Fly on the Wall: Chick Lit Wednesday–inaugural post

Fly on the Wall by E. LockhartLet’s take a look at Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything (2006) by E. Lockhart (find it on Bookshop):

For Gretchen Yee life as an artificial redhead is anything but glamorous. A student at the Manhattan High School for the Arts (New Yorkers think: La Guardia) with girls wearing unitards or saris and cliques like the Art Rats, Gretchen feels too ordinary to belong. She stands out not because she’s special or unique but because she’s ordinary save for her stop-sign-red hair.

Gretchen is also lonely and confused. Her best friend is more and more distant and the boys at her school–like her crush the fantastically amazing and artistic and offbeat Titus? Well, they don’t make any sense either.

Then Gretchen makes an idle wish to spend one week as a fly on the wall of the boy’s locker room not expecting much to change.* But sometimes, wishes don’t like to stay idle. Sometimes they like to come true.

Life as a vermin isn’t much more glamorous than life as an artificial redhead. But it’s certainly more informative. Gretchen gets to observe the boys as they come and go for each gym class. Lower classmen, acquaintances, friends, and even her crush, are all available to scrutinize. Instead of just learning, as she had expected, about what the boys really look like under those baggy jeans and t-shirts and what they really think and say behind closed doors–Gretchen also gets a chance to find out how she fits into the school.

When the week is over Gretchen might have even learned enough to live life not as an artificial redhead or a vermin but as a superhero.

I like Gretchen a lot as a character. She is also a comic book fan which almost always makes a character fun to read about. Excuse the pun, but after being a fly, Gretchen’s metamorphosis from insecure to empowered girl really starts.

At times Lockhart’s language seemed a little . . . unique. (You can tell me what you think after reading her segment on “gherkins.”) I don’t know if it’s that she’s using slang that I find weird and this is therefore only my problem, but it just made me hyper-aware that I was reading a book at certain points in the story.

As for the plot, it’s a classic problem-resolution kind of story. Which I like. If you need to pick up something light and fun after a sad book I’d recommend this. Finally, even though you think the book is about a girl turning into a fly which is a fair assumption, it’s really about more than that too. Specifically, it’s about a girl learning to go after what she wants.

*Basically, Fly on the Wall takes Franz Kafka’s plot from The Metamorphosis and brings it into the modern world and into a book that would appeal to teenage girls. And, for that reason, I almost didn’t read it. I hated reading The Metamorphosis in high school and, to be honest, I still strongly dislike the book and avoid Kafka at all costs because of it. BUT, I am happy to say that the similarity to Kafka’s novel begins and ends with Gretchen turning into a fly.

Possible Pairings: Girl Overboard by Justina Chen, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, Flannery by Lisa Moore, The Superhero Handbook by Michael Powell, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, The Fly (movie)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Review

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) is the first book written by Sherman Alexie (illustrated by Ellen Forney) specifically for a young adult audience.

Find it on Bookshop.

I finished it in two days but have been holding onto my copy because I’ve been having a hard time articulating why I might love this book.

If you have read anything by Alexie, you know that he writes about life on the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington. In Reservation Blues Alexie described the misadventures of Thomas Builds-the-Fire and his friends as they try to start a band (and deal with the relative fame that follows). Like Reservation Blues, this novel is filled with equal parts humor and tragedy along with some memorable characters thrown in to taste. What surprised me about Diary is that it is also more biting that Reservation Blues. At times Alexie’s descriptions of white-Indian relations and life on the rez are so scathing that they’re painful to read. And yet . . . I couldn’t put the book down.

Now that you are sufficiently intrigued, let’s talk about the plot.

This story revolves around Arnold “Junior” Spirit, his family and his best friend, Rowdy. We join Arnold at the beginning of the novel at the age of 14. Born with a variety of physical ailments, Arnold is used to being picked on. He doesn’t mind, though, because he knows he has his art and his intelligence and his family. Things get complicated for Arnold when he realizes that he has to leave the reservation in order to get a good education and succeed where most of his family and friends have failed. So Arnold starts going to the all-white school in a neighboring all-white town.

As the story progresses, Arnold grapples with his decision and trying to figure out his identity in his new surroundings. With the additions of love, rivalry, and basketball Alexie has enough twists to keep the most impatient readers enthralled. The illustrations by Ellen Forney also really add to the text.

In Reservation Blues and some of his other works, Alexie brings up the issue of alcoholism and heavy drinking on the reservation. The subject comes up again here. I can’t say that I understand heavy drinking as a past time in general–it remains equally perplexing here. At the same time, Alexie aptly shows the damage that one too many bottles of . . . whatever . . . can cause, which is part of why I think this novel is really important.

But you won’t be reading this book just because I happen to think it’s important. No. I expect that you will find yourself charmed by Arnold and his unique outlook on life and opportunity. I know I did.

Like Alexie’s other writing, this book is poetic and beautiful but still razor sharp.

When I finished reading, I didn’t know what to say–so much so that I wanted to immediately re-read it. (It’s the kind of book that you can do that with.) I think that’s the best response you can have to a book: when it’s so good it leaves you speechless.

Possible Pairings: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Feeling the power

This week has been really fun for me in internet-related areas. The computers at work seem to be online semi-regularly again which makes the internet that much more appreciated. Before I get into any fun though, I want to add that I noticed this week that I seem to have finally broken my internet addiction. Yes, I still go online quite a lot. But I don’t get twitchy every time I’m near a computer with internet access anymore and I feel no need to check my emails every time I have a free minute at work or school. I can’t begin to explain how much of a relief that is.

This blog is–for certain search parameters–a top hit on Google. I’m not sure why, but it is and that’s kind of cool. The fact that I have not yet found a way to get this blog to come up on unless I specifically search for it (not for subjects that appear in my posts) illustrates the superiority of over Google. is the most addictive site ever. And all you do there is upload books you have read, so that’s kind of weird. I am now a “librarian” on goodreads, which means I can access book records and correct/add information. I can’t explain why, but that is just really cool to me.

I have discovered that I am in possession of a book that is so new I cannot even write a review for it on yet. Such are the benefits of working with a librarian on the BBYA committee.

While on amazon I also discovered  that Scott Westerfeld is writing a fourth book in the Uglies series (previously the Uglies trilogy which is the only annoying thing about this fourth book). It is called Extras and it has new characters (it’s set a few years after the end of Specials) and I am very excited.

(This week has been really fun for books as well, as you can guess I am sure. Not so fun for other reasons, but I finally calmed down about all that so I’m not bringing any of it up again.)

Five Years, Clustering: A fragmented post

I received a memo in my mailbox at work today. Apparently I am starting my fifth year working with the NYPL, a shocking milestone. This means that my annual leave accrual rate goes up, or something. Since I can’t actually read my own timesheet properly I don’t know for sure.

This Saturday found me working at a different library, Muhlenberg (I’ve decided that while keeping people mentioned in this blog anonymous is good that library branches don’t really warrant the same level of security). Muhlenberg is a small branch but it’s really cute and bright and airy. I never got a chance to see the Children’s room, but I like what I saw of the first floor. I don’t use the word “cute” lightly when I talk about buildings, so keep that in mind.

I’m not a big fan of clustering because it means that you have to be at a strange library, working with strangers. You don’t have any of your stuff and you don’t have any of your own “space.” I was particularly aggrieved this Saturday because while I was at MU my copy of Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli was still at JMR–a fact that made reading more of the book impossible.

Living in the now: a review of Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliI just finished Love, Stargirl (2007) by Jerry Spinelli (find it on Bookshop). And I have not been able to pick up another book because I don’t want to lose the feeling of satisfaction that came from finishing it. At first, I didn’t think that this book could be as good as it’s “prequel” Stargirl, but now I’m hard-pressed to say which was better.

Love, Stargirl picks up where Stargirl left off. She has left Mica High in Arizona and, more importantly, her boyfriend Leo. The story reads as a year-long letter to Leo as Stargirl lives life as only she can and tries to understand how things went wrong with Leo and what her feelings are for him now.

Spinelli brings in a lot of memorable characters. My favorites are Charlie and Betty Lou. Betty Lou, particularly, has a special place in my heart because she gives some of the best advice I have ever heard when she tells Stargirl to live in the now and make the most of each today that she finds. Which, being Stargirl, she does. As the story progresses, Stargirl changes from a stranger to an integral part of her new hometown. Through small kindnesses, unexpected friendships, and leaving behind lots of oranges, Stargirl makes as much of an impression here in Pennsylvania as she did at Mica High–maybe even more.

The entire novel, especially the ending, is magical. I am as enchanted with Stargirl now as I was when I read Spinelli’s first novel about her. It was refreshing to see this amazing girl’s thoughts and hear things from her point of view (the first book is told in Leo’s POV). If you aren’t touched by Stargirl and her little kindnesses and the beauty of this book, then you are beyond all help. These books are fairly quick reads with straightforward prose, but both are the rare books that I feel strongly everyone should read. I think that if everyone tried to be a little more like Stargirl the world would be a better place.

Possible Pairings: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Paper Towns by John Green, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Holes by Louis Sachar

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency: A brief review

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1977) by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Tony Auth (find it on Bookshop)

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel PinkwaterI wasn’t sure about the book when it was foisted upon me by one of the children’s librarians. Chickens . . . they don’t seem that interesting. This is not the case for 266 pound chickens like Henrietta.

Arthur brings Henrietta home on Thanksgiving having failed to procure a turkey (or duck, or normal sized chicken) for his family’s holiday dinner. But, upon meeting Henrietta, the family decides she might be more pet than poultry. Chaos ensues, however, when Henrietta gets loose.

It’s a cute story and a quick read. The characters created by Daniel Pinkwater (and illustrated by his wife Jill) are memorable and lots of fun. I also really liked the message of the story, which overtly is that “Chickens need love too” but is also just a call for tolerance–something that can never be stated enough. Pinkwater originally wrote this book in the 1970s and I’m pretty confident it will continue to be a favorite for years to come.

The Meq: A Review

The Meq by Steve CashI just finished reading The Meq (2005) by Steve Cash yesterday. And, at the risk of gushing, the word “awesome” really doesn’t do this book justice. The Meq was Cash’s first novel, but the richness of the text and the strong characters seem like the work of veteran writer. So, you may ask, what is The Meq about? The quick version is that it’s a story akin to the Highlander movies. But that doesn’t really explain much.

The Meq are a mysterious race of immortals that have been around since, well, the beginning. They stop aging when they turn twelve, they cannot get sick or die, and they do not continue aging until meeting their ameq (soulmate). The catch is they have no idea why they are immortal; no knowledge of their origins.

Cash’s book begins when Zianno Zezen turns twelve (for the first time) in 1881 and learns that he and his parents are Meq. This book, the first in a series, spans from 1881 to 1918. Cash’s writing style lends itself to the breezy way that the Meq can deal with time (what’s a few years when you can live forever?). And, while it may seem strange to read about centuries-old people living in the bodies of children, Cash makes that work too. While the story has adventure and romance, the main conceit of this novel (and I presume later ones in the series) is Z’s search, along with his fellow Meq, for the truth behind their origins.

The book is generally categorized as YA, but I really think it’s a must-read for anyone who has any interest in fantasy novels.


So I decided it was to have a “real” blog site. I have no idea how to do anything on here, but hopefully that will change soon :)