You keep using that word… (On “strong female characters”)

Carina Chocano’s New York Times article “A Plague of Strong Female Characters” gets at most of my issues with this trope: “Strong female character” is one of those shorthand memes that has leached into the cultural groundwater and spawned all kinds of cinematic clichés: alpha professionals whose laserlike focus on … Continue reading

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly

Callie Tate lives on a wealthy farm of pecan trees and too many brothers in turn-of-the-century Texas. One day she gathers the courage to ask her intimidating grandfather about the two different kinds of grasshoppers she sees in the fields, and he tells her to figure it out herself. From … Continue reading

Finnikin of the Rock, Melina Marchetta

Another very complicated story by the author of one of my recent favorites, Jellicoe Road. She’s trying out fantasy this time: when Finnikin, son of the captain of the guard of Lumatere, is a child, the ruling family is murdered and the city occupied. It’s also sealed off, Sleeping Beauty-style, … Continue reading

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness

Oh, read it read it read it! If you liked The Hunger Games, you must absolutely read this book. And that means that you should skip everything past the “spoilers” cut, because you really don’t want to be spoiled. Basically, Prentisstown is a human settlement on an alien planet. There … Continue reading

The Hunger Games & Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Oof. Just when you think this story has gotten as fucked up as it can possibly get… it gets worse. Over and over. And I do mean that in the best possible way: The Hunger Games is one of the most intense, intelligent books I’ve read in a long time, … Continue reading

My Most Excellent Year: a Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park, by Steve Kluger

Three three-dimensional best friends, families that genuinely love each other, disability and homosexuality just tossed in like the normal parts of life they are, and it’s even set in Boston! Sold. The plot is complicated — there’s a deaf kid, a theater production, a wacky road trip to New York … Continue reading

Nation, by Terry Pratchett

On his way back from the Boys’ Island to his coming-of-age feast, Mau survives the giant tidal wave that wipes out his entire Nation. On her way to join her father at his new island governorship, Daphne’s ship is caught in the same wave and runs aground on Mau’s island; … Continue reading