Printz Award

I realized I never posted about the Printz Award and Honor Books!

The Printz Award:

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. From my review:Always, there is an Eric and a Merle; a hare and a loss; and the island of Blessed. These are the constants. What changes in the seven stories of Midwinterblood is the time, starting in the future, 2073, and going back in time again and again until the seventh story set in a time so far past it has no date. What changes are who, exactly, Eric and Merle are; and how they connect or don’t. On what is lost. And always there is the hare. What is happening? What is going on Blessed?

The Honor Books:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. From my review:A wonderful, enchanting story of two sixteen-year-olds falling in love.  When Eleanor and Park’s hands touch for the first time — when they realize that what they feel is reciprocated — as they try to work out their feelings for each other against a harsh background — oh, all the highs and lows and first love.”

The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal. From my review: “King Christian V and his French wife, Isabel, have produced over a half dozen children, securing the future of the country. The eldest, twelve year old Princess Sophia, is being married to Duke Magnus of Sweden, promising peace. It sounds just like a fairy tale! Except this is no fairy tale. The children are all sickly. Sophie dies in her marriage bed. Isabel, pregnant again, seems to be going mad. Christian is ill. And while the voices of the royals occasionally join in the telling, the true story of The Kingdom of Little Wounds is about two teenagers on the edges of the royal story, a servant, Ava Bingen, and a slave, Midi Sorte. . . . The Kingdom of Little Woods is not a quick read. It’s a dense, complicated book that plunges the reader into the story, into 1572, and the world of Skyggehaven. Isabel’s story, her marriage and children and unborn child, are important, yes, but — unlike many a fairy tale about a princess — the two strongest voices, the two stories most important to the reader, are those of Ava and Midi. Isabel’s story matters because of how it affects Ava and Midi.

MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch. From my review: “What is going on? It’s a bit of a puzzle for the reader to put together. There is the Motherland, it’s red and black flag. A war lost. A wall topped with glass. Mothers for Purity. Rewards for large families. And, finally, a date is given: Thursday, 19th July 1956. Maggot Moon is set in an alternate universe, in an alternate history, a timeline a wee bit different from our own. Standish’s country lost a war years and years ago; and now Standish lives in dystopian world. Standish is telling the story, in his own way, which means that it’s simply his story. There is little explanation or exposition. Instead, the reader can fill in the pieces, try to connect the dots, attempt to understand. Just from that, from how the story is told, is enough to see why this got a Printz nod.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool. The one book I haven’t yet read!


YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Winner

The winner for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults was announced at Midwinter!

YALSA 300x213 YALSA Nonfiction Award Shortlist

The winner:

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb. From my review: “In 1960, a group of Israeli spies and operatives captured the Nazi fugitive, Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann had been in charge of “Jewish affairs,” the head of operations for the Final Solution. In the chaos of the aftermath of World War II, he had disappeared. The Nazi Hunters traces the rumors of Eichmann being in Argentina; the steps to investigate whether the old man living in a small house is, indeed, the man responsible for the death of millions of men, women, and children. And, then, what was involved in Israel sending in a team to capture Eichmann and get him back to Israel for a trial.


Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. From my review: “A book about graphic design, designed in such a way to both show and tell what graphic design is. To be honest, the nonfiction titles on the YALSA Nonfiction Finalist that are about history are ones that I would want to read anyway. One thing I like about my self-imposed challenge to read all the titles on the list is it pushes me to read outside my typical scope of interests. GO is terrific. I love how Kidd both tells the reader what graphic design is, but also shows it, using pictures, fonts, and other design features.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler. From my review: “I was familiar with the general story of the Japanese American internment camps. Mostly, I admit, from a line or two in history class, and books and movies. Imprisoned shares all the details, the years of prejudices and fears that led to politicians and others believing, without any proof, that Japanese American citizens, of all ages, were a significant military threat justifying their imprisonment. And, because of the nature of the imprisonment, it was also the loss of property and homes and businesses that had to be left behind or sold at a loss; it was the nature of the imprisonment; the loss of freedom, the humiliation.”

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone. From my review: “During World War II, the US Armed Forces were segregated. This discrimination also included what roles African American men were, and weren’t, allowed. Combat? No. Cleaning? Yes. Courage Has No Color is the story of one group of men who challenged and helped change the status quo: the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the “Triple Nickles.” What is courage? What is strength? Perhaps it is being ready to fight for your nation even when your nation isn’t ready to fight for you.

The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson. From my review: The past November — the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK — I watched a lot of specials and documentaries about Kennedy, his life, his presidency, his death, the assassination, the aftermath. While “where were you when Kennedy was shot” is a defining question for the generation before mine, a moment of cultural unity, a loss of innocence. For the rest of us, it’s a story. A story known from fragments, here and there: a short home video; a handful of photographs; names and moments, recognized before they were understood or comprehended.



Flashback: April 2012

A look back at what I reviewed in April 2012: 

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin & Lisa Brown. From my review: “Jennie Lovell’s loved ones left to fight in the Civil War: her twin brother, Tobias; her fiance and cousin, Will Pritchett; and her other cousin, Quinn, Will’s brother. She knew the moment Toby died: could feel it. She never suspected Will’s death, not until a wounded Quinn came home and told them his brother Will had died. Jennie wishes she could feel Will’s presence the way she does Toby’s. Will’s grieving parents, Jennie’s Aunt and Uncle, seek out a photographer who can capture the images of departed spirits. Jennie begins getting strange messages – is it Will? What is he trying to tell her? As Jennie struggles with the loss of Toby and Will, she also struggles for her future. Her Aunt and Uncle had never looked kindly or generously on their orphaned niece, and now her position is even more precarious. To make matters even more confusing, Quinn has returned from war a changed man. It’s not just that he’s physically injured: he seems almost a different person. War changes a man, he explains. Would falling in love with Quinn be a betrayal of Will?

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. From my review: “Polly Whittacker, 19, is packing for college when she begins to read a book that she thought she had already read. Only the stories are different — something is missing — it doesn’t seem quite right. One of the stories, one of the ones she remembers, is about a man with two sets of memories. Polly realizes that her memories don’t match up with facts, and begins to recover memories. Memories of a man named Thomas Lynn. Memories of danger from the wealthy Leroy family. People that she thought she’d just met, she’d known for years. Things had happened — unbelievable, fantastical things — that she didn’t remember. People, places, and things come back from age 10, 11, and onward. Thomas Lynn was in danger. The dual memories stop at fifteen. What did she do that erased Thomas Lynn from her memory? Is it too late to save him?

The List by Siobhan Vivian. From my review: “Mount Washington High School has a tradition: each year, before Homecoming, a list is made. The four prettiest girls in school, one in each grade. And the four ugliest girls, one in each grade. This year’s anointed pretty girls: Abby, Lauren, Bridget, Margo. The ugly girls: Danielle, Candace, Sarah, Jennifer. The List is their story, of how it impacts each girl. Eight story lines are juggled; eight points of view come together for one story about the power of words and labels. The List is also about casual, everyday cruelty; a meanness that here is in high school, brought to the forefront because of the list, but it could happen anywhere or anytime. Some people are “broken” by the list; some are made stronger; some embrace it; others, reject it.

After Etan: The Missing Child Case That Held America Captive by Lisa R. Cohen. From my review: “The story is heartbreaking: six year old Etan disappears during the short walk to his school bus stop. Etan never arrived at school that morning, but the school didn’t call his parents, so it wasn’t until Etan didn’t come home that his mother knew he’d gone missing. After Etan is about those first few days, yes, but it also the months and years and decades after. It is about Etan’s parents. It is about the change in society, in knowledge, in laws.”

Catch & Release by Blythe Woolston. From my review: “I adored Polly — the new Polly. I’m not sure what I would have thought of Polly-That-Was, with her future set in stone and all her choices made because those choices, like her life, were nice and easy. Polly was a much wanted only child; she met Bridger at a dance her freshman year of high school and they’ve dated and Planned their lives ever since. Two nice kids planning a nice life. . . . Once Polly got sick, Bridger and his family disappeared. . . . Polly has lost everything, especially the niceness that used to define who she was and what she wanted out of life. Her future is lost to her. Her present, also. . . . Catch & Release is about Polly picking up those shattered pieces.

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha. From my review: “An action adventure steampunk Jack the Ripper mystery set in New York City!

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks. From my review: “Sunday morning, at 7:16 in the morning, Rain is woken up by a phone call from Wendy Geller’s mother. Wendy’s mother sounds like someone who is scared but is trying not to be scared: Wendy didn’t come home last night. Does Rain know where she is? Ms. Geller doesn’t realize that Rain and Wendy haven’t been friends since freshman year, two years ago. It’s not till later that night that Rain hears the news: Wendy’s body has been found in Central Park. She’s been murdered. It’s Day One. And even though the two girls were no longer friends, Rain feels she owes Wendy. No matter what it takes, Rain will find out who killed Wendy.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 2: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen. From my review: Miss Lumley and young Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia now venture off to London, armed with a slightly-odd Guide Book. How much trouble can they get into, really? The three children wear their clothes, do their lessons, and only start howling when there is a reason to, such as the moon or a tempting squirrel. That incident at the Christmas ball — well, best not talked about, right? It turns out that London has secrets of its own; or, rather, is an occasion for Penelope and her three charges to discover secrets about themselves.

Pure by Julianna Baggott. From my review: “Pressa’s and Partridge’s world is one destroyed and shattered; even the Pures untouched and isolated and protected within the Dome do not live in a familiar society. Pressa’s story of survival is told while Partridge dreams of a way to escape the Dome and his father and find his mother. Not only does the reader learn more about their worlds, just as important, the reader learns what they do and don’t know about those worlds. Pressa doesn’t know much beyond her tiny neighborhood, but she is knowledgeable about the dangers of that world. Partridge has no idea the reality of life outside the Dome, and what he’s been taught isn’t always accurate.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. From my review: “What better way to reinvent oneself than travel? Bria Sandoval, 18, does just that, following a bad break up and disappointing college decisions. Carefree travel, seeing new places, meeting new people — heck, maybe she’ll even follow her friends’ advice and pursue a random, no-emotions-invested hookup with some cute guy who means nothing. Perhaps all you need to know about Bria’s personality is that the way she implements her plan is by signing up for a guided tour. Yes. An eighteen year old on a guided tour of South America.


Flashback March 2006

A look back to what I reviewed in March 2006:

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley. From my review:Patty Ho is half-Taiwanese, half white. She was born in the United States, but she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. At home, there is her ultra-strict mother and overachieving going-to-Harvard brother; there are less than a handful Asian kids at school (and certainly no half Asians), all who are “China Dolls” — something Patty is not. When a fortune teller predicts that Patty will end up with a white guy, Patty’s mother decides she can change fate by sending Patty to Math Camp at Stanford. . . . What Patty also finds is what many teens find the first time they are truly away from home — that she has the freedom to not so much reinvent herself as to discover herself. And, that finding yourself does not mean abandoning your self or forgetting where you started.

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. From my review: “I’m in love. I’ve fallen in love with characters before — I think Will Stanton was my first book boyfriend. And there have been others, like Mr. Darcy. But it’s been a while…. until I met Gen. Oh, yeah, the plot. Gen is a master thief — in prison because while he may be a master thief, successfully stealing the King’s seal, he then boasted about it. In public. Including showing the King’s seal to one and all. And thanks to the boasting, he is now in prison. He’s lost track of time, until the King’s Magus comes to him with a deal: Gen will be let out of prison. Provided he helps Magus steal Hamiathes’s Gift. Gen says yes — hello, it’s getting him out of prison, of course he’s going to say yes — all the while plotting, wondering how he can make this situation work for him. Top on the list, of course, is not returning to prison.

The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint. From my review: “New School Year, New School, New Home: Imogene has resolved to start over. She’s putting her bad-girl, gang-member past behind her. Everything is going according to plan: she’s made friends with the shy and smart Maxine and she is not causing trouble, no matter what the popular jocks and cheerleaders say or do. Then Imogene meets Adrian — the school ghost. Which attracts the attention of the fairies. Who feel a little threatened by Imogene and Adrian’s friendship. And as we all know, fairies aren’t always cute little creatures out of a children’s storybook. They can be mean. But the fairies have chosen to mess with the wrong girl.

Sing, Nightingale, Sing! by Francoise de Guibert, illustrated by Chiaki Miyamoto. From my review: You know how frustrating it is to read about a sound being described, but how you just can’t “get it” because it’s a sound, music, a bird call? Or at most they give you an Internet link that may or many not still be working, and that depending on your connection you may or may not hear? Not to worry: find out what all the birds really sound like thanks to the included CD, with music by Daniel Goyone. It’s birds and music; way cool.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. My reviews of the Honor and Award titles for that year. Including my concerns about gender in the books — boys build and swim! Girls cook!

Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher. From my review: “Rob is a talented artist. Right now, he’s using his art as an escape from home. Home has been little more than a house he lives in, ever since his younger sister, Chloe, was in a riding accident. For months, she’s been in a coma. Rob’s talent brings him a job, at an archaeological site that has found something truly unique: an ancient upside down tree. What is the connection to Chloe? And who is the mysterious man, who seemed to appear out of nowhere, and what is his connection to all of this?

Blackthorn Winter by Kathryn Reiss. From my review: “Juliana, 15, is upset at her parents’ trial separation. Her father had gotten busier and busier at work; her mother is an artist. So her mother decides to move to a small arts colony and pursue her art. Unfortunately, that means leaving California for her mother’s native England, to a small seaside town, Blackthorn. Juliana’s younger brother and sister, Edmund and Ivy, are excited about the move, but Juliana misses her friends and her family. Shortly after the family arrives in Blackthorn, someone is murdered. Juliana decides she has to investigate, whatever the cost.

Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart. From my review: “Gretchen Kaufman Yee goes to a New York City high school that specializes in the arts. She’s an only child, rather fierce in her individuality and independence; her preferred art form is comics, her preferred character Spider-Man, and she’s not about to let teachers tell her that that comics and graphic novels are not art. Gretchen is not comfortable around the opposite sex; to her, they are a different species entirely, not quite trustworthy. One day she wishes that she could be “a fly on the wall of the boys’ locker room,” just to find out what the guys really talk about. And the next thing she knows… she is. A fly. On the wall of the locker room.

Review: Harriet the Spy

And now, after last week’s chapter by chapter readalong, and look at essays, my review of Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.

The Plot: Harriet, eleven, writes down all she observes about her family, friends, and neighbors. When her private, and honest, notebook falls into the hands of her classmates, she has to face the unpleasant consequences.

The Good: Oh, Harriet!

I read Harriet as a child, discovering her as a child. My memories of that — other than the cover image of a red sweatshirt trumping the blue one described in the book — are focused on the “spying” element of Harriet’s life. The outfit, the route, her sneaking in and around homes, peaking in windows, and, of course, the honest, unvarnished, unfiltered observations she wrote down.

There were things that didn’t register me, as a 1970s child of the suburbs, reading about a 1960s child in New York City. Because I lived in a house, I didn’t realize the significance of Harriet living in a house. I wasn’t quite sure who or what Ole Golly’s role was, but I accepted her being there and that her loss was significant. Harriet’s spy clothes didn’t seem out of the ordinary, and my focus was less on her dressing like a boy and more on that her clothes were old. Egg cremes, I assumed, were made with raw egg and thought that was gross.

As I reread, now, as an adult, what struck me first and foremost was Harriet herself. Her independence and her strong sense of self. I also noted the parts were Harriet, despite calling herself a spy who wants to know everything, didn’t realize what was going on around her. She had no clue that Ole Golly was getting engaged; she didn’t realize when her schoolmates were talking about her or intending for messages to be intercepted. This underscored, for me, just how much a child Harriet was; how typical, how ordinary. She is not a superhero or above average: she is just like the child who reads about her.

Part of Harriet being like her reader, wherever that reader lives, or whatever the family background, are Harriet’s emotions. With her notebook, with the reader, she is honest about what she thinks and feels; honest about what she thinks she sees. There is an attraction to that honesty, whether the reader is that honest or wishes they were. And then she is exposed: the world sees what she really thinks. Or, at least, what she was thinking at that moment in time. Her privacy is violated.

And then this is when Harriet becomes her most real. Because, before, you couldn’t really accuse her of being “mean” because it was just her and her notebook. Now, though, that changes. After her classmates get angry and team up against her, Harriet’s words and actions shift. I confess, I didn’t reread and annotate whether or not her observations of others changed, but her actions certainly did, beginning with tripping one classmate and then writing a list of things she knows will hurt them. And actually doing those things.

One thing I like about this — that Harriet having the outlet of writing out her feelings meant she didn’t express them, so actually helped her. I loved how the adults in her world didn’t truly interfere in her life or the lives of their children: the level to which they allowed them to work things out, to the extent they are even aware of what is happening. No helicopter parents here. The parents stepped in when they needed to: the letter from Ole Golly, helping Harriet to channel her need to write to a more productive outlet. 

The easy answer for Harriet, for a book, is to have Harriet realize that she is being mean — mean because she’s been hurt. Mean because she doesn’t realize the cycle she contributed to, and that by doing these things she is just making it worse. To have her realize that she’s being mean when she starts tripping people, and that even if she didn’t intend to be mean when she writing in her notebook that people saw it as mean. To have Harriet learn empathy. To have her feel bad and resolve to be a better person.

But Harriet the Spy isn’t easy. Instead, it gives a more complex answer. It allows Harriet to feel and believe exactly how she feels and believes, without making her feel guilty about it. Without making the reader feel guilty. There is no shaming.

Instead, there is Ole Golly’s words of wisdom: Apologize. A lie that makes someone feel better isn’t bad. Writing is to put love into the world, not to hurt others. This gives Harriet both a structure to operate under, but also introduces the child to the world of grownups, a world that isn’t black and white, but is full of shades of gray. It is about the delicate balance between being true to oneself, but not hurting others. It’s a balance that some people never learn, never caring that their “honesty” hurts others; thinking their own feelings always trump others.

In the essays in the Fiftieth Anniversary edition, many focused on Harriet as writer. And that is there. And, of course, writers are going to concentrate on that part of Harriet the Spy. But also there is this fundamental lesson about growing up: sometimes, you have to lie. Just don’t lie to yourself. And you have to make a decision on how to use your words: to hurt? Or to put love into the world? Those words can be the newspaper or notebook that Harriet writes, but it is also all human interaction.

Harriet The Spy: Essays

And now, the various essays about Harriet the Spy included in the 50th Anniversary Edition!

harriet 2 300x300 Harriet The Spy Book Two

These essays are much more for the adult reader, but that is OK. Again, I’m not recapping the essay, just jotting down my reactions.

Judy Blume

Read Harriet as an adult, and notes how the kids in here are real because they have secrets and are curious. “Real” makes me also think of how Harriet is real in that she’s, well, not “nice”. She’s not the perfect little girl.

Meg Cabot

Notes how kids today are doing what Harriet did, just on the Internet. The lesson that words can hurt is valuable. But words can also heals. And damn, we all need an Ole Golly. And if this isn’t a reminder that kids are doing what kids have always done, the tech changes but the kids don’t!

Nick Clark

Oh! He knew/lived in this neighborhood! Notes Harriet is “what a young woman could become.” I’d note: could become something other than what everyone expects.

Patricia Reilly Giff

Reading it to a 4th grade of remedial students — and how much it mattered to them to hear about a strong female character who is tough and honest. “Honest” — and I’m thinking how important this is to kids, to know they can be honest with themselves, and now I’m wondering about what happens when a kid isn’t honest. And how Harriet’s problems escalated when she didn’t have a place to be honest.

Lenore Look

Harriet made keeping a journal fun. She says “I’m amazed that I connected with Harriet at all” and I want to shout ME TOO. As Look says, “as a third grader, I saw none of our differences.” “All I saw then was a girl with a notebook.

And I’d add, because Harriet has many people who love her who aren’t now writers even if they did carry a notebook around and spy for a while after reading it — it wasn’t just seeing that girl with a notebook. It was seeing a girl whose thoughts and emotions were real and unvarnished and honest.

Lois Lowry

Ah, someone who never read it until now! More aware of her than knowing!

Gregory Maguire

“Harriet was honest, which is not the same as mean.” As a kid, I’d agree with him. And with it being part of a journal not intended to be shared, I’d agree. But. But. But. After? Harriet DOES cross over to mean. Right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s understandable. And, well, it is mean, to trip someone or cut their hair off or hide a frog in their desk.

And — well, I think it diminishes Harriet, a bit, to not acknowledge that meanness.

Leonard S. Marcus

Let me just enjoy the historical story of Harriet getting published and wishing there was more.

Kirsten Miller

And pointing out that kids aren’t always likeable and can be brats and that’s OK. (Dare I say — that’s honest.)  Harriet isn’t a “hero” and that’s the point. “The truth can be more comforting than fantasy.” And the truth of who Harriet is… yes. That matters more than notebooks.Pat Scles

Pat Scales

Role models! Feminists! Harriet knowing what she wants and going for it. She “gives girls permission to feel sad and lonely.” And, I’d add, to feel angry. Or mean. Or violent. Or betrayed. Or any of those other messy emotions that Harriet feels.

And that while Harriet learns lessons: she remains herself.

Anita Silvey

A look at what it means to review! And not to assume that what you dislike is what others will dislike. Given the reviews of Harriet that harp on role models, etc., some wise stuff here.

Rebecca Stead

Looks at the difference between memory of childhood reading and actuality. “a book about loneliness.” YES. I didn’t see that then. I do now. And I see how that loneliness drives so many things, even before Ole Golly leaves.

Elizabeth Winthrop

And journals and honesty. A place to be honest.

Judy Zuckerman

Oh, the first to have had a Ole Golly! And Harriet giving us dreams of boldness!

It’s not included here, but I’d like to add one of my favorite essays about a child’s book:

On Spies and Purple Socks and Such by Kathleen T. Horning, The Horn Book, Jan/Feb 2005 — I love this because it teaches me the different ways a book can have meaning, the different comforts it can give. And the different ways a text can be read. And, honestly, as someone who read this in the 70s, (a golden age, now, of kids just dressing in clothes that were for kids) I didn’t get that Harriet’s dressing as she did meant something. I didn’t know. I picked up on her mother not wanting her to wear ripped jeans, but I didn’t realize that the act of wearing jeans and sneakers was in itself significant. Horning’s essay helped me not just see how it mattered for Harriet, but is a reminder to me to always think about the context of a book for the time it was written. What would the reader of the time know that we don’t? What would they recognize that we don’t?

Of course, there are more important things in Horning’s essay. If you haven’t read it yet, I’m a bit jealous of you reading if for the first time.




Flashback March 2008

A flashback to what I reviewed in March 2008:

Quid Pro Quo by Vicki Grant. From my review: “Cyril is probably the youngest person to attend law school: “I started going to law school when I was ten years old.” But, wait for it — “I love saying that. I love how people look at me like, this guy must be some kind of genius.” But, Cyril isn’t a genius. He’s the son of a teen mom; a girl who ran away from home, lived on the streets, and grew up as her son grew up. She’s only 15 years older than her son. And when his mother couldn’t afford a babysitter, Cyril came along to class with her. “You think math class is bad,” Cyril says. “Law school is unbelievably boring.” But it’s thanks to his quasi law school education that Cyril solves the mystery in Quid Pro Quo and saves his mother’s life.

Acceleration by Graham McNamee. From my review: “Duncan’s summer job seems boring; he’s working at the lost and found for the Toronto Transit Authority. OK, it doesn’t just seem boring; it actually is boring. There’s only so many times you can check out the lost sunglasses, practice with the abandoned golf clubs, read the books.  . . . Except this book is a journal. A bit hard to read. But then… It’s the journal of an almost serial killer. The almost killer recounts killing animals and stalking people, looking forward to his first murder. Can Duncan stop a murderer before he kills?



Film Review: Veronica Mars

About this time last year, I posted about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter.

And now? Now, I’m happy to say I’ve been to see the movie and love it! I’ve actually seen it twice: once in the theater, and once at home.


I will keep the spoilers to a minimum. But there will be some.

The brief plot: Veronica Mars returns home to help out Logan, her high school boyfriend, who has been accused of murder.

I love character growth. I love watching a character mature.

Veronica “now” is a Veronica who didn’t just leave Neptune: she left who she was. That girl was a private investigator, who took cases, who dug into people’s nasty secrets. Oh, we see that Veronica is still smart and clever and won’t get pushed around. But, still, Veronica became just like many other smart college students: law school and New York City, and big firm life, at that.

That Veronica is not interviewing at anyplace even directly connected to her prior life is very telling about how far and fast she has run from her past. 

In Neptune she had a reputation, some of it warranted, and when given the chance to recreate her life, Veronica went for the type of life that on paper is “winning,” that is a “happy ever after. It’s the type of life that would sound very good on an alumni update. Even though she insists she doesn’t care about that type of thing. She’s done everything she can to not be “that” Veronica.

It’s not just Veronica’s growth; there is also Logan’s. There are mixed fan reactions to Logan, because of his “bad boy” actions. It can be tough to remember, when watching a television series where adults play teens, but Logan was, himself, a teen boy during during the years of his worst behavior. Not just any teen: one that was abused, neglected, and left alone. He had anger that was directed at others. He also had a personal code that valued loyalty to friends above anything else.

Where does Logan end up, years later? Let’s just say that just as Veronica was given the chance to get her act together, so, too, was Logan. And his choices make perfect sense for a teen who had no-one, but did have passion and a need to belong. A teen looking for direction; a teen looking to direct his energy; a teen who had a lot to prove, to show that he was more than his own past poor choices.

But Veronica Mars is not about the paths that Veronica and Logan have taken to leave their teen selves behind.

Rather, it’s about integrating your past and present selves.

On the surface, Veronica goes back home to help Logan. Veronica! Logan! LoVe!

But? That’s not why. It’s what she tells herself; it’s what the viewer believes, at first. (And remember — Veronica has always been a bit of an unreliable narrator.)

Veronica goes home because that’s what she wants.

Yes, nine years ago Veronica ran from her past, to her future, and now that she is in the present, back in her home town, she’s realizing that maybe she ran too far and too fast. That maybe the life she made for herself is a good life, and a life she can have, but is not the life she wants. And maybe it’s because I was a lawyer who left the law (though, obviously, not to be a private investigator), but I so “get” how Veronica may have fallen into law for the wrong reasons, and may be leaving them for the right ones.

I LOVE stories like this. Forget that this is Veronica Mars, based on a show I adore. I love “going home” stories, so the whole set up — the returning to a place that once was home, making choices about what one really wants — it’s like this plot was hand-crafted just for me.

Seriously, if you know of some good novels about people returning to their home towns after 10 or 20 years away? Leave the titles in the comments!

As for the ending . . . . who knows what will happen next. Given the various professional commitments of those who made the movie possible, I’m not sure if a return to a Veronica Mars series is even possible.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know I love British television, especially how their series work. A season isn’t as long as that in the US, which frees up the actors and others to pursue other professional opportunities, and I think that model would work best for Veronica Mars going forward.

So, what did you think? Of the movie, and of Veronica Mars’s future?

Flashback March 2009

A look back at what I reviewed in March 2009:

Mothers & Children. From my review:This is a smaller book [than a coffee table book]; more intimate, less showy, easier to hold, to look at together, to share. The photos are of mothers and children, small and grown, from around the world and different times. Credits give the location of the photograph and the name of the photographer; by omitting the names of the people in the photos, and by not saying anything about them, the people — despite age, race, ethnicity — become every person. A photo album for all of us.

The Real Benedict Arnold by Jim Murphy. From my review: “The Real Benedict Arnold details the many battles and military actions Arnold fought in. I love learning more about history; like how Arnold was quite successful but had no military experience before 1775. Apparently, being involved with the Sons of Liberty so having some political connections, along with the wealth to fund oneself and one’s troops while waiting for payment from the Continental Congress, were the important criteria for military membership. Not to mislead about the wealth — Arnold was, indeed, born to wealthy parents; before he was twenty, that money was gone, both parents were dead, and Arnold was supporting his sister, Hannah (three of his siblings having died before then). Arnold went into business; his money was earned.

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. From my review: “Daniel Aguilar, 17, lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his mother and younger sister; he has a cute girlfriend, Courtney; he plays in a band; is on the soccer team. He’s about to change from your typical American teen. Dan’s father is coming home, after six years in prison. Dan and his family are from Chile; it’s 1986, and Marcelo Aguilar was a political prisoner in Chile. After six years of imprisonment and torture, he’s coming home… Except it’s a home he’s never been to, since Dan, his mother and sister left Chile for America years ago.