Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shoulder the Sky Review

Lesley Choyce’s Shoulder the Sky is a young adult novel that gives an honest depiction of a teenager’s grief after the loss of his mother. Martin Emerson’s mother painted pictures no one understood and wanted to drive to Alaska. Then she died, and her son is now seen to be acting too “normal” considering the circumstances. He continues to be the “intellectual snot” loner that he always has been.
The novel is fast paced with mostly dialogue, and includes themes of death, life, rebellion, and sex, and is set in a contemporary Canada. As the concept that every person has website or blog is now commonplace, it is easy to understand that Martin uses this outlet to rant about the world, and it is identifiable to most people. The articles that he posts, that are included in the book by separating clouds with thunderbolts, include topics that range from Salvador Dali, Hieronymus Bosch, Jules Verne, Immanuel Kant, Herodotus, and Nietzsche. It is possible that a young adult audience would not be familiar with these concepts, and it may, as it did to me when I read this in the eleventh grade, interest the reader into researching the people or topics that are discussed.
While I read this book in the eleventh grade, there is nothing that would hinder, perhaps, a ninth or tenth grade student to read this novel. While it does speak about sex, it is more about the protagonists lack of interest in sex. The only negative I can say about this book is that it has an awful cover of a boy glowering back at you, arms crossed and smug, and it is not at all what I picture Martin to look like. If a reader enjoys reading books that are “sad” in nature, I would highly recommend this. 5/5 
(The Review ends here. Following is something that I want to say about the cover. I don't know why, but I always seem to be thinking about how things are marketed to audiences. This novel is for a Young Adult Audience. The protagonist is an "intellectual snot" that doesn't really fit in. The man on the cover just irks me. When I first saw this book, I was actually looking at the book from the back description, as it was laying on a table in a classroom for anyone to take. I began to read it and was intrigued. When I looked at the cover I was horrified. He doesn't depict the character at all. In fact, he reminds me of this young man I used to have painting lessons with. I think his name was Stephen, but honestly, I've tried to forget him. He was the kind of guy who pretended to know everything by saying whatever nasty thing came into his mind about whatever you were speaking of. If you said your couch was red, he would say it was brown, even though he never saw your couch in his life, then, he would make fun of your couch, and you. The pasty-yellow guy all dressed in black with one eye brow raised like he's a diabolical genius doesn't fit on the cover. Period.)     

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Catcher in the Rye Reflection (small spoilers)

Today I read, in one day, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I have to say, this is a book that everyone kept telling me to read in high school. When I would tell teachers that I hadn't read it, all I would hear is "Are you sure? Salinger. You must have. Holden Claufield. Ducks." I heard from so many people that I would just love him because he is a cynic, like my (embarrassingly) teen-aged self. Unfortunately, I read it now, not as a teenager, and I thought all the hype of the book was true. I was expecting way too much. And for all the people who said I would identify with him because he’s a cynic...yeah, thanks.

I know some people hate Holden, calling him whiny and such. Some people love him, calling him delightfully cynical. I didn’t find him to be either of these things. I found him to hate everything in general, sometimes without giving the world the benefit of the doubt before he judged them. I understand though, his harsh judgment on people whom he sees as “phony.” He doesn’t want to be in school, and it can be interpreted that he is being true to himself when he doesn’t apply himself. I get it, what's the point? right.  

The story, to me, is about the transition into adulthood wherein you begin to start making decisions for yourself and you are held accountable for your actions. He needs to figure out what he wants to do with his life. I was in my third year of my undergrad when I decided what I wanted to do after I obtained my undergraduate degree. What I can distinguish is the way that he handles his uncertainty. Leaving school early and living in sleezy motels and drinking is not the best way to deal with your problems. He begins to fantasize about leaving society and living in a cabin in the woods and never speaking to people again.    

While I did enjoy his digressions, I found that the story was just him...doing stuff. And remembering stuff. Some of it was not exactly fascinating to me. But the digressions were the most interesting part of the novel, and he does say, on page 183 of my edition, that he likes digressions as well.

My thinking, at this point in time (which I may change in the future) is that young adults or teenagers may enjoy this novel for the often “taboo” subjects that arise and the censorship and hype that accompany it (such as the shooter of John Lennon being obsessed with the novel). It is also interesting to note that Holden himself is a virgin in the novel, so even his own sexuality is being discovered, which may appeal to YA readers. It is a novel of teenaged-angst and general disgust with the world, and how the narrator identifies himself in that world, that can be identifiable to YA readers.      

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Week 2 "Library/bookstore visit"

"Visit a library or a bookstore before this week’s class. Make note of your observations for your blog postings and be prepared to discuss further in class."
I'm not sure excatly what I was supposed to be observing, but I did notice a few things that I would like to write about here. If I am completely off course, let me know. I read the “Teenagers Talking about Reading and Libraries” studies right before I went. 
Perhaps lead on by the study, I mostly noticed how some books are displayed and categorized in bookstores. And I have to say, most "big"/commercial bookstores are the same. Perhaps I don't know better, but marketing seems to be the reasoning behind categorizing the sections of books, not that it is a bad thing, mind you. But sometimes marketing doesn't make much sense. I always remember from my Children's Literature class from my undergraduate English degree. Most of the "children's books" that we studied were too complex for the marketed 8-12 year old range. Why were they marketed as children's literature? Because their protagonists were children. Lyra from Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy is 12, and I’ve never encountered the books for that trilogy outside of the children’s department. If I had read that trilogy when I was 12, the “real world” religious context would have been lost on me. I read them two years ago for the first time and they blew my mind.  
In one of the “big” bookstores, I asked an employee what guidelines are used to categorize books. All I got was a “head-office says so” type of mumble. I wanted to say that I wasn't done questioning him, but a tiny part of my brain knows that it is inappropriate to torment other human beings, for my personal amusement or for my academic blogging.  I was hoping that he would have offered to get the manager for me, but it never came up and he shuffled away.  
I noticed in used bookstores they had different ways of organizing and categorizing books. Sometimes they seem to be in some semblance of alphabetical order. I have, in the past, been in really unorganized used bookstores where books were just piled up on the shelves. Nothing really stood out today as being fantastically categorized or abnormally bad. For used books they must have to use their own subjective judgement. In “big” bookstores, I would like to know how much of their own judgement is involved in categorizing their books. I tried to get my little sister some books one Christmas when she was 8, and the bookstore in the city I was living in, a “big” bookstore, had what I considered to be baby books section, then a “12 year to-” ( I can’t recall what the age went to). But where does she fall into? I bought her two books, one was “too hard” (perfectly fine) and the other, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, which she liked.

LIS 9364

This blog will now be used for LIS 9364, Young Adult Materials. The previous posts were saved and will be re-posted....eventually.