young adult book review for adaptation by malinda lo

Magan: Adaptation by Malinda Lo

young adult book review for adaptation by malinda loAdaptation by Malinda Lo
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 400
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: conspiracy theories, political unrest, sci-fi and paranormal, sexuality, LGBT
Format read: Hardback received from the publisher. (Thank you!)

Summary: After a freak car accident involving a bird, Reese and David awake from comas in a secret facility, where they’ve been treated for nearly a month. Upon their release, they have no recollection of what happened to them during that time and aren’t allowed to speak to anyone about what they’ve been through.

A story that involves secrecy and conspiracy theories? Sign me up.

Adaptation takes us on a wild ride as we try to piece together what happened to Reese and David after they get in a car accident involving a bird with glowing eyes: Where were they taken? What procedures were done on them? What in the heck happened to them in that facility?

Adaptation drew me in because I wanted to know the truth. I needed answers. Bird attacks have taken down countless planes across the United States and the government seems to be trying to cover up something. Reese believes it’s no coincidence that her last memory before the accident was a bird flying into the headlights of the car she was driving. While I was completely entranced leading up to the accident, my focus was a bit lost after they returned home to San Francisco.

The first 100 pages of Adaptation were strong and fast-paced; I felt connected to Reese and understood the chaos and panic that was overtaking the U.S. It was after this point, when David and Reese are released to go home from the facility, that I felt the story navigated away from its original purpose and became something else. Reese was never a girl who was interested in having a serious relationship — due to her father’s playboy-ish ways, she’s decided to distance herself from dating. When she returns home, she collides (literally) with a girl named Amber on the streets and a relationship quickly blossoms.

This is where I felt the story changed direction. Reese is trying to figure out who she is and is a bit confused by her sudden attraction to a girl. At least a quarter (if not a little more) of the book was dedicated to Reese’s sexuality. While I did enjoy this part of the book, I felt like I was left hanging and very little was progressing with what drew me into the story: what happened to Reese and David. I would have liked to have seen these two stories collide and more of David thrown into the mix to make Reese’s later confused emotions make more sense. (David was a character I wish had been more developed overall; for an event that happened to two people, the focus was primarily on Reese, leaving David very one dimensional.) While later the stories blended together, I felt much more dedicated to the beginning and end of the story.

Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying – I do understand Reese’s questioning of her sexuality and how a teenager can put everything else aside to chase after love. (Raise your hand if you’ve done this.) I am not discounting the impact or influence Lo will have; I believe it will speak volumes to those questioning or seeking to understand their sexuality and it will resonate with those who have been there. I simply hoped that Reese had been more driven to find out answers about what happened to her. Adaptation would have been more impactful if Lo had fused the sci-fi beginning and end with the very contemporary, explorative middle.

Despite my drawbacks, Lo successfully left me aching to know what happens to her characters. The blending of paranormal elements and conspiracy theories was incredibly intriguing. Pieces of the story felt so real to me that I couldn’t help but be wary of flocks of birds when I saw them. I have no idea what will happen next for Reese, but I am very anxious to see what Lo has in store for us.

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Estelle: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills
Publication Date: October 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 288
Target audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: music, LGBT, bullying, life after high school, acceptance, radio, Elvis
Format read: eBook from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Gabe is so looking forward to the end of high school and starting fresh. He recently came out to his parents as transgendered and is slowly trying to make his way in the world, one song on the radio at a time.

“Maybe there will be a day when this shit will be over and I can just be a dude with normal regular stuff in his life.” – Gabe

Many of us can agree that music can be a haven, a safe place.

For Gabe, who was born Liz, working the late shift at a public access radio station is a place where he can be himself — sharing the music with a small group of people who are just about as passionate about music and its history as he is. John, Gabe’s next door “grandfather-figure” neighbor, has hooked him up with this gig and also serves as his music guru; the two staying up all hours of the night sifting through his extensive vinyl collection like little kids. Gabe’s on-air discussion of our “A-side/B-sides” becomes a theme woven through the entire story; a theme that is not only true to his whole being, but one that also manages to connect us all.

I applaud Cronn-Mills for welcoming us into Gabe’s story, post-coming out. I thought that was a fresh and bold choice. It’s not surprising that his parents cannot bring themselves to fully accept who their daughter really is. Gabe just wants them to be able to look him in the eye but it is understandably tough and the depiction of their behavior and distance was never over the top, did not monopolize the plot of the book… it was just naturally there. (In many situations, Gabe proves to be impressingly patient, knowing that what he is going through can be difficult and confusing to those around him.)

While Gabe is supported by both his best friend, Paige, and mentor John, he knows that not everyone is going to accept him. He can’t wait to escape his town, move to the city, and work for a radio station. When a contest opportunity pops up (or, rather, John enrolls him), Gabe sees his ticket to the future and even participates under the name Gabe. At the same time, his following is growing on the radio (there’s even a Facebook group!) and a girl he knows from school begins calling in and suggests meeting.

This is where we have a problem. Because 1) Gabe is in love with Paige. This was heartbreakingly sweet for me. They two had such amazing chemistry and I just never knew if it would work. The second problem was that everyone in school thought Gabe was Liz, including his date and he wasn’t sure if agreeing to meet her would blow up in his face. (Whew!) Teenagers worry about dates all the time but it seemed like Gabe always had to triple worry because of other people’s judgements and unwillingness to accept him for who he was. I could tell it was exhausting but it never brought Gabe down.

I’ve read many LBGT books this year, and Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is a moving story full of the ups and downs of life, totally magnified. Each chapter begins with clever quips pertaining to Elvis (i.e. “Harry Potter is the new Elvis because they’re both magic”) and the music knowledge seeping from the book was so impressive (the research must have been extensive!). The music genres featured were so vast that I really wish I had a playlist handy to listen to while Gabe worked his own magic.

I really liked how the author was not focusing on some horrific event and how it affected this character and focused more of an every day account and how certain circumstances affected his thought process, decision making, and also the leaps Gabe had to take to be the person who always knew he was. I really felt for him in his struggles. (And really wanted the boys who were threatening him to be exiled to another planet for their smallmindness and insecurities.) I came to care for him so much, enjoy his humor, and just wish the best for him.

BMFUG is one of those books I wish could’ve gone on forever. It has engaging characters, sheds lights on a subject that is not brought to the forefront enough, and also illustrates the varying degrees of acceptance in this world — our own and the people around us.

Here’s hoping you take a chance on Gabe too. 

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Estelle: Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble

Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble [ twitter | website ]
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 288
Target: Young adult for mature audiences / Adult fiction
Format read: Paperback borrowed from library
How I heard about it: The fabulous BookChic!

Summary: A lot has happened during Nate and Adam’s short relationship — there’s the bullying at school that escalates into raw humiliation, the acceptance of their parents (or lack there of), and the upcoming challenges of maintaining their closeness when Adam gets a theater job in New York. Even though Nate convinces him to take it while he remains in Texas, jealousy and backlash from Nate’s honest blog and new attitude in school soon come between the two and manage to make them feel even farther apart.

The same day I finished reading this novel, I found myself sitting in the diner with two of my best friend and my husband. I was having a great time but I couldn’t stop thinking about Nate and Adam, the main characters from Don’t Let Me Go. This is all thanks to the remarkable debut novel by J.H. Trumble. She has created characters and a plotline that was so honest and real, it was like I knew these characters personally. Like they were two people I knew in high school.

From page 1, I was completely invested in this story. I know that’s true because I didn’t always like what Nate had to say or the actions he took. I loved him, he annoyed me, and he frustrated me just like any other human in my life. And I don’t blame him. Ever since he decided to come out to his high school, his dad has basically abandoned him, he was brutalized by his peers, and later forced to share the most intimate details of that assault and the relationship with his boyfriend, Adam, during a very public trial. All of this, indeed, would affect a person in a huge way.

This leads us to an epic and imperfect love story. In my mind, that is the best kind. Because it’s authentic. Love is never easy. Love is not without challenge. And we see the inner workings of a deep relationship from the get-go. The most intimate of details and moments are shared, and I felt like I was experiencing their relationship right alongside them. (And reliving the doubts and jealousy I once faced when I was in my own long-distance relationship.)

Don’t Let Me Go isn’t just a romantic love story. Its strength also lies in the friendships. Nate’s friendship with Danial (they have this unreal chemistry) and also Nate’s unhealthy need to help out Luke, a boy who is in the closet but looks to Nate like he is a god. This novel never feels like one character or plotline is getting ignored. Nothing feels under developed and that is a true feat because much goes on, as the time shifts (seamlessly) from past to present.

 This book is every reader’s dream. I felt I was given the ability to create my own relationship with these characters, as well as take something from their challenges, their failures, and their triumphs. I was outwardly yelling at the book near the end like I could make a significant difference in the last couple of pages. The ending could have gone several ways but I think Trumble did a stellar job of wrapping up this heavy, multi-layered story.

 Is it time for me to stop gushing yet? Don’t Let Me Go is an experience. It is hands down the best book I have read so far in 2012, and probably in my top 5 since I started reading like a maniac last year. I guarantee it is going to take a long time before I feel this strongly about another novel. Stop what you are doing and go read it now.

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