Love YA? Try These Classic Alternatives to Your Favorite Novels

Happy Friday everyone!

My week off has flown by, and tomorrow I travel to NYC for one of the biggest tradeshows in the software industry. I’ll be much too busy with work to blog, so to leave you on a high note until I get back in October, I’ve created another vlog!

In this video, I take a look at a few insanely popular YA novels and recommend some classic alternatives. Given that the vast majority of book bloggers focus primarily on young-adult fiction, I wanted to encourage them to read outside their comfort zone.

Many readers may think that the Western canon is full of boring tales written by dead white people, and although I can’t deny its lack of diversity, I can speak for its merit. There are tons of reasons why we read these literary classics in school: the themes are timeless and the writing is superb.

If you’re a huge fan of YA like I am, then I highly recommend that you challenge yourself with these older novels. Sure, you might have to look up a tough piece of vocabulary or review the SparkNotes to get a better understanding, but it doesn’t hurt to exercise your brain every now and then! In fact, I believe that you’ll appreciate your reading experience more when you do.

Movie Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2

Image via Screen Rant

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

I’m not sure what I’m more embarrassed about: that I spent my Friday night watching “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2,” or that it took me almost a year and a half to finally get around to watching it (see Pt. 1’s review here).

Either way, I’m glad to say that I’m finished with the series. It seems so long ago when I read the books before the movies were released and found myself on this bandwagon. While I liked the supernatural, forbidden love between Edward and Bella in the beginning, I felt that Stephenie Meyer ruined everything in Breaking Dawn.

For those who are blissfully unaware of this story, let me summarize this outrageously far-fetched, poorly designed plot:

  • 18-year-old mortal Bella Swan is celebrating her honeymoon with her vampire husband Edward Cullen, and even though vampires don’t have blood running in their veins, he somehow manages to impregnate her.
  • Bella is almost killed by her hybrid baby, who is growing at an abnormal rate, but is “saved” when Edward turns her into a vampire.

Team baby!

  • Bella falls in love with the daughter that almost destroyed her from the inside out, and names her Renesmee, because combining the names of your mother and mother-in-law is a totally normal thing to do. Nicknaming her “Nessie” is even more normal, by the way.

I know, right?

  • Bella’s other love interest, werewolf Jacob Black, imprints on Renesmee, which means that he found his soulmate in a toddler and now has to wait years before consummating anything. But don’t worry, she ages quickly!
  • The Volturi, aka the vampire mafia, hear word that a supposedly bloodthirsty immortal child has been born, and seek to annihilate it and the entire Cullen coven.
  • Things escalate into this huge battle between vampires and werewolves against the Volturi, but since Renesmee is actually only half-vampire and not immortal/dangerous after all, the Volturi discover that it was all a big misunderstanding and leave. Happily ever after ensues.

Yeah, no kidding!

Ugh, that summary was painful to write; I don’t know how Meyer could stomach the entire novel. She has a disheartening way of building up tension and then completely deflating it, whether it was ruining the highly anticipated honeymoon with a fatal pregnancy or foreshadowing an epic battle that never actually happens.

The saving grace of the film version (besides the sexy Lee Pace as Garrett!) is that Meyer changed the script slightly so that it wasn’t as downright boring. Disappointing still, but an improvement nonetheless. But young-adult fiction fans of other action-packed blockbusters like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games will fall asleep during this snoozefest.

Thank goodness for Lee Pace keeping me awake!

It’s unfortunate that authors can’t seem to find that happy medium between making the finale a bloodbath and eliminating all obstacles with little sacrifice. Because what’s frustrating about Breaking Dawn is just how easy it all seems.

Bella is blessed with powerful defensive capabilities as a vampire despite her lack of grace, intrigue, or uniqueness as a human. Like her new relatives, she becomes strikingly beautiful and strong, but without the thirst and pain of adjusting to her undead lifestyle.

It wouldn’t be that difficult for young female readers to interpret the message of this saga as “Find a prince to marry and have babies with, and all your problems will be solved! Love conquers all!”

Seriously!

And what’s more upsetting about Renesmee than her disturbing aging special effects is that she’s branded by a man since the moment of her birth. Sadly, she inherited from her mother a lack of autonomy; instead of having the opportunity of making her own decisions, she’s immediately defined by her partner.

I could go on and on about how the Twilight saga needs a hearty dose of feminism, but I’d be writing for as long as vampires live. All I’ll say is that I’m relieved that this bandwagon has finally come to an end. “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2” was better than the book, but given how bad it was in print, the silver screen couldn’t make a significant enough improvement to warrant recommendation.

Self-explanatory

Movie Review: Catching Fire

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Apologies for the delay, but I’m finally recovering after suffering a cold for the past couple days. But I’m back and ready to share my thoughts on November’s biggest film!

I may anger a lot of fans by beginning my post this way, but here it goes: I know that The Hunger Games gets compared to Twilight simply for being blockbuster series with teenage love triangles, but a part of me now understands the comparison.

Point taken, but I still went there!

Hear me out!

The similarity has mostly to do with my opinion of each story’s ending rather than anything serious, like female autonomy and benevolent sexism. It’s just that at this stage in my life, I’m watching these movies just to go through the motions because I’m dreading how it all will conclude.

Those who have been reading Book Club Babe know how much I despised Mockingjay, so it makes sense that I was only moderately excited about seeing “Catching Fire.” (If you want to see me ecstatic, join me at the “The Desolation of Smaug” premiere!)

One more week until the gratuitous inclusion of Legolas! #SorryNotSorry

But just like “Breaking Dawn” was so horrendous that I haven’t even gotten around to finishing the final film, I’m feeling lukewarm about this dystopia. To me, the genre needs a well-deserved break because this bandwagon feels two years old.

(Speaking of outdated, here’s another inflammatory opinion: “Divergent” sounds like a cheap knockoff riding the dystopian wave, and watching the trailer before “Catching Fire” only reinforced my belief that I’m so ready for something new).

That being said, I’m not here to judge a movie based on its inevitable sequel. I actually have little negative to say about “Catching Fire,” like so many other viewers.

All the actors in the film did a great job, from Jennifer Lawrence suffering nightmares as Katniss to Stanley Tucci as the sickeningly sycophantic Caesar Flickerman. I was simultaneously admiring and scorning the Capitol’s display of weath, with their flamboyant costumes and ostentatious parties.

In fact, it was interesting to watch this movie with both my parents this time, since my dad and I are the only ones in my immediate family who have read the book. My mom hadn’t even seen “The Hunger Games,” so all she knew was the quick explanation we gave her on the way to the theater.

Ever filled with kindness, my mom found it difficult to stomach the story, and I don’t blame her. The unnecessary violence and disparity in socioeconomic power is disgusting and infuriating. I can only hope that people desire the same change in our own society as they want for Panem.

They didn’t call it “panem et circenses” for nothing!

All in all, watching “Catching Fire” was timely during Thanksgiving, reminding me to grateful for all that I have. And even though this whole splitting the finale into two films is another trend that won’t die, I’m just thankful that such a disappointing ending will be recreated by an amazing cast and crew.

Now move over dystopias, and make way for the hobbits!

Book Review: Awaken

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Cover via Goodreads

Yet again author Meg Cabot gets me to drop whatever book I was reading and read her latest release instead. Awaken is the final novel in her trilogy which adapts the ancient Greek myth of Persephone and Hades to a high school setting.

I’ve already reviewed the previous novels in the series, Abandon and Underworld. In Awaken, teenager Pierce Oliviera is navigating her unconventional relationship with John Hayden, Lord of the Underworld.

But it’s not like they can get lots of quality time together, not when the Fates have mysteriously abandoned the universe, prohibiting recently deceased souls from entering their final resting place.

Since the Fates have disappeared, Pierce, John, and their friends must battle the evil Furies to restore peace both on Earth and underneath it. And with so many people stuck in limbo, what does it mean when the worst happens to someone who isn’t technically alive?

This series will obviously garner comparisons with Twilight, given that both female protagonists have brooding, supernatural boyfriends. Whether you’re a vampire or consort to Hades, you’re required to sacrifice a normal life with family and friends.

At least Pierce has more of a personality than her counterpart Bella. She throws herself into dangerous situations, wielding a whip and Fury-annihilating diamond necklace, so you certainly can’t call herself a passive bystander.

However, it’s a shame that her identity is still defined by John’s existence. Not to mention, even though she took responsibility for her sex life in book two, she throws safety to the wind and becomes surprisingly nonchalant about possibly getting knocked up (Bella much?).

Should have listened to Coach Carr!

So, yes, I’m still waiting for much-needed feminist young-adult novels. It would be nice to see a girl kick ass the entire time and not give into stereotypical gender norms by becoming the equivalent of a Stepford wife in the end (This applies to Katniss too, by the way. I stand by my argument).

But as much as I complain about weak female characters, Meg Cabot still does a good job writing an entertaining mythological adaptation. Sure, the jokes can be corny and the obstacles are resolved with little effort, but let’s face it, I’m a sucker for Greek gods.

If you’re also a classics nerd, then don’t worry, because there are better books out there. I highly recommend Gods Behaving Badly (you’ll literally laugh out loud) and The Song of Achilles (bust out the Kleenex for this romantic tragedy).

Hope everyone has a happy Halloween! Be sure to check out my blog tomorrow because I will have a special announcement. Stay tuned!

4 Literary Archetypes You Shouldn’t Love IRL

If you’ve been living under a rock since 2012, you’ve probably woken up to find said rock covered in pink glitter and heart confetti, because today is Valentine’s Day. Many book bloggers have been discussing the best or worst romances in literature, but I’d like to talk about the sorts of characters that are totally swoon-worthy in novels, but I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole in real life:

The Age of Innocence: Nothing says danger like an affair with your wife’s cousin!

The Bad Boy/Girl

You’ve always been warned against them: the rough-around-the-edges type that will get you into trouble and break your heart. You wouldn’t bring them home to your parents, and that’s exactly their allure. Whether it’s taking you to that seedy bar on the back of a motorcycle or convincing you to get a tattoo, everything about them is exciting and a wee bit dangerous. Unfortunately, that adrenaline rush of passion only leads to equally explosive fights and breakups.

Heathcliff: Convincing women around the world to ignore red flags–like hanging your beloved’s dog!

The Angsty Outsider

Unlike the bad boy/girl, the angsty outsider might have a heart of gold. At least you hope so, because their moodiness is downright depressing. They blame their me-against-the-world attitude on their parents’ divorce, school bullying, or impoverished upbringing, and since they’re just so pitiful, you want to be the one to bring  joy back into their lives. All that pressure to be their beacon of light will eventually drain you so much that you’ll abandon them–giving them yet another reason to believe the worst in people–or you’ll end up just as dark and gloomy as them. Misery sure does love company!

Missing: One glass slipper and one actual personality

The Prince(ss) Charming

They’re stunningly good-looking, intelligent, and kind-hearted. They have a lucrative job and a gorgeous home. They really listen to what you say and can always make you laugh. Perhaps their spare time is spent helping the elderly across intersections and taking in stray kittens. All your friends and relatives love them and are counting down the days until your nuptials. But…you want there to be a but. All this perfection is driving you crazy and feeding into your worst insecurities. You wonder what’s wrong with them, what’s wrong with you, until your paranoia sabotages the whole thing. Beware of people who never have bad hair days or get flat tires. They might actually belong in the next category…

Vampire love: When you want to kiss and kill someone at the same time!

The Mythical Creature

Vampires, werewolves, elves, merpeople, even zombies have been re-imagined in literature as lover material. I had no idea that blood-sucking and brain-devouring could be considered sexy but books have come a long way since Dracula. If monsters started appearing in our daily lives, here’s how it would play out: (1) Only you would know their secret, making you feel oh-so-special, until your loved ones start to wonder why your mate doesn’t have a reflection…or a pulse. (2) Someone spills the beans, and you spend the rest of your life keeping your mythical creature away from greedy scientists and rival demons. Don’t worry about it too much, as odds are, your life isn’t going to be very long anyway now.

Any other tropes I’ve missed? What’s a turn-off in books that would be a turn-off IRL? Sound off in the comments!

Movie Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1

Rating: 1 out of 5

I’m about half-way done with Kafka’s The Trial, which keeps getting stranger and stranger. The gist of the story is that the protagonist has been accused of a crime that he doesn’t even know if he committed, since no one will tell him any details of his case. At one point, he complains about the incompetency of a few officials, only to find them being tortured while at work.

You know what else was torture? Having to watch the latest Twilight film.

Earlier this month, my younger brother, his girlfriend, and I were messing around and playing games when we decided to watch the movie, ironically, of course. We’d have a laugh making fun of the whole thing, and then I’d be able to blog about it for all of you.

I just want to say that I hope you’re grateful that I watched this horrendous movie, so you don’t have to. I apologize for the review being so late, since it debuted last November, but how can you muster up enthusiasm for a film that you know is going to suck?

I’m not insulting it because I hate Twilight. In fact, I read the series in 2007, the summer before my freshman year of college. I gobbled up the first three novels before Twilight’s adaptation even premiered, because I’m such a sucker for romance. This is embarrassing to reveal, but I also went to the midnight release of the fourth and final novel Breaking Dawn.

And that’s where my hatred of Twilight started. If you don’t know the story, let me sum it up for you: Bella is madly in love with vampire Edward and wants to consummate their relationship, but Edward, being the old-fashioned guy that he is, wants to wait until they’re married.

You mean to tell me you couldn’t make a better dress with this movie budget?

So at 18-years-old, Bella marries Edward, then they jet off together on a tropical honeymoon. They finally have sex, which is a rare feat between a human and vampire, because vampires normally kill their lovers due to their bloodlust.

And because she didn’t think she could get pregnant by a vampire, Bella didn’t concern herself with contraception. She becomes impregnated with a hybrid baby, which develops rapidly and is essentially destroying her from the inside out.

I hope you learned your lesson, Bella…

As if this story couldn’t get any more self-righteous, Bella and her vampire family fight about whether to abort the baby, but Bella decides to keep it and realizes that drinking blood helps the situation a bit. When she finally goes into labor (her father-in-law’s a doctor, conveniently), Edward is forced to turn her into a vampire before the baby breaks all her bones and kills her.

That’s where “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1” ends. Director Bill Condon decided to copy the “Harry Potter” series and divide the last installment into two films, the second of which will be released this November. Thus, I gave this movie only one star not just because it sucked, but because the book also sucked.

I’ll admit that I’m a socially liberal feminist, so I did not appreciate how author Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism influenced Breaking Dawn. I felt like it was a poorly-written glorification of teen marriage and parenthood. Instead of throwing her whole life away for a guy, why couldn’t Bella go to college, find a steady job, and meet someone who doesn’t have anger and control issues? That wouldn’t be nearly as popular with the Twihards, but I question the values supported in this series and their effects of these impressionable fangirls.

Besides the dangerous piety, the movie was just plain boring. There was absolutely no reason to split this story up, because there simply wasn’t enough action to warrant it. This film drew out the wedding, honeymoon, and pregnancy to excessive lengths–two hours to be exact. I’m afraid that all movie adaptations of books will imitate the “Harry Potter” strategy (“The Hunger Games” is already on board with the idea), whether it’s needed or not. Hollywood should care less about profits and more about creating an engaging finale.

All in all, “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1” was dull, slow, cheesy, melodramatic, and accompanied by an obnoxiously loud and annoying soundtrack. It deserves its 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not to mention, I watched it after the Kristen Stewart cheating scandal broke it, so her romance with her co-star/now-ex-boyfriend Robert Pattinson was not very convincing. That’s not saying much, since Stewart’s acting abilities were never convincing.

The only Stewart that Robert Pattinson needs!

I’m sure that I’ll watch Pt. 2 when it comes out on DVD, just to be rid of this overrated series. It’s sad that I was such a huge supporter of the books before the bandwagon exploded, but this last novel completely ruined the saga for me.

However, there is a silver lining. Meyer must be aware of how much Breaking Dawn sucked, because she’s changed the ending for the last movie. It’s going to be super awkward to watch Stewart and Pattinson make their rounds on the talk shows for publicity amidst their real-life drama, but who knows? Maybe their characters will be obliterated in some sort of freak accident.

Here’s to hoping, anyway.