Bleeding Violet

Title: Bleeding Violet

Author: Dia Reeves

Genre: Paranormal YA

Length: 84,000 words, 454 pages

Read: March 14-20, 2011

Summary: Unique, good, and very different.


This is a weird weird book, and I mean that in a good way. Nominally, it’s about a schizophrenic girl, Hanna, who’s dad has died and who decides to move in unannounced with her mom she’s never met. But her mom doesn’t live in a normal town. She lives in some kind of weird place in Texas where gates between universes have let all sorts of strange monsters and realities in. A town with its own supernatural police.

The voice here is really fun. It’s first person past, but with a sort of cavalier devil-take-care crazy-girl style. I liked it. Some sentences were fantastic (both literally and figuratively). Not exactly in the lyrical kind of way that you might expect, but because of their deft wit, and quick and creative way of describing utterly fantastic goings on.

Because this book is FILLED, PACKED, STUFFED, with weird monsters and magic. Reeves uses the protagonist and POV character very deftly to explain it, or mostly just show what happens. She doesn’t feel the need to combine herself to easy concepts either. For example, sound sucking, student grabbing, invisible squids live inside the high school windows and one of the characters defeats them with a deck of playing cards! It’s a tribute to her skill that I could follow nearly all of this stuff. And it’s compact too, not being a very long book and containing dozens of strange encounters. The descriptions are lean but vivid. Occasionally she violates POV slightly on the side of clarity because the protagonist is new to this stuff and she explains it with a bit more understanding than she might be expected to have. But this isn’t very noticeable. Now I do wonder if someone with less experience reading speculative fiction in all its forms might have trouble with this novel. I mean, I’ve read A LOT (5000+ speculative novels), and played hundreds if not thousands of video games with magical systems etc. We won’t even count the movies and TV shows. Certainly someone who likes their reality… well… real, would be put off by the book. I wasn’t. The supernatural flavor was really interesting and unique, reminding me ever so slightly of something like the eerie Lost Room, or the wonderful but very out of print Marianne series by Sherri S Tepper.

The choice of using such a fractured POV character was interesting. There could be an argument that the entire book was some sort of delusion. I myself just treated Hanna’s view point as literal, and everything she saw as factual. The protagonist, and some of the other characters for that matter, don’t feel entirely real. They aren’t cardboard per se, as they feel well rounded, they just have a bit of surreal style to them that comes from their rather depressed moral compass. There’s a lot of killing and murder in this book, often horrifically grisly in fact, and no one seems to care too much. One of your best friends has been impregnated by evil demon spawn who are eating her from the inside out, well, just cut them out and leave her bleeding to die. That sort of thing. It works in the story, but if you stop and thing about the reactions any non psychopathic person might have… These characters just move on. It didn’t  really bother me in the context of this story as the narrator’s view point tends to whitewash away the consequences.

There’s also a good bit of cavalier sexuality — a welcome break from the self censorship that seems to be the norm since the 90s. Hanna is certainly open minded in that regard, and likes to take off her clothes. Unfortunately 🙂 there isn’t a lot of detail, like most everything else in the book a lot is left to the imagination. This is also part of the trend. To tell the truth Judy Blume’s Forever (1975) is still the most explicit teen book I can remember.

Overall, this is a great book, but it’s much more FANTASTIC than your typical paranormal. Being a fantasist, that was more than fine with me.

Book Review: Girl Walking Backwards

Title: Girl Walking Backwards

Author: Bett Williams

Genre: Lesbian cuming of age YA

Read: Jan 10-15, 2011

Summary: Less than Zero meets Rubyfruit Jungle.


This book is rather brilliant, but isn’t for everybody. In my review of Lost It (CLICK HERE), I had inquired if anyone knew any YA that was racy, and this was recommended. It’s written in a breezy first-person past with a kind of stream-of-consciousness lightweight quality that made me have to look to make sure it wasn’t persent tense. The prose is very very good — fitting the material perfectly.

Skye is a fifteen-year-old growing up in Santa Barbara, and she’s basically raising herself. Her mother is a self-help seminar junkie and all-around new age psychotic, her dad (divorced) lives in LA where he directs films and has sex with pretty production assistants. Neither seem to think about her at all. She has a boy friend, sort of, but wants a girlfriend. She drinks and does drugs, but she isn’t a bad girl.

Somehow this character rang very true for me, and the voice is intensely personal and likable. Even the hare-brained situations seem very real, and like Less than Zero the substance abuse and self destructive behavior believable. The voice effortlessly shifts with the state of mind — often altered — and does a first class job conveying that. For some, this might be a hard book to read, particularly if one were right-wing, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bret Easton Ellis‘s above mentioned masterpiece feels like watching a train wreck. While Girl Walking Backwards doesn’t have the terrifying “all rashed and looks dry and I can see that it’s been shaved” moment, and is ultimately transcendant.

Finally, his is a book that is very candid about sexuality.

Not only do we have various incidents of masturbation, near sex, and actual sex, but they aren’t even the focus. This isn’t gratuitous, it’s just frank. This isn’t about a girl becoming a lesbian, or coming out. It’s about a girl trying to find her footing in a world without foundations.

Book Review: Uglies

Title: Uglies

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Read: Nov 19-21, 2010

Summary: Great Read.


The Science Fiction in this book is a little hokey, but it’s still a extremely compelling read. There is a bit of a silly high concept in this dystopian future, where at 16 teenagers get an operation that promotes them from “uglies” (normal people) to super improved “pretties.” I didn’t really buy the idea of this particular and odd society, but I just suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the ride.

The voice is solid and captivating. It’s a good story, and the world has a really nice feel. The characters are pretty well painted too. I pounded though the book and ordered the sequel. I have some little beefs with the logic of the plot, and a bigger one with a motivation of the protagonist, and the ending. However, when I enjoy a story and care about the characters, a little ignoring is worth it.

There are also some cool gadgets. The tech feels a little uneven — I usually find that the case, where the level of technology changes aren’t consistant across the board. But a good read is a good read.

Book Review: Hex Hall

Hex HallTitle: Hex Hall

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Genre: YA fantasy

Read: Oct 23, 2010

Summary: Fun.

Continuing my unrelenting survey of both supernatural and YA books (together and separate). This is a vaguely Harry Potter-ish tale of a fifteen-year-old witch who ends up in magical reform school. It was surprisingly decent. Not great, not super innovative, but the first person voice was very enjoyable. Occasionally I found myself cringing when the events served the plot in ham handed ways. For example, the protagonist and boy she likes are both sentenced to the same detention — just the two of them. And there are vampires, but they are treated too casually like everything else. Still, it was funny and I enjoyed reading it, I didn’t have to force myself through anything. I plan on buying the sequel. This is actually pretty high praise for a reader as jaded as myself.

Book Review: Personal Demons

Personal DemonsTitle: Personal Demons

Author: Lisa Desrochers

Genre: YA supernatural romance

Read: Oct 20 2010

Summary: Detested it.

The premise of this book is that a demon and an angel are both vying for the love (and soul) of the same high school girl. This I don’t mind. The execution however…  Let us start with voice and character. The book is told in staccato alternating first person from the girl and the demon’s POVs. The girl is written in currently-in-vogue snarky-boy-crazy voice which is frankly repulsive and (hopefully) not even accurate in all but the most brainless products of mass media consumption. All she can think about is that whichever guy is in front of her looks hot in his jeans. The demon was less annoying but even more ridiculous. He’s supposed to be a 4000 year-old denizen of Hell out to corrupt the souls of the innocent and he comes off like a self involved High Schooler. At no point does he actually BEHAVE in any way particularly evil. He shows no particular long term perspective, but instead just has the hots for the girl. There is no real thought about what it might mean for God and the Devil to actually  meaningfully over someone’s heart, or even what it means to be a good or evil person. The good vs. bad is couched in terms of which boy the girl sleeps with. The high level premise is fine, but the book as written just makes no sense except on the most superficial level, and most importantly the characters are cardboard cutouts serving only the voice and premise — so who cares about them. This makes Twilight seem a work of art, and is exactly the kind of pseudo-religious story that I wrote my novel in counterpoint to.

Book Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna FoxTitle: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Author: Mary E. Pearson

Genre: YA light sci-fi

Read: Mid Oct 2010

Summary: Liked it a lot.


I’ve been disappointed by a lot of the contemporary Young Adult novels I’ve been reading and this was a pleasant surprise. Told in first person present tense this is the story of a girl who awakes from a mysterious accident with almost no memory. She doesn’t know what to make of what her “parents” tell her and the videos and images of a life she doesn’t remember. It’s very light Science Fiction, set in a near future with very little prose-time spent on explanation of tech stuff — which is fine. It’s just very well written and the point of view engaging. The characters feel real, and you invest some emotion in them. At a certain core level this is all it takes. For many young readers the concepts of deconstructed identity might be novel — for me as a sci-fi reader who likes that theme this book wasn’t really about the plot. But there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just a good book and an easy read. I liked the voice and found it pleasantly free of forced attitude.

Book Review: Tiger Eyes

Tiger EyesTitle: Tiger Eyes

Author: Judy Blume

Genre: YA Drama

Read: Oct 19 2010

Summary: Loved It.

After reading Forever I went on a bit of a Judy Blume kick, trying to find all the ones I missed that are aimed at teenagers or up (I’m not sure I’m up for an MG novel). I’m determined to figure out how to write normal life scenes this engaging. It almost seems like she could have the characters do anything and make it a fascinating read. They shower, they change their sneakers, trim toenails — all stuff that is generally forbidden in writing guides — and yet it works. Tiger Eyes could have been like an after school special. In fact, it probably was made into one. It’s about a 15 year-old girl whose father is killed in a hold up, and she has to learn how to deal. It’s not preachy. The people are just real, the friendships real, the family dynamics real. The early 80’s Los Alamos setting is even interesting. There’s no sex, no violence (other than the retroactively occurring murder), but there is a lot of excellent dialog.

Book Review: Forever

ForeverTitle: Forever

Author: Judy Blume

Genre: YA drama

Read: Mid October 2010

Summary: Loved it.


Everyone should read. Okay. I admit I read a ton of Judy Blume back in Elementary School, but it’s been a long time. I found this because I was trying to find out how edgy YA books really get, particularly with regard to sex. Incredibly, a quick googling seems to indicate that 1975’s Forever is still about as much sex as YA gets. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong (and link me to some books) because I really want to answer the question as to how extreme (when well done) is appropriate for YA books today. In any case, somehow I had missed Forever in the 70’s — probably because I stopped reading Judy Blume at 10 or 11. I shouldn’t have. It’s great, and holds up perfectly well as an adult novel. After reading so many recently published and truly mediocre YA books (I’ll get around to reviewing some of them) this was like a breath of fresh air. First of all, I’m in awe at Blume’s skill at holding your attention with nothing but normal life. Mostly through dialog and a bit of interior monologue she paints incredibly real people effortlessly. I’ve now read a couple other books recently, and all her characters are always distinctive and real. In Forever she writes in a tight first person present. This drops you nicely inside the head of the narrator, but she doesn’t overdo the interior monologue (which I find tedious). There is none of the snarky-boy-crazy quality of so many current voices, just a very real teenager. Also, having grown up in the 70’s, I loved the subtle nostalgic flavor of suburban 70’s life. The book is never preachy, and despite the fact that absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happens, holds your interest through every word. The sex is frank and quite funny, using a clever device to soften it. You’ll know when you meet Ralph. Basically it just sticks your head right into this little slice of life, particular person, time and place, and holds it there for about two hours.