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December 17, 2014

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, a first novel by Isabel Quintero, is told in diary entries that include conversations, poems, and even a zine. High school senior Gabi Hernandez’s voice is lively and her life is full and complicated. She copes with her intense feelings about her identity and body and her chaotic family, first by binge eating and later, by reading and writing poetry. As an example of bibliotherapy, Gabi was many times more effective for this reviewer than Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar (Dutton Juvenile, 2014.) While Gabi has the right to be as dolorous as Belzhar’s Jam, this novel is buoyant where Belzhar was leaden. Gabi is a survivor who deals with her struggles with humor, enthusiasm, and joy. While her own character is the fulcrum of the story, Gabi‘s friends and family are vivid, infuriating, and entertaining. They include her friend, Sebastian, recently openly gay, her best friend Cindy, newly pregnant, her mother, also pregnant and controlling of Gabi’s behavior, her little brother, and her meth-addicted father.
This is also one of the few Young Adult novels that deals with weight and overeating in an authentic, empathetic, and sensitive way. Aside from Quintero’s thoughtful and enjoyable storytelling, the novel satisfies readers looking for diversity. Adolescence is the crucial stage of identity formation, and teens (and adults!) will relate to Mexican-American Gabi’s ambivalence about her mother’s traditional ways. Fans of the CW telenovela Jane the Virgin might be interested in this book.

Speaking of Jane the Virgin, star Gina Rodriguez just decided that she's a feminist! Information is powerful!

Posted by kathryn at 04:28 PM   VIEW FULL POST

November 18, 2014

Memoirs in Transition

Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill and Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews are two new YA memoirs by transgender teens, the former about the MTF experience and the latter about the FTM experience. They should be read as a companion piece, since the two teens were involved in a serious relationship and tell similar stories of brave advocates who grew up in Oklahoma. They have sad, but inspiring stories to share.

I like the term " memoir in transition, " which is the subtitle of Hill's book, because not only have the Hill and Andrews gone through a huge transition in gender and sex, but they are also in flux like all adolescents and their stories, individually and together, are constantly being written and rewritten.

The number of new LGBT books is exploding; it's overwhelming to keep up with them, actually, which is a great new experience. I think I've written before about Baby Be-Bop, Annie on My Mind and Am I Blue? being the only books in my childhood library. While diversity in teen literature and LGBT books has a long way to go, finally there are more books that reflect the underrepresented T in LGBT. Visibility is so important.

Readers might be interested to know that Hill's coauthor is the graphic novelist Ariel Schrag who published her first novel, Adam, this year.

Posted by kathryn at 04:56 PM   VIEW FULL POST

October 27, 2014

Sylvia Plath was never too good at math

Today is the birthday of Sylvia Plath. I heard this on the radio way too early this morning.

It took me by surprise, because I've been reading the strange Young Adult book Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. It's about trauma and bibliotherapy and the need to find community with other sufferers. And it's about a group of boarding school students reading The Bell Jar and Ariel. There's a Joy Division shirt on the cover of the book for the eagle eyed.

Listen to either Peter Laughner's original or Death of Samatha's cover of the song Sylvia Plath. It's a little sardonic, a little heartbreaking. You can also hear the poet herself reading her work and her voice isn't how you'd expect it to sound.

Posted by kathryn at 05:09 PM   VIEW FULL POST