Posts tagged ‘Harry Potter’

May 27, 2011

Friday Feud: Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Zombies Vs Unicorns

The topic of today’s Friday Feud is: ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS, inspired by the book of the same title. It’s a collection of short stories edited by Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie). I was a little skeptical of the book before I read it–I mean, how much is there really to say about unicorns and zombies? Well, it turns out there’s a lot, and the book has a great variety of stories with lots of really creative takes on both zombies and unicorns. I also loved the sassy commentary from Black and Larbalestier that prefaced each story. But it leads to the obvious question: which side are you on, anyway?

Which side am I on, you might ask? I’ll give you a hint:

Lisa Frank Unicorn

Did you guess? Do you want another hint?


Sigh… so majestic. Anyway, in case these mind-blowing images don’t make it apparent why I am on Team Unicorn, let me share some UniFacts I found on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

  • Unicorns originated in ancient Greek natural history texts. The Greeks believed them to be a real animal, not mythical. You know what else the Greeks thought was real? Democracy.
  • There are several references to unicorns in King James Bible, though the American Standard Bible apparently changes “unicorn” to “wild ox.” Um, please. If the Holy Scripture says “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn,” (Numbers 22:22) do you really think you can just change it to “wild ox”? What kind of a religion is that?
  • Denmark’s royal throne is made out of unicorn horns. (Wikipedia says they are “almost certainly” narwhal horns. If I were Danish royalty, I would throw down at that kind of slander.)
  • You know who else is on Team Unicorn? Your role model and mine, Lady Gaga. Observe: the unicorn-studded “Born this Way” video, her unicorn tattoo, her unicorn piano. If Lady Gaga is Team Unicorn, can you afford not to be?
  • If Lady Gaga isn’t enough to convince you, how about Harry Potter? Recall the words of the wise centaur Firenze from Harry Potter and the Socercer’s Stone: “That is because it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” You know what you are if you kill a zombie? A goddamn hero.


Ladies and gentlemen, I rest my case.

May 12, 2011

Literary Moms

In honor of Mother’s Day, how about some fictional moms?

(NOTE: I started writing this on Mother’s Day and then got distracted and never finished it. But, you know what? In the Dominican Republic, Mother’s Day is the last Sunday in May, so I’m early for that. Also, you should love your mom every day!)

Unfortunately, it’s hard to come up with too many great moms in YA fiction, since YA books nearly always kill or marginalize the parents. This is understandable from a narrative perspective–it really forces teen protagonists to take action if they know they can’t count on help from their parents. But it makes it hard to write Mother’s Day blog entries.

So, the top fictional moms in my book (ha!) come from what should probably be called children’s literature, not young adult literature. But whatevs! It’s all good.

1) Marmee from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Until re-reading this as an adult, I never really realized how very religious Marmee and the March girls are! That is okay, though. It’s just how they roll. Marmee is such a sweet, hardworking lady. She knows how to encourage her daughters to make it through some rough times without going all Tiger Mom on them. Like, remember when she gave them a week without chores so they would realize on their own how terrible it was when the house was so messy? Great parenting, Marmee.ILU Marmee

2) Kate Murry from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Smart, brave, and up to the task of mothering insecure Meg, child prodigy Charles Wallace, and average-ish twins Sandy and Dennys. All this while her husband is being held prisoner on the planet Camazotz and their small-minded neighbors assume he’s left her for another woman. But, please, who would leave Kate Murry?

3) Lowercase will grayson’s mom from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. (Sorry–I don’t remember her name and can’t find it online. It might not have been mentioned.) I love her response when will comes out to her, and I love the way she helps him through his breakup as best she can. She hasn’t had the easiest life herself, but she’s got will’s back.

Then, because I kept thinking of them while I was trying to come up with good moms, here are some of the worst moms in children’s and YA fiction:

1) Renee from the Twilight saga. Flaky, annoying, childish, and responsible for creating Bella Swan, the most irritating female protagonist since, like, ever.

2) The Other Mother from CoPlease keep those buttons away from me!raline by Neil Gaiman. Sure, she seems nice at first, but then it turns out she wants perfect conformity and obedience. Oh, and to replace your eyes with buttons.

3) Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Obviously, she’s horribly cruel to her nephew Harry. But she really wasn’t doing Dursley any favors by spoiling him so much. He turned out fat, mean-spirited, and generally awful–not that Petunia will ever see it that way.

Who are your favorite or least favorite literary moms?

May 5, 2011

“Teens will like”

I was just perusing Goodreads and saw this beginning on one of the reviews. “Teen will like” and then later “Teens will identify” – and I’m not sure why, but that really bothers me, though I’m sure I’m guilty of it as well. Obviously, as a writer of YA I want to write novels that teens will like, but if I spend too much time thinking about their likes and dislikes, my story will get lost. Because lets face is, not all teens like the same thing. In fact, the reason there are so many different “cliques” in high school is because teens are so different. Is there any book/movie/song that every person likes? If there was, there would be a backlash as soon as people started talking about it. (Even Harry Potter has his naysayers, though those people are obviously unhappy in their general lives). My point is, to say “Teens will like this novel” is a huge generalization.

For an adult to even try and guess what teens will like is patronizing. I believe that for every teen, reader or no, there is a right book and for every book there is the right reader. For example, I just finished reading K.L. Going’s King of the Screwups which was in fact where I found the quote that offended me. Sorry “Darlene” on Goodreads, but you put yourself out there – here’s her quote, copy and pasted  “Teens will like this YA novel about a boy who just can’t seem to do anything right, even when he’s deliberately trying to do things wrong!” And a kid with a not-so-nice dad may have a different reaction to a kid with a great relationship with his father.

That’s great that you think teens will like it, but did you? You were the reader, weren’t you? Yes teens may have been Going’s intended audience, but if an adult reads it, they bring an entirely different lens to the story. I enjoyed the novel, felt for Liam and as an adult worried about his future. His father is emotionally abusive to both him and his mother, but that term is never used. His father is consistently disappointed in him, but he never realizes that no matter what he did it would not be good enough. Eighteen years of this weighs on Liam’s self-esteem, though fortunately,  he inherited his mother’s good looks and charismatic personality. This seems to be a big reason why his father treats him the way he does, but that is left for the reader’s interpretation. His father kicks him out and Liam goes to live with his estranged cross-dressing “Aunt Pete” and tries everything he can to be the son he thinks his father wants, but he can’t change who he is, so he feels he even fails at that.

I can’t imagine how a teen will feel about this novel – would they get that years of emotional abuse will effect Liam for the rest of his life, or will they enjoy the story at its surface, as our friend Denise says “about a boy who just can’t seem to do anything right, even when he’s deliberately trying to do things wrong!” My prediction is that it will depend on the teen, and their own experiences, and that is something you can’t predict.