Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Sounds like a book title, right? ;) I've been feeling ambivalent about adding to the Google machine, and VERY ambivalent about all of the redesign(s), so a combination of things to do and an icky feeling means blogging has been low on my priority list of late. Oh, I'm not tired of it--I really want to talk about the books I'm reading, and the books I've read and haven't blogged about that stare at me, dusty and baleful. I want to keep posting pretty pictures of Australia and explain that I maybe didn't turn out to be as much of a fool as it looked like I might end up. I want to tell you nifty things about Sirens and how programming proposals are due in under two weeks. I want to write about--but I won't--challenges and decisions and worries, closure and hope and fear.
Instead, to quote Jessica Simpson, a twofer.
Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (Little, Brown - Poppy) has, I think, a great cover. I liked it so much that you get to see it even though Blogger no longer does a great job with images. No head-chopped-off girls (something that actually doesn't bother me so much, to be honest), no flowy gowns, no pale waifs waiting for their boyfriend to show up.
It was the cover that made me want to give it a try, actually. I tend to avoid reviews for books I haven't read, but I couldn't avoid seeing reviews for Spoiled. They seemed to come in two flavors: negative, from readers of the authors' site GoFugYourself, and positive, from non-readers. I fall into the latter category, with the positive reading, and I'm sort of glad, because I know how it can go. You really, really love someone's work in one realm, but when trying something else, you're disappointed--maybe because the feel is different, or it wasn't what you were looking for, or it doesn't work. I sometimes call this the "duck two ways" problem, taken from every cooking contest show ever. The chef can't decide on a preparation, or wants to show off skillz by providing two takes on a dish; all I can think is that most of the time, one of the two ways is going to be not as good as the other, and all the judges will remember is that part of your dish is disappointing. Also, I'm tired of "dish two ways" on cooking shows.
Anyway. Molly Dix is the love child of her mother, a former Hollywood makeup artist, and one of those sexiest-man-alive-type movie action heroes. Her mom has just died, and her dad--who married someone else, and has another daughter, Brooke, the same age--wants Molly to come live in California. Brooke has been waiting for her turn in the limelight and in the spotlight of their shared dad, a guy who looks like Adonis and thinks like a Ben Stiller character, so she's happy to ensure that Molly doesn't fit into competitive, glamorous, stylish Beverly Hills...not that Molly was going to fit in in the first place.
It's been a while since I read Spoiled, but here's what I really liked: 1) It was funny, in small-humor and big-humor ways, 2) it captured a particular aspect of part of California life that I recognized--and when I lived there, hated--and gave it a good poke in the eye, 3) it focused on the sibling relationship between Molly and Brooke, and secondarily, on the larger family relationship, even though there were average teenage concerns like cars and boys. For me, it has the heart missing in a lot of the over-the-top glitz-and-glamour titles for YA.
I mentioned recently that I'd been a little out of sorts about Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan (Henry Holt). This is a duck two ways problem: for some reason, I'd thought this book was set in, like, Sri Lanka or something, so that rubbed up against my realization that this was a (very loose) take on "The Elves and the Shoemaker" with an Italianate setting. Fortunata and her father are down on their luck--her father just can't make nice shoes now that Fortunata's mother is dead and not there to trick him into thinking that magic helped him work--and they end up, after being scammed and robbed by the leader, part of a band of traveling performers, with a focus on fortune-telling.
Fortunata is the adult in the relationship with her father, and the troupe leader has them both under his thumb. To survive, she learns the "art" of telling fortunes, and soon, she's the money-maker, squirreling away a coin or two to make an escape. Before she's able to do this, she's roped into providing a prophecy for a prince, and into accompanying him on his quest, because if the prophecy doesn't come true, her father will die.
This is where the book really took off for me. The relationship between Fortunata and the price is sweet and slow-growing, and they both take an equal hand in defeating foes and solving puzzles. Fortunata has real, tricky choices to make regarding how and when she lies (never really liking it, but forced by circumstance and an inability to back down from her story), whom to trust, and how to get the things she wants for herself and others. Most of all, though, I liked the subtle interweaving of the idea that belief, faith, and magic are what you make them to be--that you make magic all on your own, and that you can make life wonderful for others.
I've added an MG tag to this post because I think Fortune's Folly is toward the younger end of the young adult category, and a crossover book for middle grade readers.