Across The Universe

Across The Universe, Beth Revis’ debut book, is a fascinating journey through time and space. It begins on Earth, with Amy and her parents being cryogenically frozen to prepare for a 300-year journey to colonize a new earth-like planet. Except when Amy is unfrozen and wakes up, she’s told that they haven’t reached Centauri-Earth, and it’s only been 250 years since they left! The book is told from alternating points of view, switching between Amy and Elder, a teenage boy aboard Godspeed who is meant to be the future leader of the ship. Ever since the legendary Plague that decimated the population of the ship, it’s been run by a figurehead called Eldest (rather than on a military model, as it was before the Plague). But Elder soon discovers that everything is not as it seems and that Godspeed has a dark history. Why has Amy been woken up early, and what secrets are Eldest hiding from Elder?

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The Unidentified

Oh my Google. The Unidentified was a pretty cool book. It takes place in a not-distant future where, because the government has budgeted no money for education, corporations take over schools. “School” is now “the Game”, and you earn Score by playing what seem to be educational video games or hunting down the answer to a physics question you receive on your phone or by creating art or clothes or music that other kids think is cool and that a Sponsor will want to sell. The catch is that if you get chosen by a Sponsor to be a representative for their brand, or if you get a high enough Score, you can win prizes like a college scholarship, so Score is important to poorer kids like Katey Dade (screen name Kid).

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Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

The second book is Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy does not disappoint. Behemoth is one of the releases I was most excited for this year, and it completely exceeded my expectations.

In Leviathan, we were introduced to an alternate WWI era, full of fantastic air beasties and mammoth mechanical walkers. Behemoth takes us to Istanbul (called Constantinople by the British), where we’re introduced to entirely new wonders. Istanbul is full of giant machines designed to look like elephants, which is kind of a brilliant mash-up of the Clanker and Darwinist ideologies: they take the power of the Germans’ machines but are still very connected to the natural world. And one of the Istanbul natives we meet is shocked by the way the Darwinists refer to their beasties as “it” rather than “he” or “she”. Each of the different ethnic neighborhoods of the city also have their own walkers, which they call golems and are designed to look like mythical creatures or characters.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I think about how much depends on a best friend. When you wake up in the morning you swing your legs out of bed and you put your feet on the ground and you stand up. You don’t scoot to the edge of the bed and look down to make sure the floor is there. The floor is always there. Until it isn’t.

I loved this book. At its heart, Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about the hardest parts of friendship and love. And about Tiny Cooper, of course, who connects the two Will Graysons and has got to be one of the best YA characters of the past decade. After all, what’s not to love about a giant football player who writes a fabulous musical about himself called “Tiny Dancer”? Tiny is the glue that holds this book together. He is Will Grayson’s best friend and will grayson’s eventual boyfriend, and he is the catalyst for their major character development.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is written in two voices, alternating every chapter between each Will Grayson. John Green’s Will Grayson is Tiny’s best friend, but their friendship has been on the rocks. Will feels like Tiny’s sidekick, and like he is taken for granted. He gives us the quote I opened this entry with, and his character arc has to do with him opening himself up to people. In the very first chapter, Will states that his two rules are: “1. Don’t care too much. 2. Shut up.”

i think the idea of a ‘mental health day’ is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it’s like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal.

David Levithan’s will grayson (in lowercase because his chapters are all written this way) starts out heartbroken, after finding out that his online boyfriend Isaac is actually a personality made up by his friend Maura. He ends up, in a fateful turn of events, in a relationship with Tiny Cooper. will grayson is kind of bitter and snarky, and his dark humor is a nice contrast to Will Grayson’s more optimistic worldview. In fact, though I was annoyed by reading will grayson’s chapters at first because of his apparent hatred of capital letters, I ended up liking him much better than Other Will Grayson. There’s a real privilege gap between the two: Will Grayson’s parents are together, they seem to have money, they’re concerned with what college program he’ll get into, he’s straight. will grayson is gay, his dad left when he was just a kid, he and his mom don’t have much money, he’s on meds for depression, and he’s gay. Will Grayson comes off as whiny and self-centered sometimes, though he’s never made completely unlikeable. will grayson can be overly pessimistic, but you can see why.

do you think there’s a single minute that goes by when i’m not thinking about how other people see me? even though i have no control whatsoever over that? don’t get me wrong – i love my body. but i’m not so much of an idiot to think that everybody else loves it. what really gets to me – what really bothers me – is that it’s all people see.  ever since i was a not-so-little-kid. ‘hey, tiny, want to play football? hey, tiny, how many burgers did you eat today? hey, tiny, you ever lose your dick down there? hey, tiny, you’re going to join the basketball team whether you like it or not. just don’t try to look at us in the locker room!’ does that sound easy to you, will?

But can we talk about how nice it is to see a main character in a YA book who is gay and struggles with mental health issues? It’s so refreshing, and will grayson is a great contrast to Tiny Cooper, who is closer to your typical flamboyant gay character. Even Tiny himself is written nicely out-of-the-box: yes, he’s openly gay and loves musicals, but he’s also a football player and a best friend and a romantic, and through the two Will Graysons, we get the chance to see different sides of Tiny. Will Grayson sees Tiny as incredibly confident and proud of who he is, and is clearly embarrassed to be around Tiny sometimes. will grayson gets to see the vulnerable side of Tiny, who is bullied for his size and tries to be happy to make everyone around him happy, but feels unappreciated. It’s kind of fabulous how two authors writing the parts of two different characters can come together to give you such a nuanced portrait of one shared character.

While Tiny decides his musical should be about love, not about Tiny Cooper, this book is really about Tiny Cooper in the end. Hold me closer, tiny dancer!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is available now and you should all go buy it. I bought a copy after reading the first chapter at work, because I already loved it.