May 2014

Wow, so I didn’t realize that I’ve read 15 YA books in the last month and a half… Some of them were really great and some of them were just plain awful. As I look ahead to the next book I’m planning on writing, I’m actively trying to read more books with a female protagonist. There are also some authors who I’ve grown attached too over the past few months, so I’ve been trying to read more of their work too.

Here’s my thoughts on what I’ve been reading:

Shine – Lauren Myracle – This book is about a hate crime in rural America. A young gay man is attacked at a gas station and his former BFF tries to piece together who did it because she feels the cops aren’t doing enough. It’s one of several books I’ve read recently where the female protagonist is a survivor of physical assault. I’m always interested to read how other girls (even fictional ones) deal with that. The book spans only a couple weeks. I like condensed time lines like that – I feel it offers a sense of urgency to solve the crime. This was a good book and I’m glad I finally read it. (I had checked it out of the library once before but had returned it before even cracking it open.)

Out of the Pocket – Bill Konigsberg – I wanted to read this book for months and I finally tracked down a copy! I’ve read one of Konigsberg’s other books (Openly Straight) and liked it a lot, but was desperate to read this one because it dealt with a gay high school football player. While I’m not a fan of football, I was eager to read this since my book is also about a gay high school sports player (baseball, though) and I thought this book would be educational to read. I like Konigsberg’s writing style and thought the story was engaging.

The Boy on the Bridge – Natalie Standiford – I was so disappointed while I was reading this book. I read Standiford’s How to Say Goodbye in Robot and LOVED it, but this book was the complete opposite of that… I hated it. And wished I could unread it or at least get those couple hours of my life back. The most disappointing aspect of the story was how the female protagonist was basically throwing away her education and her time in Russia for some boy she really didn’t know that well. What they had did not come across as love and it was frustrating as a reader to read page after page of this girl making a string of stupid and irresponsible decisions. I would put this female protagonist right up there with Bella Swan as terrible literary characters that little girls should never aspire to be.

Break – Hannah Moskowitz – I’ve read a few other books by Moskowitz, but I think this was her debut novel. It was about a boy who was determined to break every bone in his body so that they would grow back stronger. He had a really troubled home life (in that his younger brother was pretty much allergic to everything, and there was a crying baby around all the time, and his parents weren’t all that with it all the time) and his friend was an enabler with him wanting to break himself. It was really disturbing to read the thought process of this kid, because you just wanted to reach through the page and demand that he stop hurting himself.

Ask the Passengers – A.S. King – This book was about a high school girl coming to terms with her sexuality. (She was in a relationship with a girl she worked with at a catering company.) There was definitely more to the story than just that, but what I took away from this was how I really enjoy King’s writing. I’ve read a few of her books by now and they are good reads.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends – Alex Sanchez – This was another book I wish I could unread. I don’t get how people praise Sanchez’s writing because I feel he writes down to his intended audience and the end result is immature, silly and insulting. I get that this book was trying to open up people’s eyes about bisexuality and gender fluidity, but I could not get over how awful the dialogue was and how immature the descriptions of sex were. Also, his characters giggled a lot. Like, “tee hee” was written across more than several pages. The thing is, Sanchez is very well published within the LGBTQ YA genre. This was the second book of his that I’ve read. And while I thought The God Box was okay, I thought this was just plain bad. And I hate to write that because I fear someone will someday say that about my book… but I honestly was wondering how he justified writing the book the way he did. High school kids don’t talk like that. They just don’t.

Marly’s Ghost – David Levithan – This was my palette cleanser after the Sanchez fiasco. A modern retelling of A Christmas Carol, Marly’s Ghost is about a young man mourning the death of his girlfriend. Her ghost comes to visit him around Valentine’s Day and says that he’ll be visited by three ghosts. The boy overcomes his Bah Humbug feelings about the holiday that’s meant to celebrate love and finds that he can and will love again. It wasn’t a real head-scratcher, nor was it on par with some of his other books, but I enjoyed it. This was a very quick read.

The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson – A high school girl’s older sister died and she and her extended family that she lives with are in mourning. During this time, she gets closer to her dead sister’s boyfriend, as well as the new boy in town who just started up at her school. It’s easy to see why both guys are attractive – one helps her remember her sister, while the other is a new distraction from it all. There was a lot of poetry in this book (as the protagonist was prone to writing prose on anything she could get her hands on), but I thought it added rather than detracted from the main focus of the book.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz – A.S. King – A high school girl’s former BFF died and she’s the only person who knows the truth about his death, though she doesn’t tell anyone for a long while. She lives with her dad (as her young mother ditched them when Vera turned 12) and they don’t relate super well with each other (although they do love each other). Vera gets a bit self-destructive at times, but she eventually comes clean about everything. Again, I just really dig King’s writing style.

You are Here – Jennifer E. Smith – I LOVED THIS BOOK. I just really wish the cover reflected the characters better. (The cover has two obscenely attractive high school students sitting on/leaning on a car, whereas the kids in the book are much more normal/dorky than that. I’m sorry, but if the book describes the boy as bespectacled and with a bad haircut, don’t put some glasses-less Abercrombie looking dude on the front cover. I almost didn’t pick this book up because I thought it was about attractive teen runaways.) I forget the characters’ names, but the main girl finds out that she had a twin brother who died days after they were born, so she decides she’s going to steal her older brother’s car and drive from NY to NC to see her dead brother’s grave. When the car breaks down, she calls the quiet neighbor boy (Patrick! I think…) and he runs away from home to go with her on her journey. His stipulation for going is that they stop at some historical landmarks along the way. The two teens were friendly with each other, but were never really friends. During their trip, they find out a lot about each other and themselves. I thought this book was really well written and I cared dearly for these characters (especially the boy) as they made their way to NC. I would gladly read this again someday.

Being Friends With Boys – Terra Elan McVoy – I was intrigued because this book was about a high school girl who managed her guy friends’ band, but then it turned into a drama-fest about, well, being friends with boys. I liked that the protagonist was depicted as an average girl (like, she wasn’t super skinny or flawlessly beautiful), but I did not like how the book went on and on about her feelings for a couple guys, but then in the last couple chapters it’s all “hold the phone, I’m madly in love with this guy who I haven’t really talked about since the first third of the book.” It was an okay read, but I’m not racing out to read anything else by this author.

Dying to Know You – Aidan Chambers – Another book that I loved, but the cover (and title) was completely misleading. The cover had two goldfish on it… which really had not much to do with the book being about an 18-year-old plumber befriending an elderly writer and how their friendship grew while the writer was trying to help the plumber write about himself to appease his girlfriend. The book was charming and the main character was the writer – which was a little odd for a YA book, but I dug it nonetheless.

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust – Leanne Liberman – This book had been staring me in the face every time I go to the library and peruse the Ls for more David Levithan books. I am fascinated by the Holocaust, so I bit. It wasn’t a bad book. It was about a Jewish girl who basically was sick of hearing about the Holocaust and decided to renounce her Jewish-ness. However, she found she was unable to do that when a group of guys from her school (including her crush) were joking around and pretending they were Nazis. The overarching themes of cultural respect and self-acceptance were good.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson – Taking place over the course of a school year, the protagonist continues to close in on herself as her peers continue to blame her for calling the cops at a party. The truth is something terrible happened to her at said party, but no one else knows. She finally finds her voice (through words and art) and gets the confidence to stand up for herself. This book was really powerful on a personal level because of the subject matter. While i did not experience the same kind of assault as the protagonist, we were the same age when it happened. I wanted her to speak up so badly, but at the same time I understand why she didn’t. This was a good read and I’m looking forward to reading more books from the same author.

This is What Happiness Looks Like – Jennifer E. Smith – I liked the premise of this book. A teenage movie star accidentally emails a teenage girl about his pet pig (because he misspelled the email address he was actually trying to reach). They befriend each other online and email back and forth for awhile when he decides to shoot his next movie in her town and meet her in person. Drama and teenage feels ensue, but it wasn’t cheesy (even though it easily could have been). I liked Smith’s other book better, but I’m definitely keeping my eye out for more of her stuff. She’s really great at writing description and it makes me jealous.

So, yeah… that’s what I’ve been reading. Most of it was good. Some of it was not.

I’m still working on my book! I finished a major round of edits yesterday. I will be looking into literary agents in the coming weeks to try and get that process rolling. Some days I’m really confident in what I wrote. Others I am not. Of the friends who I sent the first draft, four of them gave me some really useful notes, which I did take into consideration as I edited. I know the book still needs some help, but it is coming along.

(I also went to a few theater shows in the past few weeks, but I’ll write that up in another post a little later.)

If you have any book recommendations, let me know!! I’m always reading 🙂

Fan events are a self-fulfilling prophecy of why we can’t have nice things.

A few weeks ago, it was announced that FOX was hosting an even in NYC for the world premiere of X-Men Days of Future Past at the Javits Center. My friend RSVPed to the event and invited me to come along with her (as we are both fans of X-Men, as well as a lot of the cast). Since the RSVP was in her name, she was sent repeated emails from FOX/the event reminding her of said event and stressing the importance of having tickets that bared a unique barcode. (This will be an important detail in a bit…)

Having been to several fan events of varying natures before, my friend and I knew we would have to get there much earlier than the 4:00 start time the invite gave. We knew people were sleeping outside in line the night before, but we decided to get there around 9:00am on the day-of. The event said that the first 500 people in line would get free promotional items, be able to interact with the cast and see the film (among other incentives). When I got to the line around 8:45am, I was told I was around the 350th person in line. (This will also be an important detail in a bit…)

My friend joined me in line soon thereafter and we set about killing time and chatting up the people we were near in line. Javits Center employees were seen walking the line every now and again, some had handheld clickers and were counting how many people were in line. The little group I was in was worried about getting into the event, but we were told by an employee that we would.

As hours ticked by, we noticed that the line ahead looked much denser than it had when we got there. It was obvious that people were cutting into the line and no one (Javits Center employees or other people in line alike) was doing anything about it. When some people cut in front of us, our group spoke up. It wasn’t fair that we had been waiting over 5 hours at that point and new people just sauntered up and joined the middle of the line when the end of the line was wrapped around the block.

(I would never cut someone in line. Like, my person is not programmed to be that inconsiderate to someone else. Even if I was upset about the length of a line, I would get my ass to the back of it because that’s the only logical spot where I belonged when I first arrived to a line.)

We were obviously wondering what was going on, and would ask Javits Center employees about more information. We weren’t told much, if anything. At one point, someone said they were going to hand out wristbands (something that should always be done IMMEDIATELY in this kind of mass-attendance event). But, instead of wristbands, we were given Twinkies.

Yes, Twinkies.

Not only was that a super unhealthy food item to give people, but it only made people more upset about not having some sort of idea of what the actual agenda of events was.

What else made people mad was word that people no longer needed to have a ticket to get in line/attend the event. This meant that people could easily insert themselves into the line at any point and not need any sort of documentation to prove that they were on the original event list to be there. So, all of those emails my friend were sent were null and void. Her inbox was spammed for weeks with reminders to have her tickets with her, only for the event to completely disregard that on the day of. (Please note, she was sent a reminder email at 7am on the day of the event to have her tickets with her.)

An hour or two after we were told, “things will get moving in 15 minutes,” the line was condensed like cattle. We heard word that the first 500 people were already given wristbands. My friend and I were wristbandless. We went from being the 350th people in line to well over 600 because that many people had cut the line while we were waiting. Myself and some other nearby people in line tried to ask a passing Javits Center employee about how we were misinformed about being guaranteed to get in. He snidely told us that that was show business and that the Javits Center was only hired to host the event and that we needed to complain to FOX representatives. I asked him if there was some way they could send out someone to answer our questions and he repeated that the Javits Center had nothing to do with it. (I’m being much more eloquent and polite about this than what he actually said to us. This man was so rude.)

While we were super pissed about no longer being among the first 500 people (after having waited for over 6 hours at this point) and the rude Javits Center guys, but eventually we were told we would still be getting passes to see X-Men Days of Future Past that night either at the Javits Center or a nearby movie theater. We made peace with that news, as we mostly wanted to see the movie.

So, we stayed in line. And got rained on a bit as the line slowly shuffled forward while the wristband people were let into the building.

Those of us who did not have wristbands were still let into the building. We were immediately wanded and had our bags checked, then ushered through to a barricaded area where we were given free t-shirts and posters.

My friend and I ended up at the front of the barricade that lined a black carpet. There was a little stage set up and stacks of shirts, posters and Blu-rays. The host, a morning DJ from Z100 (Garrett something?), explained over the pop music that was piped through the speakers that he was going to do trivia with us and give away all the shirts, posters and Blu-rays (all of which were signed by Hugh Jackman – you know, Wolverine).

For the next hour and a half, two hours, Garrett gave away stuff to people and we stood against the barricade (legs tired, energy draining). Finally around 7:00, it got interesting. One of the writers was there and he talked a little about then film.

Hugh Jackman then showed up and signed stuff/took pictures with people along the length of the barricades before he was ushered toward the little stage to answer some questions.

Then everyone else started to trickle in.

And I mean EVERYONE.

A majority of the main cast of X-Men Days of Future Past made their way down the barricades signing things and taking pictures, then answered a few questions, then signed and took more pictures.

I knew it was going to be crazy, so I had it set in my head that I would only try to get pictures (if I could) with my two favorite cast members (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender). I then hoped that I could have the other cast members sign my poster.

As soon as the actors got over toward where I was standing, some of the people around me were increasingly losing their shit. The sisters my friend and I were flanked by would scream at the celebrities, rudely demand selfies and then make snarky comments if something did not go their way. There were grabby hands, loud voices, no Pleases and Thank Yous and just really terrible manners all around. I was hit in the face a few times from people around me and behind me trying to get their posters or shirts in front of the actors so that they would sign it.

I was appalled.

I made sure to say Thank You to everyone who signed my poster. When I could, I would offer up a kind sentiment about a movie/performance of the actors’ that I liked. (I managed to tell Nicholas Hoult I loved his performance in A Single Man and he took a second to make eye contact and sincerely say Thank You. While the rude girl next to me was screaming Game of Thrones stuff at Peter Dinklage, I said that I was a fan of his since The Station Agent and he smiled and nodded his thanks in my direction.) I was able to get pictures with McAvoy and Fassbender, but only after I made sure to ask them politely for the opportunity. (“May I please get a picture with you?” Then after a nod/yes, I said “Thank You” and then thanked them again after the picture was taken. MANNERS.) Even in a frenzied environment, I feel it is super important to be polite. These actors worked hard making the movie and they shouldn’t have to deal with fans screaming in their faces and rudely demanding selfies.

Fan culture is such a weird thing. It’s great, but it’s also completely awful.

Being in a fandom is a great way to meant other people who share similar passions and interests. I’m grateful to have made some really amazing friendships with people through fandom events and online interactions (some which have bled through to real-life friendships). These are the people I feel comfortable talking about pop culture with because they get it on the same level of intensity that I do. I don’t have to apologize for my interests because they love what I love just as much. And that is an AWESOME feeling to be able to share that passion with others.

But at the same time, I hate fandom culture. I don’t like going to events and having to deal with the crazy people who shove and are super rude because they think that they are entitled to something just because they are fans. The actors may have been contractually obligated to be at that event yesterday, but that doesn’t mean they should be treated like pieces of meat from hundreds of fans. No one deserves to be shouted at or pulled in for a picture without consent.

Fans are an integral part of the popular culture industry. We are the audience. We are why movies get made and shows stay on television. (Yes, money has a huge factor in that too… but who is buying the movie tickets? We are the butts in seats.) But as fans, we need to keep our wits about us when we have the opportunity to meet and interact with the celebrities we love. There is no need to yell in their faces or grab at their clothes. They are people just like us. How would you like someone screaming in your face and demand you to sign something or take a picture? Now times that by almost a thousand.

As grateful as I was for the chance to briefly interact with the cast of X-Men Days of Future Past last night, I am not rushing to go to any more fan events any time soon. It’s really rough spending all day standing in line and then being surrounded by some of the rudest people you’ll ever encounter. All the shouting. All the shoving. It’s really disheartening.

Tomorrow is the second ever Fox Fanfront. I have to work, so there was no way I could attend. I’m actually really glad about that.

As much as I love some of the shows on Fox (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project especially), I cannot handle another fan event right now.

I attended the Fox Fanfront last year. There was also a lot of shoving, shouting and celebrities. It was really cool to see everyone from the FOX network, but the event was really disorganized for the kinds of fans they were dealing with. (I would argue 90+% of the people in attendance were there for Darren Criss/Glee. Since Darren is actually performing at the Fanfront tomorrow, I can only assume the fans are going to be crazier. If you’ve never been to a Darren event, you don’t even know. Trust me.)

So, I’ll watch videos online when I get home from work and gladly scroll through the pictures of the friends of mine who are going. I’ll go to work as per usual and earn my paycheck while being miles away from the potential shit storm.

I wish more people at fan events would just calm down and take a moment to realize what an awesome opportunity it is to get to interact with the people from their favorite shows/sports/movies/etc… We need to treat the celebrities and each other better at these events. No one needs to get shoved. No one needs to get screamed at. No one needs to make it a negative experience. Think about your actions, or at least try to put yourselves in their shoes.

I’ll continue to be a fan. But it’ll increasingly be from afar because I can’t handle seeing people treat celebrities (they claim to admire so much) like shit/property.

(Oh – and we never got screening passes to X-Men Days of Future Past, but they made sure to tell us over and over again to go see the movie in theaters on Memorial Day weekend.)

Sooooooo, I did it.

I finished the first draft of my book. 134 single spaced Word pages. 82,634 words. 1,750 paragraphs.

I just emailed it off to my BFF and she’s going to read it and I’m going to die of embarrassment.

But I did it. And I’m really proud of myself right now.

I have no idea what’s going to become of it. I mean, I plan on editing it and submitting it to agents and whatnot because I would love for it to be a real book someday and not just a Word Doc on my computer. But I have no idea if anyone will like it or if it’s any good. I like it. I kind of wrote it because it’s something I would want to read.

I don’t know… But right now, right this second, I’m going to shut off my computer and give my eyes a break for a little while. Maybe take a hot shower and then pour myself a cocktail.

I did it. I finished the first draft of my book.