2k8 Challenge

I began many challenges in 2008, but, as I suck at challenges, I did not complete most of them, though I tried. 

First up, The 2k8 Challenge! By my (probably inaccurate) count,  I was ten books away from finishing this one; I read 18 YA debuts. Check out my list here

The Read For Your Dreams Challenge, also started by me, was a success! And, okay, I had to stretch a little to include some of these, but I did read ten books about or including significant amounts of travel. My list is here. I also want to give a shout out to Cafe Shree, who finished the challenge by reading about photography!

Let us not even speak of the failure that was The Printz Award Challenge. Not one book read.

I also tried the First in a Series Challenge. By my count, this was a success! However, the rules state that the “series” must be at least a trilogy, and I’m not entirely sure all of these are slated to have at least three books. 

The Short Story Reading Challenge was a failure. I read some books, yes, but not enough to complete the challenge.

I really don’t know about The Chunkster Challenge. I suspect I completed this one, but I don’t really want to go and look up the page numbers of the books I read and figure out what I read in what quarter.

I only finished three of my eight categories in the Triple 8 Challenge

I give up. Challenges are not for me, though I like the idea of them, and I do not plan in participating in any in 2009. 



Almost Fabulous is Michelle Radford‘s first YA novel, and I certainly hope it’s not her last. It was such a fun read! I read it while sick in bed, and it was the perfect book to keep me completely interested and distracted from my various ailments, not bored for a second, but it also did not hurt my already throbbing brain. Which is great even if you’re not sick (which I hope you’re not; it sucks).

Ahem. I digress. Almost Fabulous stars Fiona Blount, a fourteen-year-old girl living in London with her mother, a former pop star and currently a major music producer. When she was younger, Fiona’s mum used to travel around with her band, the Bliss Babes, and Fiona has lived in various countries and started over so many times that she’s perfected the art of Total Anonymity. They’re staying in London now, which Fiona is happy about because she does not enjoy change, to say the least, but Fiona, now with her best friend, Gina, is still content to lay low and not attract attention from the school bully, Melissa.

Some of Fiona’s problems are typical fourteen-year-old girl problems; some are not. She’s got a crush on a fantastic guy, Joe, who happens to be dating the mean girl and school bully, Melissa. Her mother might just ruin her life (if anyone finds out who Fiona’s mum really is, Total Anonymity will be difficult). Melissa might ruin her life. The new girl, Peaceflower, stands out far too much for comfort and has attached herself to Fiona and Gina. Fiona is also searching for her long-lost father, William Brown (a common name doesn’t make it any easier). And to make it even worse? She might have superpowers. Or possibly a brain tumor.

Although I do tend to find all-powerful and totally evil popular girls in teen novels a little unrealistic, because I don’t think anyone is really that powerful or that evil (but maybe I’m just lucky enough not to have experienced that), it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book. Almost Fabulous is completely fabulous and entertaining and hilarious! I loved the characters. I loved the London setting (I love London, actually). I loved the music aspect, the superpower aspect–well, the whole book is just pretty fantastic and fun. It’s not a seriously deep-thinking read, but my brain certainly didn’t deteriorate as I read it, either. Somewhere in between, which is just what I need a lot of the time! I really loved this book, and I would love to read more about Fiona in the future.

Jenny Davidson‘s first YA novel, The Explosionist, takes place in an alternate version of Edinburgh in 1938. Sophie’s world diverges from our own when Napoleon wins at Waterloo in 1815, though there are other discrepancies that cannot be traced back to that battle–most importantly, the paranormal element of this book. Spiritualism is alive and well in this world, and actually real and sometimes state-sponsored. It’s quite possible to speak to the dead here, though not everyone can do it, and there are certainly plenty of frauds and skeptics.

Sophie is a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who lives with her Great-aunt Tabitha in Edinburgh. Oh, how to explain this book! All of the political intrigue (to which Sophie is privy–often by eavesdropping–because of her great-aunt’s high status) and the ways in which this world differs from our own would take pages to explain properly (which is why you’re lucky there’s a lengthy novel about it). Suffice to say, Sophie and her friend Mikael soon find themselves involved in various mysteries and plots on which the fate of Scotland and the rest of the world hangs. Seances, explosions, terrorist groups, murder, politics, and various other things are involved. This world (like our own in 1938, though for different reasons) is on the brink of a war that will shape the coming years, a war that could be avoidable.

Like I said, this is a difficult book to explain, but not difficult to finish–I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! There’s suspense and intrigue and mystery and adventure and even a bit of romance. I was caught up in it all from the beginning, and now I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel–which is too bad for me, as this book isn’t even out until July, so there’ll be quite some time before any continuation of the adventures of Sophie and Mikael. I admire the way Jenny Davidson ended this in just the right place–readers are anxious to find out what happens next, and there’s no doubt that, barring exceptional circumstances, there will be a sequel, but there’s still a decent enough ending place so that the book actually ends rather than just stopping the way some series books do.

The Explosionist is an amazing book! Jenny Davidson is such a talented writer, able to make more than 450 pages absolutely fly by. The complicated twists and turns of the plot are never overwhelmingly confusing, but just enough to keep your brain busy. I quite enjoyed all of the characters, who were refreshingly real and human. This is an unputdownable, read-it-in-one-sitting kind of book, a remarkable feat for one so long. And remarkable really does describe this novel! I was so impressed and completely in awe of Jenny Davidson’s skill the whole time I was reading it. And when I finished, my first thought was of course a desire for more! Seriously, read this book. If you have any way of doing so, get ahold of a copy now, and if not, well, you’ll just have to wait for July.

Daphne Grab is a member of The Longstockings blog and The Class of 2k8. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is her impressive debut novel about Matisse Osgood, a New York City girl through and through who has to move with her parents to Prague, a small town in upstate New York about four hours away from the city. Matisse loves the city, and that, along with her bitterness about having to leave her world of art galleries and foreign restaurants and everything she loves, makes her seem to be a bit of a snob at first. Matisse has a bit of a holier-than-thou attitude; in her opinion, city people (herself included) are cultured and artistic and mature and intelligent, and the residents of Prague are backward hicks. The name of the town, in Matisse’s opinion, is a cruel joke.

However, Matisse’s attitude can be forgiven, a bit, when readers discover the real reason she and her artist parents left the city. Her father, a rather famous sculptor, has Parkinson’s Disease, or PD. He can’t sculpt anymore; he can hardly function even with the help of all his medications. Matisse can’t deal with that, and she doesn’t want anyone in Prague to find out. She doesn’t want to have to deal with the huge pity party that she left behind in the city. Matisse has a lot to deal with; she may be a pain and a snob at first, but there’s a real reason she’s acting that way. She’s refusing to deal with what’s really bothering her (her father).

Soon, though, despite her attitude, she begins to make some friends. Violet, a loner who writes poetry and sits by herself with a book at lunchtime, for one. Maybe even Hal, her next-door-neighbor who Matisse at first writes off as a complete hick, and Marco, who at first just seems like a shallow stereotype of a jock. Despite alienating her best friend in New York, maybe Matisse isn’t as alone as she thought.

I quite enjoyed Daphne Grab’s debut. Matisse is a realistic character, especially in terms of the way she handles (or rather, doesn’t handle) her father’s illness. Matisse’s character development is right on. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is an engaging, interesting story, and solidly well-written. I loved Daphne Grab’s portrayal of small-town life, and it’s pretty accurate (though I don’t live in such a tiny town, the community where I live is a lot like Prague, New York in some ways. And, yeah, I’ve been on a hayride!). I put this book down feeling quite satisfied, and I look forward to Daphne Grab’s future efforts. This book will be released on June 3.

Mayra Lazara Dole‘s wonderful first novel is a very necessary addition to the somewhat limited selection of LBGTQ literature out there (and what there is seems to be more about gay boys than anything). Necessary, because it represents a subset of the population that perhaps doesn’t have much literature to directly relate to. Laura, the main character, is a Latina (Cuban, specifically) lesbian living in Miami, but enjoyment of this great book is not limited to those that fit that profile, not by a long shot! I’m a straight white girl in North Carolina, and I really liked it.

Laura’s life is seriously changed when she is caught reading a love letter in class. That would be embarrassing for anyone, sure, but seeing as Laura’s love letter is from a girl, and Laura goes to a conservative Catholic high school, she’s more than embarrassed–she’s expelled from school and kicked out of the house by her mother.  Being a tortillera in Cuban Miami is completely unacceptable, and Laura’s mother won’t let her back–won’t let her even see her beloved little brother–until she is convinced that her daughter has turned straight. Laura can’t tell her it doesn’t work that way.  Laura’s life is further devastated when her first love, Marlena, is shipped off to Puerto Rico–to marry a guy.

Luckily, Laura is far from alone. She has her little brother, when he manages to call despite their mother’s forbidding they have contact. She’s got her dog, and for those who aren’t dog people out there–that means a lot. She’s got great friends, especially her best friend, Soli, and Soli’s mom, who take her in when she has nowhere else to go.  Now, if only she can come to terms with who she is, help her mother to accept her,  and find her place in the world, things might just be okay.

Down to the Bone is a funny, bold, and poignant novel  readers will quite enjoy. I loved the great characters, and the setting of Miami! I’ve never been to Miami, but reading these books set there (this and Total Constant  Order, most recently) really makes me want to go! Also the fact that I am freezing here makes the weather there sound like heaven…

I loved this fresh, engaging, and honest book about love of all kinds, friendship, heartbreak, family, and life in general.  Down to the Bone is a promising debut novel, and I look forward to Mayra Lazara Dole’s future writing.

Stephanie Kuehnert’s debut novel, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, is a painfully honest, raw, heart-wrenching story about a mother who is running from guilt and a daughter who just wants to bring her home.

Emily Black has grown up without a mother. Her mother, Louisa, left Emily and her father, Michael, when Emily was an infant. Her father has always told her that Louisa left to follow the music, to find the next great thing. He raised Emily on music. They listened to records and he taught her to play the guitar, and when she got to be old enough, Emily and her best friend Regan, spent every night they could at a local club where they heard great music (and did other things that her father would have stopped if he’d known about them).

When she got older, Emily figured the only way to bring Louisa home, if she were following the music, was to be the next great thing. And so Emily and her band, She Laughs, stop being spectators and start actually playing the music, hoping all the while that it will bring her mother back to her, not knowing the reasons Louisa left are far deeper and more complicated than what she’s been told.

 I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone is a brilliant first novel about music and life and love and family and friendship and growing up. It follows both women–Emily and Louisa–as they both try to deal with their separation, with never having known each other. Both stories are told from a distance, Emily’s in first-person and Louisa’s in third. It feels kind of like both stories are being told after the fact, being looked back on from some indeterminate later point.

This is an unputdownable book. I really could not stop reading! It’s so real and emotional and it really just blew me away. In I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, Stephanie Kuehnert creates wonderful, believable characters, and gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the punk rock scene as Emily is living it. This is at times a hard book to read because Stephanie Kuehnert is able to make readers really feel the book, and there are some real, serious, painful things happening.

Stephanie Kuehnert is an unbelievably talented writer. Her debut is a smart, touching, intense and emotional novel that readers will absolutely love. It will be released in July, at which point I suggest you get your copy immediately. It’s certainly a new favorite of mine!

I wanted to absolutely adore A Curse As Dark As Gold. After all, I’ve heard a lot of great things from people whose opinions I trust (Miss Erin and Sookie at Over My Head, for example). So maybe I had unreasonably high expectations opening this book, and I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as taken with it as they were, though I did really enjoy it, and any disappointment is probably my own fault for having unreasonably high expectations. I will certainly look forward to future work from Elizabeth C. Bunce, and highly recommend this debut novel!

That said, A Curse As Dark As Gold is an enchanting fairy tale retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.  In it, Charlotte Miller’s father has just died, leaving her in charge of Stirwaters, the mill that’s been in her family for generations. Though their cloth is lovely and they work hard, Stirwaters has always had a run of bad luck. No son has lived to adulthood, so the mill has passed from Miller to Miller, but in a rather haphazard way–from uncle to nephew to cousin to brother, etc. Charlotte and her younger sister, though, are the last of the family, and they’re determined to hold on to the mill.

Of course, that won’t be as easy as it sounds. Charlotte has to keep the mill from being seized by debt collectors, and being female at this time makes things particularly difficult. And that bad luck? There have always been whispers of a curse on Stirwaters. Charlotte’s not the superstitious type, but now she’s starting to believe it might be true…

So what desperate measures will Charlotte take to save Stirwaters? She’s not sure how far she’ll go, until Jack Spinner shows up with promises to be her salvation. But what will be the cost, in the end, and is she willing to pay it?

Elizabeth C. Bunce’s debut novel is a well-told and well-written story, populated by interesting characters. Its setting is a slightly fictionalized time in English history, and, well, I’m a sucker for all things English, past and present, and I really enjoyed the setting. The story starts out a little slow for my taste, but certainly picks up by the end (the last hundred or so pages, I couldn’t put it down and read all through Spanish class). A Curse As Dark As Gold is an intelligent, original, and interesting new take on an old fairy tale, and a marvelous debut novel.

Also check out Erin’s wonderful interview with the author.

Good Enough is Paula Yoo’s debut novel, about Patti, a Korean-American girl struggling to live up to her immigrant parents’ expectations. You may think you’ve read this book before, and maybe the plot is a little stereotypical, but Paula Yoo’s novel blows the rest of those books right out of the water! Seriously, it’s fantastic.

Patti has been trying all her life to make her parents happy. Immigrants from Korea, they push her to do everything possible to get into HARVARDYALEPRINCETON (which, yes, they say as one word like that), and if she ever slacks off, they tell her how hard they’ve worked to give her a better life in America. Because of their pressures, she studies almost constantly trying to secure her spot as valedictorian, is an accomplished violin player, and is shooting for at a 2300 on her SATs. At Korean church, everything is about bragging to the other Korean parents about how awesome your kid is. Patti doesn’t want to let her parents down, but she’s learning that she’s got to be faithful to what she wants, too. Rock music, a cute new guy friend, and reading teen magazines? Totally not what her parents had in mind. But maybe there’s a balance–making her parents happy, and being true to herself. Or is that too much to ask for?

I can relate to Patti, in a way. I am not Korean, and  I put most of that 2300-SAT (which I have yet to achieve….2160), straight-A, first-in-my-class pressure on myself, but, still I can relate to being under all that pressure, to the point where you wonder if that’s really what you want. And, what’s more, I’m sure there are lots of other people out there who will be able to relate, too! I really hate it when people classify a book based on the ethnicity of the main character. Who cares if they’re black or Korean or Hispanic of Vietnamese? We’re all human, and a book with a Korean main character is certainly not meant to be read just by Koreans! That’s ridiculous, yet so often I see books classified as, for example, “African-American Fiction,” like white people can’t read and enjoy books about black people, which is just so insane and ridiculous. Hmm. I may have to write another post about this; this is a book review!

Anyway, back to GOOD ENOUGH–a book which, being absolutely marvelous, is far more than its title suggests! Patti is a very three-dimensional character, and a great narrator. This book was just so well-written, time slipped away from me while reading it! It’s very absorbing, and pretty much unputdownable. This is a funny, fresh and honest debut from a brilliant writer. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

A Little Friendly Advice, Siobhan Vivian’s fantastic debut novel, is blurbed on the back cover by Cecil Castellucci and Maureen Johnson. To some of you, blurbs may not matter, but for me, a book blurbed by two fantastic authors always moves higher up on the to-be-read stack! Which is good for the book, but it also probably raises my expectations, which could turn out to make me unreasonably disappointed.

In this case, however, those high expectations were certainly warranted! I absolutely loved A Little Friendly Advice. It’s a smart, funny novel that is mainly about people and their relationships (friends, love interests, and family). It all starts on Ruby’s sixteenth birthday, when her father shows up unexpectedly after years of being totally out of the picture. She was planning on a nice celebration with her mother and group of three close friends (her longtime best friend, Beth, her boy-crazy sometimes-outrageous friend, Maria, and the new addition to their group, Katherine), but all that goes out the window when Jim comes through the front door.

One good thing does come out of Ruby’s birthday, though: her mother has gotten her an old Polaroid camera, which she uses to document the events that follow. She realizes her best friend, Beth, has been keeping secrets from her, but with good intentions. She must make some difficult choices about her relationship (or lack thereof) with her father. A new guy steps into her life, Charlie; this is a new area for never-been-kissed Ruby! The friendship dynamics within her group are changing, too. The next few days are very eventful for Ruby, and it’s all a bit much for a girl to handle alone, and her friends’ advice may not always be for the best.

A Little Friendly Advice will ring true with readers; Siobhan Vivian’s sharp, engaging prose captures people and their relationships perfectly. Her characters are fully drawn and three-dimensional, and the story she tells is full of important truths. She understands that life is not always black-and-white, and people and their actions are not always clearly for the best or worst. Life is complicated, and Siobhan Vivian’s portrayal of that is honest and moving. She has quickly become one of my new favorite authors! Siobhan Vivian is a fresh new voice in YA literature, one to watch, and you should all read this book as soon as possible!

Robin Benway’s debut novel, Audrey, Wait!, completely blew me away! It’s about what happens to a teenage girl living a pretty typical life when her ex-boyfriend’s band suddenly shoots to worldwide fame, and his song about her–titled Audrey, Wait–is suddenly playing on radio stations around the world, and rising to the top of the charts. Suddenly, Audrey is famous. She definitely did not ask for fame; all she did was break up with her rather self-centered musician boyfriend. Now, however, she has to deal with the paparazzi and reporters who twist her words and her phone is ringing off the hook, and, well, she’s rather understandably overwhelmed.

Her best friend, Victoria, wants to take advantage of all this fame by getting free stuff and maybe getting Audrey a reality show, but all Audrey wants to do is go back to her normal life, to being able to go out in public without getting mobbed by screaming fans. Her fans–how is it that a girl who has never done anything fan-worthy can’t go out in the street anymore? And there are videos of her on the internet!

She’s also got a potential love interest in James, her co-worker at the Scooper Dooper. He’s kind of quiet and shy, but Victoria insists they’d be good together–that is, if he’ll actually talk to her about something other than work, and if they can handle the fact that if they go out, they’ll be all over the tabloids!

Audrey, Wait! is about sudden fame, yeah, but being about life in the spotlight isn’t really how I thought of this book. Mostly, it’s about a girl trying to hold onto her sanity in a crazy world! Despite her celebrity status, Audrey is a very relatable character, with a distinct, funny voice. This book was blurbed by Rachel Cohn, and her blurb–calling it “Awesomely funny, fresh, and true”–is right on! Also, Rachel Cohn fans will love this book.

Even the background characters are fantastic. Victoria and Jonah were so awesome and interesting and cool that I kind of wished there was a book about them, too! Three-dimensional background characters almost take over the story at times, but Audrey is too fantastic for that to happen. The writing, the characters, everything in this book is just perfect. I seriously can’t gush about it’s fabulousness enough! Nothing I say seems to really express how much I adore this book. Robin Benway is a brilliant writer. Audrey, Wait! is an unputdownable book about music, love, friendship, and life from an author to watch. It comes out in April, and when it does, I strongly suggest you get in your car, turn on your favorite music as loud as it can go, and get to your nearest bookstore as fast as you can!

I’m very pleased to have Lisa Schroeder here for an interview! Let me take this opportunity to say that I’m also planning on doing a series of interviews with Class of 2k8 authors as their books come out (if I read and enjoy the books and if the authors are interested, of course). Thanks, Lisa, for being the first! Lisa Schroeder is the author of I Heart You, You Haunt Me, a lovely and haunting love story.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me is a verse novel. Is there a particular reason you decided to tell the story this way?

    I love novels in verse. I think when you have an emotional subject, telling the story in verse is a powerful way to do it.
    I didn’t really plan to write the novel that way. When I sat down and started writing, that’s just how it came out. A couple of pages into it, which are now the very first pages, Ava described what she saw and felt as she walked into the funeral of her boyfriend. That’s emotional stuff, and that’s why the verse works well here. I also think, with the paranormal aspect, the verse creates an atmosphere I couldn’t have created in prose.

    What did you find was different about writing a novel in verse as opposed to prose?
    Word choice is even more important in this kind of book. Finding unique ways of describing things is challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Of course I tried to use poetic devices throughout the book, and you aren’t going to do that in a novel with prose. Rhythm and pacing are important in any book, but it’s different in this kind of book. More time is spent reading passages aloud, perhaps, to see how it flows.
    Probably the hardest thing is that I wanted the book to be accessible, so teens would read it and enjoy it. It’s hard to balance the accessibility part with the poetry part. I hope I succeeded.

    There’s a long way to go from wanting to be a writer and actually having your novel on the shelves. Could you tell me a little about your journey to becoming a published author?I started writing and submitting for publication about seven years ago. I began by writing picture books, and went to conferences and studied the craft of books for younger children. Right around my 100th rejection on various stories, one of my picture book stories, BABY CAN’T SLEEP, sold to Sterling. As my children were growing, I began reading mid-grade novels again, sharing in that experience with my oldest son. I remembered how much I loved those books as a kid, and since the picture book market was having a tough time of it, I thought maybe I should try writing a novel. I was scared, but I also figured, what do I have to lose? It was exciting to have a new challenge. That mid-grade novel was the first of three novels I wrote, none of which ever sold. I think of them as my training books. With each one, I learned about writing a novel. I may go back and revisit one of them, and see if some revisions would make it more marketable, but we’ll see.
    When I started writing I HEART YOU, I had a feeling deep inside that this was something different, and was my best work yet. After many years of trying, I got an agent with this book and then she helped me sell it to Simon Pulse.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of being a published author?

    I love hearing from readers who enjoy my books. It’s so wonderful to have someone tell me that my book touched them in a special way.
    The hardest part is probably juggling everything. I’m glad I have an agent now so she can handle the business side of new books that I write, but the promotion stuff does take a lot of time. I have a day job and a family to care for, so sometimes it can get overwhelming trying to prioritize everything.

Why did you choose to write for teenagers? Do you write for or plan to write for other age groups as well?

    I am one of those writers who love books for all ages. I don’t see myself settling in one age group and staying there. The teen years were some of the happiest and scariest of my life, all at the same time. All of the firsts you experience as a teen – the first dance, the first kiss, the first drive – there’s nothing like it, and I love revisiting that time through my writing.

What was your inspiration for writing I Heart You, You Haunt Me?

    I had a dream about a girl whose boyfriend died, but he loved her so much, he couldn’t leave her behind, and returned as a ghost.
    I think Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT came from a dream, too. Do you think my book will be as successful as hers? :-)

What are you writing now?

I’m working on a novel in verse called LOST WITHOUT YOU. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I can tell you that instead of a ghost, an angel has a brief appearance.
What’s one interesting thing about you that not many people know?

    I love shopping at thrift stores and buy most of my clothes that way. Just recently I found this fabulous pink jacket with the Nordstrom price tags still it!

What are some of your favorite young adult books or authors?

    Oh, so many!!! John Green, Sarah Dessen, Markus Zusak, Maureen Johnson, , Cecil Castellucci , E. Lockhart, Sonya Sones. I could go on. My tastes run on the more literary side, I think.

Is there any question you wish I’d asked you?
How about – If they made I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME into a movie, and they asked you to play the role of Ava’s mother, who would you want to play her father?

John Cusack, all the way!

Thank you for having me here and for your thoughtful questions! I enjoy talking to people who love young adult literature as much as I do!

Thank you, Lisa!

Quick note: I’ve got quite a stack of review books piling up next to my computer! This weekend, expect a lot of updates. For the moment, I’m settling into a new semester at school, and it’s a rather difficult semester for me, so that’s taking up quite a bit of my time. Anyway, THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE applies to the 2k8 and 888 challenges, and, without further ado, here’s my review!

THE OPPOSITE OF INVISIBLE, Class of 2k8 member Liz Gallagher’s impressive debut novel, is truly amazing. It’s about one girl finding her place in the world, sorting out herself and her relationships, in a story where the setting, Seattle, is so important and so alive that it practically becomes a character itself! Told in Alice’s distinctive, honest voice, the story focuses a lot on her feelings for two different guys in her life: Jewel and Simon. Jewel has been a part of her life for a long time. He’s her best friend, and practically her whole world. They’re extremely close, but Alice is getting a little restless. She wants to know other people, to have other friends, but she’s not sure it’s a desire Jewel will like. Simon, on the other hand, is a very new part of her life. She’s been crushing on him for awhile, but it seems like he’s finally noticing her back–at a very inopportune time: she and Jewel are starting to become possibly more than just friends. The only person she has to turn to when Jewel freezes her out is Dove Girl, her poster of the famous painting by Picasso that she talks to. In a very short time, Alice has gone from having no boyfriend prospects that she could see, to having to choose between two great guys.

Talking about the plot doesn’t really do this brilliant novel justice, though. It’s certainly character-driven, and Liz Gallagher captures all of her characters perfectly. Alice is just one of the most perfect, real, and honest teenage girl characters I’ve seen in quite awhile, and someone I’d love to meet in real life. The first line of this book is perfect: “Some girls have journals. I talk to my poster.” It’s just so Alice, so unique, so intriguing, so perfect. Alice is a very real teenage girl, and she has real questions that we all have about love, friendship, and life. She’s so true-to-life, but also so wonderfully unlike anyone I’ve ever met! The other characters populating this novel are well-drawn, but Alice is my favorite character of the year so far, by far.

Liz Gallagher’s lyrical prose draws the reader right in, and my only wish for this book is that it be longer! It’s only 151 pages, and I wanted to spend far longer than that in Alice’s world. Those 151 pages go by far too quickly, though! This book is definitely one I’d love to reread, and I can’t wait to read whatever Gallagher writes next. She’s certainly one of the most promising new voices in young adult literature.

*Review also posted at CurledUpKids.com*

Book number one of 2008, and book number one of the 2k8 challenge, also for the 888 challenge.

I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is a love story. Ava and Jackson are teenagers whose romance is at its best when Jackson accepts a dare. He’s a daring sort of guy, but this dare is his last; he jumps off a high rock into some water and hits his head on a rock and dies. Ava is, understandably, devastated now that Jackson is gone.

Or is he? She can’t see him, except for glimpses in the mirror, can’t touch him except in her dreams, but the sudden rushes of cold air, the electronics being turned on as if by a ghost…Could it be Jackson, her love come back to her? Most people would think she’s nuts, but Ava knows the truth. Jackson’s back. She just isn’t sure why or how or even if that’s truly the way she wants it.

This is a lovely verse novel–haunting, a beautiful story, beautifully written. I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME is a powerful story of life, love, loss, grief, and moving on (but not forgetting)–of finding hope after a tragedy. There is a ghost, but this isn’t really a paranormal story. Not a ghost story, really, just a love story, and no matter if their passion was powerful enough to keep Jackson around even after death, they are still fifteen, and this is a real, honest story of what teenage love is usually like.

I read this book in Books-a-Million (I have resolution not to spend so much money on books, and the way to remedy this is to go sit for an hour or two at the bookstore and read), but it’s one I’d go back to time and time again, one I’d like on my shelf. So go! Read it! It comes highly recommended.

I’ve decided to start my own challenge. Check out the details here, and you can always get back to that through the link in the sidebar. Basically, I want to find new books and authors in 2008, and this is a way to do so!