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Just read three of the 2014 Best For Young Adult (BFYA) books. I like YA because they’re usually more imaginative and (in many cases) more ‘real’ than much of the usual commercial books out there. I think this is because teens and young adults are more open to something that’s new and different; they haven’t (necessarily) frozen themselves into the “adult mind” and its “I only want the same old stuff I liked before” mode.

So here are some quick reviews of the three:

A Trick Of The Light

Lois Metzger

In this book, an unidentified narrator tells the story of a guy who pretty much has his high school life together (popular star athlete, good grades, good relationships with friends and family) who starts hearing a voice. The voice tells him to work harder, exercise more, eat less, make himself perfect. He starts listening to the voice, doing what it says, although there are times when the voice has to struggle to get him to do what he’s told. Turns out, the voice is the narrator.

Where’s the voice coming from – is it a demon? An alien? No, it’s the voice of his eating disorder, anorexia.

Metzger wrote the book because 10% of anorexics are guys, but very little study is done of male anorexia because it’s perceived as a “girl’s disease.”

The story ends with him recovering – but the voice is still there, tempting and trying to manipulate him – so it ends with the reality that no matter how much he wants that voice to go away, he’ll always be fighting the disorder.

This is the first story I’ve read in which the narrator is a disease. People who suffer from chronic conditions have characterized their conditions as having a character, an identity or personality apart from their own. So it was neat reading a story that builds on that.

The White Bicycle

Beverly Brenna

This is the concluding volume of a trilogy telling the first-person story of a (now) 19-year-old woman with Aspberger’s Syndrome. In this volume, she and her mother and her mother’s boyfriend have gone to live in France for the summer. The boyfriend has hired the narrator to take care of his physically-handicapped son. She has to adjust to a number of things (change from America to France, the presence of mother’s boyfriend) and is still struggling to deal with her condition. She’s also wrestling with what independence means (to her and her relationship with society) and what she wants to do about college and such.

My godson is Aspbergian in his mid-twenties. He paints pictures, he has started designing games. He has come a long way when it comes to communicating and interacting with people. What I particularly liked about the book is how true the author is to an Aspergian character’s viewpoint. While reading it, I could easily recognize something she thinks or says or how she acts as something my godson has mentioned or done.

I also liked that it was set in sourthern France, which I haven’t visited yet. The narrator’s limited ability to speak French is many steps ahead of my non-French! So that part was cool.

The narrator’s parents’ marriage disintegrated over the course of the trilogy under the strain of raising an Aspbergian child, so I’d recommend the trilogy for anyone interested in Aspberger’s or any autism spectrum disorder, any young adult Aspbergian, or siblings of someone on the spectrum.

Rags & Bones

Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt (editors)

Forget the “Best For Young Adults” label. (Although this is a great book for YA, too.) This is a great collection of modern retellings of classic old stories, such as Sleeping Beauty, The Castle of Otranto (the very first Gothic novel ever published!) and so on. Retold by well-known authors, such as Neil Gaiman.

The ones that stuck with me the most are the retelling of:

  • Sleeping Beauty – in which we find out that as everyone in the castle has been sleeping, the wicked witch has been keeping herself young and immortal by slowly draining their lives. The ending is NOT what you expect!
  • The Castle of Otranto – in which we experience some events of the original story translated to the modern day where a movie crew is filming a movie at the actual Otranto Castle in Italy when one of the stars is killed by a strong wind that blows his trailer over a cliff. The ending is NOT that of the book, since the forces behind the goings-on get their way (to have people leave the castle alone).

Recommend reading any or all of them!

Enheduanna of Akkad

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enheduanna

Here’s a link to translations of her compositions known as “The Temple Hymns”:

http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section4/tr4801.htm

This reminds me of something I tweeted a few years ago:

Five traditional Mesopotamian job descriptions for poets: astrologer/scribe, diviner, exorcist/magician, physician, lamentation chanter.

Apparently using one’s writing talents to glorify one’s god has been around for a long time!

And some things to think about:

  • Will our works still be around and read 4,614 years after we and our nation/culture/language are gone?
  • If they are, what might the people of that time think of them, the culture they came from, and you?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26463886

Some thoughts about this:

  • I think some of the photos (such as the Kennedy one used in the BBC article) should have been free to use. Little thing called historical value. That’s just me.
  • They could have considered a Creative Commons license that disallows commercial use while allowing others to use the image. But maybe they don’t agree with CC licensing.
  • Who in their right mind is going to use a photo on their site by embedding an iframe linking to it? Isn’t Getty aware that a number of browser-based adblockers and malware filters, plus some corporate firewall/web-filtering systems, block iframe sources by default?
  • And – photos cannot be resized? What do they think websites are – pieces of printed paper waved in peoples’ faces? Print media has been resizing photos for ages to fit their layouts.
  • Or flipping them because they want people in the photo facing toward the text. Is that allowed? If so, the neat little “Getty” tag will be mirror writing. But, I guess if you need to do such things to the photo – you just grab the photo itself and not even bother with their embedding code. Sure, give credit. But that should be routine practice for any site or business. You want to get credit for the things you put out there? Give credit for the things out there that you use!
  • I doubt that many sites want Getty making money from their page by serving ads on the embedded link. Maybe Getty will offer a Google-style affiliate program and share some of the revenue with the linking site (should there ever be any revenue).
  • Finally, just how many photographers are making any money from most of those photos, anyway? If they were shot by a US photographer employed by a US company, they’re all works-for-hire and any usage fees are probably going to the company, not the photographer. (IANAL, so don’t be surprised if I’m wrong about that.) Some of those photos date back to the era when musicians didn’t own their own recordings – the record companies did and could do anything they wanted with it, regardless of what the musician wanted, and didn’t necessarily have to pay the musician a dime for it. Were photographers treated any better back then?