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“Life after Theft” – Stealing and Redemption in YA Books

Image Credit: Flickr user B Garrett
Image Credit: Flickr user B Garrett

A few weeks ago, a friend and I finally got around to watching Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film based on the true story of a group of privileged teens from Calabasas, California who robbed several Hollywood celebrities’ homes between 2008 and 2009. Drawing from Nancy Jo Sales’s 2010 Vanity Fair article, The Suspects Wore Louboutins, Coppola’s film is a cinematic schadenfreude delving into celebrity obsession, excessive materialism, and youthful recklessness. I’m definitely one of those people who watches based-on-a-true-story movies and, long after the credits roll, still wants to know more. I mulled over the audacious actions of these teens and wondered why they felt compelled to steal—something that Coppola’s film doesn’t really address. For more info, I sought out Sales’ article, as well as her 2013 book, The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World.
Bling_Ring_NancySales

Expanding on her article, Sales’ book exhaustively details how the “Bling Ring” stole over $3 million worth of clothing, jewelry, and accessories from Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and other Hollywood celebrities, and bragged about their crimes over social media. Incredibly information-savvy, the teens used Google Maps to track down addresses, as well as celebrity news blogs to monitor the comings and goings of their targets. Peer pressure, attaining social cachet, and a desire for fame were a few motivating factors in the crimes. Like the movie, the book is unclear on whether the accused were truly remorseful – its seems more likely they were sorry for getting caught. In any case, readers who love an E! Hollywood True Story-type of tale will appreciate Sales’ exposé.

Given the social and cultural taboos around stealing, I was also curious about depictions of theft and redemption in YA fiction – here are some books that cover the issue in depth without necessarily glamorizing it: 

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SLJ: Day of Dialog

Last Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend the SLJ Day of Dialogue. It was my first time and it was amazing! It was a day filled with laughter, information, and best of all books! For more insight into the day, check out the official hashtag on Twitter: #sljdod13

kevin henkes slj day of dialogueKevin Henkes was our morning keynote speaker. He talked about reading to his children at the breakfast table. The books they read together sparked conversation and allowed them to read together as a family. He read books his kids might not have chosen for themselves, but they loved just the same. He then read the first chapter of his new book, The Year of Billy Miller.

Next came a panel on informational picture books with authors Jim Arnosky, Jennifer Berne, Elisha Cooper, and Jonah Winter. They talked about researching, making the text come alive, and boiling down the research to make the book exciting.

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When Did David Lynch Start Writing YA?

A few weeks ago, I started following with much interest a discussion thread on the YALSA-BK listserv with the subject heading “10 YA Books That Scarred Us for Life.” There were over 100 responses to the initial posting. While a great many of them were older titles that people remembered from their youth (books where beloved animals died, in particular, were frequently mentioned), a handful of contemporary YA titles showed up more than once, including Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, Rotters by Daniel Kraus, “anything by Adam Rapp” and The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith.  This timely discussion was mirroring the one already going on my own head, prompted a recent Daniel Kraus/Adam Rapp double-header that had left me more than a little unsettled.  “When,” I thought, “did books for teens get so creepy that even adults can’t handle reading them?”

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