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Wednesday reading — awards and honors

What I've been reading

I read Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, one of the Stonewall Award winners. It was basically what I expected when I picked it up and realized that it had been published by Flux, the same imprint that put out Sparks, which was a Stonewall Honor book last year. It's written adequately enough, I guess, with some clunky plot contrivances and papery tertiary characters and a generally not-ready-for-primetime feel about it. Which is not to say there was nothing likeable about it, and I'm all in favor of there being mediocre books with solid depictions of trans characters, but preferably as part of a whole range of books with solid depictions of trans characters.

I read Fat Angie, the other Stonewall winner. Actually, I listened to the audiobook, because my library had that, but no paper copies in the catalog—I'm assuming that they actually have ordered paper copies which are sitting on a shelf somewhere but haven't been put into the system yet. This was kind of unfortunate, because the book is written in a very wry, detatched, third-person narrative voice that irritated me even more when I was forced to absorb it at the speed of sound instead of my usual speed of light. The titular protagonist, for example, really is referred to throughout the book as "Fat Angie", when there isn't an outbreak of epithetism. It's trying something more ambitious than the more typical first or close third, I grant you, even though it didn't work for me, in this particular instance.

I read Mister Orange, which won the Batchelder Award for best translated children's fiction, and and is lovely.

I read How to Build Your Own Spaceship: The Science of Personal Space Travel, which, in addition to rocket science, also discusses what your business plan might look like. Sadly, all of them start with Step 0: Have stupid amounts of money. (Or, alternately, Step 0: Radically redefine "personal space travel" to include significantly more modest goals, like sending something the size of a Lego brick into near space, or improving a piece of technology that will go into space with people who are richer than you.)

I read Scowler, which was a life choice I questioned all the way through the book. It actually won the Odyssey Award for best audiobook but I ended up reading the paper version, because I a.) wasn't willing to put it down, but b.) definitely wasn't willing to listen to eleven hours of evil, gore, and also an entire page of menacing clicking noises. I'm sure that the audiobook version did deserve some kind of award for coping with that, especially the page of clicking noises. I did think the book did a pretty good job of telling a tropey horror story with naturalistic explanations for its horror tropes, at least until the climax where the escalation strains even a generous suspension of disbelief.

I read Sex & Violence, which was a finalist for the Morris Award for debut authors. It was okay, if a little. well, debut-ish. I am pretty sure this is the first YA book I've ever read that has teenagers attempting to pursue open relationships (or, as the football player boyfriend persists in terming it, 'non-monogramy' [sic]).

I read Lexicon, one of the ten Alex Award winners for best books published for adults with crossover appeal to teens. It's fun and page-turny, with a premise that's similar to Snow Crash, only done differently (of course, because only Neal Stephenson writes like Neal Stephenson).

I read The Universe Versus Alex Woods, which was also an Alex Award winner, although I think it could have very easily have been published the other way around, for teens with crossover appeal to adults, but presumably they thought it would sell better this way. Either way, I absolutely adored it: it is far and away the best book I have read from the 2014 youth media award winners so far.

I read Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, which is twee as balls. In fact, I can point to the exact moment at which this book crossed over to unacceptably twee for me, which was the introduction of the lady from the fake country with the overly-long name who makes oracular statements. No. That is a bridge too far. Stick to exploring your original premise about the cynical girl who reads comic books and the squirrel who gets sucked into a vacuum and gains the ability to fly and also to type poetry (the Newbery judges are suckers for free verse), and don't throw in fake countries with twee names.

I read Charm & Strange, which won the Morris Award for a debut author. I thought it was a really good example of a good paranormal bait and switch.

I reread The House of the Scorpion, which I hadn't read since it first came out, sitting on the floor at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble, which didn't have chairs, and has since been replaced by a Walgreens, which is wrong in so many ways, such as 1.) the Astor Place Barnes & Noble being gone at all, 2) there being any Walgreens in New York, and 3.) me not walking past it every day anymore. Anyway, in the intervening time I had forgotten quite how clearly the end of the book cries out for a sequel until I saw that there was one; hence the reread.

I read The Lord of Opium. It's nowhere near as strong a book as its predecessor, but it does answer some of the burning questions of the what-happens-next variety.

I read Another Country, the original play that was adapted into the film. I was surprised by how much they changed in the film, actually, adding quite a lot of scenes that can take place in locations other than the Fourth Year Library and the framing scenes which never seemed necessary to me anyway, trimming away scads of pages worth of conversation. I would say that I prefer the stage version, except that a.) I have no way of watching it be performed, and b.) it lacks Harcourt entirely, much less Harcourt being played by adorable wee Cary Elwes, so there's that.

What I'm reading next

I'm not sure. I am, as ever, surrounded by stacks of books, real and virtual.

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