Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poor Lois

I don't envy Lois Lowry her BoB choice between Kingdom on the Waves and The Hunger Games. According to SLJ's poll, public opinion is hardly divided: ol' Octavian has eleven votes while Katnip has 157 and is the top vote getter by far in the pool of sixteen.

I'd go with Kingdom (to short-title a short title), but then I got used to the Roger-Hates-Kids meme back when I was SLJ's YA columnist and let slip that I thought library-sponsored YA kissing contests were stupid. Be strong, Lois!


Anonymous said...

Library Sponsored Kissing Contests? Oh, do elaborate, please!

gail said...

I just finished reading Kingdom today, and I read The Hunger Games last fall. It's very rare for me to have read all the books in an event like this. Of course, there are only two right now.

Kingdom most definitely has my vote. The Hunger Games has a strong mid-section, and it's an enjoyable read. But I'm mystified about why it has such a strong fan following.

Anonymous said...

It has a strong fan following because it is thrilling and easy to read. For some reason many people in our field consider this the definition of "great writing."

I do like Hunger Games. It's a great read and I think Suzanne Collins deserves credit for entertaining her audience. I have no idea why some librarians can't seem to get past the idea that the only good book is one you can get 75% of your seventh graders to read.

In their desire to get kids to read, they show no respect for those kids who already do. They assume that if a book isn't accessible it isn't any good. They read books that challenge their emotions, but they won't read things that challenge their intellects. When they run across anything more complex than The Hunger Games, they say, "Kids won't read this." Then they proudly proclaim that YA books have less "bull-shit."

I apologize for being so ugly, but it just makes me want to shout. I will sign with the the captcha word. It is very a propos.


Anonymous said...

Yes it's all a massive plot. The Protocols of the Elders of Librarians.
Yours truly,
A Dedicated nefarious librarian

takumashii said...

But it was John Green, trumpeter of the "good hard book" and fan of Octavian Nothing, who awarded a much-deserved win to Hunger Games in his round as a judge.

I'd pick Octavian over HG, but I think it's a mistake to ignore the depth in HG, the way it sets up the voyeurism of reality TV and then makes the reader complicit in that voyeurism -- the complicated relations between real actions and feelings, and simulacra of those actions and feelings. The vague line between what is a performance and what isn't.

It's sort of brilliant that a fast-reading adventure book can engage those questions.

Anonymous said...


No, it isn't. They engage that kind of thing on any given Star Trek episode. Is it engaged in any depth? No. That's the difference between Hunger Games and The Kingdom on the Waves. Depth.

That's what the Nefarious Librarians don't think kids can handle and John Green's fans prove them wrong.

still surly

Anonymous said...

Curious to learn more about the mysterious BOB, I logged on to the site and dutifully filled out the obligatory questionnaire. Am I the only one who resents having to supply so much personal information to a commercial organization? It seems a most distressing exploitation, perhaps profitable to whom? ( SLJ?) I await the junk mail etc which will now follow.

Anonymous said...

PS Yes, I know I was naif but perhaps it's understandable to think SLJ might not choose to cooperate with a market surveying -ad agency research project. They forgot to ask for SS# OR MOTHER';S MAIDEN NAME

Toby said...

I'm wild about Octavian, but Part II just isn't great with Part I. Yes, you can follow the story,thanks to the nifty plot summary, but Part II takes an achingly personal story and then stalls it off the coast of Virginia. Poor Katnis wouldn't stand a chance against the peerless Part I, but she's more than a match for a standalone Part II.

Anonymous said...

I am still surly, but if Lois Lowry wants to give the prize to Hunger Games, I can't honestly complain. I don't agree with Chris Crutcher that a fiction writer's first job is to get kids to read, but if it is HIS mission, and if it is what he values most in other people's work, then that is all I wanted out of BoB-- a chance to see what other people value in books. Maybe Lowry feels the same.

Or perhaps Lowry would like to say that we place too much value on "literary" and don't have enough respect for the skill it takes to write a busting good roller coaster of a book. Maybe Lowry will say that Yes, Kingdom is a good book of its kind, but Hunger Games is a GREAT book of its kind.

Hunger Games is the best summer blockbuster movie kind of book that I have seen for years. Lowry might say she likes that kind of book better, and that no matter how brilliant Kingdom is, she'd rather take HG to the beach.

It's just . . . if she says HG wins because more kids will read it as if we should *all* agree that that makes it a better book for young adults, I will be . . . disappointed.


gail said...

I agree that Octavian's story seemed stalled off the coast of Virginia for a while in Part II. However, I felt Hunger Games took a third of the book to get going, its world isn't very well developed, and the basic idea isn't all that original. (There's an Arnold Schwarzenneger movie that's very similar, for instance.) Yes, it has some very thrilling moments, but, technically speaking, I still think Octavian is the better book.

Anonymous said...


I was disappointed when I got around to reading Graceling as well. It seems to have the same sort of fan base, but I think the criticisms of it at BoB were spot on.

Elizabeth said...

Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!

Ok, now it gets weird. I read Roger's blog entry last night, and dreamt that I woke up early to post something like "Oh, c'mon Roger, vote for Katniss." Then, in the manner of dreams, I spent a long time writing and correcting a blog comment about it that also included the fact that ALA members of the committee (what committee? Not sure, it was a dream) had a meet and great before they started work where they actually discussed books before they were supposed to, which biased the vote. Then my comment got posted in a park and someone corrected its grammar. Then the correcting guy got invited on Letterman with some chalk.

Ok. In case everyone isn't riveted by that fascinating dream, I will say this to Gail, who queries The Hunger Games' popularity. Gail, as a thriller/adventure story it works brilliantly, with surprises and suspense at every turn that (in my case) had me so involved that when someone came up to me and said my name while I was reading it, I didn't hear them. Throw in the "two worthy men are in love with you" scenario that never fails to satisfy (see the Twilight books) and you have a classic crowd pleaser. I adore it. But as for literary merit? Can't comment, haven't read Octavian.

Anonymous said...

Is keeping-you-so-involved-that-you-don't-hear-your-name a measure a literary merit?

Elizabeth said...

Hey, Anonymous, in my estimation, yes, losing myself in a book (at an airport luggage carousel, no less) is one factor in weighing a book's "literary merit." There are books I admire in which I find my mind wandering, and I consider that a strike against them.

I think of Jane Austen, I think of Betsy Byars--both writers with an amazing degree of control in their writing. They understand pace, have impeccable timing in the way they cut from serious sections to humorous ones, and from big moments to small. They know how to intercut scenes, and exactly when to take the reader out of a moment. When I pick up a book by either of them, I don't want to put it down. The Hunger Games has all those qualities, too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's oversurli who is asking about literary merit. I forgot to sign my comment. Thank you for answering.

I agree that the reader's absorption is a measure of good writing. I don't think it is the only one. So I wouldn't consider it a strike against a book if my mind wandered. A writer who keeps his reader absorbed is making it easy for the reader. He's spoon feeding something to the reader. It takes skill, but it isn't always the right thing to do.

On some subjects a reader should work -- or the reader isn't doing his own thinking. He's having someone else's thinking slipped in with the story the way a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Sadly, work makes my mind wander. I am more impressed with the writer who makes me work and keeps me coming back for more. Octavain One did that for me. I haven't had a chance to read Two yet, either.

Still, it does bother me that it takes such skill to keep a reader absorbed and it doesn't get much respect. Sometimes I think poorly written books get a pass because they are SRS and SRS books are supposed to be boring.


Anonymous said...

I actually liked both books a lot for different reasons, so whatever Lois Lowry chooses, it will be one of my two favorite books of 2008.

An interesting common trait with these two finalists is that neither is a complete story in and of itself, since Octavian is volume two of a lengthy novel and Hunger Games is the first volume of a trilogy.

Will it matter if Lois Lowry has read volume I of Octavian? if she has, will that give the book an unfair advantage, since she obviously can't read the complete Hunger Games trilogy? Or if she's only read volume II, will she have enough background, since essentially she'd be starting a novel half-way through? Of the two, I'd say Hunger Games functions better as a stand-alone.

Anonymous said...

is this the place we are suppsed to write? a way of content control/

Anonymous said...

See me not saying anything? That's because I've totally stopped hijacking Roger's blog . . . promise.

oversurli and out

gail said...

Elizabeth--I wonder if the torn-between-two-lovers scenario isn't a cliche, though I agree that people seem to really like it.

Anonymous said...

what ever happened to the cute little faces that used to accompany your messages? (the best part of the exchanges) I thought one wasn't permitted to speak without this sign of deference to the power elite

Anonymous said...

oversurli, I am with you.

I would also rather read an outstanding adult nonfiction book than an "outstanding" young adult novel any day. I would have said this as a teenager, too.

Lyle Blake said...

oversurli, you wrote: "Sometimes I think poorly written books get a pass because they are SRS and SRS books are supposed to be boring."

Can you (or someone else) explain what SRS stands for? I'm totally in the dark on this one.

Lyle Blake

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:45

You are just baiting me. You want me to break my promise to stop hijacking Roger's blog. Nunh-unh. No way. Some else is going to have to tell you why that's moronic.


kathleen duey said...

Well. I don't know what I expected to find in the comments about BoB, but this wasn't it! I love you all. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It's totally amazing to me that folks think they have a legitimate right to post an opinionated opinion about what should win when they haven't read both entires! Tsk, tsk, that's not fair--- although I admire their gutsy willingness to admit to ignorance. But opinons based onignorance are ignorant and lack validity.

Sincerely, nitpicki