Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Okay youse all. I know we're all middle grade and mafioso on this blog, but the Don's grand kids are getting older and he's allowing me the latitude to at least mention YA. In his words, "If youse is gonna get all lovey-dovey and crazy wid da hormones, just make sure it ain't wid a vampire."
So, I'm happy to announce the inaugural "A Day for YA" on MGM. In keeping with the Don's Vampirophobia, I've chosen a novel which I think's got it all: a guardian angel-in-training with an arrow through his head, snappy writing with jokes zinging off the page, and a view of the afterlife that only someone seriously hilarious could dream up. That novel is Martha Brockenbrough's debut, DEVINE INTERVENTION.
Opening Paragraph: "One Monday morning, a couple years before my cousin Mike shot me in the forehead with an arrow, my eighth-grade homeroom teacher brought two cartons of raw eggs to school.
Second paragraph: "Who can tell me what these are?" Mrs. Domino said. She was wearing her second-hottest skirt, the one with the cherries on it. Score."
Okay, folks. Right there, in four sentences, you've got VOICE, BELIEVABLE TEENSPEAK, and ME, SERIOUSLY HOOKED. I mean, this character is a guy who can tell a story. Arrows; eggs; a teacher's second hottest skirt--there is just no way you are not going to read on. And when you do, you will find that this character--Jerome Hancock--is the voice in Heidi Devine's head. And just why is he in her head? Because he's taking part in SRPNT (Soul Rehabilitation for Nefarious Teens, Deceased), which means he's got a soul in his care, and how well he tends that soul will determine his fate.
Heidi Devine, for her part, is a high school junior who allows herself to be persuaded by her best friend Megan to take part in Talentpalooza!! "in a formfitting tuxedo made out of black-and-white spandex." Heidi's also a tall girl whose height gets her drafted on the basketball team even though her heart isn't in the game. It is after the dual humiliations of the talent show, followed by failing to score the game winning point on the basketball court, that Heidi takes a walk on a frozen pond and falls through the ice...
I won't tell you any more because, seriously, you need to read this book to find out what happens. The jacket flap says DEVINE INTERVENTION is "hilarious, heartbreaking, and hopeful, with a sense of humor that's wicked as hell, and writing that's heavenly." Too true. And if this is at all indicative of YA, then me and the Don are going to be reading way more of it. Heck, we may even have to rename this blog "The Devine (Pun Intended) Secrets of the YA-YA brotherhood." Corragio!
More about Martha Brockenbrough: WEBSITE
And this is officially my 100th post on Middle Grade Mafioso. I'm going to spend the afternoon listening to some accordion playing while watching my nemesis, Luca Brasi Jr., juggle flaming torches blindfold. Should be a good party.
Monday, November 19, 2012
THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING UP by Alan Lawrence Sitomer (Putnam, 2011)
Book Blurb, jacket copy: Thirteen-year-old Bobby Connor is a normal adolescent boy - at least he hopes he is - just trying to survive middle school. But it seems he's being foiled at every turn, and even his own body is conspiring against him. And when his math teacher is seriously injured from the shock and fright of witnessing just how out of control Bobby's changing adolescent body is getting, he starts to worry he's anything but normal. Faced with expulsion from school for violating the student handbook code, Bobby opts for therapy - Correctional Erectional Therapy. It's official: Bobby Connor is not normal. But in this uproarious and heartfelt novel, he's going to do his darndest to make it seem that he is . . . or maybe just try to make it through middle school, puberty and a perpetually growing problem in his pants.
Caveat: If you're troubled by out-of-control testosterone, this is not the book for you. A quick scan of Goodread reviews shows a huge gender gap. By and large, women reviewers claimed that they found the the penis jokes tiresome; male reviewers were delighted. And the target audience in my household LOVED it (when he read it last year at 14). I was amazed to find him--a guy who is usually found staring at a screen--with his head stuck in an actual book all day long, and had to see for myself what was so entrancing.
So what is so entrancing? Sitomer's verbal dexterity reigns supreme. The VOICE just grabs you and won't let you go. You will never, I'm sure, find so many slang phrases for the male member. Yes, there are a whole bunch of unlikely (and often unlikable characters), and the thought that a middle schooler would be sent to "correctional erectional therapy" is absurd, but that is just part of the farcical fun. As Paul W. Hankins, a high school English teacher I follow on Twitter writes: "With NERD GIRLS and now THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING UP, Alan Sitomer is securing his place as a middle grade humor writer which will no doubt put him in a well-deserved place with authors like Lubar, Paulsen, and Sachar. Alan writes this one pretty true to the pre-adolescent/adolescent experience, complete with the anxiety that comes from within and the humor without."
About Alan Sitomer: "Alan Lawrence Sitomer is a nationally renowned speaker and was California’s Teacher of the Year in 2007. He is also the author of multiple works for young readers, including Nerd Girls, the Hoopster trilogy, The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez, Cinder-Smella, and The Alan Sitomer BookJam. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughters." (Bianca Schulze, The Children's Book Review.)
Agent: Al Zuckerman at Writer's House
WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY THANKSGIVING. A presto!
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Oops, I've been a little distracted this week, but am finally on track. So I can now say that the winner of Margo Sorenson's terrific time travel Time of Honor is:
Joanne, I'll be contacting you soon to see how best to get the novel to you. Congratulations!