June 29, 2012

"New Adult" Niche: Guest Post by C. K. Kelly Martin (and Giveaway!)

I'm very happy to welcome C.K. Kelly Martin to the blog today! She's guest blogging about her recently released New Adult novel, Come See About Me. 

First, a bit about the book and the author:

"Twenty-year-old Leah Fischer's been in a state of collapse since the moment police arrived on her Toronto doorstep to inform her that boyfriend Bastien was killed in a car accident. After flunking out of university and cutting herself off from nearly everyone she knows, Leah's saved by Bastien's aunt who offers her a rent-free place to stay in a nearby suburban town.

Initially Leah keeps to herself, with no energy for anyone or anything else, but it's not long before her nurturing neighbours begin to become fixtures in Leah's life and a much needed part-time job forces her to interact with other members of the community. And when Leah is faced with another earth-shattering event, her perspective on life begins to shift again. Soon Leah's falling into a casual sexual relationship with Irish actor Liam Kellehan, who has troubles of his own, even as she continues to yearn for her dead boyfriend. Clearly she's not the person she thought she was—and maybe Liam isn't either." (from Goodreads)

"Currently residing near Toronto with my Dub husband, I became an Irish citizen in 2001 and continue to visit Dublin often (although not as often as I'd like!) while working on novels. My first book, I Know It's Over, came out with Random House in September 2008, and was followed by One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death and My Beating Teenage Heart. My next young adult novel, Yesterday, will hit shelves September 25th and I released my first {new} adult novel, Come See About Me, as an ebook in June. You can read more about the novel and 'new adult' fiction in general on my March 26th blog entry or visit Come See About Me.com for additional info." (taken from the author's website)

And now for the guest post!

“The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe.”
Those are my favourite lines from the much maligned M. Night Shyamalan movie, The Village, because they are both beautiful and true. Romantic love, like all love, is universal – people across the globe experience it – but it also marks one as lucky, in a special state of being. On crowded buses and subway trains strangers may rearrange themselves to allow an obviously happy couple to sit together and who doesn’t swoon a little when encountering the Robert Doisneau image “The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville.”? Who isn’t warmed by the sight of an old couple walking in hand in hand (love that has lasted!)? This enduring love is the most revered, most sought after, and it’s what the main character of Come See About Me, twenty-year-old Leah Fischer, believes she’s been fortunate enough to find early in life only to lose just as quickly. When her live-in boyfriend Bastien’s the victim of a fatal accident Leah goes into a total state of collapse. She withdraws from friends, flunks out of college and ignores her parents’ pleas to leave Toronto and fly back across the country to be with them in British Columbia.
When I began writing this book I knew it would be filled with much sorrow and a fair amount of sex. It may seem as if the two things don’t go together, but Leah (who had a very fulfilling sexual relationship with Bastien) comes to realize that losing her boyfriend doesn’t mean she’s permanently lost all physical desire or that there’s nothing left to care about in life. Does she feel guilty and conflicted when she finds herself drawn to Liam, an Irish actor trying to escape aspects of his old life? Definitely. Does that stop her from sleeping with him? No.
What I didn’t fully realize when I began writing Come See About Me was how little space there is for twenty-year-old main characters in traditional publishing. Considering Leah’s age, situation (living away from home with her boyfriend while they attend college) and the book’s sexual content, I knew Come See About Me wasn’t YA like the other books I’ve written, but that it still had a very youthful energy to it. I assumed that Come See About Me would require an adult publisher, but that it would have some kind of chance in the traditional publishing realm. Instead the agent who submitted it to New York publishers for me over a year ago found, "Almost every editor was concerned that Leah is too young for this to be adult, but too grown for this to go back to being YA." This brings me to the present where, thanks to the rise of e-books, I’ve been able to release the novel myself. While traditional publishers aren’t yet convinced copies of ‘new adult’ books can be shifted in any great numbers, I think they’re wrong and that there are countless great stories yet to be told about young people whose high school years are behind them and who are finding their way in the world. Since I began Come See About Me in 2010 the publishing landscape has changed significantly and indie and self-publishers are filling this void. I believe in time these publishing avenues will prove new adult titles successful enough that traditional publishers will have to reconsider their own approach to books featuring characters in their late teens and early twenties.
Here are a few things that I, as a YA author, appreciated about focusing on a slightly older character:
1. Still possessing the immediacy and intensity of a teen protagonist’s point of view while also having the chance to explore a more independent life. Leah’s parents are still very concerned about the depth of her grief but technically she’s an adult who can make her own decisions.
2. More freedom in writing about sex. There’s usually some kind of sexual content in my YA books too but it comes along with an awareness of the readership that I didn’t feel I had to worry about here. Because the sexual scenes between Leah and Liam are very important to Come See About Me this is a huge bonus. It really wouldn’t have been the same book without these scenes or if they’d been watered down.
3. Novel length. Most YA books are typically on the shorter side, unless we’re talking about fantasy or sci-fi. Come See About Me checks in at roughly 102,000 words.
You can read the first two chapters of Come See About Me on my website. Watch the trailer:

Thanks very much, C.K., for sharing your thoughts on writing a novel featuring college-aged characters!

C.K. Kelly Martin has generously offered up a giveaway! There will be 4 winners: one winner of a signed paperback copy of Come See About Me, and three winners of e-book copies.

The rules:

- Entrants must be 16 years or older.
- Open internationally
- One entry per person
- Following and tweeting are not necessary but always appreciated!
- Ends July 10, at 11:59 pm EST.
- Winners will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail. Your information will be passed on to the author so you can receive your prize.

To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address. Anyone who's officially signed up for my New Adult reading challenge gets an extra entry! (You must have already filled in this form, prior to the posting of this giveaway, in order to qualify. Please mention that you're a participant in your comment and leave the e-mail address you signed up with.)

June 28, 2012

Canada Day Blog Hop, Eh? (Giveaway!)

That's right, it's time again for the Canada Day Blog Hop! This giveaway hop is hosted by Aislynn at Stitch – Read – Cook, Carmel at Rabid Reads, and Chrystal at Snowdrop Dreams of Books.

Got your eye on a YA/MG book by a Canadian author (worth $10 CDN or less from the Book Depository)? Well, enter this giveaway and you could win it! If you don't have a book in mind, maybe this list of Canadian authors on the blog Just Deb... will give you some ideas :)

  • This giveaway is open internationally, as long as the Book Depository ships to your country. Please check their list here if you're not sure.
  • One entry per person.
  • No tweeting or following necessary, although it's always appreciated. 
  • This giveaway ends July 2 at 11:59 pm EST.
  • The winner will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail.
Please fill out THIS FORM to enter. Comments, while fabulous, do NOT count as entries.

Then once you've entered, head on over to the next blog on the list, Ink, Paper & Imagination!

And early Happy Canada Day!

The complete blog hop linky:

June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Strands of Bronze and Gold and The Hallowed Ones

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Goodreads' description:

"A sweeping Gothic thriller based on the spine-chilling "Bluebeard" fairytale.

17-year-old Sophia Petheram has been sheltered by her doting family all her life, until the day her father dies. It's 1855, and with no money and few options, she goes to live with her guardian, the mysterious Bernard de Cressac, at the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey in Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it's as if thread by thread, a silken net is woven around her. And when she begins glimpsing the ghosts of his former wives (all with hair as red as her own) in the forgotten corners and dark hallways of the Abbey, Sophie knows she's in de Cressac's trap.

With enchanting romance, chilling suspense, and dashes of the supernatural, Strands of Bronze and Gold is a compulsively-readable debut."

It's Gothic! And it's a fairy tale retelling! Okay, Bluebeard is certainly not my favourite fairy tale (um, is it anybody's???) but I don't think it's been retold yet in YA. It's one of the more overtly disturbing fairy tales, but I'm hoping this retelling might give the story depth and appeal that the original doesn't have. *crosses fingers*

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Goodreads' description:

"If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?

In this captivating thriller, an Amish settlement is the last safe haven in a world plagued by an unspeakable horror…

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there...and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a decree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?"

Apparently I'm going for theme of creepy in my WoW picks this week! I'm interested to see how the Amish culture is incorporated into what sounds like some kind of apocalyptic YA.

What books are you waiting for?


June 26, 2012

Psychtember Is Coming!


You may have heard me talk about it before, but yes, Psychtember will be back again this coming September! It's a blog event focusing on YA books dealing with mental health issues, and there will be everything from reviews and author interviews to expert guest posts and giveaways. For an idea of what to expect check out the posts from last year's event.

Authors already on board for Psychtember 2012 include Adele Griffin, R. J. Anderson, Janet Ruth Young, Jackie Morse Kessler, Jennifer Brown, Jeannine Garsee, Trish Doller, Tabitha Suzuma, and Susan Vaught. I've been really pleased so far with the wonderful response!

I've created a couple of event buttons, so if you'd like to add one of them to your blog sidebar over the next couple months and spread the word, that would be awesome!



Also, if there are any topics, books, or authors in particular that would you like to see featured in this year's event, please let me know! (You can do so by filling out this survey, or just leaving a comment.) I can't promise anything but I'll take your suggestions into consideration :)


"New Adult" Niche: Interview with Jennifer Echols

I'm pleased to welcome Jennifer Echols to the blog today for an interview about her book Love Story and the category of New Adult!

First, a bit about the book and the author:
Love Story"She's writing about him. he's writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines..

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions--it's her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family's racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin's college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter . . . so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she's sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He's joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin's heart with longing. Now she's not just imagining what might have been. She's writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter . . . except this story could come true." (from Goodreads)

"Jennifer Echols was born in Atlanta and grew up in a small town on a beautiful lake in Alabama—a setting that has inspired many of her books. She has written eight romantic novels for young adults, including the comedy Major Crush, which won the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the drama Going Too Far, which was a finalist in the RITA, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Book Buyer’s Best, and was nominated by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults. Her next two teen dramas, including Such a Rush, will appear in 2012 and 2013, with her adult romance novels debuting in 2013, all published by Simon & Schuster. She lives in Birmingham with her husband and her son." (from her website)

And now for the questions...

1.) Several of your previous YA novels have been set in high school. Since Erin and Hunter attend college, how did this affect the writing of Love Story? Did you approach certain elements, like voice or dialogue, differently than you would for your younger YA novels?

I would say the real difference is in subtlety. I let readers draw their own conclusions rather than bashing them over the head with mine, and though the ending is happy, I imply that these characters are going to have to work harder on their relationship than most of my characters do. The characters are more mature, and the story is too.

2.) Love Story provides the reader with insight into how college creative writing classes are conducted. Is this portrayal based on your own experiences? And if so, which aspects did you take from your own life, and which are pure fiction?

The class is conducted as one of my creative writing classes was conducted. The assignment for the class is to read other students’ stories that are put on reserve in the library. Then the stories are discussed in class as if the author isn’t there. Authors can’t defend themselves until the end—they just have to sit there and take it—which of course builds lots of tension and resentment.

3.) Erin and Hunter have a complicated relationship, and both seem to struggle with expressing their feelings to each other. Under the guise of their writing assignments, they communicate with stories that hold special meaning for the other person. Would you say this is typical behaviour of creative writing students in college?

God, I hope not.

How effective do you feel this strategy is?

I feel that this strategy is startlingly poor. But you know, it’s all these characters have to work with. They love and admire each other so deeply. There is so much baggage between them. Both of them think they’d be better off if they started over fresh with a new person and a new love, but they can’t let each other go, and they can’t even admit this to each other except in a way that is open to interpretation—the creative writing assignment—so they can still deny how they feel and avoid getting hurt.

4.) Most traditional publishers are hesitant to take a chance on books that fall into the "New Adult" category, and will tell writers to age their characters younger or older so that they fit neatly into either YA or adult. Have you come across this attitude? What is your response?

I have been told that readers don’t buy books set in college, and they don’t even buy books in which the characters are preoccupied with college. For instance, I had a plot shot down about a high school senior who desperately needed to get to a college interview on time.

And then there’s The Novel I Love So Much That I Will Just Die If It Doesn’t Sell. It was a New Adult with 21-year-old characters. I sent it to the one publisher I knew of who was actively seeking New Adult, and they turned it down. Then I got a new agent, and she suggested that I change it into a YA, because New Adult wasn’t selling. I did, and everybody rejected it anyway. It didn’t sell. I didn’t die. I still love it. And I still think it was a much stronger book as a New Adult.

I wish New Adult would take off. I would be its biggest fan. But publishers are chasing sales, plain and simple. Look at the example of 50 Shades. All my friends who write erotica are suddenly experiencing a resurgence in their careers because stores are rushing to carry more books like the runaway best seller. Likewise, if a New Adult ever makes a splash, the market will break wide open. Until then, my YA characters won’t get any older than 18.

5.) You've now had a couple books published that feature older YA characters. What would you say stories about characters in their late teens offer that YA books set firmly in high school do not?

I’m writing two different YA genres—romantic comedy and romantic drama. In the comedies, the problems are important to the characters, but they’re not life-and-death. If they were, the books wouldn’t be very funny. It’s fine to make those characters 15 or 16 and set those stories in high school, where there’s lots of drama that isn’t too serious. When things go really bad for these characters, they have a safety net in the form of their parents.

For the dramas, the problems need to be more intense. Characters aren’t as likely to encounter problems like that until they’re pushed out into the real world and onto the cusp of adulthood, and that’s why those stories tend to hover around high school graduation. Forget You is set at the beginning of senior year, Love Story is set at the beginning of college, Going Too Far and Such a Rush are set during spring break of senior year—the last time the characters will have a free week while they’re still in high school—and the book I’m writing now is set the week after graduation. Adulthood hasn’t set in, but it’s looming right there, and the characters can see it.

Thanks very much, Jennifer, for these thoughtful answers to my questions! Now you've got me curious about "The Novel I Love So Much That I Will Just Die If It Doesn’t Sell" :D

June 25, 2012

Girls in White Dresses: A Snapshot (Adult)

  Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

"Wickedly hilarious and utterly recognizable, Girls in White Dresses tells the story of three women grappling with heartbreak and career change, family pressure and new love—all while suffering through an endless round of weddings and bridal showers.

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and doll-sized cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working at a mailing-list company, dizzy with the mixed signals of a boss who claims she’s on a diet but has Isabella file all morning if she forgets to bring her a chocolate muffin. Mary thinks she might cry with happiness when she finally meets a nice guy who loves his mother, only to realize he’ll never love Mary quite as much. And Lauren, a waitress at a Midtown bar, swears up and down she won’t fall for the sleazy bartender—a promise that his dirty blond curls and perfect vodka sodas make hard to keep.

With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering, what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life years of early adulthood. These are the years when everyone else seems to have a plan, a great job, and an appropriate boyfriend, while Isabella has a blind date with a gay man, Mary has a crush on her boss, and Lauren has a goldfish named Willard. Through boozy family holidays and disastrous ski vacations, relationships lost to politics and relationships found in pet stores, Girls in White Dresses pulls us deep inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.
" (from Goodreads)
The subject: changes in the lives of several women as they go through their late twenties/early thirties.

The setting: it varies, but New York is one of the main locations.

Shutter speed: fairly slow — it feels more like a collection of connected short stories than a full-fledged novel with a centralized plot — but it's quite readable, with an appealing, accessible tone that feels conversational and inviting. There's also some good humor here; Isabella's sense of humor in particular is snarky and dryly sarcastic just the way I like it.

What's in the background? Life lessons about growing up, maturing, and taking responsibility, but it doesn't come off preachy. It gives a good idea of the challenges that people in their twenties and early thirties face, in terms of relationships, careers, friendships, marriage, in-laws, what you want out of life and who you want to be with... It hits on a lot of the questions people start asking themselves once they get to that age, which gives it a very relatable element of uncertainty about the future.

Zoom in on: the characters. I had trouble visualizing them and keeping track of who was who. They all have pretty common names (e.g. Lauren, Mary, Abby, Shannon).  Just generally I felt like the characters needed to be given more personality. We don't really get to know the guys much at all, and I think the relationships would have felt stronger if we had. Also, I wish we'd seen a greater variety of ethnicities represented (just judging by the names and limited descriptions, it seems like most of the characters are Caucasian).

Anything out of focus?

I think it should have been marketed as a collection of interrelated stories; it's a bit misleading to call it a novel when there isn't one all-encompassing plot, really. The chapters are loosely connected to each other by the characters involved, but they're more like anecdotes than the building blocks of a storyline. 

Also, the chapters jump along in time, so unfortunately we miss parts of certain characters' stories (like how Mary met Ken, for instance, or how Lauren became a real estate agent).

Ready? Say... "Growing up!"

Click! 3.5 shooting stars. It didn't blow me away, but I think there's a story in here for just about anyone in this age range (or at least, any female reader!)

Note: this is an adult book and contains mature language.

This book counts towards my goal for the New Adult reading challenge.

June 24, 2012

The Book Lode (2)

There are quite a few memes to choose from now for showing the books we've gotten recently, so I thought to be fair I'd link my posts up to a different meme each month. I'm grouping the posts under the name "The Book Lode," and this month I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

I'm sick at the moment, so I'm not going to do a vlog this time, but here are the books I've received in the last week:

For review:

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu (unsolicited)

Moonlight and Oranges by Elise Stephens

All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin (this one's for Psychtember — Adele will be participating again this year! More on the event to come soon, so keep your eyes peeled.)

Thanks very much to Simon & Schuster Canada, Booktrope, and Adele Griffin!

From Netgalley:

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry


Bloodlines by Richelle Mead — which I then took to the signing yesterday!

Richelle Mead did a brief reading from The Golden Lily, answered some Q&As, and then signed books. There was a loooooong line but we waited it out and I got my copies of Bloodlines and Frostbite signed!

Also they had an airbrush tattoist there! Like my pink & gold lily? :)

June 20, 2012

Book Chat: Under-appreciated/Under-known Books

I'm participating again in the Book Chat meme hosted by Misty at The Book Rat, and this time around we're discussing books we think are under-rated or not well-known. If you'd like to join in, be sure to link up your post here on Misty's blog.

My picks:

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey (there is a sequel to this one – The Heavenward Path – although I think the first is better)
The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander
Windleaf by Josepha Sherman (and Child of Faerie, Child of Earth)
Sanditon by Jane Austen And Another Lady
Define "Normal" by Julie Anne Peters
Search of the Moon King's Daughter by Linda Holeman
The Boston Jane trilogy by Jennifer L. Holm

June 18, 2012

"New Adult" Niche: Interview with Sara Daniell (and Kindle Giveaway!)

Sara Daniell, author of Visions and Secrets, is on the blog today for an interview about New Adult books!

Here's a bit about Visions, the first in the series:

"It is Holly's first year in college and the most exciting thing in her life is her classes. She doesn't have any luck with dating and doesn't have many friends.

Her life is terribly boring until she receives a text message from a unknown person. Life as Holly knows it will forever change by responding to that one single text. She isn't too thrilled but will soon find herself falling in love with a complete stranger from another world.
" (from Goodreads)

And about Sara herself, from her blog:

" 26 year old mother, wife, self-published author, teacher, college student, saved by grace, sarcastic (extremely), love to laugh, hate fighting unless it is for something I believe in. Well that about sums me up. :) "

Now for the questions...

1.) Visions is set during Holly's first year of college. How much did you draw on your own time in college in creating Holly's experience? Are there any incidents that are autobiographical?

I actually attended college completely online with no dorm experience.  It's funny because nothing from my college experience relates to Holly's. It is all totally made up.

2.) What is the most common reaction you receive when you tell people you write New Adult novels?

They ask, "What is that? I have never heard of that genre."  I always tag my trilogy as new adult as well as young adult. I do that because this trilogy will appeal to both genres.

3.) Many traditional publishers are hesitant about taking on NA books. Why do you think this is? Do you see this changing in the future?

Probably because young adult is so popular and taking on a new genre would take time to catch peoples attention.  Traditional publishers are ready to sell and don't like waiting. Plus, a lot of traditional publishers try to appeal to the younger generation of teens.  Teens may not want to read something that says "New Adult" because they want to relate in some way to what they read.  

4.) What, in your opinion, sets New Adult novels apart from YA? From adult? Would you say it's strictly a matter of the characters' ages, or do NA novels differ in other ways?

It only differs slightly, as in the plot.  New Adult, in my opinion, focuses on characters on the "independent" time of their lives.  Not in high school living with parents like most YA novels are. But, like YA, New Adult has drama, romance, and everything else a YA novel as.  Just takes place in a different time in the characters lives.

5.) You're currently in your twenties. What's been the most interesting/exciting/memorable "new adult" experience you've had so far?

Getting married, having children, and graduating college! And of course - self publishing a trilogy!

Thanks very much, Sara, for sharing your thoughts on the New Adult category!

The giveaway:

Sara has kindly offered up Kindle e-books of both Visions and Secrets, so if you would like to be entered to win, please leave a comment with your e-mail address. Anyone who's officially signed up for my New Adult reading challenge gets an extra entry! (You must have already filled in this form, prior to this giveaway, in order to qualify. Please mention that you're a participant in your comment and leave the e-mail address you signed up with.)

The giveaway ends on June 25 at 11:59 pm EST. I'll randomly pick one winner who will receive both e-books.

June 17, 2012

The Glimpse: A Close-Up Review

"In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.

Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.

Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not intefere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society, and as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe.
" (from Goodreads)
The Glimpse by Claire Merle


Ana's character felt uneven in the first part. I thought it was strange how she just abandoned life in her Community to run around looking for a guy named Cole in hopes he might know something about Jasper. It was a little far-fetched, and too sudden a departure from her typical personality since at other times she seems naive and innocent. I thought she should have been more cautious of Lila's group, instead of just hanging out with them (not to mention that Lila just accepting her without asking questions didn't ring true, either — they should have been more suspicious of her, too!) But midway through the author really hit her stride with Ana, as once she starts becoming more independent Ana's decisions begin making more sense with her character. You end up really rooting for Ana as you read it. She's always being given hard choices to make (that aren't really choices at all), and it seems like she's only ever given brief moments of happiness. 

Just to warn you, there is a bit of a love triangle here (it might remind you a little of the love triangle in the Matched series), but its dynamic takes an interesting turn partway through when one of the characters involved suffers memory problems (not going to say who!). It becomes pretty obvious which guy Ana has fallen for, but it's hard to discount the other one entirely. They each offer something different — Cole's a bit of a wild guy from the outside, whereas Jasper is the 'tried-and-true' guy from the inside...who happens to have a secret. The romance does get a little mushy/sappy towards the end, but I liked the gentle flirtatious banter between Ana and the guy she chooses as they get to know each other.

I also enjoyed some of the side characters — Nate's kind of a wild card, it was cool how the author wove Ana's friend Tamsin back into the story, and Jasper becomes more interesting once he goes through a certain experience. The Board got under my skin as I'm sure was intended, and the staff at the psych ward were just awful. Ana and her father have a very complex relationship; her dad actually seems to care about her in a certain way, but has a completely different perspective on the society and the direction he wants Ana to go in.


I found The Glimpse tough to get into at first as the first few chapters were really confusing. There were unfamiliar terms being used and I was having a hard time grasping the set-up of the society and figuring out what was going on. (In fact, I actually read the first two or three chapters, then put it down for a couple of weeks before starting over again.)  

But I definitely started enjoying it once Cole came onto the scene. He and Ana have a natural chemistry that doesn't feel forced despite what Cole's seen in his Glimpse. The Glimpse is the only element in here that could be considered magical/paranormal, and I liked that it added an element of unpredictability to the story; so much of it is based on science and technology that it was neat to have something that couldn't be pinned down so easily. 

Pacing-wise, I thought it was a bit long and drawn-out, and sluggish in places. There's so much information being given to the reader that it feels quite dense, and it can be hard to keep track of everything that's going on. So many different aspects of the society are touched on that it feels overwhelming — we're given the building blocks and then some.

However, Claire Merle clearly knows how to plot. I hate it when it feels like the author scrambled for an ending, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but that's not the case here! Throughout the story, little details are mentioned and then come into play later on — like Ana's ability to hold her breath underwater and her time spent studying law — and although a lot is withheld from the reader (I'm not usually a fan of that technique), the author weaves things in so that it's a surprise that makes sense, rather than just a convenient explanation. It does get a little confusing with all the transactions going on, and I was sometimes left in the dark, feeling like I missed a page. Be prepared to flip back a lot to re-read sections!

I thought the climactic scene could have been dramatized a little more; there was some clever mirroring involved but the tension could have been upped. Also, the use of a particular element seemed cheesy and unbelievable (spoiler, highlight to read: I didn't really like the mind-compelling technology. It seemed like a cop-out in how it easily immobilizes Lila & Cole but not Ana because of her special and unexplained semi-resistance). 

It ends in a good spot — Ana has made some decisions for herself and really knows what she wants, and it feels like the first barrier has been hurdled. A fair bit is accomplished in this first book, if not in structural societal change (which can hardly be expected this early on) then at least in character development.


I like the idea of basing a dystopian society on mental health striations (at least ostensibly), and I'm not sure why it hasn't been done much before! The author appears to have thought through the history of the world — we're not given it all in one place, but dribs and drabs along the way (like mentions of the housing and financial collapse) provide a sense of how the society came to be like this. I do wish at some point we'd been given a broad overview, as it's difficult to try to remember and piece the various events together in a logical sequence. 

The technology could have been explained better; jargon's dropped in and there's only so much you can glean from context (especially at the start). I ended up quite liking how the interface works — it's nothing new in terms of futuristic technology, but I thought it was a versatile mechanism for communicating and transferring information. I also wish there'd been more explanation of one particular type of technology, as I was skeptical about its scientific believability. Oddly enough, some technologies present in The Glimpse are from our day, which seemed out of place — for instance, why does Ana still have a bike? Wouldn't they have developed something far beyond that by then?  

I appreciated how the section set in the psych ward was intense and put Ana in an awful situation that tested and strengthened her (and the hygiene issues were disgusting!). However, realistically, I don't know if a futuristic society would go back to using the torturous techniques institutions used in the 1940s/1950s, when they thought such methods were actually helpful. 

One way the society we see in The Glimpse connects well to our current society is in the creation of new mental disorders. There are disorders in Ana's world that don't exist right now, like "Mystical Experience Disorder." Since this is the direction the DSM is heading at the moment — more and more behaviours keep getting classified as pathological — I thought it was astute of Claire Merle to pick up on that trend.

Writing style:

The writing could have been smoothed out and streamlined. A lot of it feels quite dense and I think making some sections more concise and varying the sentence structure could help it to feel a little snappier and give it more momentum. There aren't that many action scenes (a lot of the plot revolves around getting information and meeting people), but those present don't feel like they're moving that fast because of the writing. It also wasn't as emotionally compelling as I would have liked. I feel as though the characters could have pulled emotion from the reader if the writing style wasn't holding them back.

But I liked that, although the majority is from Ana's perspective, every so often there's a chapter that focuses on another character.  

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. It may be overly complicated, but The Glimpse is strong on characters and well-thought-out in societal structure. There's plenty for Claire Merle to build on, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens (especially to certain characters/groups).

I received this as an eproof through NetGalley from the publisher.

This book counts towards my goals for the Debut Author reading challenge.

The Book Lode (1)

There are quite a few memes to choose from now for showing other bloggers the books we've gotten recently, so I thought to be fair I'd link my posts up to a different meme each month. I'm grouping the posts under the name "The Book Lode," and this month I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves, which is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.

This post covers the past three weeks.

Books for review:

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings
The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
The Blessed by Tonya Hurley
Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh
First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky

Thanks very much to Hachette Children's Books UK, Strange Chemistry, Simon & Schuster Canada, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt!

June 12, 2012

U-Pick: Protagonist You'd Most Like To Slap Some Sense Into?

Here's how this feature works: each week I'll post a categorical superlative (e.g. "most sadistic villain" "crankiest father figure" "protagonist you would most like to slap some sense into" etc.) and list a few choices of characters from YA books in a poll. You get to pick! The poll will run for a week, and then in the following post I'll update with the name of the winning character. 

The last poll was for the YA Couple With The Wittiest Banter, and there wasn't much of a contest for this one. The couple that took an easy win was...

...Anna and Étienne!

Hermione and Ron claimed second place, and Mary and James took third.

Now it's time for a new poll: the YA Protagonist You'd Most Like To Slap Some Sense Into.

There are lots of choices here, so vote below! (If the book is part of a series, I've just listed the series name. You can decide which book you want to base your vote on.) There's also an option for a write-in vote if your pick isn't listed. If that's the case, please choose "other" and then leave the character's name and book title in the comments :)

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