Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend: Final Round!

My friends, we’ve come to the championship round as we discover the Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend! This week, I honestly don’t know whom to vote for. Jonah Griggs, that perfect tank who sneaks in your window and orders toast with marmalade for you on the hardest morning of your life? Or Sean Kendrick, who will tuck your ponytail into your collar, that young king of Skarmouth who brings bread for dinner? I can’t decide.

ultimate ya book boyfriend championship

Jonah Griggs vs. Sean Kendrick

“When I turn around, he cups my face in his hands and he kisses me so deeply that I don’t know who is breathing for who, but his mouth and tongue taste like warm honey. I don’t know how long it lasts, but when I let go of him, I miss it already.”
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“Sean takes my ponytail in his hand, his fingers touching my neck, and then he tucks my hair into my collar out of the reach of the wind. He avoids my gaze. Then he links his arm back around me and pushes his calf into Corr’s side.”
Sean Kendrick of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend: Round Three

ultimate ya book boyfriend round III

Jonah Griggs vs. Tom Mackee

“He stops and looks at me. ‘I’m here because of you. You’re my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don’t think that will be happening in my lifetime.”
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“She’s tired and leans her head on his shoulder, which is the resting place for all their heads, but when Justine and Siobhan and Francesca use his body so shamelessly he doesn’t feel the need to turn his head and press his mouth against their hair.”
Tom Mackee from The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Gilbert Blythe vs. Sean Kendrick

“You do love me, Gilbert? You haven’t said you loved me in so long.”
“My dear, I didn’t think you needed words to know that. I can’t live without you.”
Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Montgomery

“Sean reaches between us and slides a thin bracelet of red ribbons over my free hand. Lifting my arm, he presses his lips against the inside of my wrist. I’m utterly still; I feel my pulse tap several times against his lips, and then he releases my hand.
‘For luck,’ he says. He takes Dove’s lead from me.
‘Sean,’ I say, and he turns. I take his chin and kiss his lips, hard. I’m reminded, all of a sudden, of that first day on the beach, when I pulled his head from the water.
‘For luck,’ I say to his startled face.”
Sean Kenrick in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Spotlight on Melina Marchetta

I’ve written before about how amazing Melina Marchetta is, giving six reasons why you should read her books:

1) The writing is unbelievable.
2) The characters are people you want to know in real life.
3) The books are laced with wonderful humor.
4) You can’t guess what will happen next.
5) She knows how to write about teen romances without being cliche.
6) She is consistently good. Every. Single. Book.

This time, I thought I’d tell you a little about the books themselves so that you can choose where you’d like to start (since I *REQUIRE* that you read her books).

marchetta collage

Jellicoe Road is my favorite.  It’s a contemporary novel set in Australia, and it’s about a territory war between the boarding school kids, the townies, and the cadets (boys from a military school who camp on their land six weeks each year). It’s really two stories that become one (gosh, I love when that happens), and it’s probably my favorite contemporary YA novel period.  Just saying.  It can be a little confusing at the beginning, but keep reading: it will fit together like a jigsaw puzzle in the end, and then you’ll want to go re-read it immediately.  Also, major swoon factor: Jonah Griggs is one tough cadet with a heart.

Saving Francesca is right up there for me, right alongside Jellicoe Road.  It’s about a girl whose mom is going through a mental breakdown at home while the girl is trying to maneuver her way through her new school– which had been an all-boys school prior to that year.  It’s uh-may-zing.  Seriously.  When I read this one, I just soak in the utter brilliance of Marchetta.  Not to mention that there is a hot Italian-Australian math nerd hottie involved.

The Piper’s Son reunites the Saving Francesca gang, only it’s five years down the road, and this story promotes a secondary character from the first book to being the protagonist.  And, my oh my, he does so well in that role!  This book is about a family that is trying its best– making it sometimes and not making it sometimes.  It’s sheer brilliance.

Looking for Alibrandi is actually Marchetta’s first novel that put her name on the map.  Even though it’s my least favorite book of hers, it is still so, so good.  Now, that’s pretty impressive.  It’s about a girl whose lifelong absent father suddenly re-enters her life.

And then we come to the fantasy stories.  Yes, that’s right– Marchetta is just as comfortable writing fantasies as she is writing contemporaries.  So. Much. Talent.

The Lumatere Chronicles begin with Finnikin of the Rockan amazing story full of twists and turns about reviving a kingdom that’s been under a curse.  I’m not naturally drawn to fantasy novels (with the glaring exceptions of Narnia, Potter, and The Last Unicorn), so I didn’t immediately purchase this book.  But after I’d read all her contemporaries, I was dying for more Marchetta, so I took the plunge … and am so glad I did!  This book was delicious.

Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn round out the trilogy, and they are full of politics and intrigue and romance.  I should warn you– Froi ends on a killer cliffhanger, so make sure you have Quintana ready to go afterward!  I read Froi before the third book was out and ended up ordering an Aussie copy of book three so that I could get my hands on it 6+ months before the book was released in the US.  That good.

It’s the characters, I think, that make all her books so good.  When you start with amazing characters, you can toss them into any situation and see what happens.  Melina Marchetta is a masterful storyteller, my favorite YA writer out there, and you’d better believe that is the highest of praise coming from me.

Hop to it!  In my opinion, you should just skip the library and purchase copies of your own to have and to hold from this day forward.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

For those of you who have already read Marchetta’s books, what is your favorite and why?  Leave a comment below!

Related posts:
Why You Need to Read Melina Marchetta’s Books
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

jellicoeI just recently re-read Jellicoe Road for the trillionth time, and you need to read it too.  For the last couple of years, this has taken the spot of my #1 most suggested book.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Jellicoe Road is a hard book to summarize, but let me give it my best shot:

There’s a territory war happening between the boarders (at the Jellicoe boarding school), the townies (from Jellicoe/Jellicoe High School), and the cadets (the military academy students who are camping on the boarding school property for the next six weeks).  While the three “factions” negotiate, Taylor Markham– the leader of the boarders– is trying to work out where Hannah, the woman in charge of her boarding school house, has disappeared to, using Hannah’s disorganized manuscript for clues.  The manuscript tells the story of five teens– three boarders, a townie, and a cadet– and Taylor is starting to wonder just how much of the manuscript is fiction.

There.  I know, I know: my description probably doesn’t make you want to run out and read it, so you’re just going to have to trust me.  Let me lay out my reasons why you should read this book:

1) The characters.

Taylor, the vulnerable leader of a boarding school community; Jonah, the cadet with whom she has strange history; Chaz, the townie enemy with a soul; and Raffaela, who sustains them all with her strong beliefs.  Not to mention Ben, the violinist; the Mullet Brothers; Anson Choi; Jessa and Chloe P.; and Richard, who wants to stage a coup.  (And beyond that … the five fascinating teens in Hannah’s unfinished manuscript!)

2) The dialogue.

Melina Marchetta is a master of teenage dialogue.  It’s so funny and spot-on and meaningful and good.

jellicoe23) The masterful writing.

A couple, non-spoilery quotes for you:

‘Guess what?’ Fitz said.
‘I don’t know,’ Jude said. ‘What? Narnie smiled?’ He glanced at her for the first time.
‘When you guys see a Narnie smile, it’s like a revalation,’ Webb said, gathering her towards him.
Jude stopped in front of her and, with both hands cupping her face, tried to make a smile. Narnie flinched.
‘Leave her alone,’ Tate said.
‘I need a revelation,’ Jude said. ‘And you’re the only one that can give me one, Narns.’ 

What kind of freak is this kid who’s giggling hysterically with the girls in the neighbouring beds, each with a crush on the other for being the same age when the rest of the world seems so old?

For reasons he couldn’t understand a sadness came over him and it was then he saw the girl standing on the other side of the dirt road, her eyes pools of absolute sorrow, her light brown hair glowing in the splinters of sunlight that forced their way through the trees.

jellicoe34) The mystery & the way it all fits together like a puzzle.

This book is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, so at first you won’t understand just how everything fits together.  But it does.  Oh, how it does.  In fact, after you read it once, you might do what my sister did, and immediately re-read it to catch everything you missed the first time.

5) Did I mention it’s funny too?  

There are parts that will make you want to laugh aloud!

So, all in all, Jellicoe Road is deep, funny, sad, poignant, fascinating, original, and well-written.

What are you waiting for?

Book-to-Movie Adaptations!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Today’s topic is




5. Where the Red Fern Grows | Classic!!

4. Anne of Green Gables | Megan Follows is Anne Shirley to me.

3. Prisoner of Azkaban | The first Potter movie to really hit the nail on the head.

2. Deathly Hallows 1 & 2 | Cinematic dreams.  I had so much fun at the midnight showings of these!

1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe | A well-done adaptation of a favorite book.



5. The Magician’s Nephew | To my knowledge, this one has not yet been confirmed.  But I NEED it.

4. The Night Circus | This is going to be a sensory masterpiece.  David Heyman is producing!

3. The Book Thief | Released on my 32nd birthday!!

2. The Fault in Our Stars | Nervous about the casting choices for this, but trying to have faith.

1. Jellicoe Road | This is currently the most important adaptation to me.  It basically ALL hinges on whom they cast for Jonah Griggs.

What are your favorites and soon-to-be-favorites?

Jackie’s Must-Read Books

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
These are classics!  I seriously cannot get enough of them– I read them over and over and over and love them every single time.  I am just finishing up the series for the first time this year, and– no joke– after book 7 is over, I will start again on book 1.
Must-read: everyone, all ages

2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
This book is seriously one of the best-written young adult books I have ever read.  In my life.  Period.  I love so many things about this book: the language, the characters, the structure, the humor.  It gets a 10 out of 10 from me.
Must-read: anyone who loves YA or a clever, quirky romance

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Printz honor book narrated by Death himself, this is “just a small story really, about, among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.”  I love books that are about the joy of words– and it’s even better when you mix in unforgettable characters and gorgeous writing full of incredible imagery.
Must-read: YA lovers, people who love words, anyone interested in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust

4. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
The brilliance of this story is in the masterful writing.  Every single page will leave you in awe, plus the story is so real and deep, and it makes you think about things like miracles and family and loyalty and guilt.
Must-read: lovers of literary fiction, adults who want a great story, parents

5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
This book is richer than chocolate.  It has magic and competition and romance– and it avoids all cliches.  It is a sensory extravaganza.
Must-read: people who love Harry Potter and are ready for magic from a grown-up perspective, anyone who values great imagery

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
TIME’s 2012 book of the year!  This YA book will make you laugh and cry and think.  It’s a cancer book– but not one of those cancer books.
Must-read: people who love YA, philosophy, and incredible characters

I’ll leave you with those six for now.  As I think through this list, I feel full.  They are that good.

reading girl

my favorite supporting characters in YA

I decided to do something a little different: blog about book characters but NOT the main ones!

Here’s my list of favorites:

Magnus Bane from The Mortal Instruments series | A party-boy warlock with sass and wit, and willing to take fashion risks?  Love Magnus.

Molly Grue from The Last Unicorn | Even though Molly seems a little volatile at first (“Damn you!  Where have you been?”), she ends up being the solid one of the group.  I admire her humble servanthood and her level-headedness.

Raffy & Chaz from Jellicoe Road | I had to group these two together.  They are some of the best supporting characters in all of YA … and they bring a whole new element of tension into the story.  I LOVE HORMONES!

Eustace Clarence Scrubb from the Chronicles of Narnia series | Arguably not a supporting character, but I’m reading Voyage right now, and he’s kind of a supporting character in this one.  An absolutely fantastic character transformation.  Love his un-dragoning.

Thomas Mackee & Jimmy Hailer from Saving Francesca | Melina Marchetta completely nails her depictions of teenage boys in this book.  We have Will Trombal to swoon over but also Jimmy and Thomas to fall in love with in a totally different way.

Ben Cassidy from Jellicoe Road | At only 5’4″ he sure has some guts.  Not to mention he is freakin’ hilarious.  I love that he is willing to go head-to-head with Jonah Griggs, even though Griggs is a tank.  (In case you never realized it, Ben, Anson Choi, and the Mullet Brothers from Jellicoe Road reappear in The Piper’s Son, which features Tom Mackee.)

Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables | Could you find a truer bosom friend in all of literature?

Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter | Neville probably has the greatest transformation of any character in the whole series … in those early books, you would never guess what a heroic heart lay waiting to wake in that chest.

Max Vandenburg from The Book Thief | A Jewish fistfighter who paints over the pages of Mein Kampf and then writes stories on them is my idea of a brilliant character.


books to movies

Books being made into movies that I am excited for:

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare … I have to admit I was thrown off when I heard that Alex Pettyfer turned down the role of Jace Wayland, but Jamie Campbell Bower is growing on me day by day!


Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta … this hasn’t begun filming yet, but I am FREAKING OUT about this one.  The book is 200% incredible, and the secrets in it will be harder to keep in a film version, but Marchetta herself seems to be pretty involved with the project, and I know her influence will keep things on track.

Ender’s Game by Scott Orson Card … this one is coming to theatres SO SOON.  Card was unwilling to sell the film rights to anyone who wouldn’t agree to make Ender 12 or younger, and it will be really interesting to see a film full of young stars (could be hit or miss!).

Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis … the most important things to me in this movie are 1) Who will write the score?  (Remember, Aslan sings Narnia into creation) and 2) How will they show that Digory is Professor Kirke in the future?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern … this is going to be INCREDIBLE, and it is being produced by David Heyman of Harry Potter fame!

Books I want to be made into movies:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green … for goodness sakes, it was TIME’s #1 book of 2012!  There has to be a movie coming along, right?  Whoever they choose as Augustus Waters will probably be my new celebrity crush.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta … I keep picturing a young Natalie Portman for this one.  I would go crazy if this were to be made into a movie!

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger … I had lunch with him last spring (yes, for real!), and he said that someone had purchased the rights in the past and then changed the screenplay around so much that it wasn’t even the same story.  I’m glad that one fell through, but I’d like to see a true-to-the-story rendering of it someday!

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis … I keep freaking out because they are making the Narnia movies one by one, and I’m so nervous that they won’t get all the way to HHB.  This story lends itself to a movie!!  If I were in charge, I’d make Shasta and Aravis a little older and amp up the love story!  I wonder if Cor and Corrin would be played by the same actor or by twins.

Also, I wish desperately there was another Harry Potter movie on the horizon.  How about you?

books books books

Just finished …

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling |We’re not in Hogwarts anymore, Toto.  This is Rowling’s first book after the Harry Potter series, and it is absolutely nothing like them, which I’m sure was her point.  I mean, how do you compete with one of the most popular children’s series ever?  You avoid the competition and write an adult novel instead, I guess.  The Casual Vacancy was hard for me to get into at first– I felt that Rowling was trying to shock me just because she could.  Also, I couldn’t tell what the story was about for quite a while.  It is a book about smalltown politics– both literal politics and also the inner workings of a town that is all interconnected and where people often say and do things that are different from what they think or believe.  The book is very well-written, but very raw, real, gritty, and sad.  Very, very sad.  While I will re-read the Potter series for the rest of my life, I think one time through of this book will be enough for me, period.

Map of Time by Felix J. Palma | I had heard this book likened to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, one of my favorite books I read this whole year.  But it just wasn’t true, and I’m not sure at all where the comparison came from.  Map of Time started off fascinating– telling the story of a man in love with one of the Whitechapel prostitutes in the time of Jack the Ripper.  (I have researched Jack the Ripper in both high school and college, so this was particularly interesting to me to hear about the incidents from the other angle!)  The premise seemed interesting, and I was starting to care about the characters … and then suddenly, I felt duped and we were onto the second story of three in the book, and the person I thought had been the protagonist had to climb down off the stage.  It was just such a strange format, and it didn’t work for me.  In the end, the book was too shallow for me, and I never felt like I really got to know the characters.  Palma tries to trick his readers multiple times throughout the book, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.  In most books, I am thrilled when I discover a twist, but Palma’s just disappointed me.

Gorgon in the Gully by Melina Marchetta | As I just posted recently, I think everyone should read Marchetta’s books.  Unlike her usual writing for teens, this book is for younger readers.  It still appealed to me because 1) Everything she writes is marvelous and 2) It is about Danny, the younger brother of Jonah Griggs (of Jellicoe Road).  It is a delightful little story about pulling together a group of friends from various groups.  I think it would be the perfect read for a middle schooler!  It inspired me to re-read

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta | Masterful.  Just masterful.  And so absolutely original.  A book centered around the territory wars between the boarding school kids, the town kids, and the cadets in the visiting military school– but really, that’s just the venue for the story.  The real story is one of love and friendship and generations.  This is such an incredible book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  If you read it, you will fall in love.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni | So, this is obviously not the usual type of book I review on my blog, but it was quite fascinating.  It is a “leadership fable” about a team that needs to work together better and how the CEO makes it happen.  I read it in two days!  The majority of the book is a story about this fictional company/team, but then the last part of the book goes into non-fiction details of how to put this into effect at your workplace.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis | Yes, the whole series.  Yes, again.  Yes, just as incredible as the last time through.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson | This was only my second time reading this story, and somehow I forgot how magnificent it was.  The writing is absolutely stunning, which is not surprising, since the author has two MFAs– one in poetry and one in writing for children and young adults.  It is the story of Lenny Walker, whose older sister/best friend Bailey died suddenly about a month before the book starts.  She is trying to navigate her grief all while falling in love for the first time, and it is just so good and sad and good.  If you have a sister, you’ll probably shed a couple tears.  This book will break your heart.

Currently reading …

Reached by Ally Condie | The third book of the Matched series, and again … my opinion is still out.  I liked Matched but was not very into Crossed.  We’ll see if Reached can win me back!

I did just get Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta on audiobook, and I am so pumped to listen/re-read that one!!  I have so many books that I want to read, and I just keep amassing books (I just bought a new bookcase that is back in my apartment waiting to be assembled after my writing retreat) and am not able to get through them as fast as I’d like (especially since I spend a lot of time re-reading favorites, which I know some people can’t understand).  I guess that’s the problem when you love reading but you LOVE writing.

Questions for today: what are you reading right now?  Do you like to re-read?  If you’re a writer, do you, like me, find a hard time balancing reading and writing?