Highly Inappropriate Tales For Young People

*I received Highly Inappropriate Tales For Young People by Douglas Coupland and Graham Roumieu as a submission for the YABA

The title of the collection is definitely accurate, these are not tales for children! On the other hand I think select teens will find it pretty amusing. It’s hilarious in an absurd, disturbing kind of way. I adored the evil juice box, because the concept and the drawings were pure awesomeness. I was fascinated by the weird exchange student’s story. A couple stories were a bit nauseating, but I’m a wuss and I know others who would find them delightful.

This would make a great gift for the whimsical, dark-humoured person in your life. Take note of the people on the cover of the book, these are not characters in the book but hyperbole of people’s reactions to it.

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Accomplice

I received Accomplice by Valerie Sherrard as a submission from the publisher for the young adult book award.

This novel is borderline high/low with the vocabulary of an upper JR but YA level violence and mature subject matter. The diction is plain and unimaginative but the plot is well thought out.

The narrator’s experiences with drugs feels authentic and her ex-boyfriend’s controlling and abusive behaviour is in keeping with his unchecked addiction.The family and friends who disagree about how to deal with his addiction and crimes is convincing.

Even if you disagree with her choice to give him money for heroin, it’s hard not sympathize with her. Seeing him suffer in withdrawal and doing things he isn’t proud of as he tries to survive homelessness is heartbreaking given their history and she wants to believe him about rehab.

I expected more about the trial and her time in prison based on the title and synopsis but the story of how she was drawn into crime was a lot more compelling.

I don’t think this novel has enough style or oomph to win this award but I will be donating my copy to the Youth Junction and think that it’s a good influence for people who are in that crowd but not addicted themselves.

not so sweet XVI

XVII like conspiracy theories, I like dystopian settings, I like books about surviving complicated relationships. I think XVI by Julia Karr tries to push too many of each of these things into one novel.

“Nina Oberon’s life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she’ll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a “sex-teen” is Nina’s worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina’s mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past—one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother’s killer.”

The media only tells lies and brainwashes you, there’s human trafficking, objectification of women, a caste system, vaccination scams, corrupt officials….. the world of XVI is a really really really crappy one to live in. I think this is taken a bit too far. There’s dystopian, and then there’s every possible thing gone wrong. There’s a point where it just isn’t a believable world. Especially because it seems that every teen Nina meets is anti-government. If it was so simple to fall in with the rebel crowd there would be a revolution already under way.

Another major issue I have with the book is that I don’t understand how Dee can be ignorant of Ed beating Ginnie. Ginnie was in very rough shape pretty often from the sounds of it, and Dee is old enough that she would have noticed, even if she never witnessed the violence herself. 

Nina seems to feel she is protecting Dee by not telling her about Ed’s abusive relationship with her mother, the time he kidnapped her, or how he hurt her. This is ludicrous! If you want to protect your sister from her father, don’t tell her sweetly not to go anywhere alone with him. If she doesn’t know how evil he is, she will go with him, it’s her dad. Nina fails miserably as a guardian in this respect. Sheltering kids from what’s going on in the world, and especially their homes is no way to protect them. Kids who know about the dangers are the ones who are capable of avoiding them or dealing with them. If you shelter someone completely until they’re an adult, they aren’t prepared to be an adult and experience culture shock. If you tell your kids everyone is good and friendly they may make the mistake of getting in that strange van. Come on, Nina!

I thought that Nina had a lot more reason to like Derek then Sal. He was sweet and generous, and a good friend. She falls for Sal like the sex-teens she hates, almost entirely based on appearances. I didn’t feel the chemistry between them, and he gives her a gift that I can’t imagine a guy picking out (maybe a 10-year-old girl?).

What I did like:

  • The contrasting messages teens get from the society about sex is a subject that is worth writing about. Being pushed by advertising and peer pressure to be sexy, but pressured by parents, school and religion to be chaste.
  • Wei’s tattoo
  • it makes readers think about how the media influences them
  • it makes readers question the peer pressure race to have sex
  • it paid homage to classic books, although I think Brave New World should have been mentioned and I didn’t notice that.

Overall I’m afraid I was disappointed. It felt a bit clunky and forced.

Sisters Red Read

Sisters Red cover artWhat if little red riding hood was more like Buffy the Vampire slayer only slaying wolves instead of vampires? Jackson Pearce’s novel Sisters Red is a fabulous contemporary take on the classic fairy tale.

What you can expect from this book:

  • excellent characterization
  • gruesome battles
  • sisterly bonds
  • trapping of family business and the responsibility of knowledge
  • Werewolf mythology
  • Social commentary
    • about how people respond to the disabled and disfigured
    • about the dragonflies (club hopping young women with shiny clothes and little thought of consequences) of western culture
  • Love, & it’s power to motivate change in your life
  • People who never give up on those they care about
  • Creative Use of Plato’s theories
  • A predictable twist (sorry but I knew that was coming when I was barely into the book)
  • Fantabulous cover art- I mean seriously can I hang this on the wall, maybe frame it with Jackson Pearce’s next book’s cover?

If you’re a fan of the show Supernatural (I loved the first couple seasons) you will find that Sisters Red shares some plot lines. I coul hear “saving people, hunting thing, the family business” tagline in my mind as I read. Scarlett is like Dean-completely absorbed by life as a hunter, living for the kill. Whereas Rosie is like Sam and wants a chance at a normal life despite the knowledge of monsters.

Pearce did not choose character names arbitrarily. Aside from the fact that Scarlett and Rosie both have names deriving from shades of red (apropriate for the red riding hood story) each individual’s name is very fitting for their character.

SCARlett is a scarred character. She is physically marred and emotionally traumatized by the violence she experienced at a young age.

Rosie sees the world with rose coloured glasses. She’s an optomist, who believes there is more to life than revenge and work. She is the youthful rosie cheeked sister that is great bate for the wolves.

Silas means “man of the forest”, something his Pa would have named thinking he would keep up the family profession of being a woodsman. This name takes on more meaning later but I’ll try not to spoil things for you.

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