you know they both really like each other. And despite it all, they really do work together and make a cute couple. I just wish they could have made it work a little sooner.

Writing: This area is pretty straightforward for me. Eulburg delivers a tightly written that delivered almost from page one. I rarely finish books in one sitting, but this was one I kept doing the “one more chapter” thing with until I was complete. The only thing that felt slightly out of place was the opening with the prom scene, but again I think that goes back to my whole prom emphasis point from earlier.

Librarian-Mode: I really do think that Pride and Prejudice/Austen lovers will enjoy this adaption, however, this would also make a good pairing with Anna and the French Kiss and Karma Club. If you want to pair it with other classic adaptations, be sure to look into Prada and Prejudice and Jane.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read Prom and Prejudice? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.