Two Boys Kissing

Hello again! If this book looks familiar, that’s because I’ve already gushed about it here. But that wasn’t enough. It deserves more.

(Unfortunately, this post has actually been languishing in my Drafts for months. Which is horrible, considering how much I absolutely love the book. I am ashamed.)

Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan, revolves around several characters. Harry and Craig are trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss–32 hours, 12 minutes, and 10 seconds. (WHOA.) Peter and Neil are dating, whiling away companionable hours in bookstores and on the sofa, watching movies. For Cooper, such hours don’t seem to be in reach. In fact, they’re practically in a parallel universe. Instead, Cooper spends his time online and on apps, flirting with strangers and hoping he feels something, for once. Avery and Ryan meet at a gay prom, and that’s the start of something (they hope). Tariq is friends with Harry and Craig, and he’s trying to help them, whilst trying to survive himself.

All of these characters are trying to navigate love, the times, and life itself. They’re trying to be themselves and to have others be okay with that. They’re trying to live, and this book is a snapshot of what that’s like for them right now. Harry and Craig kissing, Cooper being glued to his phone. . .their individual lives and how they interact are the focus of the story. And, honestly? The result is fantastic.

Each of these characters is unique and well-drawn. They’re special, each standing out in his own way. They all are deep and real, and their stories are compelling and captivating, showing pain and love and hate. There’s brutality and feelings and music and books and GAH. I cared about them so much. (Not to mention the fact that I completely agree with Peter and Neil’s idea of fun. Browsing the Young Adult sections of bookstores? Yes, please.)

But the narration of this story adds so much, too. The way it’s done–in the voices of a former gay generation, who fought prejudice and injustice and many of whom lost their lives to AIDS–contributes a whole new dimension to the various plots, as well as insights, so many insights. (I was tearing up as I typed this. No, really.) It’s painful and honest, and the writing is so amazingly beautiful in and of itself that I wanted to cry because it was so great. The way the experiences of the characters are described is perfect. Levithan’s writing is gorgeous and I don’t even know how to fully describe it. I can’t do it justice.

IT’S THAT GOOD.

The characters’ lives and their stories are revealed masterfully, complete with revelations and feelings and yes yes yes yes it was amazing. It’s funny, serious, and so important. Really. I don’t even know how to fully articulate my feelings for this book, because they are the kind of feelings you don’t know how to write about. This is the kind of book that you just want to share. You want to shout its name from the rooftops, and you want to buy a million and one copies just so you can push it into every pair of hands you see.

David Levithan, I will literally kneel down and worship the ground on which you stand. Everything was just amazing. Get the book. You should get the book. GET THE BOOK.

NOW, PLEASE.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you’d never have any doubt abut how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are.” —Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

P.S. If you need more convincing, there are more amazing (spoiler-free) quotes to be found here. BUT FORGET MORE CONVINCING. JUST GET THE BOOK ALREADY.

P.P.S. On a completely unrelated note, I now have a Tumblr. Yes, ’tis true! I won’t be posting full blog posts there, but I’ll be reblogging book-related things, fandom stuff, etc. Please note: Since I’m reblogging stuff that I didn’t write, there may be the occasional curse word. Have a great weekend, everybody!

A Few Words on This Star Won’t Go Out

Okay. Not a few. Never a few. Again, I’m not famous for my short-and-sweet skills.

A number of you have probably heard of Esther Earl, as well as her book, This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl. And, since it’s coming out on January 28th, I thought I’d mention it. And Esther.

Esther Earl was a Nerdfighter who was known for being loving, Estherbright, and just a really awesome person. She loved to read, she was a writer, she made YouTube videos, and she was very enthusiastic about her family and friends (one of which was author John Green, whom she met at a Harry Potter convention). She was also known to be extremely empathetic and wise.

When she was 16, Esther died from cancer on August 25, 2010. Her family started a non-profit organization in her honor, This Star Won’t Go Out, which focuses on helping families financially who have children with cancer. (TSWGO is also a recipient of some of the money from the Project for Awesome!!! Yay!!!)

Esther also helped to inspire John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars, which celebrated its two-year anniversary this month. (Another yay!!!) But, as he says in a YouTube video, that book isn’t about her. But This Star Won’t Go Out is.

TSWGO is compiled of Esther’s journal entries, letters, sketches, and fiction. It also has essays and photos from her family and friends to further tell her story, and an introduction from John. And from what has been shown of the book, on Tumblr and in videos, it’s amazing. Really, really amazing.

This video says it all, I think:

I just ordered my copy of the book, and I can’t wait for it to get here. It really looks insanely awesome, like Esther herself.

You can find out more at the TWSGO website, their Tumblr, and the Tumblr for the book, where there’s information on a release party taking place at Wellesley Books in Massachusetts on February 1st. And if you can’t go, they’re livestreaming the event at the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, too!

Esther Earl was a really, really amazing person, and I’m so excited and happy that she’s going to be a published author. I hope a lot (and I mean a lot) of people get to read her book, and get to know her better through the experience. Time for me to check the mailbox.

Bookish Quote of the Day: “Saying you love someone is a good thing.” –Esther Earl

P.S. Totally wearing this on pub day:

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P.P.S. I strongly suggest you take a look at Esther’s videos, too. And here’s a wonderful article about the book from Parade, with excerpts from John Green’s introduction and one of Esther’s journal entries. Rest in awesome, Esther! DFTBA!

Pour a Mug of Hot Tea. . .

Because Girl Knows Books has passed 50 followers!!!

(You can pour whatever you like, really. You don’t even have to pour anything. Feel free to eat candy, though.)

You all are. . .here. I’m not even sure where many of you came from. Were you randomly surfing the Internet? Were you really, really bored? Are you from Hogwarts?

No, seriously, are you from Hogwarts?

I know 50 may seem like a really paltry achievement, but I’m still pretty happy. 2013 was a really great year for the blog. I got to go to Book Expo America, I spoke about blogging and books to a great class of 6th graders, and I got a number of new subscribers. (And I have a new record for most views in a day! Yay!) I also like to think I’ve gotten better at reviewing and just writing in general, instead of saying the exact same thing about each book, because BLEGH.

Thank you so much to everyone who has visited, subscribed, commented, or recommended the blog to somebody. Hopefully 2014 will be even better. So pull up a chair, put some sugar in your tea, because here we go again. 🙂

. . .Too cheesy?

P.S. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! Here’s a video of the restored version of the movie THE MARCH, a film by James Blue. It’s a really amazing and interesting thing to see. (Unfortunately, Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is silent due to a copyright restriction. But the movie is still fantastic!)

Catalyst

Psst. Guys. Hey, hey, guys. You. Yes, you, staring at your computer screen. HEY.

Midterms are over.

THANK YOU DUMBLEDORE!

Now that those horrible, ugh-worthy things are over, guess what that means? LONG WEEKEND! READING! WASTING TIME ON THE INTERNET! AND A BLOG POST FOR ALL YOU LOVELY PEOPLE!

Whoops. Sorry for the caps attack.

Anyway, as you have no doubt noticed, this blog post is about Catalyst, written by Laurie Halse Anderson. Which I started to read completely by accident. You know, when you pick a book while you’re waiting for something and you’re like, “I’ll just read a few pages.” And then, inevitably. . .

Yep. I was hooked. I had to finish it. So let’s jump right in: A summary!

(Be glad my review summaries aren’t like the summaries I have to write for school. Because it appears that I have an issue with a thing called brevity.)

The star of our story is Kate Malone–a senior in high school with a sharp mind, a sharp wit, and an even sharper desire: To get into MIT. Honestly, there isn’t even really a choice in the matter. Because it’s the only school she’s applied to.

No, really.

As the days tick by and she waits for her letter (her acceptance letter), Kate is getting by  fine. Really. So what if she can’t sleep? A person can get loads of things done in the night when everyone else is snoring. She’s fine. She’s got great grades, she’s got Chemistry, she’s got her friends and boyfriend.  She’s got running. It’s all good, great, she’ll have that letter any day now.

And then everything just kind of goes a little crazy.

The Litch family’s house catches on fire. Kate ends up sharing her room and home with Teri Litch, who made a habit of beating her up in elementary school. College is still hanging over her head. At least Mikey Litch is an adorable little bundle of joy.

And just when stuff is starting to look maybe a little bit better. . .it all blows up again. Only even more.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is Kate’s voice as a narrator. I love it. More than anything, I think that’s what made me want to keep reading after I sat down and read those few (17?) pages. There are some really, really, really golden lines in there, and the way Kate narrates is very uniquely hers. Her attitude is so much fun to read.

The characters are all well written, and Kate’s friends, Travis and Sarah, were definitely fun and unique. The plot was well done, too, and Anderson added a number of little touches and other conflicts, which made Kate’s community and world seem all the more developed and real. Kate’s problems with her father, Reverend Jack Malone, for example, or the little snippets of science and math references, because those subjects are both a big part of Kate and her life. The way the book is formatted is also really cool, containing snippets of science and chemistry terms that are fully integrated into the book itself. I don’t particularly like science, and I found it neat.

So, all in all, Catalyst was a really good read, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve enjoyed more of Anderson’s work. Actually, her new book, The Impossible Knife of Memory, has just been released!

I hope you’re all enjoying your long weekend, and guess what? Guess what?!

The 3rd season of Sherlock premieres in the U.S. tonight.

If you need me, I’ll be sobbing and fangirling in the other room. No doctors are needed, but cookies are always appreciated.

Bye!

Bookish Quote of the Day: “Sweat trickles along the bones of my face and licks my neck. Running, sweating, evaporating. . . I’m distilling myself in the dark: mixture, substance, compound, element, atom. The ghost is getting closer. Run faster. Push beyond the wall, push beyond my limits. My chest is flayed open; no lungs to breathe with, no heart to pound. The air flows around and between my shiny bones. My skin is silk. I take it off when I get hot. . .

I wish I never had to stop.” —Catalyst, by Laurie Halse Anderson

P.S. If any of you are interested in Vidcon, which is a convention for YouTubers and vloggers, the video below has a great idea for it. (The video she made previously that she mentions can be found here.) (She’s a great YouTuber!)

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons

Happy (late) New Year! Here, 2014 is being kicked off with the book Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, by the talented Ann Rinaldi.

Phillis Wheatley, as many of you probably know, was a young girl brought over from Senegal, Africa, in the 18th century. Bought by the Wheatley family in Boston, Massachusetts, Phillis works for the Wheatley’s daughter, Mary, as her personal slave–until it is discovered that she can read.

After that, Mary’s brother Nathaniel begins to tutor Phillis, teaching her Latin and Greek and helping her to improve her reading.

And then she writes a poem. And things really change.

Soon, Phillis is reciting for the Wheatleys’ dinner guests, visiting various bookstores and printers throughout Boston, and is even sent to London. (All against the backdrop of the colonists’ growing discontent with British rule.) She meets a string of well-drawn characters, from Aunt Cumsee and Prince, fellow slaves, to Benjamin Franklin.

I love this book. So much. I haven’t read historical fiction in a fairly long time, and this was definitely a good one to go with. It pulls you in and won’t let you go, and I really loved Phillis’s voice as the narrator. She’s honest, telling the reader her thoughts as a new arrival in America, an ocean in between her and her past home and freedom. At one point she says, “It seems you are not permitted to murder a slave woman. Not even in America.”

Ann Rinaldi definitely paints a convincing picture of Phillis’s life, from childhood to being an adult. The story of her voyage on the slave ship is shown in all its unimaginable brutality, and her struggles with freedom and the desire for it are drawn really well. The author doesn’t gloss over Phillis’s struggles, and the way she writes is addictive.

It might make you cry. It will give you lots of feelings. It’s really amazing.

Phillis is a great character, and I loved the complexity with which Rinaldi details her struggles and conflicts: Should she want freedom? If free, how would she be able to survive? Would it be better if she just stayed with the Wheatleys?

Really, do the Wheatleys even value her as a human being?

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons is definitely one of my favorite historical fiction novels of all time, and I definitely recommend it. It has happiness, sadness, big questions, and great characters. And, of course, poetry.

Literary Quote of the Day: “I could scarce contain my own excitement. The more I wrote, the more excited I became. I felt like Columbus must have felt when he just discovered America. Only the land that I had sighted was myself. In a way, my own way, I was free.” —Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons, by Ann Rinaldi

P.S. Some other great books by Ann Rinaldi are A Break With Charity: A Story About the Salem Witch Trials and Brooklyn Rose.