Sarah Debraski and I decided to try something interesting to broaden our horizons: we each made a list of the types of YA books we didn’t read, and then each chose a book for the other person to read from those categories, to deliberately force ourselves outside of our comfort zones and read something we normally wouldn’t. Did it work? Read (and listen!) on in this post and podcast.
Ted’s pick for Sarah: I Kill Giants, by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura
Ted: Sarah said that she didn’t normally read graphic novels or manga, which is perfect, since that’s about all I read. I picked I Kill Giants, which is not only one of my favorites but was also on YALSA’s list of Great Graphic Novels in 2010.
Sarah: In this experiment I feel like I definitely got the winning end (though I hope Ted feels the same!)â€”I did indeed end up reading a book I really liked a lot, but would not actually have found on my own. It almost feels like cheatingâ€”as if I didn’t read entirely out of my comfort zoneâ€”because as I read more of the book I found myself thinking that the essence of the story was exactly the kind of novel I do like reading most of the time. It just happened to be in a package that I typically walk right past. In fact, I’d still have to say that I would never have chosen this book on my own-the cover was unappealing, there wasn’t the blurb that I’m used to in hardcover and paperback fiction, and even leafing through I still wouldn’t have known if it was something I wanted. Librarians often want to read things they don’t usually, just so they are able to do a better job of recommending things to readers. I have to say, this is where those YALSA lists really come in handy. Frankly, I find it too overwhelming to choose a graphic novel on my own—to have Ted pick one off the list worked out great for me.
In the end I found the story of a girl battling giants, both real and imagined (or are they?) and coping with life very moving. You’ll hear more on that in the podcast!
Sarah’s pick for Ted: Soulless, by Gail Carriger
Sarah: When I asked Ted what sorts of books he didn’t read he promptly listed these two categories: “Steampunk. This is my number-one pet peeve. Zombie/werewolf/vampire/supernatural in general. Particularly when it’s not horror. And doubly particularly when it’s romance.” When I heard that I thought right away of a book I had recently read and liked, which I had gotten off of the 2010 Alex Awards listâ€”Soulless.
Ted: Soulless was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed the setting, the mythology, the culture and world that Carriger createdâ€”it wasn’t just as simple as adding vampires to Victorian London; she integrated their biology and culture into hundreds of years of history and made it all make sense. Plot-wise, it remains engaging without moving too quickly. And I even got a big kick out of some of the secondary characters, like Lord Akeldama, the foppish, flamboyant vampire.
But the protagonist, Alexia Tarabotti, just wasn’t interesting enough for me. We go into this more in the podcast, but the short version: she felt too much like the modern Action Heroine stereotype, i.e. “I am so logical and dispassionate and capable, oh this strapping young man is making me feel flushed and tingly, I wonder what’s going on, I must be sick.” I liked Alexia as a reminder that smart, curious women were absolutely not the Feminine Ideal for the Victorians, but otherwise she was just a bit too cliched.
Again, though, I enjoyed the book as a whole and I’m glad I read it, and I’m especially grateful to Sarah for picking it, because I never would have chosen it on my own. I think we can call this experiment a success!
Now, we hope you will enjoy listening to the full discussion we had about these books and the experience in this podcast.
–Ted Anderson, currently reading After School Nightmare
–Sarah Debraski, about to start The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place