Category Archives: YA Fiction

Conrad’s Mind Candy A Sugary Surprise

There are times when I can be a book snob. Anne Rice, Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling are the last authors I can remember whose series I followed faithfully.

And with regards to YA fiction, well, it’s a bit dated.

But I was a faithful fan of “Laguna Beach,” “The Hills” and “The City,” so when Lauren Conrad announced she was writing a YA series based on her show, I rolled my eyes and told my friends I wouldn’t follow Lauren into Literaryland.

Until my local bookstore had the LA Candy series on sale and I decided that spending around $10 for three books wouldn’t be too much of waste.

The reviews on Goodreads were mixed but fair, so I kept my expectations low.

Jane Roberts (Lauren) and her bestfriend/roommate Scarlet Harp (Lo) move to Los Angeles and are chosen to start in a new reality show called “LA Candy.”  The show follows Jane as an intern at event planner Fiona Chen’s (Lisa Love) company where she meets Hannah (Whitney) and the two forge a friendship.

Scarlet, the brains of the group, teeters on rather being on the show was a good idea as their profiles rise. Jane’s castmate Madison (Heidi) gets jealous when she realizes that Jane is the breakout star and decides to ruin her reputation through gossip magazines. And then there’s the ditzy Gaby (Audrina), who becomes the witless sidekick to Madison’s schemes.

Remember when Heidi and Spencer said Lauren and Jason had a sex tape? Yeah, this is that.

By no means is LA Candy as stretch to the imagination for Conrad or her readers. There are some name changes and plot twist, but you could read this book along side the show and never miss a beat.

To her credit, the pacing is good and Conrad gives readers an inside look at how a reality television show works. The hours are long and casts are basically blocked off from the real world to those who have only signed release forms.

In this midst of writing my thesis and reading high modernism for class, this was a breath of fresh air and a much needed mind break. Or dare I say, mind candy?

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On The Pulse of YA Fiction

Back in my middle school days, I had a healthy obsession with book series. Between The Babysitters Club and Nancy Drew, I was a budding book stalker of the Scholastic book fair [blink three times if you remember those days].

I would always get two Scholastic order books, one for under my pillow which I would treat like purloined porn. Every minute I would pull the order form out, turn the pages and circle the books I planned on buying with the money I’d earn from running errands for my Granny.

Carefully reading the premises and calculating the cost, my 6th grade mind would race on rather I’d made the right decision. The second copy would be my official order form which I kept in pristine condition in my TraperKeeper. While everyone else worried about a pen or stickers, my mind danced with all the books I would take home, read and display on my bookshelf. 

On the day of the book fair I would be almost nauseated with excitement. When would they call my class to the fair? Why couldn’t my mom – a teacher at my school – come get me? What if all the other kids bought all the books I wanted and there would be none left for me?

When it was finally my class’ turn, you could find me at the front of the line, sprinting for the library – my Garden of Eden.

During these books fairs I met and fell in love with Walter Dean Myers’ books. At that age – and sometimes now – his biggest selling point for me was the black faces on the book covers.

I had always grown up in a home where toys and books had black faces, but seeing them out in the public still made me happy.

Although he’s considered a young adult writer, I find myself revisiting Myers’ books for comfort and complex storytelling. The books may be for younger readers, but Myers’ tone nor subject matters suggest he does not understand what children have seen and experienced more than adults are willing to accept.

Fallen Angels has been listed ranked #16 of the American Library Association’s frequently challenged books. Taken place during the Vietnam War, the novel follows a group of men who have to fight in a war they do not understand for a country who still does not consider them an equal citizen all the while becoming the men their families hope they become. Racism, depression, death are portrayed with such compassion and understanding.

Writing about war can be tricky, but Myers focuses on each character’s personal relationship with being a solider rather than overarching themes of war. 

Directly after reading Fallen Angels I drove into The Glory Field, a novel I feel is an excellent introduction into talking about slavery and sets younger readers up to read Alex Haley’s Roots in the future.

In fact, I would say The Glory Field is the younger brother to Roots in that both books span the history of blacks pre-and post the Antebellum era. But where there is no central character to reflex in Roots, there’s one in The Glory Field. By it ending in the 1990s, younger readers can connect more with the idea of familial history and the shame sometimes associated with slavery.

Myers really foregrounds this idea that the older generations haven’t done enough to instill in their children cultural history. There is a disconnect between them wanting the younger generation to “do right” and their inability to verbalize these concerns and embody them.

Monster is by far, the most stylistic and heart-wrenching of the three listed. A young man is on trial for a murder he claims he did not commit. To cope with being on trial, the narrator documents everything happening to him in movie script style, making the narrative a face pace and engaging one.

If you’re thinking about teaching a YA book in a classroom, I would suggest this one because students can act this out and there are so many activities that can go along with it. Is he really guilty? Who’s telling the truth? What are our perceptions about our legal system? I was a freshmen in high school when I read this book and I remember being totally heartbroken by everyone’s resolve of his guilt.

The despair and helplessness teenagers feel is felt in every page. Myers is never preachy, you can tell he understands and cares for the the young adult perspective.

What YA book series where you fans of? If you’ve read Myers’ works, what are your favorites?

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