I recently finished the extraordinarily good Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and as much as I’d love to talk at length about my love for that book, Lexie already beat me to it. Shucks. So, instead, I’m going to write about my second favorite young adult novel about a red-headed social misfit published this year – Lauren Roedy Vaughn’s OCD, The Dude, and Me.
Danielle Levine doesn’t fit in (has there ever been a young adult book about someone well-adjusted? Would anyone want to read it?) Diagnosed with OCD, she attends an alternative high school and has to see the school psychologist to work on her social skills. With no friends and a rotten self-image, Danielle’s energy goes into rearranging her snowglobe collection, writing and reading, and pining for her crush, Jacob. That is, until she meets Daniel, a fellow outsider who introduces Danielle to the cult classic, The Big Lebowski and they find themselves at Lebowskifest (something that I’m happy to report is real), a place where Danielle finally feels like she belongs.
Vaughn chose to introduce Danielle diary style — through her school essays, journal entries, and email exchanges– to great effect. Witty and sarcastic, Danielle steadily grows up as the year passes. As she gains confidence, she becomes more likable — a concept that may be inspiring to the self-deprecating among us. Fans of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky should pick OCD, The Dude, and Me.
There comes a point in most people’s lives when they begin to realize that they’re finally an adult. For me that moment came the first time I re-watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and I realized that I sympathized more with the adults and Ferris’ sister than Ferris. Since that day, I’ve noticed a trend in my entertainment sympathies. I watched Easy A and my favorite characters were Olive’s parents (hilariously played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci). I’ve been re-watching The Cosby Show, and my affinity has swayed from Theo to Clair.
So when I watched The Way, Way Back, I was expecting the same. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash*, the writers of the Oscar winning The Descendants screenplay, this is a smart, funny movie about the pain of growing up and the fear of becoming the wrong kind of adult. Liam James is remarkably and heartbreakingly convincing as Duncan, a 14-year-old spending the summer with his mom, Pam (Toni Collette) at her boyfriend Trent’s beach house. Trent, played by a surprisingly unlikable Steve Carrell, is the aforementioned wrong kind of adult. He is obsessed with the “supposed to” in life, caring more about things and image than people. When Duncan finds a job at the local water park, he begins to meet people that have chosen a different path toward adulthood (and have reached it in varying degrees).
There are a lot of reasons to recommend this movie. The supporting cast — Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and the scene stealing Allison Janney — is fantastic, and the movie is hilarious. But I loved the movie because of how much I cared about Duncan. Teens are often portrayed as arrogant and reckless or completely socially inept nerds, but most kids live somewhere in the middle. James’ performance and Faxon and Rash’s writing helped give me a chance to root for the teen again, which is almost like reclaiming my youth.
I’d recommend this movie for fans of Little Miss Sunshine, Crazy Stupid Love, or Adventureland.
*The Dean from Community has an Oscar!
Get this book for any teen girl you know. Tavi’s online zine, Rookie Mag, has been collecting accolades since the fifteen-year-old blogger started it from her Midwestern bedroom. Tavi has been a respected style blogger since 2008, when she began her fashion blog Style Rookie at the tender age of eleven. Since then, she’s been invited to attend and review fashion shows all over the world, but it’s not just clothes anymore; this clever writer and all-around gifted young woman has created a magazine where teens can go for conversations with other teens about school, friends, music and movies, feminism, body image and self esteem, fashion, sex, and all the minutiae of teenage life that seems so monumental to those who are living it. She writes about the problems and the questions that real, modern teens have. She’s frank and funny and I wish I’d been even one-tenth as smart and confident as she is when I was a teenager. What I’m getting at is: here is a great, realistic role model. And a great book!
Rookie: Yearbook One is an ink & paper retrospective of the online magazine’s first year. It contains a lot of writing by Tavi, but it’s been touched by dozens of others; Miranda July, Lena Dunham, Aubrey Plaza, Joss Whedon, Patton Oswalt, and many others make appearances – either in pieces they’ve written for the magazine or as the subject of one of Tavi’s excellent interviews (I love how she is just as comfortable grilling Whedon about his modern-day interpretation of the sexual politics of “Much Ado About Nothing” as she is sharing a laugh with Plaza about how much they love the film “Reality Bites”). These are articles that matter, ideas that resonate, and interviews that are exciting and in-depth; it’s also lighthearted (you’ll love the section on how to cry without anyone catching you), and the graphic design of the book is phenomenal. If you have any taste for collage (and a little bit of the ridiculous) your eyes will pop at the juxtaposition of textures, photos, and hand-drawn illustrations. It’s just amazing, and I wish so much that I’d had it when I was a teenager!
Years ago, I enjoyed reading Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It was funny and quirky and self-revealing, with some darn good writing suggestions along the way. Her new novel, Imperfect Birds, is a work of fiction, and thankfully so, as it’s characters ring painfully true.
As the story opens, seventeen year-old Rosie Ferguson is ready to enjoy the summer before her senior year of high school. She’s smart –a straight-A student; she’s athletic - a former state-ranked doubles tennis champion; she’s great with the kids at her volunteer job, and she’s beautiful to boot!. But Rosie also has a knack for driving her mother, Elizabeth, crazy. She’s also quite adept at manipulating the truth and Mom seems more than willing to believe her lies. By the time school starts again in the fall, there are disturbing signs that is Rosie is not only abusing drugs, but that she is also making very dangerous choices, forcing her parents to finally confront the obvious.
As a parent myself (though thankfully no longer of teenagers) there were times when reading this made me vaguely uncomfortable. Had I, like Elizabeth, been too trusting when my son called to ask if he could spend the night at a friend’s? Hmmmm. Still, there’s a message here for both teens and adults, and the novel does end on a very hopeful note. Readers will also note the familiarity of characters and themes from the author’s previous works, such as Rosie and A Crooked Little Heart.
They were just six days at the end of a miserably hot summer. Yet to 13-year-old Henry those six days will change everything about his life in Labor Day by Joyce Maynard.
For Henry, the days pass monotonously – his emotionally fragile mother Adele has mostly checked out of life, rarely leaving the house. His father has a new family on the other side of town. Henry, lonely and awkward, and at that stage when you know so much and yet so little, just wishes something would happen. And then, Frank, bleeding and limping, walks into their lives. Henry has no idea how different he will be in six days. He will learn how to bake a pie, how to throw a baseball, the pain of jealousy and betrayal, and the power of love. Those six days will shape him into the man he will become.
Frank is an escaped prisoner who has been serving time for murder who seeks sanctuary with Henry and his mother. He is kind and thoughtful and soon Adele and Frank fall in love. They make plans to escape together to Canada. Henry struggles with this new person in their lives – relief that he is no longer the only person responsible for his mother’s happiness, fear that he’ll be left behind.
Narrated by Henry as an adult looking back on those six days, you hear the angst of the teenager softened by the perspective of time. It is written with simplicity and eloquence and a sympathetic understanding of the emotional complexity of people. The extended epilogue - particularly the last sentence – brings the story to an especially yet realistic satisfying conclusion.
I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs By Teens Famous & Obscure is a collection of writings gathered by Smith Magazine editors Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith from over 800 teens who share autobiographical truths about themselves – in just six words. These lines, more succinct than haiku, provide insightful glimmers into their day-to-day thoughts and realities.
Late For School Every Single Day
I fulfilled my awkwardness quota today.
My mom had my boyfriend deported.
Willing to share with us your six-word reality? Use the comment section below.
“Sweet coming-of-age saga meets Sex-in-the-City.“
This single phrase describes Crouch’s debut novel Girls in Trucks, in a nutshell. What starts out as a pleasant story about a young Southern debutante, full of all the appropriate adolescent angst, suddenly and surprisingly turns into a slightly tragic sitcom version of the once popular TV show. I actually liked the first part better, though the novel is really a collection of stories pieced together in the appearance of a novel. Still, this will prove to be hugely popular, especially with the twenty-something crowd, as the author effectively captures not only the charming Charleston, South Carolina dialogue and decorum, but also replays the New York City scenes with a saucy wit that leaves the reader both in laughter and in tears. Warning: it doesn’t end at all the way you would expect it to – you’ll just have to read the book to find out for yourself!
The really big screen!
We’re having a film festival for teens of the Quad Cities. For full details, call the Davenport Public Library at 563-326-7893. But a bit of information now might help. The Quad-City area Public Libraries have put out a call for entries for our first ever YouTube film fest. We would like teens to create a 3 to 5 minute film that they post to a special account on YouTube.com and turn in to us.
To make this even more fun, the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre® have invited us to have a Red Carpet Event to showcase the winners. Prizes will be awarded for movies selected by the librarians and by audience choice.
So join us for the event on Thursday, March 13 at 7:00 PM as area teens present their YouTube movie on the giant IMAX® screen.
No registration is required for the free screening on the 13th, but teens must register their entries by March 8th. Entry forms are at both the Main and Fairmount libraries, or any local public library. More information is also online at www.davenportlibrary.com.