Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Interview Swap

One of the really fine ideas coming out of Book Blogger Appreciation Week is an interview swap. We were randomly assigned a fellow book blogger to interview and asked to post the interview on our own site. 

My interviewer/interviewee is Adele from Persnickety Snark. She reads, reviews, writes about and realy immerses herself in the world of young adult literature. She's comprehensive, smart, funny, and honest---all things I think you'll see in the interview which begins now:

1. I'm going to start of selfishly here: give me three YA recommendations for someone who mostly reads literary fiction. What are the most interesting titles out there?

Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers - 2010) - reading this is like being hit in the gut with a baseball bat and then being dragged behind a speeding train.  Told from the perspective of a mean girl hench(wo)man on the outs from her hellish tribe it is a visceral tale of escalating cruelty.  Instead of being the victim, the protagonist keeps the fight going strong while grappling with the notion that redemption is not possible.

Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta - 2008) - complex structure meets exquisite characterisation in a deep and connective storyline. Also, there's a really hot guy in fatigues that you will come to love dearly.  This is my favourite YA title in the world and I am even more proud that it was written by a fellow Aussie.  It also won the biggest YA literary prize, the Michael L. Prinz Medal, last year

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Beth Fantaskey - 2009) - a great alternative to Twilight.  Imagine if a teen vampire showed up and declared you were betrothed....you'd tell him he was full of crap and stab him with a pitchfork, right?  Hilarious antidote to the sparkly vampire nonsense.

2. I saw you were in New York for book-related happenings recently. What were your impressions of my fair city? Surprises? Likes or dislikes?

I am a country mouse.  I grew up in small towns in country Australia and have only started traveling the world this year.  New York was completely overwhelming in the best and worst sense.  So many people, so much noise, so much light and yet I could not stop grinning like a loon the entire time.   It was a surprise how lovely everyone was.  I was expecting Soup Nazis a-plenty but people were friendly and helpful.  I fell in love with the ceiling in Grand Central Station, the MET and wanted to sit overlooking the Bethesda Fountain forever.  I was rather enamoured with the bookstores (especially Books of Wonder - a children and YA literature store) after spending most of the year in Japan.  It's a wonderful place and I can't wait to return.

3. What do you think your blogging strengths are? What would you like to improve (or what do you actively avoid)?

I am unfailingly honest and give reasons for my opinions - not always done in the YA blogosphere.  I think my biggest strength is my discussion posts on various aspects of the young adult lit biz.  I receive the most feedback from them and I think they tow the line between snark, humour and an authentic, justified position on matters.

My biggest blog-fail is that I lurk.  I don't comment nearly enough and I do need to engage in the community more.  But in terms of my blog content...probably being more varied in the genres I review within YA.

4. How about a funny/interesting/sad story from your reading life?

A sad (as in pathetic) aspect of my reading history is that for a year or two in my teen years all I read were class assigned texts and Harlequin romance novels....judge away!

5. One question I've been thinking about on my blog of late is the difference between the way and amount men and women read. Some think this difference begins during childhood. You are a teacher and YA blogger: what do you make of this?

I am from a family divided by gender in terms of our reading.  The women read.  The men don't.  My mother modelled reading as part of our goodnight ritual and on a personal basis all throughout my childhood.  My sister reads frequently but I leave both of them for dead.  My dad hasn't read a book since 1967....which I find beyond comprehension.  I am not even taking creative licence on that -  he hasn't read a book since high school.  Frightening huh?  My brother reads sporadically - titles on cricket and war, mainly non-fiction.

So what I am trying to say is that all three of us were brought up the same way with the same influences and we ended up having similar reading habits depending on gender.  Women reading fiction with a bent towards more commercial titles and my brother preferring non-fiction, "blokey" reads like my grandfather (who does read).  I don't subscribe to that as a teacher though, I think there is a right book for everyone...you just need to look.  But if you look at my family, you see some gender divides that I do witness in my wider sphere of friends, colleagues and students.

6. What do you think is the single most egregious misconception about YA literature?

That it is poorly written. 

There's badly written work in all areas of the literary world (coughNicholasSparkscough) so to discount teen directed titles as bad purely based on its intended audience is ignorant.  YA is no longer equatable with Sweet Valley High.  The rise in adults reading YA is evidence of great stories and great writing available for all. Teen titles are more tightly edited with a clipping pace and are far less likely to be self-indulgent and readers respond to that.

7. Toni Morrison once said that she is writing the books she wants to read but don't yet exist. If you could tell your favorite author what kind of book to write next, what would it be?
I wouldn't.  It would ruin that amazing moment when you read their upcoming title's blurb for the first time.  I like the surprise element.  One of my favourite authors Elizabeth Scott surprised me this year by writing a superb book about a teen suicide bomber (when she's primarily known for chick-lit).  I couldn't in my wildest dreams have imagined that for her.

8. Last one: what is the difference between being merely persnickety and being merely snarky?
What's the difference between the Queen and Perez Hilton?  :)

Many thanks to Adele for her answers (and questions). If you'd like to see the excellent questions she asked me (and my modest answers), she's got them up at her blog.


  1. Lol. And that interview right there is why I love Adele.

    Though that bit about your dad not reading since the 60s is terrifying.

    Great recs for the YA newb.

  2. I just read Some Girls Are and it is a definite treat! Great interview! :)

  3. I enjoyed this interview. Yes, there are both non-readers and readers into the same family; I know that all too well! (and you can guess I'm a reader myself).

  4. Great questions and great answers! I do read some YA books but I can't seem to warm to the label 'YA'. Not sure why. Especially when the books I have read are brilliant and extremely well written. It's interesting to also read about the different ways men and women read.

  5. Lovely interview. The questions were especially interesting, and I think Adele answered them consistently. I love the one about gender differences in reading habits. I recently saw some scary statistics stating that men were very likely to read only male authors, while women were much more egalitarian in their reading habits (at least as regards gender of the author). I do see it in my own siblings (two of the boys, anyway), so I don't doubt it, but it makes me nervous. *sigh*

    I'd also suggest Holly Black's White Cat to a newcomer to YA lit. It's gritty, con game goodness, written in a fast-paced and delicious style. I wasn't able to put it down, and neither was my 20 year-old brother.

  6. I love Adele's thoughts on the division in reading due to gender. I can't grasp the fact that her father hasn't read a book since '67!

  7. what a fantastic interview. I loved the in-depth questions and answers. I haven't read either of your blogs before, but you can bet I'm starting now!

  8. Fantastic interview. I think that lots of us have the habit of "lurking" on other people's blogs without doing a lot of commenting; it's part and parcel of only having so much time in the day and having to prioritize, I think.

  9. Just hopping by via the Blogger Hop.

    Here's my hop post:


  10. Great review, I have heard great things about your site. You are listed on at least two of the hop sites. I am a new follower and hope you will get a chance to stop by and check me out at http://www.wrighton-time.blogspot.com
    Have a great weekend.