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October 2nd, 2013

A massive thank you to Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan, for answering the questions that Spinebreakers put to him a few months back. Watch the video below for some details of the characters we might meet in The House of Hades, what quest HE would send a hero on, and advice on writing humour.

Thanks to Evan, Shannon, Ella, Tricia and Ruth for their great questions.


The House Of Hades!

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October 1st, 2013

Rick Riordan’s next exciting instalment of Percy’s epic adventure is here!

At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

They have no choice. If the demigods don’t succeed, Gaea’s armies will never die.

They have no time. In about a month, the Romans will march on Camp Half-Blood.

The stakes are higher than ever in this adventure that dives into the depths of Tartarus.


September 26th, 2013

Meg Rosoff’s wonderful book ‘How I Live Now‘  has been transformed and is coming to a big screen near you on 4th October

 

For those who don’t know the story…

It’s a powerful and engaging tale of Daisy, the precocious New Yorker and her English cousin Edmond, torn apart as war breaks out in London of a not-so-distant future.

Fifteen-year-old Daisy thinks she knows all about love. Her mother died giving birth to her, and now her dad has sent her away for the summer, to live in the English countryside with cousins she’s never even met.

There she’ll discover what real love is: something violent, mysterious and wonderful. There her world will be turned upside down and a perfect summer will explode into a million bewildering pieces.

How will Daisy live then?

 

Check out the trailer to get a taster

 

Watch and listen as Meg Rosoff speaks about seeing her debut novel come alive on screen; the differences between ‘her Daisy’ and [director] ‘Kevin’s Daisy’ as well as the blurring of lines between childhood and adulthood.

 

Check out the music video too – Bat for Lashes have done the main song for the film, and the video features Saoirse Ronan, (who plays Daisy).

 

Also – one of our lucky Spinebreakers editors visited the How I Live Now movie set last August! Click here to read Hope’s report 


September 24th, 2013

One of our great Spinebreakers editors Alannah, wonders…are we all just reading the same three stories?

 

Vapid teenager meets honestly-really-not-very-bad-ass vampire/werewolf. Vapid teenager falls in love with so-called vampire/werewolf. Eventually, both agree that they really should stop seeing each other because their relationship is unhealthy and is stagnating in its own predictability. And that’s the end of that.

No. Of course it isn’t.

Vapid teenager and so-called vampire/werewolf, despite destroying the lives and souls of their own loved ones, fight not-very-tirelessly for a life together where they can have lots and lots of babies. The end.

Or how about his one? An unlikely hero discovers that he/she is the only person in the world with the powers to defeat the evil shadow that has overcast his/her side of Dystopia-world and is putting his/her family and livelihood in peril. He/she falls in love, quite conveniently, with a super-cool-sword-wielding guy/girl during his/her epic quest. Some people die along the way, but it’s all good in the end.

And then there’s this one: loser boy, at the cusp of adolescent blossoming, tries to come to terms with his manhood and social awkwardness and falls in love, oh-so unexpectedly, with the quirky girl next door.

Yes. I’ve heard it all before. The 13+ section of my local branch of Waterstone’s serves as an ample reminder. My finger brushes against the crisp, un-broken spines as I search relentlessly. Vampires, vampires, vampires, come of age, dystopia, come of age, werewolves, dystopia, dystopia. So I’ll ask the question: are teen book genres becoming too limited?

I’ll be completely honest: I’ve never really read a typical dark romance/vampire lit (apart from Dracula, perhaps) that I’ve been able to get through, let alone enjoy. Perhaps I’m too closed minded in this respect, or maybe I simply find that the plots are thin and predictable and the characters tepid and weak. I’m dying for the characters in these books to have some obvious flaws, other than their own egotism. They’re “good enough to eat”, with skin and teeth crafted fastidiously in the idol of Angel Gabriel himself. Right. Like most teenagers I see around.

I love old fashioned sci-fi/dystopian novels: 1984, A Handmaid’s Tale, I Am Legend, Un-Lun-Dun and even The Hunger Games. But this incessant demand to have a “chosen one” who, alone, can inadvertently trample upon a corrupt totalitarian state has been recycled and charred. I don’t know. Isn’t it time to rekindle the flame and swallow a spoonful of originality, people?

And then there’s your “remarkable coming-of-age tale”s, a section of adolescent literature that has churned out some truly sensational stories, in my opinion, despite my occasional cynicism. Lets take some stuff by J. D. Salinger (albeit most of it was published in the 60s) or maybe Judy Bloom. Louis Sachar, too. But an awful lot of YA authors have introduced the whole lanky-loser scenario, who may or may not have fallen in love with a beautiful and elusive manic depressive, who is CLEARLY out of his league. Clearly, indisputably, unequivocally. So, in the end, he gets the girl. Or she dies. Or they both die. I forget.

Ok, so now to counter argue EVERYTHING I’ve just said, because it wouldn’t be much of a debate if I didn’t. I’m lucky, as a Spinebreaker’s editor, to receive two free books a month, courtesy of Penguin. Honestly, I’ve failed to be unsurprised by the vast array of choices on offer. There is always something new that I haven’t yet tried. There are plenty of young adult books; brilliant historical fictions and sci-fi thrillers and horrors and plays and poignant romances and crime stories and mysteries and some page-turning political dystopians and heart-wrenching come-of-ages. I’m sure if I tried my hand a bit of vampire lit I might be able to get through one. And, whattayaknow? I might discover my new favourite genre. Well, perhaps that’s a step too far…

Only thing is, YA fiction isn’t exactly dominated by a healthy variety.

Contrary to that, I know that some teens love these books- we would never hear about the authors if they didn’t. And, by that logic, it doesn’t matter so much that so many of the same types of books are being published. At least teenagers are reading, which is the ideal circumstance. And, yes, I’ll succumb to this rebuttal too: writers need to get inspiration from somewhere, so there won’t always be complete intra-genre differentiation.

But all I’m asking, maybe, maybe… can we have something a teensy bit different?

Please?

 

What do you think? Do you think that teen lit is too limited for us? Or do you think that we have enough variation as it is? 


September 24th, 2013

This week is “Banned Book” week, where we take a look at some of the books that have been challenged most by societies all over the world. Spinebreaker Alannah discusses why these books are banned…

As the lives of 10 year old children go, mine was pretty unextraordinary. Happy? Sure. Fulfilling? Yeah. But essentially I was encased in primary education and barely reaching 4ft in height. I’d bake cakes with my Nan on Thursday afternoons, reluctantly stand in as goalie for the boy’s football team at break. Did I mention the healthy fixation I had of singing “ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, banana phone!” at 7:25am each morning?

What? It’s normal.

Moving on, I asked for a copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for my birthday that year and lo and behold, I got one. A few weeks later my Mum sat me down at the bottom of the stairs because she wanted to have “ a talk” with me.

I may have been 4ft2inches, but I was no mug. I knew what “a talk” meant.

I pre-eminently apologised for whatever it was that I had done and hitherto made my sister liable for any blame.

Anyway, I wasn’t in trouble. My mum just wanted to talk to me about some of the books that I had received for my birthday. In particular “Huckleberry Finn”. She explained how my Dad and herself were sort of hesitant about buying it for me, what with all the… well, racist references. But then she told me something; something that I still think of now: “I’d rather have you hear it from a story like this, where you know that the word is wrong, than hearing it somewhere else and thinking that it’s ok.”

Wise words, Mother.

And suddenly, my 10 year old life got so much more bad-ass. I was the girl who read books from the banned section of the library. Well, no. So no one really ever thought of me that way. Ever. And I didn’t get more rebellious than Harry Potter. But that’s not what I’m trying to get at here. What I’m trying to divulge with you is this…

“The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain has been banned in most libraries in the US and is being challenge increasingly by parents, both transatlantic and at home in Britain. The subject matter of Twain’s story and the “exploitation of prejudiced language” has rendered it from any Teen/YA fiction bookshelf in some state libraries and innumerable schools. “The Colour Purple” by Alice Walker has been grafted into this list of books too. The story tells of the vile mistreatment of a young black woman at the dawning of the 20th century throughout her life. Walker depicts incidents of molestation, incest and homosexuality. It has also been condoned for the racist language employed. The same can be said of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” and “Of Mice and Men” to name really very few. Even books such as “The Diary of Anne Frank”, a hauntingly vivid depiction of the massacre of non-Aryans during WW2 has been questioned and removed form public accessibility. Don’t get those parents started on J. D. Salinger. Oh, no. “The Catcher In The Rye” certainly isn’t a hot favourite. And lock up your little ‘uns because exposing them so such works as “Harry Potter” will drive them to the worship of Beelzebub himself. They’ll be swapping basketball in the backyard to witchcraft in the basement.

Right. Now to set some things straight.

There is no way that I would give a book such as “A Clockwork Orange” to a child under 13. To read a book like that requires a certain degree of social maturity and understanding that most children will not yet have attained. I don’t condone that children should know these things, because eventually they will know. But kids should be kids. Again, I agree that children should not be exposed to “The Colour Purple” or any story line mirroring it. The authors obviously had a specific audience in mind when writing these books and often they were not projected toward young children. It is at their parents discretion that they read them. But does that mean that teenagers and young adults should be denied access to them? If they and their parents agree that they are mature enough to broach these subjects then the fact is that they are having their right to read taken away from them. Why should they have to sacrifice their learning curve, thus preventing them from learning about real life in the most positive and subtle way possible?

Taking a look at the link (that I will paste below the post), these works are undeniably valid works of literature. Some of my favourite books are on that list, like “Catch 22” and “Slaughterhouse 5”. Books of a political and relevant nature, such as George Orwell’s  “1984” because of it’s ideas concerning sexuality, or purely well-written and conventionally challenging dystopians such as “The Hunger Games” are featured on the list.

I don’t know. All this censoring sounds a little totalitarian.

What the parents have correctly identified is that, yes, these books do contain themes of racial prejudice, incest and violence. But I’d like to digress. The author of “Of Mice and Men” employs these insults because he feels pity for the characters and anger at the injustice that they suffer in real life. Steinbeck wants his writing to evoke awareness in the readers. The same goes for “The Colour Purple”. George Orwell ridicules hypocritical convention of his time in “Animal Farm”. In fact, if they’d bother to understand the texts, parents and librarians would realise that the authors condone racism, stereotyping and molestation. They promote awareness of corrupt societies, genocides and ethnic minorities. In fact, these books are the best guides that an emerging adolescent has to understanding this crazy world.

In my opinion, to censor these books is to airbrush the reflections that these stories bear of society. It would be to forget the sexual degradation of women, racial persecutions, slavery, war and corrupt societies that have littered human history. It would destroy every microcosm, every shred of pity that readers had felt for book characters over the years.

And seriously? Harry Potter? Who in their right mind would put a book about a magical boy, his wizard friends and a man with no nose on the list?

Here is the link to the banned teen books section of the Skokie Public Library: http://www.skokie.lib.il.us/s_teens/tn_books/tn_booklists/banned.asp